What’s up(cycling)?


The finds keep coming! I love thrift-shopping, as I am sure that I’ve mentioned before, and one of my favorite thrift activities is upcycling used clothing, especially t-shirts. In essence my definition of ‘upcycling’ is reworking some existing thing in a new and exciting way, giving it new purpose and value. Example: giant, baggy t-shirt sewn into flattering, funky top.
A choice local spot for all things donated (no, I won’t give away my secrets!) offers t-shirts in wire bins at five for a dollar! Even if you just need some cotton rags, a twenty-cent double XL can go a long way. Usually, I gravitate towards the vintage, campy or just plain silly ones.

Once I get my T’s home I get out my dress form (from college fashion-class days), chalk and scissors. I draw a new neckline and eyeball the sleeve cuts. To make a shirt more fitted I will use straight pins to mark out haphazard darts, which I then stitch on my sewing machine.

T-shirt into halter-top

Derby-bout freebie altered

Not a t-shirt, obviously, but another way to alter a thrift store find

My favorite shirt of the moment is a bright blue number with “Holland” screen-printed in orange in its front. I cut a more flattering boxy neckline with a “v” back. I loped off the sleeves and stitched them back on so they are ruffled and poofy. Using a piece of the original neckline, I added a horizontal line through the open part of the back. Using my trusty dress form I was able to add what could almost pass for princess seams down the front. I top-stitched the added seams and cut off the remaining fabric leaving short, raw edges on the outside of the shirt. The finished top is fun, odd, and personal.

Altered ‘Holland’ t-shirt 

The key to any upcycling effort is to not let the original material become too precious. Yes, it may be one of a kind as it is but it won’t be fabulously unique unless you are willing to get messy. You may have to hack off pieces and cut holes in others. True, a shirt may become inappropriate for public display with one ill-measured snip so keep your vision flexible. In the end, even if you can’t wear your upcycled adventure as a shirt you can always use it as a headband, dog collar, purse, hat, belt, quilt square, framed art, wallet, pillow, stuffed animal, pot holder, book cover, or, of course, a rag.

If you would like to take a more directed approach to t-shirt mutilation check out this book. Or maybe I’ll let you borrow the one I found the other day in the book bin at the Salvation Army…

99 Ways to Cut, Sew, Trim & Tie Your T-Shirt

Have you had any adventures in upcycling?
Repurposed any t-shirts?

Make your own dress form using duct tape and a willing friend: http://www.instructables.com/id/Duct-Tape-Dressform/