DIY: Upcycled, Lace Shadow Printed Tee Shirt


Oh Nerdship, there’s something you need to know about me. I have a problem. It’s called “Hah! I can make that” Syndrome. It’s when the person is afflicted with the notion that they can make all the things if they put their mind to it. Because, hey! Anything is possible. Right? I walk through the mall or my local big-box store looking at everything – generally in the clothes or home decor area – and my mind starts to race with ways to duplicate all of  those pretties with stuff I already have or can acquire cheaper than I could if I bought the finished product. (To be fair, I never copy them entirely.) I always manage to put some sort of flair or spin on them to make them mine.

Our house has several DIY creations that were inspired by things I’ve seen at the store. Wooden phrase signs, artwork, and various holiday decorations to name a few. Recently, my gaze has turned to the clothing world. There is SO MANY cool designs out there. Unfortunately, places like Black Milk Clothing are really cool – but charge an arm and a leg for their threads. Normally my budget is somewhere in between 6 Dollar Shirts and ShirtWoot to Threadless and J!NX… but sometimes I just want a really awesome shirt. So I make my own…because I’m batman.


You might say that I have designer tastes on a Costco budget. AND THAT’S OKAY! Why? Up-Cycling. I turn garage-sale and Goodwill finds into something that you might find at high-named store. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right?

A few weeks ago I discovered a really nifty product from Lumi called Inkodye. It’s basically a UV-reactive, photosensitive dye that you can use to create AWESOME, screen-printed quality designed fabric (or basically anything absorbent and porous that is washable). It uses the power of the sun and is basically magic in a bottle. Seriously, it is my new favorite thing and I have made many wonderful things with it already.  I can guarantee that you’ll see more Inkodye DIYs over the next few weeks – including an awesome giveaway, but more on that at a later date.

Here are a few of the shirts that I’ve created this week. Some might just show up on the Etsy Store for our grand re-opening. NerdsAndNomsense-Lumi-inkodye-creations-tshirts

On Monday I went to Goodwill on a mission: Find some mostly cotton blouses or t-shirts that don’t have any weird prints or patterns on them already. Buy them. Improve them.

I went. I bought. I conquered.

I ended up finding four shirts and spent about $6 total. Somehow I managed to find an unbelievably soft American Eagle Outfitters scoop-neck that I instantly fell in love with. Sure, it isn’t brand new but for what I wanted, it was perfect. And it was .75 cents. It can’t get better than that, Nerdship.

So this plain ‘ole, Pantone 5635 C-colored, long-ish t-shirt went from just comfy to AWESOMELY COMFY. I used some old bargain bin lacy black fabric, Inkodye in black, and THE SUN to make a stylish top that I’m sure will make all my friends jealous. ( “Oh this old thing… I DESIGNED IT MAH SELF!” ) 


I’d like to take a moment before I get into the DIY and thank our lovely Nerdship member, Leslie, for being my model. She’s super awesome! Thanks Leslie! I especially loved your ‘GRRRRRRR’ face. 

Jeez, that's a mouthful.

What you’re going to need:


  •  A light-colored T-shirt of your choice. MUST BE AT LEAST 65% COTTON or the dye will not stick.
  • Black lace fabric  – large enough to cover your entire area that you would like to shadow
  • Inkodye – I used black but you can use any color you see fit. They have several.
  • Inkowash – It’s a specially formulated detergent that removes all of the excess dye and stops the shirt from continuing to develop.
  • Tape – the more opaque the better. I started out with simple painters tape but ended up laying good old duct tape over top of it to help control the lines of my dye area.
  • Brushes – to help smooth out your dye.
  • A spray bottle – to create an ombre effect.
  • Some water – to dilute your dye
  • A piece of cardboard or plastic – to help shield the areas you don’t want to get dye on while you are spraying
  • Paper towels or a cloth rag for blotting and cleaning up messes.
  • Clothes Pins or Clamps to keep the fabric in place on the board.
  • Sewing Pins 
  • A cardboard shirt form covered with a plastic bag – Or any surface that you can put inside your shirt to make sure that your dye doesn’t seep through to the other side. Coated foam-core board will work too!

[All of these products are available at most major craft store chains like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I highly suggest going through your closet and looking for shirts that you can ‘give new life’ to.]

How to:

First and foremost you will want to work in a dimly lit area where there isn’t a lot of natural light coming through. Inkodye reacts to UV rays and the less you have in your work area, the longer you can spend on your project. Be sure to prep your work area so that you cover all the important surfaces that you don’t want to accidentally mess up. Inkodye does wash out with water but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Before I forget – you will want to check your local weather for the day to make sure that it isn’t going to rain. Oh, and you’ll want to schedule this DIY so that when you bring your shirt out to develop in the sun that the sun will be overhead. Anytime midday, really. 

The night before you are ready to do the project it’s best if you give which ever shirt you plan on dying a good washing (don’t add in any fabric softener) that way there aren’t any foreign particles on your shirt that may impede the dying process. Make sure that it’s dried thoroughly too! You might think that you’ve gone and ruined your shirt because it feels coarse – but coarse is a good thing. The cotton fibers are frayed open which allows the ink to get all up in there.

