Remodelling t-Shirts

t-Shirt With Lowered Neck & New Neckband

With the medallion quilt completed, today, I turned to clearing up the piles of stuff in my sewing room. At least six weeks ago I pulled four t-Shirts from my closet with the intention of lowering the neckline. The shirts had originally been high crewneck long sleeve t-Shirts which I’d bought so I could shorten the sleeves and end up with sleeves just above my elbow – that’s not something you can purchase, trust me.

I wore them last year, but realized I wasn’t wearing them this year because the neckline was too high. So I moved them from the closet to my sewing space intending to remodel the neckline. Finally got to that today. Started by cutting off the crewneck ribbing and dropping the front about 2″. Then I cut 1 3/4″ x 24″ strips from some t-Shirt fabric I have on hand, serged the folded strip to each t-Shirt neckline. Remodelling complete. The contrasting neckband doesn’t look bad at all. And it lays flat – I tried them on. (I should have used dark serger thread to stitch on the new neckband, but hey, the stitching can’t be seen on the outside.)

Remodelled t-Shirts

It’s true, t-Shirt weather is just about over here in Nova Scotia – maybe one more day warm enough to put on a short sleeve top. But these shirts are now ready for next warm season.

Dropped Neckline

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Stretch Cotton t-Shirt

This is actually the second t-Shirt – the first was a disaster (too big and too long – the culprit was the light weight black and white knit I bought in San Francisco – too loosely knit, I think). It went into the trash pile.

I bought the fabric for this shirt at my nearby Pfaff dealer who stocked some very nice stretch cotton knit this summer. This red stripe was the only one of those fabrics that suited my colouring, too bad. 0.8m (60″ wide) was enough for a t-shirt for me. The fabric sewed easily – didn’t have to fight it.

Red Stripe t-Shirt

Given my floppy upper arms, I like a sleeve that comes almost to my elbow so I lengthened the short sleeves. The pattern also uses a facing for the neck edge – nobody finishes a t-Shirt neck with a facing – I serged a doubled (24″ x 1 1/4″) strip to the neck edge (1 1/2″ shorter than the length of the neck so I could ease the neck edge into the seam). I also cut 1 1/4″ from the bottom edge – I’m short, and didn’t need the shirt to come below mid-stomach.

I cut out the shirt a couple of days ago. I was able to sew it up in under 2 hours this morning. I pressed the neck band toward the body and top stitched it 1.5mm from the seam to keep it flat. Cover-stitched the sleeve and bottom hems.

The Pattern is a Burda pattern I’ve had for ages (I tried finding some hint online about when the pattern was first released but came up empty although many people have made it – lots of photos of finished shirts). The size 14 fits me reasonably well. It’s easy to make with the 1/4″ seam allowances included in the pattern – makes fitting sleeve curves straightforward because you don’t have to fight the excess fabric in a 5/8″ allowance.

Burda 3197 Pattern (Vintage)

Now I need to go through my fabric stash and see if I can find another suitable knit to make at least one more of these shirts (then I’ll be able to cull some of the older ones in my closet).

Beige Pants

Same pattern, cut out with the same modifications I used with the pink pants, and these came out larger – had to take in the sides 3/8″ at the top and from mid hip to hemline. Obviously the difference is the fabric in spite of the fact there’s no spandex in this fabric either….

The front has turned out fine, happy with that, but below the bum is a wee bit baggy. Not much I can do about that at this point – the pants may tighten up a bit with washing, although I prewashed the fabric. Sitting in them may also round out the backside some.

The pants are certainly wearable. 

This morning I dug out some navy cotton twill (no spandex) that I will wash tomorrow, as well as some prewashed beige cotton twill – both will get made into pants when I get back from Toronto (going to my niece’s wedding coming weekend). I also found a prewashed length of French navy blue light weight cotton/linen blend to use for a loose shirt. Once those garments are done, the pants with the stretched out spandex will go.

Tomorrow, I intend to interface the silk dupion I’ve had waiting to be made into a quilt. I’ll get that project started next.

Pink Pants

These pants were cut based on the modifications I made to my basic pattern in San Francisco – a small addition to the centre front crotch area, a 3/4″ drop in the front waist, and 1/4″ addition to the side seams because the fabric had no spandex.

This is a jeans pattern but I thought this wool/polyester fabric was a bit too “dressy” to turn into jeans so I left out all the top stitching, omitted the back pockets, and used a single seam for a neat hem.

