T-shirt Projects

iLoveToCreate: Happy Shiny Pixie Headband!

I attended a photo shoot recently and was inspired to make this headband after I saw a similar one in the stylist’s stash of goodies! While hers was glittery gold and mine is iridescent (I also doubt that hers was fashioned from an old T-shirt sleeve), it’s the Lady-liberty-inspired shape that’s so compelling.

I mean, it’s so bright and sunshine-filled (and a little prehistoric?), and I have to admit, though I was begging for cool temperatures back in the heat waves of July (and couldn’t be happier that nature has complied!), the shorter days are already threatening to change my mood. I’m already missing the sun! This happy, shiny, pixie headband brightens up the day wherever you are.

-T-shirt sleeve (or T-shirt scrap of equivalent size)
-Tulip Fashion Glitter transfer sheets
-ballpoint pen
-Aleene’s Fabric Fusion
-warm iron and pressing cloth
-Tulip Soft Fabric Paint in gold metallic (optional)
-toothpick (optional, to use as a paint applicator)

Make it:
Cut out the underarm seam of the sleeve, and lay it flat, right side up. Measure, mark, and cut two 1 1/4″-wide to 1 1/2″-wide strips from the iron-on transfer sheets.

2. Sandwich the two strips together and cut out a series of triangles from one edge (through both layers), leaving a zigzag that runs the width of the strips.

3. Separate the strips and align them along the straight edges, about 3/8″ apart. Use a pressing cloth and iron the strips onto the fabric.

4. Make parallel cuts through the fabric, separating each pair of triangles from the row of zigzags.

5. Determine how many rays of sunshine you’d like (I debated between 5 and 6, and ultimately went with 6), and arrange them evenly around the arc of the headband. Working one ray at a time, spread fabric glue evenly along the inside of the headband, and wrap the flexible fabric piece around the headband, lining up the triangles. Apply glue evenly to the inside of the strip of fabric and press the triangles together (the triangles should seal beyond their edges).

6. Finish gluing each ray, and let them dry flat. (Note: If the fabric is pulling apart, use a clothespin or paperclip to pinch it while it dries.)

7. When the glue is completely dry, trim the fabric to the edges of the triangles.

8. As an optional finishing touch, apply the metallic paint carefully with a toothpick along the fabric edges of the rays. Let it dry.

9. Try on the headband to spread a little sunshine both indoors and out!

[ 4 Comments | Posted on September 25th, 2012 ]

From Our Readers: Maria & Franz!

Earlier this summer, I got an email from my brother and sister-in-law with the subject line “T-shirt Guru, Help!” Maria and Franz are two musicians on an adventure along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Like any good musicians, they travel with merch, and like any good merch-peddlers, they run out of stuff fast. So they were down to two XXL T-shirts and quickly discovered that their fans were tending to come in smaller sizes. Maria writes…

“Franz and I have two XXL T-shirts left of one design and people much smaller than XXL keep expressing interest, but then balk at the size. We have a long train ride coming up, so I started thinking about trying to convert the shirts into cute, cut-up T-shirts. My sewing abilities and supplies are limited, but we’ve got decent scissors, safety pins, and a travel sewing kit. Can you recommend an easy-ish pattern that we could sell to a punky Russian girl?”

How could I ignore such a request? A few cross-continent consultation emails later, Maria and Franz had set up shop: They’d been crashing with some cute punk gals in the outer boroughs of St. Petersburg, and set up a workspace on their kitchen table. Armed with a pair of scissors, and that travel sewing kit, they set to work transforming their merch. Measuring and marking…


And knotting. Ta-da! It’s the “Knot So Fast” (project #104) tank top from Generation T: Beyond Fashion.

Sveta, one of the aforementioned cute punk girls who was looking on, was suspicious of all the scissor activity, but once she tried on the completed result, she asked if she could keep it, so, it seemed to be working. Nothing like converting a skeptic!

Then it was time to tackle “Outer Lace” (project #16) from Generation T.

And then they set off in search of one of the Russian editions of the two books, should any additional emerchencies arise.

UPDATE from the road: “We just sold the last of our Generation T-styled Franz Nicolay shirts to the fashionable women of Orenburg Russia. Thanks for the designs!”

[ No Comments | Posted on September 14th, 2012 ]

iLoveToCreate: Back to (Pre)School Tees!

