T-shirt Projects

How to: Rescue an Old Chair Using T-shirts!

(Photo by Peter Stanglmayr)

You’ve probably seen the Beanbag Chair from T-shirts here. And you can always renew the seat cover of a chair with T-shirt fabric following the tutorial here (stay tuned for an actual T-shirt one soon!). But in this T-shirt rescue,  I did a modern take on traditional chair caning (or, rather, weaving with a wicker-like material called “paper rush“). I was obviously inspired by the original pattern, but wanting to take it in a new direction!

(Photo by Peter Stanglmayr)

On a rainy Sunday in May, Build It Green! NYC (@bignyc) drew all sorts if creative types to Gowanus, Brooklyn for Krrb’s (@krrbsale) second annual DIY Chair Workshop. Sponsored by Alabama Chanin (the sustainable, slow fashion outfit in Alabama, @alabamachanin), as part of #makeshift2013, Build It Green gathered up its collection of discarded and beat-up chairs for us to renew.

(Photo by Peter Stanglmayr)

-Structurally sound old wooden chair
-Lots of 3-4″-wide T-shirt fabric scraps (cut horizontally across the T-shirt for maximum stretch)

Make it:

1. Find a chair whose seat is crumbling (note the packing tape holding it together!), but has framework that is still in good shape.

2. Clip off the seat (and peel away all the tape). Use the prongs of the hammer to pry out any nails left in the bars of the seat. Set them aside and note, as you deconstruct the seat, how they were used in the original construction.

3. Cut the T-shirt scraps into 3″- to 4″-wide strips (as long as the scraps allow) and loop them together by cutting a small hole in each end and weaving one through the other (sort of like a cow hitch knot). Stretch the “yarn” out and wrap the end into a ball to make the weaving more manageable. (Though I found, to really make it workable, I wove a length, then added more, then wove, then added more — if the tail of yarn is too long, it does get cumbersome.)

4. Wrap one end of the yarn tightly around one of the bars of the chair seat. Use the nails you pulled out in step 2 (and the existing holes, if possible), and hammer them back in, securing the fabric in place. Starting in one corner, weave the yarn around two bars on a diagonal, crossing them in the middle in a sort of figure-eight. I went almost halfway across the seat, making sure to pull the yarn taut as I went, and then started a new length of T-shirt scrap yarn from the opposite corner.

5. Once I had tightly woven the yarn from the two opposite sides (leaving a gap in the middle), I started again at one of the open corners and “stitched” up the gap separating the two sections by cross-weaving into the sections. (I also had the brilliant idea of moving my chair onto one of the work tables so I could stretch out my back a little!)

6. Tie and then thread the ends of the weaving into the inside of the chair seat. There will be some rough edges where the scraps were pieced together — embrace the texture of it!

The workshop was amazingly fun. Amy Devers of A&E’s “Fix This Yard” was on hand to help out — she and Natalie reworked a whole bench (see Natalie at work on it below). I met Kay Gardiner (you knitters might recognize her from her popular books), who learned how to wield a power drill (see her in action below, too!) to refashion her chair. I met Stacey of Patternix knit design studio — who kindly helped me finish my chair after her  woven knit creation was done. Many of the completed chairs are now available in an online silent auction on Krrb (we adopted mine!). So, go bid on your favorite! All proceeds support Build It Green NYC (New York City’s only non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials).

And at the very least, click through for more photos of the event and more refashioned chairs! One of the attendees wore a very cool refashioned T-shirt. Can you spot it in the gallery of photos?

All photos by Megan Nicolay unless otherwise noted.

UPDATE 6/18/13: There’s a video!

[ 1 Comment | Posted on June 10th, 2013 ]

How to: Tie-Dye Your Life! (via Your Wardrobe)

I always bring a craft project when I visit my niece, Dorothy. One time it was Embroidery Day, another it was Felt Cat Ear Day…this time it was Tie-Day Day! Our goal, which we nobly chose to accept: to tie-dye an entire wardrobe. As you can see, we got pretty darn close…

So, despite all my T-shirt proclivities, I have to confess I actually have never tie-dyed in my adult life. I don’t know what made me think that it would be so hard, but honestly, the only thing that could have made this easier was a nice picnic table outside to craft on (and that’s just me asking for a luxurious upgrade).

