This project begins with an old shirt with sentimental value.
The shirt was old, had a few small holes and stains, and was destined for the rag pile. Yet the artwork was still pretty vibrant looking.
There were also some memories wrapped up in this old shirt, as I had bought it for my wife way back when we were dating. She wore it for many years, then it got packed away until our kids started wearing it. The youngest has now outgrown it, so we thought were were done with it.
But as I stated, the artwork was still nice, and it had some sentimental meaning to us, so I decided to try and turn it into something else. Using epoxy, I would turn the shirt into a piece of artwork.
Step 1: Option: Video Build
If you would prefer, you can watch a video of this project build. Otherwise, read on!
Step 2: First, Test It Out on a Scrap!
I first made a few tests with some other old t-shirts which had already been cut up into rags.
I first tried some 5-minute epoxy. This seemed to work, but this project would require a lot of epoxy, which I didn't have in the 5-minute variety. I then tried some West System epoxy. This worked pretty well.
This 2nd test did turn out quite dark. I had used a green scrap of plywood for the test and I think that the green colour was showing through. I first thought about painting my plywood white, but that would add a few days of waiting to this project. Then I thought about adding some heavy white paper on top of the plywood. This seemed worth further investigation. I tried another test on a piece of plain plywood. As you can see here, the t-shirt turned almost transparent, and the wood does show through. However, on the section on the white heavy paper, the wood does not show through.
One problem is the image did turn out rather dark. The hardener in my epoxy kit had turned amber. I looked this up online and found out that this can be caused by age (my kit is over 3 years old, or more.) or by moisture. The epoxy does still work, it just has a colour to it. I decided to press on anyway. In many ways this is a fun experiment of a project.
I used spray adhesive to mount this heavy paper to my plywood backing board.
Step 3: Apply the Epoxy
I cut the back off of the t-shirt and used more spray adhesive to stick the t-shirt to the white paper on the plywood.
I was a bit concerned about using the spray adhesive. I hoped that it would not react poorly with the epoxy. But I felt that I had to use this in order to have the shirt firmly stuck in place during the epoxy pour.
I then started mixing and pouring out the epoxy. The West system uses "metered" pumps, to automatically dispense the correct amount of epoxy + hardener. In total I used twelve "pumps" of epoxy and hardener. This was just a bit too much, which is better than too little.
I first poured out about half, and then used a small piece of thin plywood to spread the epoxy out. I wanted it to soak through the shirt so as to bind it firmly to the background. I then added more, and spread it again, and repeated until I thought there was sufficient.
I used a small propane torch to gently heat the epoxy and eliminate all the bubbles that had formed. A heat gun would probably be a better choice, but I don't have one.
By the next day the epoxy had dried. I was quite pleased with the results.
Step 4: Cutting to Size
I first cut off the loose fabric edges with some scissors and then moved to the bandsaw to trim it into a rectangle. I was concerned that if a saw blade cut into the loose fabric that it would jam or possibly shred the project. So I was careful to only cut in parts that were saturated with the epoxy.
I then took it to the tablesaw and cleaned up the edges and trimmed it to final size.
Step 5: Finished Photos
Here are some photos of the finished project. I had some cherry frame stock left over from a framing project from a few years ago. I skipped over the framing, as that was not the focus here. This project was all about the epoxy and t-shirt experiment.
If you are interested in the framing process Here is an instructable where I custom make some frame stock.
IN CONCLUSION: I think this experiment was a success. I am a bit disappointed in the amber colouration, but I know that I can fix that next time by buying new hardener for my epoxy kit. Another thing to bear in mind is that most epoxy does yellow with age (unless you have UV inhibitors in it) so this project would have yellowed eventually anyway.