Whether your wee ones are heading back to daycare this fall or are college-bound (not so wee ones), it’s always a treat to have fresh togs to celebrate the occasion — learning! Yes! When I was brainstorming ideas for dressing my little one, I was inspired to try out my shiny new Tulip ScreenIt machine (unlike paper stencils that can wilt a bit after a few uses with soggy paint, you can print in bulk once you make a screen that you like! — I’m stashing that thought away for future birthday party favors…) For this one, I riffed on a little ditty I penned last year to the beat of the esteemed Sir Mix-A-Lot with a nod, of course, to the toddler set and their literary repertoire.

-Tulip ScreenIt kit (including fabric ink/paint, brayer, design screens, and a darkroom bulb to install in your workspace)
-8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of printer paper with black design printed on it (“I like board books and I cannot lie.” in Arial font, size 54)
-tub of water large enough to accommodate the screen
-non-abrasive sponge
-plastic covering for your work surface
-blank T-shirts in the appropriate size

Make it:
1. In a totally light tight room (my bathroom is the only room in my apartment that qualifies, so welcome to my bathroom, dear readers!), place one of the blank screens onto the foam bed, then layer your design face down on top of it.  Close the ScreenIt system, sandwiching your design and the screen between the foam bed and the light lid. Then flip the switch on the system to expose the screen to your design. (I set my smart phone timer to 14 minutes.)

2. When the timer goes off, briefly submerge the film completely in water (since we’re getting so well acquainted, welcome to my bathtub!). I left the darkroom light on (that’s the yellow tinge you see), but it’s safe to turn on the regular overhead light at this stage.

3. Place the screen on a flat, dry, plastic-covered surface for 30 seconds, then begin gently rubbing a wet sponge over the design to “bring out” the design and clarify it. (Note: I didn’t have a sponge, so I used a wadded up wet paper towel, which isn’t ideal, but can work in a pinch.) Let it dry completely (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).

4. Slide the T-shirt over the foam bed of the machine, centering it as best you can.

5. Place the design screen (right-reading, if you use text like I did) and then the black frame over the design, to keep the shirt and screen from shifting. (Note: Because of the size of the shirt I used — very tiny! — and the placement of the design on the screen, there was overlap, making the screen not entirely secure.)

6. Apply a thin line of ink directly to the screen, along one side of the design.

7. Use the brayer to firmly spread the ink over the entire design, always swiping in the same direction.

8. Remove the black frame and peel back the design screen. Rinse the screen immediately, without scrubbing it, so that you can let it dry and use it again. (As you can see, mine smudged a bit because the screen shifted slightly because of the small tee, but I think it just looks a little raw and edgier!)

9. Let the shirt dry completely — about 4 hours (no heat-setting required) — and then dress your studious little guy or gal for success!

-Since your screen can be used up to 75 times (I haven’t tested this!) if you rinse it immediately after using it (don’t scrub it!), try printing the same design on multiple different items. Print the design across the tush of a pair of pants for a crawler, or down the leg for a little one who’s walking. Print on bandanas, skirts, jackets, shoes and socks, even!
-Use your screen as a pattern that can be layered and repeated (see the white T-shirt in the photo above) — this is especially smart for when it smudges a little too much — just go with the mistake and turn it right around into something great!

[ 8 Comments | Posted on August 28th, 2012 ]

How-to: Olympic Gold Medal T-shirt

Team USA turned in some impressive performances yesterday (don’t worry, no spoilers on Friday’s events in case anyone’s got the DVR set), with a day-end NINE total medals including gold in women’s soccer (redemption!), women’s middleweight boxing (all hail Claressa Shields — what a story!), women’s water polo (Maggie Steffens, yes!), men’s triple jump (Christian Taylor), and men’s decathlon (Ashton Eaton and his teammate Trey Hardee for the 1-2!). With all that excitement, it’s hard not to get caught up in the Olympic fever. I know I am.

Here’s a quick-and-easy T-shirt project to get you on the medal podium–at least in spirit! (No grueling hours/days/years of training required.) Just in time for the closing ceremonies, here’s a trompe l’oeil gold medal to wear for the closing ceremony. (Note: Six-pack abs underneath the T-shirt not included.)

-Plain T-shirt
-Ribbon or other colorful trim (at least 3/4″ wide)
-Fabric Glue
-Iron-on Metallic Glitter Sheets

Make it:

1. Squeeze a generous amount of fabric glue, centered, along the wrong side of the ribbon and press it against the back of the T-shirt neckband.

2. Wrap the ends of the ribbon around to the front of the shirt and glue them in place. Use fabric scissors to trim the ends of the ribbon so they’re even.

3. Trace and cut a 2″ to 3″ diameter circle from the gold iron-on sheet (I chose glitter gold over shimmer gold for the extra sparkle–and there’s silver in the pack, too, but why settle for silver, when you can go for the gold!).