The takeway: Tie-dye. Is. So. Easy.

I would go so far as to say it’s foolproof! Next time you have a family reunion, skip ordering the printed T-shirts: Set up a tie-dye station for all the siblings and cousins–by morning, you’ll have a full set of T-shirts perfect for a very colorful family portrait!

-Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Kit (color: “Vibrant” — includes rubber bands, bottles, dyes, two pairs of plastic gloves, and an instruction/inspiration sheet)
-Cotton things to dye: We picked T-shirts (in two sizes, for the two cousins), tights, and socks!
-plastic table cloth or plastic garbage bag to cover your work surface
-paper towels
-plastic cling wrap or zip-lock bags

Note: If you’re working with new T-shirts, pre-wash and dry them to make sure any shrinking that’s going to happen has happened!

Make it:
Hop on over for the how-to at the I Love to Create Blog! (Plus a cute photo-bomb by my niece.) We tie-dyed spirals onto T-shirts, sunbursts onto tights, diagonal stripes onto another T-shirt, horizontal stripes onto socks, and a bullseye design onto yet another T-shirt.

After her cousin, Niko, woke up from his nap, it was time to try on the matching Swirl design tie-dye T-shirts!

Did I mention tie-dye is also great for obscuring grass stains? An added bonus, for sure! There’s definitely more tie-dye to come this summer — and quite likely in my size this time.

[ 2 Comments | Posted on May 28th, 2013 ]

Knit Your Own T-shirt!

Calling all knitters! This is one of those times that I wish so hard that I was a better knitter. Because this hand-knit T-shirt is something I would totally make.


Make it:

For the pattern how-to, visit Laura’s Loop on PurlBee, the Purl Soho sewing and knitting blog.

Now that is a T-shirt I wouldn’t touch with scissors!

[ No Comments | Posted on May 13th, 2013 ]

I Love to Create: A is for Animal Wall Decor

A is for Ant, B is for Beetle, C is for Cat…. Here’s an easy way to turn old clothing scraps (in this case, T-shirts and jeans) into personalized decoration for a young (or young at heart) friend’s bedroom wall or door. Whether you stick with the animal theme, or go with fruits and veggies (A is for Apple, B is for Broccoli, C is for Carrot), geography (A is for Australia, B is for Belgium, C is for China), or a more random selection of words (A is for Astronaut, B is for Bubbles, C is for Castle), part of the fun is brainstorming the image that will represent the recipient’s initial. For my son, N is for Narwhal was a shoo-in. N is for Newt came second. What animal would you choose?

or pencil
-Fabric scraps (old T-shirts and denim pieces)
-2 sheets 8 1/2″ x 11″ medium-weight cardboard (often used as stiffener in a flat parcel)
-Aleene’s OK to Wash It
or Aleene’s Fabric Fusion permanent fabric adhesive
-Fabric paints (optional, for additional embellishment)

1. Select a friend’s or child’s first initial and then choose an animal (or two) with a name that also begins with the letter: I chose to start with N for Narwhal (that fabulous sea mammal that looks like it was crossed with a unicorn) and N for Newt (an orange salamander. Draw an outline of each animal and the capital and lowercase letter. Cut them out and arrange them on the cardboard to make sure they’ll fit. Set them aside.

2. Spread fabric glue evenly over one side of one of the sheets of cardboard and press it onto fabric.

3. Fold and glue the edges to the back of the cardboard. (It’s okay if the edges are messy — they’ll be covered up.)

4. Trace one of the paper animal templates (in reverse) onto the wrong side of one of the fabric scraps. Repeat with different scraps with the letters and second animal.

5. Arrange and glue each of the elements onto the fabric-covered cardboard. Add background (like water!) and details (spiral on the horn, eyes!), making sure to layer the pieces appropriately. Let it dry and proceed to decorate the second piece of cardboard!

6. Cover the second piece of cardboard by following steps 1 and 2. Arrange and glue on the embellishments by following steps 4 and 5.

