Ages ago I started collecting interesting coloured plastic bags from friends, thinking that I would make some reusable shopping bags by ironing them together to make a kind of Tyvek material. This has been done a lot in the last few years, and there are a lot of tutorials out there on the internet showing how to fuse plastic shopping bags into a more durable kind of material that can be sewn like fabric. Here's a good one, in case you've not seen or heard of it before. Here are a few lovely examples of fused bags too.
Before I got around to collecting enough to make a fused bag project. I started wondering if I could use the same iron and parchment paper method to iron some of the cute plastic decals to the kid's clothing. Among the bags that my friends saved for me were some cute disney store ones, some party favour bags, some Lego store ones and a whole load of brightly coloured ones and ones with patterns like those from Old Navy.
I decided to start off by trying to iron a disney princess onto an old vest. Just cut out the image from the bag, then places it where I wanted it on the shirt and put some parchment paper over the top before ironing it on.
I had the iron set to cotton setting and found that providing the decal I cut out was smaller than the footprint of the iron, then I could get the bag to fuse really well to the tshirt material by pressing down hard and holding it for about ten seconds. If I wasn't quick enough putting the iron down hard then the bag would shrivel and distort the decal, which is why I stuck to doing ones that were smaller than the iron base. Let it cool a bit before you pull off the parchment paper, so that the plastic is set.
You're basically melting the bag into the surface of the fabric enough that once it has cooled, it won't peel back off. Once you've done the initial quick hard press of the iron and the plastic is adhered to the fabric, then you can go over it again to make sure it it well fused. If there are corners not fused, or it's not melted into the fabric enough then there's a chance that it'll peel off in the wash. That happened with the large decal of cinderella that I tried. It was just a bit too big, and I didn't get it totally fused to the tshirt enough. Still, I'm experimenting with this so that you don't have to right?
Because the plastic bags are so thin, when they bond to the fabric they leave the material still nice and soft feeling, not like the iron on transfers you can buy to print onto, which really seem to bulk up the fabric.
The other interesting thing with this is that you can deliberately iron the decals a little less, so that they *can* be peeled off. The cinderella one stayed well adhered whilst being worn all day, but when it came to machine washing, it just peeled right off and didn't make a mess of the shirt at all. Could be a cool way to change up plain tshirts for special events, so you can peel it all off after and use the tshirt again. All the ones I've done since then have been well ironed on perminent decals though.
Party favour bag butterfly decal on a pair of home made long tshirt shorts worked really well.
Some bags did work better than others, but most bags worked fine with varying amounts of ironing. The only thing that didn't work, which was a shame, was some easter eggs that I cut out of a really thin plastic dollar store table cloth. I'd rescued the table cloth from the bin at a local party thinking it would be great to cut out and iron on the eggs and bunnies to make easter skirts for the girls, but the plastic was just too thin and fragmented when I ironed it.
I ended up cutting out a load of egg shapes from the other bags that I had to make the first easter skirt. Added a load of hand cut flowers too.
I had two large tshirts to make the skirts from, by just threading elastic through the bottom hem. One from Goodwill and one from the Dollar Tree. My kids have a few skirts like these of various lengths, because they are so easy, cheap and fast to make.
Some of the yellow flowers I wasn't quick enough to press down on, so they shrivelled a bit, actually it was more because my ironing board is really lame, so I had to pad the surface to get even contact with the iron, but once I realised that, they worked much better.
Here's a flower laid out before ironing.
Here's one that shrivelled.
And here's one after I sorted out padding the crummy ironing board to get even pressure.
Once I'd done the pink skirt for my older daughter, I thought I'd try putting my own decal together on the blue skirts by cutting shapes out of the coloured bags. I cut out separate shapes for the head, ears, body, feet and tail of the bunny from a white Safeway's bag, and ironed them on one at a time. Then cut out the pink for the ears and face and ironed them on top. Then cut out the yellow basket and ironed that on. I drew over the decal with a perminent marker and ironed that to set it into the plastic.
Finally I thought I'd see if I could punch out shapes from the plastic bags with scrapbook shape punches. I have a couple of really small ones that are flowers. I found that if you sandwich the bag between two layers of parchment paper (I guess any paper would do, I just had the parchment paper right there because I was using it already) then you can cut out a really clean shape from the bag to iron on. I ironed on two teeny little flowers to the basket and then cut some green bits of grass to iron on too.
I'm going to ask a mate of mine that is into scrapbooking if I can borrow a few of her shape cutters to get some more shapes cut from the bags I have, as this is much easier and quicker than hand cutting with scissors! If you have some of these punches already then this project will be really really quick and easy for you to try out.
Sorry if you noticed the chaos of accidental posting earlier today. It's been a bit on the looney side here the last two weeks. I've had some unexpected surgery and things are only just getting back to normal. I'm clearly still a couple of cans short of a six pack though, and managed to post this before I added any of the images. Whoops!
As you can see, it is spring break this week, so we are taking it easy and playing twister while the laundry doesn't get folded. NB. don't worry, Twister is a spectator sport for me until I am fully recovered ;)
More info and another example here for you if you want to give this a go.
Another plastic bag decal project that the kids can be involved in this time, here.