4. Place the gold circle on the T-shirt so it overlaps the ends of the ribbon. Being careful not to disturb the placement of the medallion, fold up the bottom of the T-shirt to use as a press cloth layer between the iron-on and the hot surface of the iron.

5. Press the circle in place with the iron, check that it’s secure, and press again if necessary.

6. Remove the iron (don’t forget to unplug it!), and try on your gold medal tee. Optional: Cut the sleeves of the shirt to your liking.

7. Repeat the process to make more T-shirts so all your friends and family who come over for the closing ceremony can parade around the living room!

Decorate the T-shirts with fabric markers or slash them with scissors. I packed my markers on a recent trip to a family reunion so we could have an Olympic-themed T-shirt refashioning session with my young nieces/nephews/cousins. Dorothy opted for a glow-stick necklace in place of a gold medal, while Bri and Allanna were inspired by the US gymnasts who were competing via the TV screen while we crafted (go, Gabrielle Douglas!), and Tom is a big fan of the swimmers (he’ll have to make a few more of these tees to compete with Michael Phelps’ medal record!).

In addition to the fabric markers, we had letter stencils on hand to print out messages, and scissors on hand to modify and accessorize the tees. “Bri is the best at gymnastics” was lettered across Bri’s drawing of the balance beam and uneven bars. And “Swimming: TOM is good” accompanied Tom’s drawing of a freestyle swimmer (we also added iron-on lightning bolts to the sleeves!).

Allanna’s inspiring words were “#1 A True Gymnast Never Gives Up” and Dorothy’s initials personalized her T-shirt (plus an iron-on silver heart to inspire the champion within!).

Happy 2012 Olympics to all, and here’s to all the athletes who competed, whether they took home a medal or not. (We’re looking at you, Sarah Attar! — a true champion, if ever there was.)

And a nod to my sister, who made some gold medal tees first, and who hosted a totally awesome Olympic-themed birthday party during the opening ceremonies!

[ 2 Comments | Posted on August 10th, 2012 ]

I Love to Create: Easy Breezy Heat Wave Tee

This design falls into the category of fashion as necessity: When temperatures push 90 and 100 degrees, there’s little else you want to wear besides a T-shirt. But even a tee can seem stifling when you add humidity to the mix. Here’s a T-shirt hack that’s meant to keep the air circulating–it features a cut-out back and a looser fit. (Of course, a trip to the local ice cream haunt doesn’t hurt the cooling plan either!)

I encourage you to dig into your fabric stash to find an unlikely contender for the fabric insert on this one. The fabric I used was originally purchased by my brother from a discount bin to use as a bed skirt. I inherited it when he moved, and my mom and I made curtains to filter the light in my apartment. Now the remnants have been reincarnated as part of this heat-beating T-shirt. What a life cycle! Tip: Check the give of your fabric–you shouldn’t have to worry too much about working on the bias (the diagonal of the fabric) since the rest of the T-shirt will have plenty of stretch, but consider your layout before you cut!

-regular fit T-shirt
-fabric scissors
-disappearing ink pen
-straight pins (optional)
-Aleene’s OK Wash-It fabric adhesive (or a sewing machine and thread to match your fabric)

Make it:

1. Turn the T-shirt inside out and lay it face down. Measure and mark about 3 1/2″ to 4″ in from either edge along the hem. Then draw a straight line from each mark to its adjacent sleeve (at the armpit).

2. Cut along that line through only the back layer. Continue cutting around the sleeve, just inside the seam (again, through only the back layer), along the top shoulder seam, and along the back of the neckband. Continue cutting until the back panel of the shirt can be removed. Set the front of the shirt aside momentarily.

3. Lining up the bottom edges of the fabric pieces, lay the back panel of the T-shirt over the backing fabric and trace the panel, extending the shape on either side to accommodate for the 3 1/2″ to 4″ wedge that was cut away. (The extra fabric will help create the flare.) Cut out the shape from the backing fabric.

4. Lay the fabric against the front piece of the T-shirt so that the edges of the two pieces line up, right sides together. Use the permanent fabric adhesive to glue the inside edges together. Optional: Use straight pins to hold the fabric edges in place before you glue.)

5. Ease the edges together, pinching and pressing them in place. Then let dry completely.

6. Turn the tee right side out and touch up any gaps along the seams.

7. Layer the tee over a thin tank top if you’re feeling demure, or be bold by wearing a colorful, barely there undergarment (the point is to limit the layers of fabric on the skin after all!).