7. Flip one of the panels backside up and measure about 3″ in from each side. Mark each point.

8. Squeeze fabric glue at each mark, and press the length of a T-shirt cord into each line of glue.

9. Then spread glue across the entire backside of one of the panels and press it firmly to the back of the other, sandwiching the hanging strap ends between them. (This tidily covers any messy work and makes the sign reversible, whether you prefer caps or lowercase — or narwhals or newts.) Let it dry.

10. A, B, C, D, E, F, G…H, I, J, K, L, M, N is for Newt and Narwhal!

After it’s completely dry, choose a side to display and hang it up!

-If you’re feeling ambitious, make multiple signs to spell out a person’s name. Arrange them in a row, a column, or rectangle.
-If you’re feeling really ambitious, make the whole alphabet, and line the edges of the room with A through Z animals!

[ 6 Comments | Posted on February 26th, 2013 ]

I Love to Create: “You Complete Me” T-shirts!

The sweetest thing to make for your best pal on Valentine’s day? The sweetest thing for your sweetie? I call it the “You Complete Me” Tee. Part friendship charm necklace, part Pinterest inspiration (these gloves!), each T-shirt in this pair appears, at first look, to be decorated with an abstract design when it’s without its match. When the two shirts are reunited, however, they form a heart. Awww…

-2 plain T-shirts (preferably light in color)
-empty file folder (or other large piece of card stock)
-Tulip Fabric Spray Paint (in red!)
-plenty of newsprint to protect your work surface

Make It:

1. Lay the folder flat and use the marker to draw half of a heart along one of the long edges. (Note: I had to make an adjustment later on to accomodate the dimensionality of the human body–so don’t be afraid to make a particularly bulbous heart in order for it to “read” when the shirts are side by side.)

2. Cut out the half-heart template and line it up along the side of the torso of one of the shirts (under the sleeve). Mask the rest of the T-shirt (and use newsprint to protect your work surface), and spray paint the half-heart.

3. Carefully remove the stencil from the T-shirt, let it dry, and then flip the template to paint the other side of the heart on the other T-shirt. Then, when both the T-shirts and the stencil have dried, repeat the process to complete each heart on the back of the shirt. (And don’t worry if the paint seeps under the stencil a bit — like relationships, it might get a bit messy at times!)

4. Let it dry completely, wear it, and go find your best bud. (And don’t forget to make sure you stand on the correct side–and bend your knees or stand on your tiptoes, if necessary!)

Thanks to my friends Michael and Helen (who thematically appropriately identify as members of Camp Friendship Basketball League!) for modeling.

[ 1 Comment | Posted on January 22nd, 2013 ]

I Love to Create: Snowflake Stencil T-shirts!

We had a wicked nor’easter blow through the East Coast last week, and though the snow pile-up lasted less than twenty-four hours, it sure put me in the mood for winter. So with a family gathering around the corner, I decided to make some wintery-themed T-shirts for the two young cousins in attendance–a little something to wear inside when it’s too cold outside! And a nice alternative to the ubiquitous holiday sweater, don’t you think?

-white T-shirt(s) in appropriate size(s)
-Tulip fabric spray paint (light blue)
-white printer paper
-paper scissors
-iron and press cloth
-Tulip Soft Fabric Paint (Gold Glitter, optional)
-Tulip Sponge Brush (optional)

Make it:
1. Fold one of the sheets of paper on a diagonal to “square” it. Use scissors to cut off the excess strip of paper.

2. Bring the lower left corner up to fold the triangle in half again.

3. And again!

4. Use your scissors to start cutting notches along the folded edges: zigzags, circles, crescents, curls, diamonds, and so on! Don’t forget to cut the open edges in an arc, so that the snowflake will be somewhat round in appearance when you unfold.

5. Unfold!

6. Repeat to make many snowflakes (no two will be alike)!

7. Lay the T-shirt flat on your work surface. Arrange the snowflakes onto the front, and press them with a warm iron to keep them relatively flat. (Note: The weight of the spray paint will actually help them stay flat, too.)

8. Lightly spray blue paint over the entire T-shirt (I masked the inside back neckband with paper scraps).

9. Carefully peel off the snowflakes and set them aside. Let the T-shirt dry.

10. Reuse the snowflakes to make T-shirt number two!

Optional: Use the foam brush and glitter paint to add sparkly highlights to the snowflakes.

