I carry a sewing machine in my trunk and own a large amount of no-sew adhesive from a super clearance sale at JoAnn’s. In spite of this, my dandy top was sewn by hand – in lieu of hauling the 1970’s metal machine up four flights of stairs and because there was likely a reason the iron-on tape was on sale (read: it didn’t work!).
I taught myself to sew (and bedazzle) while sitting in my parent’s basement listening to the same Billy Joel album over and over until “River of Dreams” was my dreams. I have very fond memories of those days, and so while this is a hand-sewn top, it could easily have been fashioned with other means and methods near and dear to your heart. (I’ve made a dress from pillowcases using only fabric glue. It’s adorable and not pillowy at all.)
Way back in January 2011 three girls went thrifting even though two of their moms think they should not spend so little money/ so much time searching for, laundering and mending used clothes. (Apparently professionals are supposed to enjoy spending money on $80 trousers. I like my $1.69 blouse from Goodwill. I even spilled Jell-O shots on it and it came right off. $80 clothes always stain. Always.)
We were hunting dresses to wear to an Oscar party, but I had also recently pillaged Valerie Mayen’s loft sale in AsiaTown and came across some $$$ tops that I instantly wanted to re-create using the cheapo clothes from Valerie (including some outfits she wore on Project Runway) and combining them with equally cheapo clothes from Unique Thrift on Lorain Avenue in the cheapo part of Cleveland.
So, in addition to finding this amazing, never before worn Jessica McClintok 80’s prom dress (FYI: my senior prom dress was JM from the previous season and with coupons at Macy’s it cost $18 (!!!); $11 more than my 2012 Oscar Party Dress that won best dressed! Thanks, Jessica!), I found a vibrant, stretchy green t-shirt that likely originated from K-mart and an amazing turquoise sweatshirt that had neon parrots printed on it!
My shopping buddies didn’t seam to appreciate this sweatshirt covered in moth-holes and I cannot blame them for not being inside my head of crazy visions of rivers and dreams and walking in the middle of the night. When I told them what I wanted to do with it, they still looked puzzled. I grew determined to prove them wrong.
Fast forward 5 months and Emily decided she was going to host a Friday night Craft+Wine club (I recall Emily consuming water, and carrots, Nidhi beer and me a bottle of wine and an entire container of TJ’s goat cheese). I have pretty stellar friends who encouraged me to cut up these hideous shirts and make something less hideous (they hoped. I trusted).
One and a half awful chick-flick comedies later, I had the adorable tube top you see pictured above. Jealous? Don’t be! All you need are two shirts – the tube top should be a stretch knit so that it clings to you and also stays in place – like a cotton tshirt rehabbed would NOT do – and a tshirt or sweatshirt that has a super rad design. (NOTE: I think the sweatshirt worked out fabulously (except that when I wore it to clean a beach, my stomach was a little hot), but a tshirt could be too thin to hold anything substantial. You should experiment while drinking and gossiping and you’ll either send up sewing your hand to your new shirt or you’ll have something equally as adorable as my pocket parrots.
old, clean clothes mentioned above.
scissors (or some awesome sewing rotary tool, if you’re fancy like Emily)
pen or pencil for marking.
mirror for admiring / measuring yourself.
needle, thread, glue, epoxy, gum, aka your choice of adhesive.
1. Cut off the sleeves, the arm pits and up of the stretch knit tshirt so that you have a giant tube of fabric only. Slit the fabric down one seam so that you have a sheet of fabric. Doesn’t this “shirt” look better already?
2. Wrap the fabric around your body, and mark where to cut the excess fabric (there will most likely be some, unless you purchased an xxs tshirt). This is where the stretch is especially important. If you’re small or average chested, you’ll be fine without adding elastic. If you have a little pooch to cover, are large chested, or prefer a looser fitting tank top, you might want to invest in some thin elastic to create line the top band of the tube top. Cut off the excess fabric two inches from the mark you made, which will give you one inch on either end of the fabric sheet for stitching.
3. Flip the fabric inside out and pin the shirt together. Adhere the 1″ excess fabric strips together. If you’re adding elastic, do this now.
4. Set your tube top aside. NOTE: You’ll have a finished edge at the bottom, but a raw one at the top unless you use elastic. Stretch knit will roll and create a faux-finished edge. The sweatshirt pocket will also have raw edges unless you have better / more movies to watch and feel like becoming a tailor. Congrats! You are 1/2 way done!
5. Cut out the pattern from your sweatshirt. Cut close to the pattern, leaving perhaps a 1/4″ – 1/2″ border so your stitches don’t overlap the pattern. You could cut a traditional sweatshirt pocket but I preferred to follow the contour of the parrots.
6. Fasten the pattern on the tube top with pins. TIP: You might want to wear the tube top, stand in front of a mirror and carefully pin the pattern into place so that it doesn’t end up crooked!
7. Sew the top of the pattern to the shirt. Re-pin / re-position as needed. Remember, stretchier fabric can be a B@&%h.
8. Sew the bottom of the pattern to the shirt and stitch up the side of the pattern approximately 2″ (depending on your pattern size and shape). This will help your pocket better perform as a pocket.
9. Throw on your new, fabulous shirt (remove remaining pins first!) and do a little dance in front of your friends.
You just made an awesome top from two non-awesome articles of clothes. Sometimes two wrongs do make a right!