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Working with t-shirts is so much fun. They don’t ravel and, depending on the fabric content, the edges roll up, which can be interesting for your projects. In the summer you can see loads ladies walking around with slashed t-shirts, with the strands of fabric rolling into something like cords. But two or three years ago I started seeing a different slashing technique. This more controlled version incorporates stitching to keep the slashes where they should be. Then I saw this post on Refashion Co-op (which I contribute to, as well), using this technique along with the technique of reverse applique. (Remember that? I used it on this layered t-shirt refashion.) I was fascinated, but there was no tutorial, so I decided that I’d just have to figure it out myself. Some day… which never seemed to arrive.
That is until I found myself with these hand-me-down shirts for my daughter. Now, I never say no to hand-me-downs. But sometimes I just can’t bring myself to dress my kids in them. Bratz?! Are you kidding me? Those are the most horrifyingly ugly and uneducating toys I’ve ever seen. And I can’t say I’m much of a High School Musical fan, either. (Though back when it was popular amongst middle schoolers I did show it to some of my students with some activities to complete while they watched. It was the only time that particular group was ever quiet in my whole experience with them.) However these two shirts were in perfectly good condition and Sofia loves the color yellow, so it was a shame to just pretend we didn’t actually have them.
All it took were some scraps of other old t-shirts to get rid of the offending graphics.
And then we had another unique piece of clothing for my sweet gal! She calls this her “oven shirt,” and I have to say that she’s right; it does look an awful lot like the inside of an oven. Whatever we want to call it, this t-shirt has been one of her favorites ever since I made it over a year ago. (Yes, it took me a while to actually publish this tutorial, huh? You can tell by Sofi’s teeth. Her new front ones grew in quite a while ago.)
Would you like to like to save a shirt by embellishing it with this slashed t-shirt reverse applique? Well then, read on!
First off, use a water-soluble fabric pen* to draw a rectangle (or circle or whatever other shape you want) around whatever graphics, logos or strain you want to get rid of. Make sure to leave a few millimeters between the line and the design to remove.
Choose the t-shirts you want to cut the applique from. Cut a little strip of fabric across the grain. (Read here for more information about fabric grain.) Then pull on it gently from both ends. Some t-shirts, generally the thicker ones like the polo shirt of the top strip, just sort of stretch out a little bit. But others, generally the thinner ones, will roll inward when you pull on them, like the lower strip in the above photo. It doesn’t matter if your bottom applique layer rolls or not, but the top applique layer MUST roll, otherwise this technique won’t work.
Cut one rectangle out of each fabric, with the wide part going across the grain. You need to make it 2 cm wider on each side than the rectangle you drew onto your shirt. My drawn rectangle was 12 x 20 cm, so I cut out 16 x 24 cm fabric rectangles. Pin the top rectangle on top of the bottom rectangle, right sides up.
Sew or serge around the edges to keep the rectangles together. You don’t actually have to do this step, but it keeps things more tidy on the inside of the shirt, keeping the fabric edges from rolling and bunching, bothering the wearer. It also makes it easier to sew in place.
Slip the rectangle inside the shirt, right side up and against the inside of the front of the shirt, and center it under the drawn rectangle. Pin in place.
Sew about 5 mm outside of the drawn rectangle and then again 10 mm (1 cm) outside of the rectangle with a straight stitch.
This is what it will look like at this point from the inside.
Here’s the fun part that you’ve been waiting for: time to get rid of that offending ugliness! With the shirt right side out, pinch the center of the drawn rectangle, making sure to pinch only the original t-shirt, separating it from the rectangle layers below.
Make a little snip where you’ve pinched that top layer of fabric.
Then slip your scissors inside the hole and cut along the drawn rectangle until you can remove the whole panel. If you used a water soluble fabric pen, like I mentioned earlier, it’s ok if some of the markings remain because they will wash out. But if you used something that won’t wash out, make sure you cut away all traces of it.
Ahh! What a relief to get rid of that graphic! And we have now successfully created some reverse applique! But we want to get a little more fancy, so keep reading.
Now we need to divide the height of our rectangle. Mine was 12 cm high, so I thought to make 4 stripes 3 cm high. DON’T make your stripes that high, because it came out a little weird that way and I had to redo it. In the end I found that 2 cm is a good height for this technique, or perhaps even less. Draw your lines with your water soluble pen (or tailor’s chalk or another removable marking tool) and a ruler.
Then sew along the lines with a straight stitch.
Now we need to open up the stripes. Like we did when removing the ugly graphic from the front of the t-shirt, pinch ONLY the top rectangle layer in the space between two lines of stitching. This time it’s a little trickier because there’s less space to separate the two layers.
Once again, make a little cut in the center of the stripe, just in the top layer, then insert your scissors into the cut.