-Replace a panel along the top of the sleeve as well.
-Replace a smaller panel in the back of the T-shirt with a cotton crocheted doily.
-Make the flare more exaggerated and fluttery.
-Experiment with different fabrics (silk scarf, old mesh sports jersey, a linen table cloth).

Next up? Though I quite like the subtle contrast in whites (the stark cream with the more ivory gauze), I’m going to experiment with dye the next time I make this design!

[ 4 Comments | Posted on July 24th, 2012 ]

How to: T-shirt Scrunchie Necklace

Last week, I posted a tutorial for making a statement necklace using T-shirt scraps. This week, we’re making a necklace using the scraps leftover from that necklace. It’s worth keeping in mind that you can construct and wear this necklace in about two minutes — seriously! Now that is a statement.

-Scrap hems (or scrap sleeve seams) from 2-3 T-shirts
-Safety pin or paperclip
-Fabric scissors

Make it:
1. Trim the stitching off one of the T-shirt hems and stretch it out to create a long T-shirt cord. Attach a safety pin (all I had on hand was a paperclip, which worked fine!) to one end. Collect all the hem pieces left over from cutting the rectangles needed to make the T-shirt Confetti Necklace (a byproduct of step 1, the hem pieces should be about 1 1/2″ long, with the stitching still in place). There should be a hollow space through the center, making it, essentially, a soft bead.

2. Thread the T-shirt cord through the T-shirt beads, arranging them in any desired pattern.

3. Rotate the beads so the stitching appears on the “outside” of the necklace and scrunch them together, creating a ruffled look. Then tie the two ends of the T-shirt cord in a bow at the desired length at the back of your neck.

Ta-da! Almost exciting as fireworks. Happy 4th, everybody!

[ 3 Comments | Posted on July 4th, 2012 ]

I Love To Create: T-shirt Confetti Necklace!

Interestingly, the inspiration for this festive, soft Fourth of July necklace came from south of the border — while I was on vacation in Oaxaca, Mexico, we happened upon a small gallery where I spotted an orange folded paper bracelet made by women in a local artist collective. The paper was so soft and fibrous, it reminded me of fabric. So when I set to re-imagining that bracelet stateside in my Generation T workshop (as a necklace of fabric and glue!), I was pleased that the results are even cozier — a wonderfully celebratory accessory fit for a summer barbecue! (I was intentionally playing it subtle with the shades-of-blue color palette, but a bold red, white, and blue color scheme would really pop.) And it’s comfy, too, when the sun goes down and it’s time to snuggle up and watch the fireworks.

-T-shirt scraps (sleeves work well!), including one long one to use as the fastener
-Rotary cutter and cutting mat
-Quilting ruler
-Aleene’s Fabric Fusion glue
-Ribbon (optional, in place of the long piece of T-shirt scrap to fasten the necklace)

Make it:
Cut 1 1/2″-wide strips from the T-shirt scraps.

2. Cut the strips into 2″ pieces to make rectangles that are 1 1/2″ x 2″. (I cut about 124 rectangles in two different colors to make an approximately 9″-long necklace segment.)

3. Lay one of the rectangles flat, wrong side up, and spread a thin line of glue slightly off-center and parallel to the short ends. Fold it in half so that the glue line retains the crease. Let the glue dry and repeat for the remaining rectangles.

4. Squeeze a thin line of glue close to the folded edge of one of the rectangles and press another folded rectangle over it.

5. Repeat step 4 as many times as needed, to attach more rectangles together and create the necklace piece. (Arrange different colors to create a pattern!) Reserve two folded rectangles to use in step 7.

6. Let the necklace piece dry, then touch up any gaps as desired.

7. Spread glue along the end of a long T-shirt strip or ribbon (shown here), and center and press it along one of the spare rectangles from step 5.

8. Then add more glue to the ribbon and press it against one end of the necklace piece, aligning the T-shirt rectangles (the ribbon end should be sandwiched in between T-shirt material). Repeat on the opposite end of the necklace piece. Let dry completely. Then snip the T-shirt strip or ribbon in the middle so you have two ends for tying.

9. Tie the ends in a bow at the back of your neck.

-Experiment by making smaller rectangles for a more delicate piece (you can make a necklace this way, or, I made an accompanying bracelet using 1″ x 1 1/2″ rectangles).
-Use chain in place of the fabric fastener. (I like the idea of an all-white necklace piece with a gold tone chain.)
-Try wearing it as a headpiece! (My sister’s boyfriend tied the necklace around his head
as a joke, bonnet-style, but with the right messy up-do, it could be quite the statement piece.)
-Play with color: Make the red-white-blue version mentioned above, use the color scheme from your favorite sports team to wear to the next game, or craft a rainbow to brighten your day!

