Sunday, June 26, 2005

a sweatshirt for Poppie

Back when our eldest child was three, we had him make pictures for his grandparents. He happily scribbled, and narrated out loud as he drew. Since one three-year-old's picture looks pretty much like any other one, I personalized it by reconstructing his narration as well as I could remember, writing his words (complete with mispronounciations) on the picture as he supervised and clarified.

He was thrilled to be able to use markers instead of crayons, and even more thrilled to have 100% of my attention as he drew and narrated.

He didn't know that the paper he was happily scribbling on was T-shirt transfer paper meant for an inkjet printer. We peeled the backing off his drawings and ironed them on to sweatshirts for his grandparents for Christmas. The above picture is ironed on to a navy blue sweatshirt for my dad (known to the kids as Poppie.)

What you see above on the left is where BigE started drawing off the transfer paper and on to the newspaper I'd laid out on the table. It was an important part: the front-end loader's big orange scoop! So, after BigE was done with his drawing, I brought the newspaper over to our front window and used the window as a light-table to transfer BigE's drawing onto another sheet of transfer paper, then cut that part of the drawing out and ironed it on to the shirt next to the rest of the drawing.

Details of the drawing are above and below. I think my dad loved his sweatshirt the best of any of the recipients. He often wore it to the grocery store, and said that people would stop him in the store to read the shirt - the whole shirt, all the comments - out loud. (As an extrovert, Poppie actually enjoyed this interaction.) It's been three years now since we made these shirts, and it's about time for new sweatshirts; this one is about worn out.

BigE and Chickie have caught on to our tricks, though, and resist our not-so-subtle pressure to "perform." While their pictures are much more beautiful now than three years ago (and sweatshirt worthy even without narration) - I'd like them to enjoy drawing, and not feel like a trained circus animal doing a performance on command.

So I guess that means we wait until Mac and Bubbie are old enough to draw with markers, but young enough to feel like it's a great privilege. Old enough to enjoy our intense concentration on their every word, and young enough to not realize that we're shamelessly exploiting their cuteness to make Christmas presents for their grandparents. (Hmm. I guess that means if the grandparents read my blog, they know what they're getting for Christmas in two years!)

Technical notes: we used Avery inkjet T-shirt transfers for dark shirts. They are white rather than clear, and you don't reverse them when you apply them to the shirt. Instead, you peel off the backing paper (leaving them floppy, like a giant vinyl cling) and cover it with the enclosed coversheet and iron the vinyl cling onto the shirt.

Some colors of Crayola markers faded with washing, some did not. The cheap-brand markers we had gave varying results too. We had excellent results with Mr. Sketch scented markers. Permanent Sharpie markers also did a great job over time. I wrote the narrations in ballpoint pen, which weathered fairly well, and finepoint Sharpie, which worked even better.

We discovered we did not like to iron a whole letter-size sheet onto a T-shirt; it made the T-shirt uncomfortably hot and sticky, and the transfer tended to rip. A whole sheet worked better on sweatshirts, which don't stretch as much as T-shirts (and are meant to be warm!) For T-shirts, we later had the kids make a bunch of individual drawings (about 1" square) and we trimmed around each drawing and ironed them on separately, all in a line across the front, or in a grouping.

This was all before I saw all the blogs where mothers more skilled than I am (and perhaps with more time than I have!) made stuffed animals and embroidered aprons and quilts and wall quilts out of their children's drawings! Those are much cuter and more elegant things to do, and they are on my long list of things to try... when my kids are just a little older.


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