I thought I'd have a go at decorating plain t-shirts for toddler. I made myself an inspiration board in the dead of night. I found an old stained t-shirt in the rag bag and I've tested out various bleaches, appliqué and fabric paint. It's going through every wash in my machine now to test durability.
In my cupboard, I could find Domestos Toilet Gel, and Mold and Mildew remover (Dettol, I think). I tried a freezer paper stencil and sponged the bleach over it, before removing the stencil and washing the shirt in cold water.
My bottle of Domestos is lime scented and green. The green gel stained the bleached bit of the t-shirt green-ish, so negative points for that. That said, the gel nature did mean that the bleach didn't leach outside the stencil in the 5+ minutes I left it to do it's business. The bleach isn't really strong enough for this purpose, and the result is a design that's pretty faint and hard to see.
I know the Mold and Mildew remover can bleach clothes, because my husband accidentally wrecked his new brown dressing gown with it while cleaning the bathroom. However, it turns out it's not strong enough to do stencilled designs. You have to leave it on the shirt for a long time before it bleaches the fabric and during this time it leaches under the stencil. You get a very visible bleached patch in the shape of a generic blob.
Verdict: I need something stronger than 3.5% sodium hypochlorite, and I have nothing in my cupboards that nasty. I'm not going out to buy some specially, so it's a no for the bleach.
My appliqué cotton patch is holding up well on the test shirt, and since the t-shirt fabric doesn't have that much stretch then it doesn't seem to matter that the patch is made of a woven fabric. I used double-sided fusible to apply it, then zig-zag stitched around the edges. I think this is a winner, but I might be wary about using a woven for large area designs in case it pulls the fabric out of shape. Also, pre-wash will be key!
Alas, I have to actually pay for this version as I have nothing in the cupboards. I forked out £1.80 for a fruit-of-the-loom t-shirt, and £2 for a tiny pot of DecoArt SoSoft fabric paint. I used my friend the freezer-paper stencil. and copied a design I found on pinterest (sorry original artist!).
The t-shirt cut is a bit boxy for my liking, but the quality is good and they have a lovely range of bright colours.
The paint on my sample shirt seems to be standing up to washing reasonably well, and it's certainly gone nice and soft. It feels just like the screen printed bits on commercial shirts. It's a win! I've only washed the actual t-shirt once after painting and it's not washed as well as my test sample, but we'll see how it goes with wearing.