Rozsamaria: Pillow project

I had a busy weekend that didn’t include a huge amount of sewing, but I continued to work on anlichan’s birthday present and I started on my Christmas presents.  Here’s the first.

Papa S’s parents both died this spring.  My grandpa had a huge collection of tshirts and sweatshirts, many of them old favorites, and after his death I decided I wanted to make presents for the family out of his old shirts.  I’m making pillows for people using tshirts of their choosing, and then I’ll use whatever’s leftover to make a quilt for the whole family.  Hopefully this will all be done by Christmas.

I started with this tshirt, a souvenir from someone’s trip to Switzerland.  Grandpa was born in Switzerland and came to America in the 1920s, when he was a little boy.  I hardly ever heard him speak German, but he was always very proud of being Swiss.  My cousin C picked this tshirt as the one he wanted for his pillow.

Grandpa's Switzerland tshirt

A close-up of the Switzerland logo on the tshirt (sorry it's sideways)

I used a 12-inch pillow form.  First I ironed the tshirt, then I turned it inside out and laid it flat.  Using an orange pencil, I traced a 12-inch square with the Switzerland picture in the center.  I added an inch on each side to give myself leeway.  I pinned the two sides of the tshirt flat, cut along the orange line, and sewed the two pieces together, leaving an opening at the bottom where I could insert the pillow.

The tshirt, turned inside out, with the two layers pinned together and the outline marked in orange

The front and back, cut and pinned together

As it turned out, I didn’t need an inch – I’m used to working with quilting fabric, but tshirt fabric has way more give.  I turned the fabric inside out again and remeasured, taking off about half an inch to three-quarters of an inch on each side and sewing a new line all the way around.

Once the fabric fit the pillow properly, I hand-sewed the opening at the bottom.

The pillow inside the pillow cover, with the bottom still open

I hand-sewed the opening with matching thread.

The finished pillow

The project was very quick and would’ve been even faster if I hadn’t had to take off extra fabric on the sides.  I have now finished one Christmas present!   (One down, too many to go.)   Pillows like these make a great keepsake.  As I’ve mentioned before, pillows are very simple, even for beginning sewers, and using old tshirts is a way to recycle them – or, in this case, preserve them.

Note: I saved the rest of the tshirt, to be used for the quilt I’m making for the family.

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Anlichan: Sashiko Wall Hanging – Part 2

The beginning of this project can be found here.

Well, I haven’t finished this project, as I had hoped.  It seems that not leaving enough time to complete my projects is becoming a theme (if you can call a statistical sample of two a “theme”).  Knowing me, this will never change.  But, the good news is that I seriously doubt that my cousin and his fiancee are expecting anything from me, so it will be a surprise no matter when it gets to them.  Low expectations are the key to my success.

When last we met, I had 2 squares of embroidery complete, and one more to go.  The double crane went much like the other two squares, only faster.  The one place where I got a little nervous was where the chests of the birds were supposed to meet.  In the original pattern, they seemed to barely touch, but due to how I chalked the lines or where within the lines I embroidered, I arrived at the meeting point, and suddenly the one line I was working on looked like it was going to cross where the other line would go in a very ugly manner.  I considered picking the stitches, but in an attempt to salvage my work, I decided to sew the other chest line to see where that one was showing up.

two threadlines colliding

This turned out to be a good idea, because it allowed me to choose which chest line I wanted to actually stitch, and then I just let the other stitch be, so it looked like the chests were slightly overlapped.  And now, from a distance, it looks almost like they are lightly touching like it was supposed to in the first place.

finished double crane

And then came the piecing.

