Inspired by Alabama Chanin, whose work takes ordinary materials and transforms them through the magic of upcycling, I set out to make a reverse appliqué image of Barack.
First, I combed the web for an appropriate image. It took about six generations of copies (print, define negative and positive areas, copy, repeat, getting the image to be as simple as it could be.) From there, I traced it on to stencil plastic and cut it out. (This part was pretty tedious, I'll admit. A scissor worked much better than the blade cutter on this thick plastic.) After the stencil was finished, I taped it on to an old t-shirt and covered the exposed areas with newsprint. I used Tulip spray-on fabric paint to stencil the image. (It has an air-brushed quality, but since I wasn't ultimately looking for a solid image, it worked just fine.) After drying overnight, I pinned contrasting fabric from another old t-shirt on the reverse side, being careful to make sure that it wasn't pulling or stretching. Using Coats and Clarks Button and Carpet extra-strength thread in a contrasting color, I did a running stitch just outside the image. Part of the charm is the rustic quality, so knots are done on the right side of the shirt, and you start a new thread each time you begin stitching around a distinct part of the image.
When finished, the harrowing part begins. You pinch the top layer of the fabric to separate it from the bottom layer and--shiver--cut. You cut out all of the painted area, leaving just a tiny border next to the stitches. It is really important not to cut into the bottom layer. (If you are doing a design with a lot of small cut-outs, if you snip one, you could always go back and replace the backing fabric, but since this particular design was mostly one big area, I was nervous about snipping too far and risking disaster.) As you can see, the result is not a detailed portrait, but I think you can tell who it is.
Since the stencil is plastic, I can "Barack" things to my heart's content! I may do another reverse appliqué and I will definitely do at least one plain stencil. (I also have a piece that would add more eye and nose detail to the dark side of his face, which I think could work on a stencil-only shirt, but it wasn't going to translate as well into the appliqué. Actually, you can see in the original in top picture that it kinda looks like a deformed rooster, so maybe I will skip it.)
Since taking the final picture, I cut out the neckline and lopped off the bottom and sleeve hems to add to the rustic quality of the finished item. I now need to step away from the scissors and the rotary cutter before I get myself into trouble.
All in all, I think this was a successful project and it will be a featured piece in my all-Obama wardrobe when I am in PA next week!