Let dry, then try on the shirt (or gift it to its recipient!), and curl up by the fire, knowing your snowflakes will never melt.

[ 2 Comments | Posted on November 20th, 2012 ]

Harold and the Purple Crayon Halloween!

Baby’s first Halloween is a tough one — there’s a lot of pressure to make it memorable (even though he won’t remember it at all) and it’s also probably the only time that he won’t have an opinion about the costume. About two months in, Mr. T and I discovered our baby had not one, but two literary doppelgangers, and I promised that if he was still anywhere near as bald as he was at the time, we would honor one of his likenesses for his first Halloween. So between Crockett Johnson’s timeless “Harold” and the holiday-appropriate Alfred Hitchcock, Harold and his violet-hued crayon won out. Let’s start with the inspiration (above, at two months old). Wrinkled brow, giant cheeks, turned up nose. Pretty uncanny, right?

And please forgive the inconsistency in the photos…I made the costume over several late nights!

-purple T-shirt (to use for parts)
-long-sleeved off-white T-shirt (or more, depending on how many “drawings” Harold will make)
-blue sleeper (this was worn as the top layer over 2 other sleepers, for warmth!)
-fabric scissors
-ballpoint pen
-craft knife and cutting mat
-gold fabric spray paint
-freezer paper
-warm iron

-copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (for reference! and for reading!)
-disappearing ink fabric marking pen
-sewing machine with matching thread
-needle and thread (for hand sewing)
-fiber fill
-craft jingle bells (optional, to make the crayon rattle a bit)

Make it (Harold’s Purple Crayon):
Use the ruler and ballpoint pen to mark out a stencil for the stuffed crayon.

2. Use the craft knife and cutting mat to cut out the stencil.

3. Iron the stencil onto a scrap from the purple T-shirt (I used a flattened out sleeve).

4. Use the fabric paint to spray over the stencil, making sure to mask the areas you don’t want painted. (I originally was going to use black paint for authenticity, but saw this Gold Glimmer in my paint stash, and thought the high contrast would make it show up better!)

5. Let the paint dry for a minute, then peel off the stencil before letting it dry entirely. (I let the stencil sit too long on the one below, and as you can see the paint bled a bit  — so I made another one!)

6. Cut 4 to 5 additional rectangles of purple fabric to layer beneath the painted piece (to thicken the crayon wall and add structure). Cut a circle (also several layers) for the bottom of the crayon.

7. Fold the rectangle (all layers), right side in, and line up the paint lines. Then pin and use the sewing machine to stitch a straight line to create a tube. Make two angled cuts to help shape the point of the crayon.

8. Cut a length of T-shirt cord and thread it inside the crayon tube, pinning it between the layers at the tip of the crayon. Stitch along the open edges at the tip (catching the end of the T-shirt cord) and turn it right side out. (The cord should appear to be a “drawing line,” extending from the tip of the crayon, as shown. Use fiber fill to stuff the crayon, and add a few bells in the center, if desired, to add a little jingle (it helped create more interest for my little guy, so he would play with it longer!).

9. Tuck in the edges of the layered circle pieces, and hand-sew the end of the crayon in place.

10. Trim the T-shirt cord (drawing line) as necessary.

11. Harold’s costume is finished! But his drawings (aka his parents’ costumes) aren’t…

Make it (Harold’s Drawings):
1. Select a drawing from the book, and use the disappearing ink pen to sketch it onto shirt number 1. (It’s just a coincidence that the ink from the pen shows up purple before it fades!)

Optional: Select and sketch an image onto shirt number 2.

Perhaps, given the weather, I should have gone with one of these pages:

2. Begin to outline the drawings with more T-shirt cord.

3. Use the sewing machine to carefully stitch the T-shirt cord over the sketches, piece by piece.

4. Done!

And what happens… When Grandma is unexpectedly in town for Halloween festivities? A quick online trip to Out of Print Clothing, of course, and we were able to round out the “story,” with Grandma as the cover of the book!

The best news? Less than 364 days until next Halloween. Start planning! What literary character would you dress as?