I hate piecing.  I had to make a wall hanging entirely by hand in 8th grade (not for home-ec, but for a joint language arts-social studies project of all things), which is where I learned to piece and quilt in the first place, and even then, I hated piecing.  I don’t know how people (*cough* Rozsamaria *cough*) do it, but I find piecing to be a painstaking, stressful process.  In this case, it was compounded by the fact that somehow, the edges of my silk had become oddly warped, despite the fusible interfacing.  Honestly, I think it came more from trying to fuse after cutting the square than the embroidery, but I’ll have to see in the future.

odd and annoying fabric warping

Also, I am not very good with a sewing machine.  I can never seem to make it go the right speed, so my cloth ends up spiraling out of my control with random, wild lines of thread.  As long and laborious a process that hand-piecing is, it would have taken me longer to do it by machine.  My mother, knowing this, was kind enough to offer her help, so instead of taking at least a week unto itself, we got the piecing done in about a day.  I pinned, she sewed, and I pressed the seams.

the stiff interfacing made it harder to get the seam to lie flat under the darker brown

We only ran into problems when, despite my meticulous calculations, the drawn seam allowances didn’t match up after we had sewn pieces together, resulting in jumping seam lines that we had to try to finesse into straight lines.  This became even more of a problem when, once the main three blocks were put together, we were trying to get the middle diamond to just touch the top and bottom squares.  Not overlap, not sit apart, just touch.  I got a little creative with where I ironed the “seams” to get the top square to touch the middle square.

I ended up hand-basting in a stitch just to keep the fold from falling out over time.

After all was pieced and done, there was only one place where the seamline is really visibly out of alignment with the rest of the piece.  Thankfully, because it’s in a place of all green fabric, it doesn’t really look like it’s out of place until you get up close and personal with the fabric.

this is not the seam you're looking for *waves hand*

Should anyone notice, it will hopefully be one of those charming quirks of being homemade instead of an eyesore.

After finishing piecing the top, the next step was to find a backing fabric that would look good enough to do a fold-over binding with.  While searching around the store, I quickly discovered that the fact that silk changes color depending on what angle the light shines makes it very difficult to find a brown fabric that matches.  I thought for sure I was going to have to try to find some green to offset the whole thing, when I finally found an amazing rich brown batik that had all the right tones of the brown silk.  It’s almost a pity I used the entire half-yard as the backing fabric, because that would be fabric worth having around to use at a later date.

I had always planned on embroidering something on the back to indicate who the wall hanging was from and why it was given, but I wasn’t quite sure how much information to put on.  I know that pros always tell you to put the entire provenance of the quilt on the back, but it always feels so ridiculous to me.  For instance, from Quilters’ Cache: “Whatever your chosen method…your quilt label should include at the very least, the maker of the quilt, the person who did the quilting ( if it was someone else) the name of the pattern, the date your quilt was finished, and the location in which it was made. “  The name of the pattern and the location it was made??  I know it’s good for posterity, but there’s just no way I’m going to embroider all of that on the back of a wall-hanging that I’m giving to family.  I would feel like a pretentious idiot.  I mean, I have a hard time even including my last name on things, since my first name is relatively uncommon. “Which Annalisa made that for us again?”  So I compromised, and included my name and Mike and Aimee’s names and their wedding date.  I’ll tell them all about the quilt and the various bells and whistles in a nice note with the gift.

I wrestled my way through several hand-written versions and computer fonts, but I finally found a font I liked for the dedication.  I matched the outer oval with the silk thread I’m using to quilt the wall-hanging, and I used white thread in the middle to mirror the sashiko on the front.  Then, for my little attribution rectangle, I reversed the colors.

last names redacted for their sake, more than anything

Having finished all the stuff that I needed the back free for, I ironed on the fusible batting, and I’m really pleased with it.  The only potential problem I’m seeing is how to get quilting knots to pop under the fabric when the fabric and batting are glued together!  Through the top layer I suppose.  Also, I’m starting to wonder if I should have sewn the hanging sleeve to the back before I ironed on the batting.  I guess I’ll see when I reach that point!

I had this great idea for quilting.  If you look at my drawn pattern, you can see “quilted ‘ai'” on the four triangles surrounding the cranes.  ‘Ai’ is the Japanese word for love, so I was going to quilt the kanji into the wall-hanging.  I even made a stencil so I could sew around the shapes.

my x-acto knife skills are epic

Unfortunately, the stencil was the high-point.  None of my chalk was showing up on the green fabric on the front, so I tried chalking the reverse of the stencil on the back.

my clothes took the brunt of this

The chalk wasn’t very permanent, so I had to be really careful as I was stitching.  Unfortunately, I was so focused on the fabric that I missed that my thread was stripping, so partway through it broke, and I had to pick it out to a place where I could make a knot to slip under the fabric, but it kept breaking!  I ended up having to pick out all of my work.  So I have given up on the ai kanji for now.  I think I will simply quilt around the silk squares.  Kind of boring, but the quilting thread really blends in with the front, so I don’t think it will be visibly boring.  It will just give some definition and shape to the wall-hanging.  (She said, not really knowing how it was going to turn out.  By the seat of your pants is the only way to fly.)

