Saturday, April 03, 2010

Nerding Out

This is a plastic bag from Barnes & Noble . . .

. . . from which I cut the book tree graphic and applied to a shirt using a hot iron and a piece of parchment paper.

That baby is fused onto my shirt just like any other applique on any other shirt. Frankly, I find it amazing. This blows the lid off the whole printed t-shirt industry. The means of production are now in the hands of the people!

When I read about this over at Kitten Muffin's blog Filth Wizardry, where she provides a complete tutorial, I had to go back and read the post several times because it seemed like I had to have missed something. It was too simple. And even then, I had to try it for myself to see if you can really make iron-on decals from your average, every day plastic bags. It's true and a whole new world has opened for me -- I'm serious. I spent the day yesterday eying people's plastic bags and thinking about what I was going to do with them. 

Like Kitten, I had to experiment a bit. I've been on something of a plastic bag purge these last few years, so  the only one that came readily to hand was a very thin produce bag "Made From 100% Post-Industrial Recycled Resin." I thought that phrase might be a nice t-shirt non sequitur, but either the plastic was too thin or recycled resin doesn't fuse as well, and it wound up warping under the heat of the iron. But no worries, it peeled right off the shirt. A thin Safeway bag did the same thing and I was out of plastic bags.

That's when I hopped on our new light rail train and headed downtown to spend the last of my Barnes & Noble gift card on Alfie Kohn's book Punished By Rewards (which people keep telling me I need to read), but my main objective was a plastic bag. In fact, I asked the cashier for an extra one just in case. While there I ran into Jessie, the store's community relations manager who had treated me so well the day I sang in the store. I also ran into Elliott and Violet's mom Cheryl who was likewise browsing the education section. Neither Jessie nor Cheryl seemed as excited as I was about the project I was engaged upon.

The slightly thicker B&N bag worked perfectly, although I modified my approach slightly which may have helped. For one thing, like Kitten Muffin, my ironing board isn't my best household tool and she makes it clear that one of the tricks is to be sure you're working on a solid, smooth surface so that you can apply the iron firmly and suddenly, which helps avoid the warping. I used the kitchen counter.

Kitten reports that some of her efforts have made it through the laundry, but even if they do come off, they leave the fabric unscathed. She has since posted two more posts about reusing plastic bags. One is an update on this technique where she takes it into the realms of art. And the other is about using the technique to apply your own kids' art to clothing.

I wore my new shirt to help my friends at the Fremont Arts Council price items for this weekend's rummage sale to raise funds for our Summer Solstice Parade (June 20). They showed polite interest, but I didn't get the feeling any of them were going to run home and give it a try. But as my blog friend Noah over at The People Garden would say, I'm nerding out about this!

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Deborah Stewart said...

I am in love with this idea now too!! I am going to have to go on a search for plastic bags. We have a whole bunch from Marsh but we use those as doggy bags and they are kind of thin:) Really cool idea!

Shara: Mommy Perks said...

I love the pinecone - where I live, we have pinecones EVERYWHERE. This is such a neat idea. I'll have to think up some shirt ideas for the kids in town.

Perhaps we can turn this into a charity event. Thanks, Teacher Tom and Teach Preschool (and the gal who originally thought of the idea...I don't know her name) :-)

Scott said...

This sounds really cool. I think I need to try it. (I'm always going to the bookstore and getting those bags!)

ShamanMonkey said...

The power of production has always been in the hands of the people, but for some reason a lot of us got duped into not learning that. I rediscovered that by gardening. I have the power to control so much more of my food intake now that's it lead to all sorts of home production methods. Isn't vertical integration grand?

Unknown said...

this might be the coolest thing yet! Wow! I want to try. And, unlike you, I have been forgetting my recyclable bags for the last few weeks and have a plethora of plastic bags to try. YAY!

Lindsey said...

Wha-heeeee! It worked for you too! Thanks for coming and telling me you'd had a go at it. Glad to see other people being as nerdily happy about this :) The book tree logo was perfect!

Eternal Lizdom said...

That is very cool! Thanks for sharing!

Have you read NurtureShock? Definitely one I'd recommend...

Regency Kindergarten said...

Wow, you open the science door for us.
Thanks Tom for sharing it.
I will experiment it too :)

kristin said...


i am off to the kitchen to find a plastic bag. oh my. oh my. this is good.

Teacher Tom said...

@Kristin . . . Make sure to check my post from today as well. I've figured out how to make it better.

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