DIY: Homemade Disney Gear

Over the past few years, my wife and I have developed a habit of creating “projects” to wear at Disney parks: for our honeymoon we made matching T-shirts, and earlier this year we custom designed decorated MagicBands. We try to come up with not only new designs for each trip, but we also like to explore new methods for creating our wearable art projects.

So, for our trip to Disneyland, we continued this tradition by designing and creating new shirts. I also finally got around to making a hoodie project I had been putting off, as the weather report suggested that the nights in Anaheim were going to get a bit chilly.

Here is the breakdown of what we made, and how we made them!


 

Ghostly Garments

When we first started thinking about our Disneyland shirts, we realized that we wanted to incorporate something unique to that park and we quickly realized that the perfect subject for this was the Hatbox Ghost. Recently reincorporated into Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion (he was removed shortly after the ride’s opening), the Hatbox Ghost represented our love of the attraction as well as a character we won’t see anywhere else.

Once we had the subject, the next decision was how to put the Hatbox Ghost onto the shirts. After poking around online a bit, we found a method involving bleach which sounded fairly easy and would create a really cool effect.

 My one caveat before getting started: using bleach requires a lot of care. Getting it on your skin, in your eyes, and breathing it can be dangerous. Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area and taking all necessary precautions to avoid injury. 

In addition to your pattern and an article of clothing, you’ll also need: cutting implements (something fairly precise, like an X-Acto knife), tape, and a spray bottle of bleach. We opted not to dilute the bleach at all, but adding water can be a way to adjust how much it fades the fabric. If you want a lighter effect, then diluting is the way to go, but if you’re like us and want the image to really be bold then go with straight bleach. You’ll also want an iron, some cardboard, paper towels, and a tub or something filled with enough cold water to soak the shirt later in the process. Bear in mind, too, that if you’re making more than one shirt you’ll need one stencil per, as they’re only usable once.

We went with purple shirts, which bleached to pink.

hatbox stencil 5

Step One: Find an image that you like (we searched online and found a Hatbox Ghost jack-o-lantern template). The simpler the better, really intricate detailing is not your friend here. Tape down a printout of the pattern, put freezer paper over that wax-side down, and trace the pattern onto the freezer paper.

hatbox stencil 6

Carefully cut out the pattern. Be sure to keep the frame and all of the pieces.

We did our best to keep the pattern centered on the shirt, using safety pins to mark a center line down the front (as best we could). Also, I’d recommend ironing the work area of the shirt to ensure that you’re not adding wrinkles into your design.

hatbox stencil 7

We put the pattern onto the shirt and ironed it down, again making sure that the wax side of the freezer paper is down. That slightly waxy surface melted under the heat just enough to hold it in place on the shirt.

hatbox stencil 8

At the last minute we taped some plastic bags around as makeshift drop cloths. This would prevent the bleach from getting onto other areas of the shirt (and on the ironing board we were using as a craft table). We also slid a piece of cardboard into the shirt so the bleach wouldn’t soak all the way through to the back.

The next phase is spraying the bleach. Holding the bottle about six inches away from the shirt, spray evenly across the pattern. Spray pretty lightly as well, you can always do a second pass if you want it to be more bleached. Once you’ve done a pass, blot the surface (stencil and shirt) with paper towels.

hatbox stencil 9

The shirt will start changing color almost immediately, and you should let sit for several minutes while the bleach does its thing.

Once you think it’s done (we gave it about five minutes) drop the entire shirt, pattern and all, into the cold water. Let it soak for several minutes, which will stop the bleach reaction. I ended up just dropping the cardboard in with it, which got soggy but it’s still better than risking the bleach getting where you don’t want it on the shirt. We left it in the water for a few minutes, swishing it around a bit to insure that the whole thing is soaked. Then we removed it from the water and peeled off the stencil.

The heavier the bleach, the lighter the target area, but as we soon found out you need to be careful. I sprayed it on pretty thick, and did a second “coat” of bleach. Oops.

hatbox mistake

Yeah, this one didn’t work out so well. The heavy spray of bleach spread underneath the pattern, making the final image pretty messy. Good thing these shirts were cheap at the craft store…

OK, the first attempt didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was a good learning experience. Mostly we learned that our first attempt didn’t exactly go as planned. So for the next attempt we reversed things.

Hatbox stencil 4

We cut through the original pattern (which was on regular printer paper) and put that down onto the shirt. We then put down the pieces we had cut out of the freezer paper stencil, using the paper as a guide, and ironed them down.

The printer paper came right up, leaving the waxed freezer paper stuck to the shirt.

The next part was the same: spray, blot, and wait for the bleach to do its thing for about five minutes or so. Then dump the whole project into the cold water (we used our bathtub) for a few minutes.

The second version was MUCH better. The negative image really stands out against the bleached background.

After letting the shirts dry (we wrung them out a bit, and them let them hang over the tub for a while) you can wash them with some detergent and the shirts are ready to wear. I’d recommend washing them by themselves, or with something you don’t care about potentially getting bleach stained.

We weren’t quite done with these shirts, though, so we held off washing to do a bit more. I wanted to advertise my site, so had the idea of adding Magic & Misadventures to the back of the shirt. The concept of cutting out all of the letters to create a stencil did not seem like fun, however, and had a high risk of being screwed up. Fortunately, I got an idea:

M&M letters

After yet another trip the craft store (seriously, I think we were there four times in two days) I was the proud owner of two packs of letter stickers!