When you’ve got everything ready to go you are going to want to slip your shirt over the plastic-covered shirt form, and then measure the area that you’d like the lace to be. For my shirt I wanted about a 10in wide by 30in long strip going down the front of the shirt. If you are a touch OCD you will want to make absolutely sure that your strip is centered otherwise it will drive you bonkers afterwards. Go ahead and place your tape along the edges.


After that, shake and carefully crack open your snap packet of Inkodye and pour it into a small spray bottle. I cracked it very gently and then tilted it on its side so the dye would run down the edge of the packaging into the bottle because somebody misplaced our funnel. Since I was going for an ombre effect I ended up doing a 1:3 ratio of inkodye to water. Shake to mix thoroughly.  [Lumi states on their website that one of these little 1oz packets will completely cover a 12in square area and that you can even dilute the mixture in half and it will still retain its dying strength. They are not kidding. This stuff is highly concentrated and a little will go a long way.]


It’s time to start spraying your shirt. Grab your spray bottle in one hand and your piece of plastic or cardboard in the other and start to spray at the top of your shirt. If you are wanting an ombre effect, spray an even layer all the way down your shirt and then follow it up with several other layers that are shorter in length. Make sure to use the cardboard to help control your spray so you don’t get any of it going on other places of the shirt, ESPECIALLY AROUND THE EDGES. What I did was lay the edge of the cardboard along the inner edge of the tape  that way it blocked the spray and made for a nice clean edge.


Here’s where it gets a little tricky. When your fabric starts to absorb the dye it starts to not want to stay put when you’re trying to smooth everything out – so you get these wrinkles (see above). Just pull everything taut as you go along and it should work just fine. I brushed everything towards the bottom of the shirt which helped with the gradient effect.

Now it’s time for cleanup and blotting. It may seem weird but you’re just going to carefully blot away any excess dye from your fabric. I use an old work shirt that my husband got at a conference. you can also wipe up the edges, too! DIYUpcycledLaceTShirt_InkoDye_NerdsAndNomsense-5

If you accidentally end up with some dye on the other side of the tape go ahead and lay down something to cover it. I used some schmancy batman duct tape because it was the first thing that I saw. (… and because Batman is awesome!)


After you’ve finished blotting and smoothing out your fabric go ahead and start to pin your shirt to the board by using sewing pins. I ended up doing the corners at first because I knew that I was going to lay the lace fabric over top of it. Take your time with this. When you get ready to lay your lace fabric over top of the shirt, be sure to line up your lace pattern, then finish pinning it down to your board. I used the duct tape to bolster where the pins were. That way if I accidentally shifted something it wouldn’t make a larger hole in the fabric. Double check that your shirt and the lace are both laying flush against the board. If not, it will skew the shadow printing and make the design a bit fuzzy.



Now comes the fun part. Hopefully you’ve planned ahead and it’s practically midday (between 11am – 3pm). If you walk outside and it’s suddenly cloudy, don’t panic. It will just take a little longer for your shirt dye to develop. On a sunny, clear afternoon it should take about 10-12 minutes for your ink to fully develop and if it’s overcast or cloudy it can take upwards of 30 minutes.

Outside, pick the sunniest spot in your yard or driveway. It’s best if you can lay your shirt out on some sort of table that way it doesn’t get dirty, but work with what you’ve got.


Our backyard is covered with trees so it took a bit longer for the inkodye to develop fully. When it’s developing, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and give it a little more time if you are unsure if the dye has reacted fully. Obviously the longer you leave it out in the sun, the darker it will get.  Keep in mind that the black dye will go dark red at first – don’t freak out, it’s perfectly normal.


Once you’re happy with how dark everything is it’s time to bring your print inside. DO NOT lift your lace up while it’s still outside. The dye under the dark parts of the lace could catch some rays and then start to develop. Just bring it inside. If it’s not as dark as you’d like you can always bring it back outside.


After you’ve checked and everything looks good it’s time for a quick rinse in the sink. The rise will wash away most of the remaining undeveloped ink. Try and get the water as hot as you can safely handle it. Don’t scald yourself, Nerdship. That’s not cool. DIYUpcycledLaceTShirt_InkoDye_NerdsAndNomsense-12

After it’s had a good rinse, gently wring it out and then take it over to your washer. Follow the instructions on the Inkowash bottle. I ended up making a batch of shirts and a few tote bags so I just set it in the washer and closed the lid until I was ready to wash everything.


You will want to wash everything TWICE to make sure that all of the excess dye is no longer on the fabric. The first time I washed it I used 3 cupfuls of the inkowash and 2 tablespoons of borax powder. The next time I washed it I added in my regular detergent and fabric softener. Then just dry it as you normally would.


And BEHOLD! You are now the proud owner of an awesome, stylishly customized shirt. Look at you in those fancy threads, you must be a movie star! 


We would love to hear back from you if you decide to give this DIY a try. Share it with us on any of the Socials by using the hashtag #nerdsandnomsense or leave us a comment down below.

Let us know what other sorts of DIYs you’d like to see. We try our best to create content that you find enjoyable and/or awesome so feedback is always appreciated! Be sure to hit the subscribe button over in the side bar to stay up-to-date on the latest posts and happenings at Nerds and Nomsense. (Don’t forget, we’ll be doing a sponsored giveaway with Lumi mid-September.)

Feel free to ask any questions, we’re always happy to help. And as always – KEEP IT NERDY!

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