T-shirt Upcycle

dust bowl / provender

Today felt impossible at times. I have had a delay in cash flow from clients and that has led to some tight funds. A polite way of saying: we’re skint. I tried to deposit a wad of cash into my account twice today, and both times the credit union screwed up. The whole business was rather a downer, to be honest.

Anyway in the midst of these adventures I’m standing in line at Rite Aid about to ask for their ATM, to try to get this cash where it needs to go. I realize the cashier is having a discussion with the customer in line. I look and see he is in a wheelchair, he is black, he is wearing some kind of trucker-style hat. I see that and then I am tuning into their words. “The cheapest is seven dollars for the Pall Malls,” she tells him. I watch him count some singles. He is a dollar short. He is trying to figure it out. It’s obvious what I can do. I lean forward and say, “I’ll get them,” and hand him the bill in my hand, a $5. He is immediately surprised and says “Thank you, thank you!” I am thinking, How much it would suck to not be able to buy the brand you want to buy? Maybe he even likes Pall Malls, who knows. But I’m in a hurry so I can’t stay. At that moment I spy the ATM and as I say, “You’re welcome,” I put my hand on his shoulder to say, Okay.

There was someone standing in my living room just the other day who was telling me about some panhandlers, and how they shouldn’t be out asking for money with a baby, and how they seemed “sketchy”. The person telling the story, well I was interrupted before I could say what I know, which is we don’t really need to worry about any of that because if I have extra cash or even sometimes of if I don’t I can pass something along because we all need to eat.

I am in the middle of a t-shirt upcycle project: seven shirts, 50 cents apiece. All re-cut and re-sized, with notes on how it was done. And of course I’m putting together a master tutorial for others to follow, if they want excellent results. My thirteen-year-old son is my model; a series of vignettes on his beauty. It’s the perfect summer project: keeping me company for a week, reminding me not to get caught up, not to forget.
T-shirt Upcycle

Brooklyn, a tank top: repurposing

Killa Zilla

My daughter seems to love the little knit camisoles and tanks I’ve made her.  The Brooklyn tank top was the next project as listed in my Farbenmix sew-up project, and yet the weather is not really tank-top weather. I chose to make a double-layer tank, providing more warmth than it might first appear.  Yesterday Sophie layered it under a close-fitting jean jacket. She survived outdoor walks in the wind and indoor frolics in the dance studio equally well.

Sophie / Dance Studio Mirror

Good quality knits hold up well during their usage, do not pill, and have intelligible grainlines to work with.  Purchasing good-quality knits isn’t exactly easy unless you live in a city and know where to find them.  You can order online but then, since you are not able to feel and see the fabric, you are at a slight disadvantage.  I do order fabrics online, but when I am matching something I prefer to see them in the flesh.  Case in point: nine yards of silk velvet burnout are on their way to my house for a bellydancing skirt.  I won’t purchase fabric to make a coordinating top until I can carry a swatch of the skirt fabric around in my hand.

Back to this tank top: fortunately, finding very nice-quality t-shirts is an option where I live because we have a few wonderful thrift stores.  These shirts are from Thrift City here in Aberdeen and are high-end brands in Pima cotton.

At first I’d thought to dress this top up a bit.  I’ve been sewing a bit of Alabama Chanin projects – making an armchair pincushion for a practice run – and I thought to decorate the bodice with reverse applique.  After experimenting with both hand- and machine-sewn versions, I decided to just keep the shirt simple.  It wasn’t working out for me.  To put it politely.

Instead I added a couple subtle tucks at the hem of the outer jersey fabric to expose the dusty rose of the underlayer. The double-layer makes for a sturdy garment; the soft hand makes for a very cozy shirt for my girl.

Pink / Pink / Pink

This top was very easy to sew.  If you are a beginner sewing with jerseys, I might suggest using strips of stabilizer or a stabilizing spray when you are sewing directly on the jersey (my mother-in-law tells me you can dissolve scraps of stabilizer in water and use it as a DIY spray or paint to stabilize. I am sure this works, and it is cheaper than buying a stabilizing spray). Your aim in using these products will be to stabilize the edges of the jersey.  Such persnickety handling is not needed for the entire project; for instance, after you’ve attached the trim and are topstitching it things go easily without stabilizing (the woven fabrics are against the feed dogs).

This brings me to my favorite aspect of this project.  The notable thing about this top was the construction of the trim.  I chose to use a woven fabric on the bias, as opposed to a knit.  For any novice stitchers reading here, bias trim is made from long strips cut on the bias of the fabric and used at hemlines and seamlines or as detail. These bias strips serve as ties and trim both.  Using the bias is important, as only then will a woven perform a bit of stretch and can easily go around a curve; a strip cut on the straight-of-grain would not work well at all.

In this version, you attach the 1 1/4″ strip’s long edge to the right-side of the garment edge, flip the trim to the backside, and triple zig-zag topstitch all layers:

New Bias Trick For Knits
A triple zig-zag is a thready stitch, but such a great one with knits. You can pretty much use it with impunity. The results are a firm, slightly stretchy, and very sturdy trim application.  Given I have a very small stash of fabric, a project like this is perfect for using scraps to trim the top.

Tie Close-Up, Brooklyn Tank Top
¡Que bonita!

You can read a few more details in my Flickr tagset.