Kids grow up so quickly. When I was a young mom, I heard the saying “The days are long but the years are short.” Now I know it’s true. Even though our boys are grown, we still have many relics of their respective childhoods. One of the most treasured is a special t-shirt the boys designed when they were ages five and two. Of course, I helped them, but the actual work was done by the boys. What is this fabulous Father’s Day gift we still have hanging in our closet, only to be worn on rare occasions? A fish-print/hand-print t-shirt! Read on, friends, to learn the easy details.
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The Most Important Item Needed for this Father’s Day Gift
First, you will need a fish. If you live in a place where you have a local fish market, you might get a fish there. We don’t have a fish market where I live, other than the local grocery store. Most of the fish sold there are very nice, but are missing their heads. So we had to try a different option for our Father’s Day gift project.
Catching the Fish
Not too far from us, there is a place called Rainbow Trout Farm. For our project, we only needed a fish about eight inches long. No problem! At Rainbow Trout Farm, if you let them know what you need, they will direct you to the appropriate pond. This was perfect for what we needed, because I wanted the boys to be involved in this Father’s Day gift as much as possible. The owner of the trout farm personally helped our five-year-old catch the perfect fish, while I hung onto the two-year-old and watched. In today’s prices, the fish would cost $1.50. A bargain!
Here are the items you will need to assemble for one fish-print/hand-print t-shirt:
1 whole fish, scales scraped off, rinsed and patted dry
1 plain cotton crew neck t-shirt, no pockets (we used a white cotton t-shirt)
Fabric paint in your choice of colors (Tulip fabric paint is the brand I have worked with most.)
Craft paint brushes (These with the short, stubby handles would be ideal for little hands.)
Optional: Cheap kitchen sponges you can cut up and use to press on a decorative border, if desired.
A permanent marker
Newspaper or disposable plastic tablecloth to cover your work area.
Pre-wash and dry the shirt, if desired.
Cover your work surface with newspaper or disposable plastic tablecloth
Lay shirt flat on your work surface
Lay the fish on a different area of the work surface and have kids cover one side of the fish with chosen color or colors of fabric paint.
Position the fish, painted side down, over desired area of shirt.
Starting at the head, press the fish gently but firmly onto the shirt, working your way down the fish to the end of the tail, pressing each area as you go.
With the fish still in place, stretch out the top and bottom fins of the fish (make sure they still have paint on them) and press onto the shirt. You might have to gently roll the fish a bit to print all of the surfaces.
If you are using sponges to make a decorative border around the fish, paint one side of each sponge and press a border around the fish, recoating the sponge with paint as needed.
Let dry for 24 hours, then begin painting the handprints on the other side of the shirt, if desired.
Cover one hand of each child with paint and press each hand down on the shirt.
Make a decorative border around the handprints with paint-covered sponges, if you like.
Wait 24 hours, then write names or initials and the date with permanent marker.
Multiple Uses Out of the Fish
Once we were finished using the fish (named Freddy) for our Father’s Day gift, guess what we did? Well, first we rinsed him off and put him in the freezer. After that, we took Freddy to church (in a cooler) and had the Wednesday night kids’ group use him to make t-shirts for each of their dads or another special person. We really got a lot of mileage out of Freddy, and there were a lot of men who received fish-print t-shirts that year. In fact, Freddy stayed in our garage freezer for a number of years, just in case we needed him again.
Years Later, Still a Treasured Father’s Day Gift
Even though Freddy the fish is no longer in our freezer, the special Father’s Day gift is still around. It’s a treasured possession that brings back fond memories to the recipient and the givers each time it is worn. I get a little emotional looking at those small handprints preserved in fabric paint.
Would You Like to Give this Special Father’s Day Gift a Try?
I hope the idea of having to use an actual fish for this project does not prevent anyone from trying this. The kids had so much fun creating it, and obtaining the fish was part of the fun. If you decide to try this, maybe you will get multiple uses out of your fish just like we did. I’d love to see pictures of your finished projects!
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