Monthly Archives: September 2017

T-Shirt Make Over


We are getting to that time of year again (and already!). The boys started school this week, morning’s are crisp and clear, and the sun is setting earlier each day. All of these subtle changes mean only one thing—fall is on its way.

With these seasonal shifts, my thoughts turn from the garden, lake swims, and weekend getaways to more cozy, inside activities. Like whipping up a pot of homemade chili, watching a movie with the family, cuddling up with a good book, or, as you see here, crafting. This sort of crafting—the kind I like to do on a T-shirt—goes hand in hand with another nesting instinct that seems to kick in for me when seasons change—the wardrobe overhaul.

For me, the urge to purge is especially strong in the spring and fall. But I’m not one to be hasty about it. Usually the shirts, skirts, pants, shoes, or any other items that failed to see much play during the fading season hang out in the far flung corners of my closet or dresser for a bit before I’m moved to actually pack them up into grocery bags and haul them to the nearest Goodwill. Lately, though, I’ve been setting some of those shirts aside and giving them a second look, with an eye to what I might do to give that shirt new life, right here at home. Think about it. With a little embroidery thread on a lazy, autumn Sunday, I can transform that shirt into something I might actually want to wear again.

Embroidered to a T

If you like to embroider, this is pretty easy to do. The inspiration for the black only floral design came from Naoko Shimoda’s book Artfully Embroidered, which I highly recommend. First, I doodled with pencil on a sketch pad until I came up with flowers I was pleased with (this part can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like!). Then I traced over those flowers with a fabric transfer pen. Before ironing the design onto my shirt, I cut out a piece of iron-on interfacing, slightly larger than the size of my design. Interfacing is what really makes it possible to stitch a design onto a t-shirt. Without it, the knit fabric is too flimsy to support the stitches. Follow directions on the interfacing package to iron the piece to the inside of the shirt, on the back side of the area where you plan to place the design. Lay your sketched design face down on the shirt, cover with a light cloth, and iron, making several passes to make sure the design transfers to the fabric. Place an embroidery hoop over your design, grab a needle and some embroidery floss and start stitching. I do most of my embroidery using split, stem, and running stitch, but try out other stitches as well. Craftsy is a great place to find instructions for basic embroidery stitches.

Applique Upgrade

If you’re not into the embroidery thing, though, there are many other ways to add interest to dull T-shirts. An obvious one is applique. As I was sorting through my kiddo’s too-small clothes, I came across these darling octopus swim trunks. The seat was well-worn, so I didn’t really want to donate them, but the pattern was so cute! I decided to cut out one of the octopi (?) and applique it to an orange and white striped shirt I had in the drawer. This was so easy to do, and it turned out great! Again, I used interfacing on the inside of the T-shirt to make it sturdy, and then I used a few dabs of fabric glue on the back of the octopus to keep it in place on the front of the shirt (test this first to make sure it doesn’t show through). Then, set the sewing machine to zigzag stitch, thread it with a thread that coordinates with the colors of the shirt, and sew along the entire edge of the cut out design.

Just Add Trim

This last T-shirt make over is even easier. Before I tell you how to do it though, I have a confession to make…I snagged this idea from a J Crew catalog. Last summer I pined for a cute v-neck T-shirt with bobble trim sewn along the sides. But I didn’t really want to shell out more than 40 clams for a short sleeve T, so I passed. Then I had a blinding flash of the obvious—why couldn’t I just sew trim onto the sides of any old shirt? So, using bobble trim I picked up for $1, I added some flair to my $7 v-neck T. Love it, and it was so simple to do! I ironed the shirt, aligned a strand of trim along each side seam  (beginning at the arm pit and ending at the bottom hem), pinned them in place, and then sewed them on using a straight stitch.


These are just a few ways to get a little more wear (and joy) out of a T-shirt you might otherwise cast away. For more fun ideas for projects made using old T-Shirts, sweaters, and even socks, stay tuned for more crafty posts AND (drumroll please) more details about my upcoming book, The Craft-a-Day Project Book. Can’t wait to share it with you!