How To: Solar Printed Pumpkin Tee

By Bernadette Noll
Here in Austin we had something like a kajillion days over 100 degrees in a row this summer. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but that’s what it felt like. It got to the point where you certainly couldn’t beat it, and so we had to find ways to join it.
We stumbled upon this idea because we left a green T-shirt, all crumpled in a ball, out in the yard for a few days. When I picked it up and shook it out, I saw that the places that had been exposed to the sun had been bleached out. And the light bulb went on!
If it could happen accidentally, why not make it intentional? And the idea for the Solar Printed Pumpkin Tee was born!


Cereal box or other thin cardboard
Pencil or pen
X-Acto knife
Colored T-shirt, we used orange
Straight pins


pumpkin 2.jpg
Step 1: Open up a cereal box or other cardboard and draw out your shape.
Step 2: Cut out the shape using scissors around the edge of your design and an X-Acto blade for the details. This is your stencil.
Step 3: Lay the shirt flat and position your stencil as you like it.
Step 4: Pin the stencil to the shirt being sure to insert the pins all the way around the edge – otherwise the cardboard will curl up from being in the sun.
pumpkin 4.jpg
Step 5: Lay your shirt in a super sunny location of your yard.
Step 6: If you want to move it around the yard, you can put it on something mobile. Be sure to put it on something like a box as opposed to a chair with arms – otherwise the arms will cause shadows where you don’t want them.
pumpkin 6.jpg
Step 7: Leave it in the sun for a while. We left ours for about 10 days. Obviously the shorter the days the longer you will need to leave it out. Check the status periodically.
pumpkin 7.jpg
Step 8: When it’s darkened to your liking, remove the stencil and voila! You’ve got it. A cool stenciled shirt using no chemicals or dyes and almost zero personal energy. Ours is subtle, which is what we were going for. If you want it darker, just leave it out longer.
About the Author:
Bernadette Noll.jpg
Bernadette Noll, of Slow Family Living and Future Craft Collective, is the co-author of the book, Make Stuff Together, which encourages families to find joy and connection in the crafting process and to use repurposed/recycled/upcycled/found materials whenever possible. She is currently working on her next book, Slow Family Living, due out from Perigee Books in the Spring of 2013.

2 thoughts on “How To: Solar Printed Pumpkin Tee

  1. clothespin says:

    I’m guessing that you could use spray starch on some aluminum foil, too, right? Then, no pins and cleaner edges possibly? Love the idea by the way… thanks!
    Oh, and yes, it was a kabillion zillion days over 100 this summer near Austin. blech, I hope it’s done with for the year. I have no intention of joining it – Mother Nature is clearly a mean old lady who is mad at Texas and is taking it out by trying to slowly roast us to death (or in the case of Bastrop, not so slowly)…

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