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Creativity takes flight 

Freezer paper and feathered friends

The wind beneath her wings: The author in her backyard, wearing her just-completed handcrafted shirt

Photo by Rex Miller

The wind beneath her wings: The author in her backyard, wearing her just-completed handcrafted shirt

My backyard may be somewhat small, but lately it feels like a nature conservancy. Squirrels are busy making mischief, the occasional rabbit bounces around the garden, and the birds sing songs all day long, fluttering from feeder to feeder.

It's the birds that really make me feel like spring is on its way, and I start to get the creative, new-season energy that always makes me want to craft something. As I usually do when thus inspired, I started surfing craft Web sites and chatting with my friends about what they'd been up to in the world of DIY fashion.

Lately I've been hearing the same thing: stencils made from freezer paper. Though I normally associate this product with meat and fish, this household staple (either plastic or wax coated) has now made it to the art world. Seriously: I found instructions for stencils right there on the package.

Excitedly, I kept investigating this phenomenon and found that there's a flickr Web site with almost 400 photos just for people who've made their own designs with this technique: www.flickr.com/photos/tags/freezerpaperstencil. Then I went to a handmade fashion Web site that I frequently visit, www.etsy.com, and looked up "birds." I found that I was far from the only person to be inspired by our winged friends, with almost 1,500 designs involving birds in some way.

After purchasing several unique articles of clothing to print onto at a thrift store, I settle on an assortment of bird images for my creation: a colorful brown bird with an olive branch, a bird cage with a songbird, and wings for the back of a shirt.

The whole process is not only inexpensive, it also doesn't take a very long time. And, if you feel really proud of your new skills as a designer, why not sell some funky garments on etsy.com? I'll be shopping on there and would love to be inspired! Good luck, and have fun with these easy instructions.

SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED: freezer paper (plastic or wax coated); an X-Acto knife, fabric paint and paint brush (all of which are available at any art supply store); an iron; clothing to print onto. Have some scrap cardboard and a pencil handy, too.

STEP 1: Either trace your design onto the freezer paper (use the freezer paper like tracing paper) or freehand something directly on the paper. It's best to remember that solid shapes are going to be cut out so the paint goes through, so it's great to start with a simple design.

STEP 2: Use the X-Acto knife to cut out the design. Put a scrap piece of cardboard underneath the paper as you cut to provide resistance—and so you don't gouge your dining room table!

STEP 3: Take your stencil and iron it onto your clothing using a medium-low setting. Remember that designs don't have to go right in the center of a T-shirt; be creative and try a sleeve, the back or wrapping around the side. The paper will stick to the fabric.

STEP 4: Apply the fabric paint to the stencil on the shirt. You can use a paintbrush or apply the paint directly to the fabric, depending on the style of fabric paint you have.

STEP 5: Peel off the stencil and admire your handiwork!

STEP 6: You should really let the paint dry for 24 hours and then iron it the next day with a warm iron. It's ready to wear! Just check your fabric paint to see what kind of washing you should do and when.

Steps 3, 4 and 5 - PHOTOS BY REX MILLER

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