Introduction: Epoxy -vs- Tshirt = Artwork

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.

Or, here is a web page (frame design) where I discuss the design of the frame stock I used, and this web page (frame build) is where I built the frame that I used in this project

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.

Comments

author
EmK6 (author)2017-08-10

This is a very interesting project that helps save your favorite clothing memories. ?

author
GotinDrachenhart (author)2017-07-27

But....what if I want to preserve the shirt as-is and still wear it?? :P

author
MatthewM425 (author)2017-05-04

You could also try using encapsulating resin which is crystal clear and specifically formulated for casting objects into molds. This would leave you with the same finish and no discolouration...

author
BernhardS15 (author)2017-05-04

Cool idea.

You could try to add a few % Isopropanol to make the Epoxy thinner - but then be careful with the torch ;-)

author
MeMiri (author)2017-04-23

Now all one needs is a display area for all of them......maybe a bigger house?

author
MeMiri (author)2017-04-23

Really nice finished project, I think the amber actually accentuates the blue of the dragon.

author
studleylee (author)2017-04-13

I like the Amber color. It antiques it a bit.

author
eileenlilley (author)2017-04-06

Its amazing how good it looks, I've only put them in a frame before, yours is so much better.

author
sofiasaurus17 (author)2017-04-03

That's coooooooooooooool

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joniwest (author)2017-03-30

There are several new epoxy resins that don't yellow...they are a little more expensive than the older ones, but they are perfectly colorless. Also, you might consider using a thin layer of the resin to attach the material to the white board. Resin will do the job better than spray adhesive and can be layered.

author
Babyeeyore99 (author)2017-03-02

Could you use plain art resin?

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doo271 (author)Babyeeyore992017-03-30

Polyester resin should work. This also comes in a clear casting resin.

author
RandyG59 (author)Babyeeyore992017-03-23

I remember inlaying coins- sea shells- etc. In resturant tables with fiberglass resin. The trick was to pour a verry thin 1 st layer ( to allow the bubbles to come to the surface and pop) the top layer can be as thick as you like, because the reaction with the object has allready occured- hope this is helpful.

author
wordsnwood (author)Babyeeyore992017-03-03

possibly. I'm not familiar with art resin.

I would recommend just testing it with a scrap of fabric, just like I did

author
Darrilin (author)2017-03-23

Awesome idea!! Thanks for sharing....now all the concert Tshirts n trip souvenir shirts of mine & hubby's can be set free from dark corners or closets and escape the totes and hang in places of honor allowing us to relive special memories of times gone by. Too cool!

author
Nevada2 (author)2017-03-09

I have a large collection of T shirts from local seafood festivals, with stunning artwork. I can finally get them all out of the closet! THanks for this inspiring instructable. Love it.

author
Fawkes25 made it! (author)2017-03-03

This is great. I did it with an old college rugby shirt that I was not going to wear again but just couldn't throw out. Now instead of sitting in the bottom of my shirt drawer it is proudly hanging on my workshop wall.

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wordsnwood (author)Fawkes252017-03-04

Cool!!! That turned out really nice! Thanks for the photo

author
BonitaNB (author)2017-03-02

Very cool idea! Great video.

author
Jr.H4 (author)2017-03-02

wow I never thought about doing that !!!

author
Pcman123 (author)2017-03-02

Awesome. great project thank you

author
joweeks (author)2017-02-16

cool

author
AmandaJ89 (author)2017-02-02

Very Interesting. And I think the amber color brings out the colors you admired. It looks great.

author
Chey505 (author)2017-01-01

What a great project!! I have favorite Ts that I have put away to "someday" frame - just couldn't think of the best way to do that. I have never worked with epoxy in this manner, so will take a practice go at it first. You used a torch after the epoxy pour to remove the air bubbles ....? Can you suggest another way to remove bubbles without flame? Reading your previous comment/suggestions, I am going to glue down the shirt print, the frame, then pour. I don't trust myself using a torch for anything but creme brulee and am concerned about air bubbles. Thank you for any suggestion on my question and thank you very much for the very clear instructions and video! :)

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wordsnwood (author)Chey5052017-01-02

A torch or heat gun is the only method I have ever seen for dealing with bubbles.

