Color-block t-shirt refashion (VIDEO) | the ReFab Diaries
Since my daughter was a toddler, I've been refashioning her clothes (see here, here, here, here, and here.) Why go to the trouble? Well, because I'm me. Also, kids tend to outgrow clothes before garments are actually worn out. Or, they destroy some part of an item (stains, rips etc) while the rest of the piece is in great shape.

Best reason of all: this kind of upcycling is FUN and doesn't take a lot of skill - trust me, I'm no seamstress. And now that my daughter is older, she can participate in the process. In the case of this refashion, she chose which shirts to cut up and decided how to lay out the color blocks. She also did some sewing.

Step 1: WATCH THE VIDEO please! 

Below is a step-by-step tutorial that takes you through the process as clearly as I'm able to. However, I've created a short intro video to answer some of the most common questions I get asked, and to talk you through the broad thinking before you start. Please watch it before you start.

Step 2: You've watched the video, right? 
Great - here we go!

The first thing you need to do is go through your kid's clothes and pick out the shirts that are too short. And I do mean TOO SHORT - not too small in every way.

I'm going to show you how to add a little width in this project, but in general - especially if this is your first time making one of these - you should be starting with shirts that are still wide enough to fit comfortably. If a shirt is entirely too small, this refashion isn't going to work for you.

Step 3: Cut the color blocks and design your new shirts

When you're looking at a pile of old shirts, you can start to picture the "design". But it gets really fun when you have all the strips ready to go!  Some important notes:

1. Look at the widths of the strips and make sure that you've got them in order of narrowest to widest. As much as possible anyway.

2. The bottom strip should be the hemmed bottom from one of your cut up shirts. You do NOT want to get into making nice hems yourself if you don't have to.

3. This stage is fun for the kid who will ultimately be wearing the shirt. They may not be able to help you with the making, but since they'll be walking around in the final piece, it's a great chance to get them involved in what goes into creating it.

Step 4: Start building your new shirt, one strip at a time

If you haven't watched the video, please do! This will make more sense if you've heard me talk through some of the simple, important principals that go into these color-block refashions.

Here's one crucial thing:  all the stitching shows on the outside of the garment. This means that as you join strips together, think about joining right side to right side. This may sound a bit confusing ... it really isn't! Again, I point you to the video.

Pin ONE strip at a time and then stitch. Then pin the next strip, and stitch.

Step 5: Inserting new sleeves, if you need to

If you don't need to switch out the sleeves, don't. Being able to repurpose a complete top section of an old shirt is ideal and will make the whole process faster.

If you ARE going to switch out the sleeves, the same broad principles apply:

1. Carefully remove good sleeves from otherwise wrecked shirts

2. When you stitch them into the new bodice, the stitching should be on the outside

Another shot to remind you that you're joining right side to right side. 

As noted in the video: 

1. You will use zigzag stitch throughout this project. Why? It's strong and it stretches the fabric a little as you go. So it adds a little width, even if you don't really need it. 

2. I generally go around each strip twice. The first round is about making sure the two pieces are actually joining. The second round is to catch any areas you missed and to make the join really strong.

3. I like to use two different colors of thread (the thread on the bobbin will be a different color from the thread on the main spool). Why? Because why not?! 

The nice, tidy side of the seam faces the inside. Why? because it makes the shirt comfortable to wear.

New sleeves going in. As I've already said, this is a bit of a pain to do, but worth it if necessary.

Step 6: Adding inserts to add width

My daughter is almost 10 and her body is starting to change shape. So this shirt needed to be wider over the hips. I used sleeves from another shirt that is too small for her to cut the inserts for the sides.

First, figure out how far up you need to start adding width to the shirt. Then cut the side seam up to that point.

Using your child's body (and the slit up the side seam) as a guide, measure and cut a triangle from the discarded sleeve. Stitch in the triangles -zigzag stitch on the outside on the garment!

And that's it!

Coming up next week: you will have a pile of fabric scraps left over from a project like this. What can you do with that pile, besides throw it out? Watch this space - I have a fab solution for you.

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