do it yourself: no-sew superhero cape

Discover your inner superhero with a simple, no-sew cape project! This cape is made from an old T-shirt embellished with paint by using an easy-to-make cardboard stencil of your own design. Use the extra materials to whip up your own superhero accessories too.

guidelines + materials

AGE: 3+ (with adult support)

TIME FRAME: 30-45 minutes

SUPPLIES: 

  • Large Men’s T-shirt (blank on back; bold colors stand out most) 
  • Roll of Masking Tape
  • Empty Cereal Box
  • Pencil
  • Pair of Scissors
  • Paper Plate
  • Sponge Brush (or cut sponge squares held by a clothespin)
  • Container of Acrylic Paint (or Fabric Paint) in contrasting color to T-shirt

directions

1. Cut out your cape. Grab your T-shirt and lay it flat (back-side up) on a table or hard surface. Use your hand to smooth out the T-shirt. Take the scissors and carefully cut off both sleeves along the sleeve lines. Next, cut up each side of the shirt from the bottom up to the sleeve line. Open up the shirt fully (front and back) and lay it out flat on the table or surface. You should see both the front and back of the T-shirt at the same time and the head hole in the middle. To cut the top of your cape, use the scissors to cut from the top of one sleeve all the way around the neck hole and over to the other sleeve, leaving about an inch of fabric between the neck line and outer fabric line to serve as your cape top. What you should see now is a cape shape! Try it on and see how it fits. You can trim it if needed.  

2. Draw the stencil design. Set your cape aside and find a cereal box. Open up the box and cut the side panels off, leaving you with the front and back of the box as two separate pieces. Use one of those pieces as a protector for your table or surface when you’re ready to paint, and place it under your cape. The other piece of cardboard will be used for making your stencil, a sheet of cardboard with a shape or letter cut out of it to use as a design for your cape. Begin the stencil by drawing a simple shape or block letter directly onto your cardboard using a pencil. If doing a stencil for the first time, it might be easier to stick with straight edges. 

3. Cut out your stencil design. Using scissors, make a straight cut from the outer edge of the cardboard to the outline of the shape/letter. Cut out the shape in one piece. This is positive space. Take your background cardboard piece and place tape across the two edges of the cardboard where you started cutting to join them back together. You should see an open area with your shape or letter showing. This is negative space and will be your stencil for adding the design to your cape. Any parts of your letter or shape that faces in (like the inside center area of an “O”), can be cut out and reattached with tape.

4. Paint the design on your cape. Take your stencil and place it on the center of your cape. Any loose pieces should be taped down onto the cape fabric using masking tape. Grab the sponge brush and a bit of paint and dab the paint into the open spaces of your stencil. Use one hand to hold the brush and the other to keep the stencil in place while you paint. You may want to add several layers of paint. Once done, keep the stencil in place and allow the paint to fully dry before removing the stencil. Once dry, carefully remove the tape and peel the stencil off of your cape to see your design. If any paint has leaked through, you can keep it as is or use a smaller brush to even out the lines with more paint. Be sure not to throw away your stencil. Keep it to use again! 

5. Complete your look! You now have your superhero cape! Using the leftover T-shirt material, what else can you design for your look? How might you create superhero cuffs, headband or eye mask? Have fun playing with the pieces and creating a look all your own! 

Additional Learning Activities (Grades K – 2)

Making Multiples
Creating a stencil means making a tool that allows you to create multiple works of art, because stencils can be used again and again! Encourage your child to experiment with new ideas that can be made using their stencil. Maybe they can try painting several colors into one stencil or using both the negative and positive shapes for making art.  

Creating Your Character
Who is your superhero and what is their super story? Encourage your child to think about the story of their superhero. What superpowers do they possess and how can they be used to solve a problem? Write the story down or create a comic strip to tell it.  

Select a Story
Reading is a wonderful vehicle for learning and for introducing new ideas to learners. Select engaging and age-appropriate books that feature imaginary and real-life (every day) heroes to read to your child before and/or after the superhero cape-making activity. 

Recommended Related Reading (Ages 5 – 8):

  • Brave by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
  • The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf and illustrated by Imogen Wilde
  • Captain Marvel, What Makes a Superhero by Pamela Bobowicz and illustrated by Eda Kaban

CA State Standards

CA Arts Standards for Visual Art (Grades K – 4)

  • Engage in exploration and imaginative play with various art materials.
  • Explore the uses of materials and tools to create works of art or design.
  • Experiment with various materials and tools to explore personal interests in a work of art or design.
  • Create personally satisfying artwork using a variety of artistic processes and materials.
  • Explore and invent art-making techniques and approaches.
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