I carefully placed the letters on the back of the shirt. I also put a plastic garbage bag inside, again to prevent bleach from soaking through.

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I sprayed some bleach, dropped the shirt into the cold water, and then removed the letters. The result is the very first (and currently only) Magic & Misadventures T-shirt!

My wife wanted to do something for the back of hers as well. We had bought a bottle of glow-in-the-dark fabric spray at the craft store (because you never know when you may need that) and this seemed like the perfect chance to use it.

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We ironed down the stencil (the reverse of what we had used for the bleaching), sprayed the glowing paint, then let it dry. The result is a pretty cool splatter effect that looks neat in the dark. We may implement this more into our next shirts!

After a couple of days (the glow-in-the-dark paint instructions said to wait 72 hours) we washed the shirts, and they’re ready to wear at Disneyland!

Hoodie of the Future

This project started because of an impulse buy at the Disney Store. I was perusing their clearance section and came across a shirt that I immediately fell in love with. I’m in that store a lot, and had never seen this particular shirt before: turns out that it was in clearance simply because it wasn’t a part of their regular stock and had been returned from an online order.

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Seriously, I had to own this shirt. Problem is that it’s a medium, and I wear a large. I tried it on when I got home but it was a bit too snug, but rather than return it I figured I would turn it into another DIY project.

Originally I had thought of cutting out the graphic and attaching it to a denim jacket (and then decorating it with Disney-related pins and patches), but this didn’t happen because apparently it’s not the 1980s anymore and denim jackets are surprisingly hard to come by. So, since I wear hoodies a lot anyway and I happened to have a spare black one in my closet, the project shifted gears to something slightly closer to this decade.

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The first step was to cut out the graphic. I gave plenty of space around it, and then trimmed as needed.

To attach the graphic to the hoodie we used Thermoweb, which is basically an iron-on fabric adhesive. It’s more flexible than fabric glue (and less messy) and way easier to apply.

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Thermoweb is basically a double-sided adhesive, with backing paper over one side. Iron down the adhesive side onto one part of the project (in this case, the Space Mountain graphic) and remove the backing paper, then iron onto the other part (the hoodie).

I’d recommend covering your work surface with an old towel or something. As we were ironing down the piece of Thermoweb (which we cut larger than the graphic) we also accidentally adhered it to our ironing board. It was easy to peel up, but there’s a gross residue left behind. That’s me, destroying our ironing board cover so you know not to!

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Once the Thermoweb was ironed onto the graphic and it cooled down, I cut around to clean up the edges.

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I laid out the hoodie and ironed the working area, to get rid of any wrinkles that could cause issues under the graphic. I also used the hood seam to try and center the graphic as best I could.

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Now it was just a matter of carefully ironing the graphic onto the back of the hoodie. We took it slow, my wife stretching the fabric slightly to prevent wrinkling while I ironed.

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Once it was down and cooled, we checked out the edges. There were a few that we had missed with the Thermoweb so they were not attached to the hoodie. We happened to have some Stitch Witch on hand, which is a thin tape-like fabric adhesive that you heat and it bonds, but I think little dabs of fabric glue would have worked just as well.

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The hoodie is complete! It ended up looking even better than I expected. The black of the graphic is a slightly different shade than that of the hoodie, but it really does look great.

One minor point that we didn’t consider: the graphic is only 100% visible when the hood is up. If I’m not wearing the hood, then part of the Space Mountain lettering is obscured. I don’t think I care too much about that, but it’s something we didn’t think about and to keep in mind on future projects.

Before I decided that this project was done, though, I had one last addition. Since apparently I’m terrible at resisting Disney-related impulse buys, I had a small Mickey Mouse iron-on patch from Hot Topic that I had no use for yet. So I opted to incorporate it onto the hoodie.

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I put the patch down on the left-hand pocket at an angle and ironed it on. It adds a little splash of color to the front.

The cool thing about the hoodie in particular is that it’s something I’ll wear outside of the parks as well. Some of the shirts we’ve made are fairly specific to one point in time (like the honeymoon ones) but the hoodie will help keep me warm–and show off my Disney fandom–pretty much anywhere.

Update: I was a bit concerned about how the hoodie would hold up to being worn, shoved into a locker, rolled into a suitcase, etc. The shirts that we had made with the same Thermoweb technique didn’t last past the one wearing/washing. But I’m happy to say that the hoodie is doing just fine after the trip. It could be that the T-shirt I cut up is a better fabric than what we used on the shirts. I’ve found that the edges are starting to come up a bit in some places, I think it’s just the nature of the Thermoweb, but a dab of fabric glue or a few stitches should take care of that easily. 


I’ll admit, part of the fun of our Disney trips is creating these do-it-yourself projects and showing them off in the parks. Often people (cast members and fellow guests alike) will take notice and comment on them, and it’s exciting to share a moment with other Disney fans. It’s also just fun to create them, my wife and I really enjoy putting them together. For us, it’s an extension of the planning process and a way to get jazzed up for an upcoming Disney trip, and hopefully writing about our do-it-yourself projects can help inspire like-minded fans.

So if you want to create a cool piece of wearable Disney art, I hope this helps, and if you’re at a Disney park and you see someone wearing these it’s probably us. Stop and say hello!


Did this inspire you to create your own wearable Disney art? I’d love to see! Post a photo on Instagram and use #MagicandMisadventures to show off your work!

 

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