Epoxy -vs- Tshirt = Artwork

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About: I build, I write, I film... Mostly a woodworker.

Intro: 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.

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258 Discussions

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dave6m

8 months ago on Step 5

Try a clear two part epoxy resin for bar tops or a casting resin.

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ShirleyF28

10 months ago

A lot of work that I don't think is necessary. I've stretched precious-to-me tees around stiff cardboard and framed them under a glass frame. Two of my favorite pillows are also vacation tee-shirts stitched around pillow forms.

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wordsnwoodShirleyF28

Reply 10 months ago

A lot of things we do may not be necessary, but can still be fun... :-)

(my wife also makes custom pillows!)

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BillB270

10 months ago

Nice Job ! I know what yo mean about wanting to get a new idea going, and not waiting for new material. i have the remnants of an old t-shirt that I was wondering how to preserve, now I've got the method !

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dridenh1

1 year ago

Well, I do believe I've seen.....everything? LOL!! Loved this DIY; tks!!

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lhyatt54

1 year ago

how cool

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patti24

1 year ago

Wow! LOVE this idea! Reading through the comments below, I see that people suggest a number of different liquid 'preservatives'. I have limited knowledge about epoxies & resins- I just bought a wood epoxy kit from PC Wood to do wood repairs, but I know there are a variety of expoxies for different purposes (ie. plastic, steel etc.).

You mentioned that you used "West System Epoxy". What is it labelled for use with? (plastic, wood?) Is it widely available in Hardware Stores or only in specialty stores? (I live in Canada).

Even though they are considered 'high gloss', will they all dry to a fairly 'matte' finish since it is soaking into material?

I was wondering if you could provide some information/clarification about the differences between the products mentioned in the comments, as well as price, if they will yellow over time, if 'Epoxy Resins' are the same as 'Epoxy Adhesives', etc.

Can you comment on which epoxies you think would work on this project as well.( ie. Would encapsulating resin be too thick?)

(Maybe even an "Instructable Video" :-) describing each one and trying it
on the t-shirt project to see if it produces different looks!)

Some materials mentioned in the comments were:

Encapsulating Resin, Art Resin, Polyester Resin, Fibreglass Resin, Casting Resin (the same as Encapsulating Resin?), Envirotex Lite.

I would also appreciate feedback from anyone who has tried a specific product on this t-shirt project!

Thanks again for this awesome idea! Can't wait to try it!


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wordsnwoodpatti24

Reply 1 year ago

SInce you live in Canada you can find West System epoxy at Lee Valley Tools, just like I did. They will have all the technical details there.

I've been told by a few people that all epoxy will yellow over time to some extent.

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EmK6

1 year ago

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

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GotinDrachenhart

1 year ago

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

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MatthewM425

1 year ago

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...

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BernhardS15

1 year ago

Cool idea.

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

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MeMiri

1 year ago

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

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MeMiri

1 year ago

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

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studleylee

1 year ago

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

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eileenlilley

1 year ago

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

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joniwest

1 year ago

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.

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doo271Babyeeyore99

Reply 1 year ago

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