Give my tshirt new life
December 31, 2017 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Twenty years ago, my brother gave me a tshirt on which he had printed a design that he'd drawn himself, in color. Twenty years later, it's quite yellowed, faded, and dingy. Help me resurrect it in a new form.

What I picture doing is cleaning the shirt and then cutting out just the design. Then I'd want to frame it. But this is as far as I've gotten with this plan. I don't know the best way to clean and whiten the shirt without irreparably fading the colored design. I was thinking of washing it with OxyClean, but I'm not sure if it's too strong. Should I just take it to a laundromat/dry cleaner?

And once I do have it washed and cut out the design, I assume I should hem the edges of the fabric to prevent fraying and make it look neater. Is there anything else I should do that I'm not thinking of?

I also don't know how to frame it once it's cut out. I imagine it would be thicker than a photo so maybe I wouldn't be able to just use any old frame. Do they make specific frames for fabric? Is that what shadowboxes are for? How would I adhere the fabric to the frame?

I am sure these are super basic questions and I feel a little silly asking, but I'm so not crafty so I'm feeling a little lost and don't know where to start. So any advice would be most appreciated!
posted by Neely O'Hara to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How is the design printed on the shirt? That will probably affect the advice for cleaning.

For the framing, you're in luck, and you don't even have to cut the design out. There are frames specifically designed for tshirts! We got some a few years ago for some extremely tattered 80s band tshirts that we just couldn't bear to part with but were also no longer in wearable condition. They look very nice as art.
posted by erst at 11:12 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

How is the design printed on the shirt?

I know my brother drew the cartoon on his own paper, and then took it to a kiosk in the mall to have it printed on the shirt. But I don't know what the technology was they were using in mall kiosks in the 90s. I'll have to ask my brother if he remembers.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:20 AM on December 31, 2017

Why don't you clean it, then stretch it over a cardboard shape, photograph it, and have someone print it for you. Then frame that?
posted by Oyéah at 11:57 AM on December 31, 2017

Since you mention whitening I assume the shirt itself is white, but is discolored, and the design is printed on the shirt. Have a look at the technologies described here — I suspect your shirt is printed with DTG technology, essentially ink-jet printing, which came into use around 20 years ago. OxyClean's website says it's safe for colored garments so I think it would be safe with respect to the printed design. But I would try it first with a very dilute solution and hand-washing in the sink, just to be sure, then use it a bit stronger if it seems to be OK. Then stretch and frame as suggested. If the fabric is still too dingy-looking to display that way, you could have a graphic designer scan it, touch up the colors, and get a new shirt made using the same design.
posted by beagle at 12:11 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Could you post a picture of the shirt? I'd like to see both how dingy the shirt is, and how easy it would be to spot clean the shirt.

As for framing, take it to a professional. It'll be more expensive than buying a frame at Hobby Lobby, but they know how to make it look exactly like you want.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:15 PM on December 31, 2017

There are frames specially designed for tshirts (shadowboxes are more for high-end sports jerseys or garments you can't just cut, these are for concert/signed tees). Just google for "tshirt display frame" and you should have plenty of choices.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:23 PM on December 31, 2017

Dollar stores near me have canvases for cheap, and yours probably do too. Once you get the shirt cleaned to your satisfaction, could you just stretch and staple the graphic portion of the shirt centred and wrapped around the frame?
posted by kate4914 at 1:45 PM on December 31, 2017

On a slight tangent: you could additionally take a picture of the image on the T-shirt, clean it up in your image editor of choice, and have it printed on a new T-shirt.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:56 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

You could also send it to Framebridge and they'll frame it for you!
posted by Mystical Listicle at 11:28 AM on January 1, 2018

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