Monday, January 10, 2011

Upcycled T-Shirt gifts

I gave my sister an upcycled t-shirt as a Christmas present, and a friend from my sewing group, Squirrel, two upcycled t-shirts as a birthday present. They were really fun to make. 
For each of them, I started with a plain item, sourced from an op shop. In this instance, they were all T-Shirts.
Then, I stared at the t-shirts, and the findings and other fabrics I have in my stash. Picked things up, put them down. Looked at the colour combinations. Swapped things around. Stared some more (seriously, I can stare at things for a long time trying to figure out exactly what I want to do with it. I could be all wanky and say that I want the original items to ‘speak to me,’ but really, it’s just a case of being happy with my colour choices).
For my sister, I started with a blue T-Shirt, and white beads. 
I thought the scoop neck was really cute.
It reminded me of the colour of an outdoor swimming pool. I added rows of white beads, slightly gathering each row, and was was reminded of the line markers for lap swimming. So, the top was named - Lap Lanes.
The beads were added in two places - three rows down the front centre, and five rows on each shoulder.

For Squirrel, I upcycled two T-shirts - because I couldn’t decide which one to give her. Both were grey T-Shirts to start with. (I am growing to really love grey as a base colour to work with. Which is odd, because it is a colour I basically never wear myself.
The first one had a cute, but boring button detail, and cap sleeves

It was just screaming for some bling.
So, I took the buttons off, and added bronze beads and sequins and findings. These were all from an op shop.

I love beads and sequins - so pretty
In the beads, I found a few bells and coins. These became the start of me design, and then I randomly placed the beads and sequins around them.

The double cap sleeves were doing that annoying turning up hem thing, so I added a row of sequins on each of the hems to hold them down.

And, ‘Bronze, Beads and Bells’ was complete.

The other T-Shirt for Squirrel used reverse applique. I am growing to love it as a technique - it’s so fun, and easy, and because I do it free hand, it’s fun to discover what and where the design goes.
Like with the Birthday Dreamings Tank top, I used a chain stitch, and circles. The grey T-Shirt seemed perfectly suited to a navy thread and navy cut outs. 
I tacked the backing fabric in place before starting to sew, because then I could hold bunches of the fabric in my hand without worrying about it moving or stabbing myself with pins - in some of the photos you can see the tacking stitches before I took them out.
I started my design at the right shoulder seam, and worked down. 

I then turned the T-Shirt over, and worked part of the design down the back, so that the design goes over the shoulder.
Then I cut away the circles.
The blue circles reminded me of lakes, interconnected by waterways, so I named this one ‘River Systems.’


  1. Oh my goodness, I love them!! you've done an amazing job, and what perfect gifts! I particularly like the bling T-shirt, its gorgeous

  2. I love the River Systems design! You inspired me to learn chain stitch, in the hopes that I might make something similar. Thank you!

  3. Thank you both - I had fun making all of these. And Theo, chain stitch is probably the easiest embroidery stitch I know, and my fall back. There are heaps and heaps of tutorials on the woobs explaining how to do it, but I learnt from a book - Sue Gardner's A to Z of embroidery stitches