Tune in later this week to see the second necklace I made using the scraps left over from this one–super easy, super fast, and also no-sew (no-glue, even!).

[ 4 Comments | Posted on June 26th, 2012 ]

Luke, I Am Your Father.

Oh, that iconic (though misquoted) line uttered by Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker. Any kid growing up in the 1980s with the name Luke was oft subjected to various illuminations of this kind along with other ubiquitous Jedi advice such as, “Use the Force” and “May the Force be with you.” Today, on Father’s Day, we decided to flip Darth’s utterance on its head to honor a very special Jedi Knight named Luke (aka Mr. T) over here in the Generation T galaxy.

Though it’s a project particularly suited for a father named Luke (I’m sure you know one or two!), you can easily substitute any other Star Wars-loving dad’s name to make a personalized message from his little Ewok.

-T-shirt for the little one (at least one, but I made two in different sizes)
-design printout (high contrast is best, and adjust your letters, like A and O, to make sure you’re not missing any center cutouts)
-freezer paper
-craft knife
-cutting mat
-masking tape
-fabric spray paint (and/or fabric paint and a foam brush — I used both)

Make it:

1. Lay your printout on the cutting mat and place a sheet of freezer paper, shiny side down, over it. Trace the darkened pieces with the craft knife to create the stencil. (Again, be sure to attach the center of any letters with holes to their outside framework to prevent parts of the letter from going missing — I used masking tape to fix a couple letters I botched!)

2. Lay the freezer paper stencil over the T-shirt, using the ruler to center it below the T-shirt neckline. Gently press it (oh-so-quickly!) with a warm the iron to temporarily secure it to the front of the T-shirt. Insert a scrap piece of paper between the front and back of the T-shirt to keep the paint from bleeding through.

3. Spray and/or sponge the paint over the stencil. Cover the entire stencil but be careful not to over-saturate the fabric with paint or it may bleed under the edges.

4. Let the paint dry and gently peel off the stencil. (And even with the best intentions, the paint may bleed a bit!)

5. If the stencil is dry, reapply it to the next T-shirt and repeat! (We tried a version in gray, one size up, in long sleeves, for winter — because, hey, why not celebrate Father’s Day all year long?)

Happy Father’s Day from Generation T!

[ 2 Comments | Posted on June 17th, 2012 ]

T-shirt Spiral Statement Earrings

Ages ago, I promised variations on my Softie Spiral Headband made from T-shirt coils. Well, at long last, here’s one take — a pair of colorful, bold, statement earrings. As a DIY project, they’re a nice alternative to the headband (if you’re too impatient or too short on time to make all the coils required for the bigger project!).

-T-shirt scraps in different colors (T-shirt hems with the stitching cut off are perfect!)
-Fabric scissors
-Aleene’s Fabric Fusion or similar fabric adhesive
-1 pair earring posts and backs
-Aleene’s Jewel-It Embellishing Glue or similar jewelry adhesive

Make It:
Simply follow the instructions for making a T-shirt coil in the spiral headband tutorial. Make three pairs of same-sized and like-colored coils. (In this example, that means: two matching blue coils, two matching gold coils, and two matching pail yellow coils.)

To make sure that the two blue coils end up the same size, start by cutting the T-shirt strips to the same length. The top coil in the earring should be the smallest, with each coil getting gradually larger as you move down the length of the earring (the yellow one is about 1 3/8″ in diameter, the gold one is about 1 1/2″, and the blue one is about 1 3/4″).

Use the Fabric Fusion to glue the coils in a row, rotating the coils so that the ends of the T-shirt strips get “buried” in the seam. Then glue an earring post to each of the small coils (close to the edge, at the top of the earring, as shown) using the jewelry glue.

Allow the glue to set completely, then attach the earring backings, and you’re ready to wear or gift them!

Note: If these earrings are too big for your style (they do measure about 4.5″ long), you can make them smaller — just keep the same basic ratio between the sizes. Alternatively, you can make single coil earring studs for an even faster result!

[ No Comments | Posted on June 4th, 2012 ]

Rookie Turns a T-shirt into a Mod Dress!

How cute is this? Learn how to stitch up this black and white mod dress by Marlena Pope over at RookieMag! I love the styling, too — red-red lips really pop with the black and white geometry of it all.

I’m thinking color wheel opposites could be fun couplings instead of the black and white — orange and blue, maybe? or yellow and violet!

Photo via RookieMag.

[ 1 Comment | Posted on May 24th, 2012 ]