Homemade Family Reunion Shirts

Family reunion shirts don't have to be professionally printed. Grab a blank t-shirt, then check out these DIY craft projects for inspiration. If your family appreciates green crafts, use shirts you already own to create an upcycled version!

twins wearing homemade family reunion shirts

A family reunion t shirt doesn't have to be custom designed. Making your own family reunion shirts will save you money and can create some great memories in the process.

You can ask everyone to bring their own blank t-shirt (new or used), or, if you're worried they'll forget, you can provide the shirts.

Either way, make sure you have a few extra shirts on hand. Many fabric and craft stores sell inexpensive, ready-to-decorate blank t-shirts in a variety of colors and sizes. 

There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to making your own family reunion shirts.

Advantages:

  • Creates a fun family reunion activity
  • Less expensive than custom print t-shirts
  • Like other DIY craft projects, your creative options are limitless
  • You'll have a plethora of unique t-shirts; none will look the same

Disadvantages:

  • Takes time and effort to coordinate
  • Lots of room for error and potential for a huge mess
  • The non-crafty types might complain or not participate
  • You'll have a plethora of unique t-shirts; none will look the same

(Anyone notice the last bullet points are both the same??)

making Family Reunion Shirts

I'm always on the lookout for summer craft ideas and DIY craft projects that the kids and I can do together.

There's always a place at the reunion for family crafts.

Maybe it's because when I was a kid and it was too hot to go outside and play, my favorite thing to do was look through the "Make and Do" book and find a new project. My favorite was making puppets out of paper cups, using yarn for hair.

And then charging my grandparents 25 cents to come watch a puppet show. :-)

At any rate, here are some of the DIY craft projects that the kids and I have had fun creating. They aren't necessarily in the "quick and easy crafts" category, but could be just the idea you need to make your own family reunion shirts.

Crafts provide the perfect opportunity for people to BE together. With a project in front of you, not only do you have an instant conversation starter, but as you work, interaction comes naturally.


Tie Dye

family wearing tye die t-shirts

craft supplies needed: dye (the kits work great), squeeze bottles (included in most kits), rubber bands, marbles (optional), bucket, plastic gloves, newspaper, a zip lock bag for each shirt

time: 45-60 minutes; plus the shirts have to sit overnight to let the dye set

instructions:

Follow package instructions to mix the dye. Decide on t-shirt design, then fold, bunch and/or roll the shirt accordingly. Secure with rubber bands. Place shirt on newspaper (that will help absorb extra liquid). With clothes and hands protected, squirt dye onto shirt. Let the t-shirt sit overnight inside a zip lock bag. Rinse and wash, following package instructions. Warning: This project can be very messy – but it’s also my favorite! Do yourself a favor and work outside. 


Freezer Paper

make your own family reunion shirts with freezer paper

tip

When making your family reunion shirts, consider pairing each young child with an older child, teenager or adult. You'll be promoting intergenerational relationships and making it easier for the little ones.

craft supplies needed: freezer paper, iron, scissors, pencil, clip art image (optional), fabric paint

time: 45-60 minutes

instructions:
Draw or trace your design onto freezer paper.

Tip: For easier tracing, make your own light box. Simply hold your work against a window while you trace. This works best on a bright, sunny day.

Carefully cut out the shapes and images. Place the freezer paper – slick side down – onto the shirt and iron with low heat. This will make the paper stick to the shirt just enough to give you a guide and crisp edges. Lay shirt flat. Place newspaper, a paper grocery bag, cardboard or other protective material inside the shirt. Paint. Allow to dry, then remove paper.



Flour Paste

craft supplies needed: flour, fabric spray paint, zip lock bags

time: 30-90 minutes

instructions:

Lay shirt flat. Place newspaper, a paper grocery bag, cardboard or other protective material inside the shirt. Mix flour and water together in a bowl to make a thick paste. Pour about 1 cup of paste into a zip lock bag and seal. Very carefully, snip a tiny, tiny bit of plastic off one corner. This will make a squeeze bag – similar to those used by cake decorators. Using the paste, draw whatever design or picture you choose. Then spray paint the entire shirt. Use one or several colors. Allow the shirt to dry completely. When the paste is completely dry, simply peel it off and - poof! You’re done. Did you ever think it would be so easy to make your own t-shirt??


Stencils

stencil family reunion shirts
stencil t-shirt

craft supplies needed: paper, pencil, scissors or craft knife, paper, stickers (optional), fabric paint

time: 30-45 minutes

instructions:

Draw or trace shapes or designs onto paper. Large stickers also work well.

Tip: We used plastic stencil templates and over-sized alphabet stickers from the scrapbooking aisle. Contact paper also works well.

Place shapes and designs on shirt. Lay shirt flat. Place newspaper, a paper grocery bag, cardboard or other protective material inside the shirt. Paint. (We used a fabric spray paint and were finished in less than 5 minutes!)

Allow to dry; remove paper. Depending on the look you want to create, use stencils to create positive or negative images. (See sample photos.)

When someone comes up with a particularly stellar (or ugly) t-shirt design, award them with a personalized certificate.


Hands and Feet

best dad t-shirt

craft supplies needed: hands, feet, fabric paint, paper plates, newspaper (and lots of soap and water for clean up!)

time: 20-30 minutes

instructions:
The trick to successfully decorating family reunion shirts with hand and footprints is to have everything prepared and set out before you start, especially if you’re working with little (read: "wiggly") kids.

Lay shirt flat. Place newspaper, a paper grocery bag, cardboard or other protective material inside the shirt. Fill the sink (or bucket) up with soapy water. Pour paint onto paper plate. Dip hand or foot in paint. Practice making prints (and use excessive paint) on the newspaper. Then press your hand or foot on the t-shirt and wash up.

I’ve found it helpful to paint just one color at a time. I’ve also had great success with acrylic paints for this project - although clean up is a little more difficult.


Fabric Crayons and Markers

make your own t-shirt with fabric crayons

craft supplies needed: crayons, markers, clipart (optional), iron

time: 30-45 minutes

instructions: Lay shirt flat. Place newspaper, a paper grocery bag, cardboard or other protective material inside the shirt. Place clipart under t-shirt fabric and trace with markers. OR, with special fabric crayons, color a design on paper and then iron onto shirt.

Fabric crayons are my least favorite method to use to make your own t-shirt. You have to remember to color words and letters backwards. I also struggle to make the image dark enough.

However, if you can remember to write backwards, markers and crayons are great for t-shirt sayings because they create crisp lines.

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