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RodicaS1 (author)wordsnwood2017-01-26

I've never worked with epoxy , but maybe a hair dryer would do the same ??? just asking....

author
leefutureisnow1 (author)2017-01-26

Hey I like what you showed me. I also have a old T shirt that I would like to preserve. Thanks so much...

author
deannaf123 (author)2017-01-20

I agree, I think the amber lends something to the project. Many people make t-shirt quilts for the same reason! We do like out Tees! Nice job! Keep snapping!

author

You do good videos. I love this idea. I have a vet tech emblem I worked on in college. I permission from the artist and got shirts printed. I put mine on my Detroit Tigers official jacket. It has been cut out and moved around the country for many years. Now I can get it preserved for posterity. My only question is I live in an apartment with no wood working tools, how do I get the finished product cut? You don't live in Denver do you? Thanks for the great project.

author
SanityCheck (author)2017-01-09

Very cool! I can see this being used on a coffee table or patio table, too.

Why did you fire the epoxy... just to dry or harden it faster or does it require heat activation? Sorry if that's a dumb question, I've never worked with epoxy.

Thanks for sharing!

author
wordsnwood (author)SanityCheck2017-01-10

The heat is to pop any bubbles in the finish. Check out other youtube videos of people working with epoxy in a decorative way and they always use heat to ensure a clear finish.

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folkhero (author)2017-01-05

Now I wish I hadn't thrown away my old "Party `til you Puke" t-shirt.

author
oldsloane (author)2017-01-05

just did a quick search and found Envirotex Lite on amazon.ca.

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oldsloane (author)2017-01-05

I have used a product called Envirotex Lite, very easy to use, self levels and you can remove bubbles just by gently blowing your breath on the surface. I did a cedar burl clock more than 25 years ago and it still looks great. It was still available a couple of years ago but I do not remember where I bought it.

author
LoriG69 (author)2017-01-05

Awesome project! And I kind of like the amber color. Kind of makes it look older and more of a relic piece of art. Very impressive. Also like your workshop!

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perris (author)2016-12-29

I like this idea, but epoxy and I do not get along very well. I will give it another try for this project, however.

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Wallythecat (author)2016-12-29

Nice! I can just see my collection of '70's concert shirts displayed already. Great idea and inspirational.

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HarveT (author)2016-12-29

we used to just stretch t-shirts over picture frame backer and put behind the glass in the frame

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dietbedamned (author)2016-12-27

Can this be accomplished with polyurethane ?

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wordsnwood (author)dietbedamned2016-12-28

I've never tried that, so I don't know. I do know that polyurethane finish does build up after a while, but that would seem like it would take a long time.

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Paco Clavo (author)2016-12-27

I really believe the amber colored epoxy makes the colors in the dragon 'pop'! Great project, video and instructable. Well done.

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planefixxer (author)2016-12-27

I would frame it on a backer board with no glass front. Then pour this "epoxy" over it to fill it with a crystal clear front. Environmental Technology 32-Ounce Kit Lite Pour-On, High Gloss Finish https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BZYYQ0/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_sDXyyb5YF1X7Z

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Le-Anne (author)2016-12-27

Loved this! My brain is now bursting with ideas...thank you!

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wolffram (author)2016-12-27

I think the yellow gives it an aged "vintage" look. I like it.

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kristin.howard.169 (author)2016-12-27

How wonderful that you were able to save something so important to your family in such a creative way! Someday your grandchildren will be talking about it.

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Escagedo Woodworking (author)2016-12-09

Fantastic idea!!

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condorsc (author)2016-11-24

Contact an Art Dept. or two at a Univ., a craft shop open to the public, or a manufacturing jeweler. They will have a vacuum device which will remove the bubbles from the resin. Due to size, you may have to rig a bigger housing to cover the t-shirt.

author
RisingSuraj29 (author)2016-11-24

Its really creative and cool ✌

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sgbotsford (author)2016-11-17

There is a material marketed as casting resin. I think based on acrylic instead of polyester. It's nearly as clear as glass.

Also: When using resin, don't hurry the spread. Pour on one location slowly, and let it advance. This allows most of the air to get out of the material at the edges. Herd the resin from the pour point only to the edge of the saturated area.

If you do this for a living, look into some form of vacuum bag set up. This rocks for getting bubble free results.

If you end up with ripples in the surface, sand starting at 300 grit, and move up to thousand grit, and finish with rottenstone and oil.

author
wordsnwood (author)sgbotsford2016-11-18

Good information, thanks!

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