Garments from T-Shirts

On Monday we talked about saving old t-shirts, about keeping them out of the landfill and finding ways to use the fabric. I gave you links to Natalie Chanin’s books, which I adore. Today I want to show you my own adventures in using her patterns to create garments from salvaged t-shirts, and we’re not talking theoretical garments, things you make and then stick in the back of your closet because, really, they’re about as wearable as a paper dress or shoes made of tissue boxes. No: these are things I actually wear as often as possible: they’re comfortable and colorful, and they make me happy, and those are my criteria for clothing.


You saw (part of) my stash of deconstructed t-shirts:

Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 4

Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 5


And here are some skirts made from those:

Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 6

For some, I have to admit that I got carried away and bought new t-shirts in the biggest sizes I could find so I’d have enough for matching skirts and boleros. It kind of defeats the point of it all, I know, but I feel I need to confess that.

Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 7

The skirts are easy to construct with the patterns provided in the books, and then you get to embellish them:

Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 15But even more fun than the skirts are the boleros. Why more fun? Because they’re very small, so you can do a lot to them without it taking pretty much the rest of your life. This first one has no embellishment at all but was made from two t-shirts I had. I loved the walkers and joggers on the t-shirt, but it didn’t fit and, I think, had some little stains on it (more about dealing with stains on Friday).

Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 8 Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 9 Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 10 Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 11 Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 12 Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 13 Freeman-Zachery t-shirts 14


These are totally wearable and perfect for layering over tanks; they keep your shoulders warm without adding bulk. The pattern fits easily on just one regular-sized t-shirt, and you can usually fit the logo or design across the back, if you have one you want to save.

The coolest thing, for me, is that once you start working with cotton jersey and learn to do a couple simple stretchable embroidery stitches, you can turn the fabric into all kinds of stuff. Chanin provides instructions for head scarves that would be perfect for the studio, and think how cool it would be to make a studio apron: you could wear it during the day and then stitch on it at night or when you’re traveling, adding to it until it was a work of art all by itself. A tote bag? Why not? Maybe you have a collection of t-shirts from concerts or art fairs. Maybe you go somewhere every year and always feel obligated to buy a t-shirt, but you don’t really ever *wear* t-shirts. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.


If you’re not into making clothes and you know yourself well enough to know you’re not going to try, no matter how I work to convince you it’s fabulous, then come back on Friday to see my current obsession with salvaging clothing using t-shirt scraps. Sure, there’s a tiny bit of sewing involved, but even my total-non-stitcher husband does it, so it’ll be a piece of cake for you!


Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.

Layered Tattered and StitchedCreate more with your fabric or t-shirt scraps with projects from Layered, Tattered and Stitched by Ruth Rae.








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