Introduction: Turning T-Shirts Into Art

About: I work in a hardware store and lumberyard, which gives me all kinds of inspiration and resources. It's also like being a therapist, as I convince people to do things the right way, give them confidence and ins…

This is the result of a project I undertook to save the artwork from a worn T-Shirt. My parents gave me this from their trip to the Pacific Northwest some years ago, and I like the totem-esque salmon.

The shirt had seen better days, and I thought about mounting it in some fashion for quite some time. I finally took the plunge, and this is what I came up with.

Please keep in mind two points. First, I didn't think of doing this as an instructable, so there could be more photos. Second, I hit project snags, did things I didn't end up liking,etc, so some of this is "how to fix things that you did to yourself." But that's problem solving, which is a worthy thing by itself.

Step 1: Materials

So, here's what I used:
- T-Shirt with cool graphic
- Staple gun
- Something to mount it on. Palace Arts happened to have a 16 x 16 project board
- Plexiglass same size as your mounting surface
- Cabinet screws
- Wood trim to make up the frame edges
- Clear 5 minute epoxy
- Some gooey adhesive. I used E6000
- Sharp knife- boxcutter or utility knife
- Stain and Polyurethane to taste

Step 2: Attach the Fabric

The project board here is basically a 1 x 2 frame with a 1/8" plywood top. I thought the 16" x 16" size was a little big, but functionally it was perfect.

Position your T-Shirt on the project board and staple gun the edges in place. Wrap the corner areas so they can tuck neatly along the edge of the frame. Don't pull the material too tight, but don't leave it too loose either.

Step 3: Drill Through the Plexiglass

At this point, this is what I did, which I may have done differently as we shall soon see. My plan at this point was to use washer-headed cabinet screws to attach the plexiglass and call that part good.

I was concerned about cracking the plexi, but it actually went well. I used a flat surface to drill through to prevent chip out of the plexi. Keep the protective film (that should have come with your plexiglass) on. Drill ~slowly~ and with minimal pressure, using a sharp bit that is as big as the threads on the screws you will be using. The drilled plexiglass should start coming out in delicate shavings. Continue with gentle pressure until you have drilled completely through.

Step 4: Screwing the Plexiglass Into Place

When I was ready to screw the plexiglass down over the T-shirt and the frame, I had one challenge. The T-shirt fabric will want to grab and wrap around screw as you try to drive it in. The solution is simple.

Position your plexiglass onto the project board, and take each screw and push it down firmly through each hole. This should slightly spread the fabric,leaving a mark. Raise up the plexiglass, and use a utility knife to make a small cross-shaped tear for the screw to go through.

I did this for one screw, and then screwed it most of the way in so the rest of the holes would line up consistently. With everything oriented, you should be able to screw your plexi down after you remove its protective film. Screw it just snug enough that the plexi is held tightly in place.

Step 5: Finished?

Hmm. I soon realized I did not like the industrial look the screws brought to the piece. Haphazardly as well, I didn't think to make them even spaced around the thing. As is seen in this picture, I held up a piece of redwood to see how I might hide the screws.

The solution:

I had some redwood beading about 3/4 inch wide. I used a dremil and utility knife to cut out recesses for the screwheads, and shot it a couple of times with polyurethane. You would be able to see these recesses if you were standing close to it, but this did what I wanted it to do. I glued them on with Devcon five minute epoxy, which worked well. Thank God this stuff is clear, because I accidentally got some on part of the plexiglass that would not be hidden by the frame. There's a learning experience. It wasn't horrible though, and I won't lose any sleep over it.

Step 6: Glue the Fabric Down to the Edges

My original vision for this project was a frame of pine lath for the edges. The wide lath edging was to serve a dual purpose, as the glue should seep through the fabric and cement the whole thing to the project board. I previously stained the lath with a dark mahogany and then shot it with a polyurethane to give a nice contrast to the T-shirt.

E6000 is wonderful stuff, but can be a bit stringy, so pay attention to it. They say to goop both surfaces and then pull apart for 2 minutes to improve the bond. This was the clamp up I used. Gluing one side at a time was slow, but it made the lath easy to reposition.

Step 7: Last Details

With the last part of the frame glued in place, I'm ready to call it done. As you can see in the close-up, I'm using butt joints for the frame pieces. I don't have a miter set up, but I think this adds a beautiful rustic character. Some of the joints were a little short as well, but I will accept this as part of the piece.

Step 8: Finished

Here we are. I have a little bit of fabric to trim still but otherwise I just need to get a picture hanger and put it on a wall.

Thanks for checking this out, and hope you have fun in your own projects.