Friday, April 9, 2010

T-shirt reconstruction

By far the most popular query that lands people here is "t shirt reconstruction". Unfortunately I think most people end up disappointed since I don't have any tutorials or even lots of pictures. This is funny because reconstructing t-shirts and sweatshirts is really what got me into sewing from old clothes in the first place - it's just that it was way before I began taking pictures of things, and I've long since given all of that stuff away.

I will share a few of the secrets I've learned over the years:
  1. Always re-do the neckline. It can be as simple as cutting out the ribbing, stretching it as far as it will go, and making the new neckline that size (either in the scoopneck-wise or boat-neckwise direction). This always results in a more flattering and modern looking shirt.
  2. NEW NEEDLES - this is always important, but particularly when sewing old shirts. I've definitely forgotten to change my needles and had my machine literally tear through my project.
  3. Serger vs. conventional sewing machine: I used to exclusively use the serger on all knits, but with experience I have found the built-in stretch stitch on my Kenmore to be very useful. I now generally baste everything with a straight stretch stitch before heading to the serger - getting pins anywhere near that sucker is always a risky proposition.
  4. Hemming: I'm still working on the perfect hemline which doesn't require the purchase of a blindstitch machine. The best I've come up with is a two-piece type job. What you do is take a strip of t-shirt twice as wide as the hem you want and twice as long as the t-shirt is wide, plus 1". Sew it in a circle, fold it in half, then serge it to the bottom of the shirt. Press the seam allowance toward the top of the shirt, then topstitch it using a long straight stretch stitch. Maybe I'll try to post a how-to on this with some pictures.
I do have quite a few t-shirts in 'The Trunk' just waiting for me to take the scissors to them, but I've been waiting to be more creatively inspired than the usual tube top/tank top nonsense. Doing my own search resulted in...not much at first. I'm sure there are lots of creative and talented sewers out there doing fantastic things with t-shirts but I wasn't in the mood to give it more than 20 minutes. Then I found Lekkner! They (she?) are no longer doing custom orders, but there is a gallery of past work posted and it is by far some of the best I've seen.

Here are some of my favorites:


  1. I stumbled across this designer last year when I started dabbling in t-shirt recons and I agree, it's the best out there. Thanks for these tips!

  2. those are some amazing reconstruction jobs!

  3. wow, you are really talented. i saw a great book about re-doing a t-shirt 100 ways or something, which was cool... see, my problem, though, is that i don't sew :P i can mend, and sew buttons and whatnot, but i have never learned machine. my mom is giving me her spare and will hopefully finally teach me after i insisted it was sexist for her to suggest when i was a tiny feminist. sigh. little did i know how empowering it is to make your own stuff (as an accessories maker now...)