[ 13 Comments | Posted on November 2nd, 2012 ]

Happy Halloween! T-shirt Pumpkins!

Wishing you all a happy Halloween with these colorful T-shirt pumpkins made by this oh-so-Swell Designer for iLoveToCreate.

Click here for the full T-shirt pumpkin tutorial, or follow along with this video from The Swell Life (and use your powers of imagination to substitute tie-dye T-shirt fabric for a red bandana!).

(PS: Alexa at The Swell Life has so many swell ideas for holiday decor — especially for Halloween — and we’re just plain tickled pink that she has one of our books on her shelf! Proof below.)

Pumpkin image via iLoveToCreate; video via The Swell Life

[ No Comments | Posted on October 31st, 2012 ]

10 Quick & Easy T-shirt Halloween Costumes II

Following up last year’s popular list of 10 Quick & Easy T-shirt Halloween Costumes, here is another collection of ten DIY costumes on the fly. From the cinematic to the everyday, from the historical to the commercial, from the sweet to the oh-so-punny (scroll down to #10)…. But let’s start with a classic.


-Orange T-shirt
-Tulip Fabric Spray Paint (in black)
-Freezer Paper
-Craft knife and cutting mat
-Warm iron
-Newsprint paper

Make it:
Use the pen to sketch out jack-o-lantern features on a sheet of freezer paper.

2. Use the craft knife and cutting mat to cut out the features.

3. Iron the freezer paper stencil onto the front of the T-shirt. Insert a sheet of newsprint between the layers of the shirt to prevent the paint from bleeding through.

4. Mask the parts of the T-shirt that are still visible, and spray over the stencil with black paint.

5. Let the paint dry briefly, then peel up the stencil.

6. Let the paint dry completely, then try on the T-shirt and go find a pumpkin patch to haunt!


#1 Jack-o-lantern. As shown above, that pumpkin patch classic. Black paint on an orange T-shirt. Optional: Accessorize with a green vine and leaves headband.

#2 Sunny day. Paint white clouds on a pastel blue T-shirt, or stick pillow stuffing on the T-shirt. Inspired by one of our readers, Emily A. (not to be confused with Emily P., our model for this post!), who used a variation of the Mohawk Mo’ Rock hat (from Generation T: Beyond Fashion) as the headpiece. We used this more recent accessory. And hey, you can always use the costume to moonlight in Ben & Jerry land.

#3 Dominoes. A fun and very easy group costume (just leave the ears and tail at home so you don’t get mistaken for a dalmatian) — use black fabric paint or black permanent marker on a white T-shirt. And if you get tired at any point while wearing the costume, simply lie down adjacent or end-to-end with a matching number on  a friend’s shirt!

#4 Strawberry. Paint yellow seeds on a red shirt, and use green T-shirt scraps to fashion a stem with leaves to sit a top your head. Go solo or meet up with friends to make blueberries, watermelon — a whole fruit salad!

#5 Hippie. Tie-dye a T-shirt, then pair it with bell-bottom jeans, a headband, and any other . (Note: You have to schedule in additional drying time with this one.)

#6 Soup can. Start with a plain white T-shirt and use a black permanent marker, stencils, and red and yellow paint to embellish it. Then convince a pal to go as Andy Warhol!

#7 X-ray. A great way to show some skeleton on Halloween, use white paint on a black T-shirt (and the painted parts will show up gray).

#8 M&M candies. Paint white lowercase ‘m’s onto red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and/or brown T-shirts. Then really go the extra mile and wear white gloves and white sneakers. Gather up a group of friends for a whole handful of candies. Note: This approach also works for Skittles!’

#9 Napoleon Dynamite. Based on the indie hit, paint blue edges on a white T-shirt to mimic a ringer tee; paint or iron on letters to spell “Vote for Pedro.” Top it off with some wiry glasses and a curly wig.

#10 Ceiling fan. Heh. Number 1 fan of the ceiling. Get it? Get it? Use fabric markers or paints on a white T-shirt — and plenty of cheerful props!

Happy trick-or-treating everyone! Here’s to last-minute costumes that are as easy as 1, 2, 3.

[ 3 Comments | Posted on October 23rd, 2012 ]

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 ]