Have to say they turned out pretty well – although everything that could go wrong did! I started by putting the zipper on the wrong side of the fly front, had to redo it, pockets went in fine as did the side seams, but I screwed up threading the embroidery machine and I had to take out a stitched (not yet cut, fortunately) buttonhole not once but twice. After rethreading the machine and doing a practice buttonhole (which I should have done in the first place) the third try was fine. Only then did I cut it open.

I’ve just finished cutting pants out of a beige fabric which I will sew tomorrow. The beige fabric I used for pants in San Francisco turned out to be dreadful – it’s a stretch twill and it now has a permanent stretch across the front where the spandex has failed – very visible. So once these new beige pants (with almost no stretch) are done, the SF pants will get tossed. 

That’s the same fabric I used for the light and dark blue pants I made earlier in the spring – they’re starting to show the same permanent stress marks across the front so they’ll have to be replaced. This time, I’ll use a cotton twill with no spandex in it. The original fabric wasn’t a cheap fabric, either. 

So lesson learned – stay away from fabrics with any amount of spandex – they may be intended to provide a comfortable fit with some give but the quality and durability is variable and pants take a good 5-6 hours of work. Too much time for such a limited result!

Portrait

Another demonstration: a pieced portrait.

I started with an image of a face, printed it in black and white, outlined the colour boundaries, pulled all the beige tone fabrics from the stash I could find (large pieces and scraps), created templates for the large areas using baking parchment paper, cut them out, then created templates for the smaller areas, and cut those out.

What I didn’t do here, but should have, was to apply fusible web to the fabric before cutting it – instead, I’ll use a glue stick to adhere the cut out pieces to the background.

I was mainly playing around to see if what I ended up with resembled a face in any way and it does. Once I’ve glued the pieces down, I’ll probably do a bit of edge stitching to hold the thing together.

Peony II

Fused textile 9″ x 12″, backed, unbound.

Peony

A piece this small is actually quite difficult to do because the elements I wanted to fuse were so small. Small bits of fabric this size on a finished piece twice as large would have seemed small in relation the overall size, but here they seem quite large. However, I’m pleased with the overall effect.

I might try this technique again on something larger but my purpose for doing this piece was to demonstrate fused appliqué for the class which is happening in just over a week. I certainly learned a lot in the process – about choices of fabric, about building up the layers, about simplification, about contrast, about not being too literal, about templates vs cutting freely.

Whereas in the previous piece I used a hidden binding, this time I did a “pillowcase turn” – cutting the backing piece to size, stitching it (1/4″ seam) right sides together (leaving an opening on the bottom so I could turn it right side out), pressing, then hand stitching my opening closed. Because the art piece itself is multi-layered, when the seams are turned to the inside, the back ends up a bit loose – I haven’t been able to figure out a way to get the back to lay flat other than to use a hidden binding to apply it. I will have to keep experimenting with this.

Peony

With the Peony, I’m playing around with Danny Amazonas’ fused appliqué technique – a collage of small pieces of fabric fused on top of one another to create depth and detail for both the background and the main subject.

I began by preparing 20″ x 26″ pieces of muslin and batting and sewing them together along the 9″ x 12″ dimensions in the center of the quilt – this marked my outside boundary. Then I pencilled in the approximate location for the focal element – the peony. That gives me an inner boundary for the background appliqué collage.

Backing Prepared

One of the things I’ve learned from looking carefully at Amazonas’ textile art is the background is livelier when there’s visible small pattern elements in the fabrics. The overall effect is a shaded dark support for the focus element which sets up the contrast for the finished art work.

I cut pieces from the fabrics I’d collected and auditioned them to see how I might establish a colour flow within the background.

Auditioning Fabrics For The Background

I applied “wonder-under,” a paperbacked fusible web to my complementary and contrasting pieces of background fabric. Then I cut small pieces from each and arranged them filling the space from outer to inner boundary.

Background Fused In Place

At this point, the background looks lighter in overall tone than it will once the light fabrics are added in the center to create the very pale pink flower. If the background still seems too light when the peony is added, I will apply a wash using acrylic paint to tone down the brighter colours.

As far as I can tell, Amazonas doesn’t sew on top of his constructions. My plan is to do the same in this demonstration piece. However, when it’s assembled I may feel it wants more detail and add some thread painting. I’ll have to see how it turns out.

That’s it for today.