Cut right down the center from one edge of the rectangle to the other. Don’t worry if it isn’t a perfectly straight line, because the edges will roll up.
Do this with each of your stripes. You might be a little disappointed in your slashing at this point, but don’t worry. The edges will roll in nicely once the you wet and agitate the fabric. Throw it into the washing machine with your other laundry or, if you just can’t wait to continue, get it wet under the sink, rub it a little bit, shake out the excess water and hang it in the hot sun to dry. (Or use your hair dryer if you’re a little less patient.) Whatever water-soluble marker you used before will be washed out at this point.
And this is when I realized that 3 cm stripes were just too high and were looking a bit different than what I’d expected. There was too much fabric rolling up between stripes, giving the shirt a funny bulky look. So frustrating! (Especially when you’re documenting the whole process for a tutorial…)
So I took a deep breath, grabbed my seam ripper and removed the rectangle panel from inside the shirt. I made a new rectangle panel as I had before and did my best to position it behind the rectangular space in the t-shirt. Trust me, this was not very easy, because the fabric moved constantly. I then did the best I could to sew directly on top of the marks left behind from the original stitching around the rectangle.
This time I divided my 12 cm high rectangle into 6 stripes of 2 cm each. (And this time I used my powdered chalk liner*, not my pen, which was drying up.)
The proportions were much better this way.
I then decided to remove further traces of annoying marketing by cutting off the Bratz tag from inside…
…and covering up the Original Marines brand name from the back by sewing tiny rectangular scraps of the same fabrics I’d used for the rectangular applique panel over it, one on top of the other.
The slashed stripes were interesting, but I wasn’t totally convinced by them at first. The fabric edges weren’t rolling up as I’d expected.
But then, after the first time machine washing the shirt, those edges rolled up just how I’d imagined them! What satisfaction!
And the kids’ two yellow shirts also matched the big couch things in the installation they had outside the MAXXI museum in Rome last summer just perfectly! (I hesitated before adding the above photo in with the others because of the big bandage on Nicky’s head. The day before this photo, we had to take a fun little trip to the ER.)
(Remember those pants that I made from a shirt I found on the sidewalk, that you can see on Nicky above? Unfortunately those don’t fit him anymore and I passed them on to a friend who appreciates home-sewn children’s clothing!)
But most importantly, I made my favorite little girl very happy without spending a cent! What can be better than that?!
Did you enjoy this refashioning tutorial? Take a look at this related tutorial on how to cover unwanted logos, graphics or stains with applique stripes!
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Question of the day: What is your most proud moment of being a successful Mommy Medic?
Like any mom, I’ve had my fair share of medical scares with my kids. But perhaps the most disgusting success story I had (which I mentioned in passing in my tie-dye bedsheet post around the time that it happened) was last year when Nicky smashed in his forehead, the cause of that big bandage in the above photos. While running outside our front door, he tripped and hit his forehead right onto the asphalt. Which had happened other times, so I wasn’t extremely concerned. But when he stood up, he had gravel smushed into his whole forehead. I wiped off what I could and then realized that there was a chunk of gravel sticking in the skin in the center of his forehead. I pulled it out and realized that there was a cut with more gravel chunks in it. Doing my best to stay calm and calm both my crying kids (Sofia was horrified when she realized what had happened and was crying much more than the wounded boy himself.), we walked upstairs and I tried to wash out the cut with hydrogen peroxide, hoping the gravel would wash out. It didn’t, of course, and the stinging made Nicky hysterical. So I sterilized my tweezers, grabbed the gravel chunk and pulled it out. And discovered that there was another chunk of gravel underneath. Long story short, I kept digging out one piece of gravel after another, digging inside the open wound and under the skin with my tweezers trying to pull each one out. That is, until I couldn’t stomach digging any further in under his skin and the gravel started breaking apart inside his forehead and I was on the verge of hyperventilating. Or vomiting. Or both. At the ER, Nicky got a few more chunks of gravel squeezed out of his forehead, three stitches, an appointment to return to get the stitches taken out and that big bandage you see in the photos.
But the story doesn’t end there, oh no! I had to get the correct form from Nicky’s pediatrician to have the hospital take the stitches out. But she offered to take them out herself, to save us from the hassle of having to drive back into the city, because she claimed she did it all the time for her patients. So when the day came, she attempted to remove the stitches. The key word here is “attempted.” Long story short, the wound got ripped open again, started bleeding, and she wasn’t even sure if she’d managed to remove them or not because you couldn’t see anything in the nasty mess on his face. So we took yet another trip to the ER, the stitches (which she hadn’t removed completely after all) were removed, and Nicky got a bunch of butterfly bandages to close up the wound for the second time. Luckily we were done with the hospital at that point, but then, before it was time to remove the butterfly bandages, Nicky came down with the chicken pox. At least the scar blended in with his chicken pox scabs for a while!