So what’s left?  There’s the quilting, which should be easier now.  Then there’s the binding and sewing on the sleeve so they can actually hang the wall hanging.  And then I’m done!  Oh, and the obligatory dry-cleaning, because there is a lot of chalk and cat hair lurking about this thing.  Hopefully there will not be any more unpleasant surprises in part 3!

Spry: the too-short-shirt-to-dangly-tanktop hack

I have a long torso. There, I’ve said it. Although my fiance thinks that the way to make it look shorter is to wear shorter shirts (so it looks like my torso ends at the bottom of the shirt, not several inches below that), and higher-waisted pants, well, higher-waisted pants haven’t existed in about a decade, meaning short shirts show my midriff, or at least very barely cover it. Nobody needs to see my midriff. I am SO happy that the trend the last couple of years is towards longer, slinkier shirts and tanks. These make me feel long, but lithe, even if the objective view is that they make me look like I have a snake-body. Whatever.

This is how to take a shirt that is too short for you and turn it into a no-sew tanktop that’s prefect for layering.

If the shirt is too short, the neck is probably also too tight, yes? Cut it as open as you need/want. You could even go for a V-neck if you like.

Cut off the sleeves of the tiny shirt. Now take a sleeve and cut it into one strip of ribbon (1/2 to 1inch wide) by cutting in a spiral. If the sleeves are small, you might need to do this for both sleeves.

Cut open the seam at the shoulder of the shirt, so the sleeve is now in two pieces. Cut a small slit 1/2 to 1inch down from the top of the sleeve, on each of the two pieces on both shoulders. This is where you will insert the ribbon to create the extended straps. First knot the ribbon on the back shoulder-pieces. Put the shirt on over a tanktop, and play around with the length of the shoulder straps. You could even cross the straps at the back. When you figure out what you like, just knot the straps off at the front. Another option would be to taper the shirt’s shoulders, so instead of creating slits and knots, you just tie the ribbon and the shirt together.

no-sew tanktop

back has the straps knotted through the shirt

(I think on my shirt, I slit&knotted the back straps, and taper-tied the fronts)

no-sew layering tank

the front straps are tied together. create straps on the body of the shirt by making the neck really wide

Easy peasy. Torso under cover.

rozsamaria: apron project – UPDATED

UPDATED – now with photos.  I should still apologize for the quality of the pictures, which I took with my phone.

First off, I’d like to apologize for the lack of visuals accompanying this post.  I have misplaced my camera cord.  As soon as I find it, I promise to update the post with explanatory pictures, and in the meantime I hope the instructions are clear enough without them.

As anlichan’s birthday present is still in production, this post will be about a previously-completed project of mine, an apron I made for myself.  Papa S’s mother gave me a plastic apron when I moved into my first apartment, but that was a few years ago and it’s ripping.  I wanted to make myself an apron, and I had lots of cute bright fabrics in my stash.  I picked two cherry prints and, to mix it up, a kiwi print.

I made a reversible apron for Mama S in a sewing class in middle school, so I’d done this before, albeit many years ago.  Reversible is more of a pain to make, but it’s cute and I don’t like when the seams show on the back.  I didn’t bother to use a pattern because I’m lazy.  I just had a vague idea of how large it should be on me and I used a measuring tape to measure myself several times.  I cut out the two bodice pieces and sewed each one to a larger bottom piece.  I cut strips to serve as the waist ties and neck strap.  I folded each strip in half so that the wrong side of the fabric was on the outside, sewed it lengthwise, and turned it right side out, then ironed it flat.  I then had three flat tubes of fabric.  For each of the waist ties, I took one open end and folded the fabric in on itself so none of the rough edges were showing, and then sewed straight across that short edge to close it.

Prior to assembling the whole apron, I made myself pockets.  One is small and mostly decorative.  The other one is larger and I plan to actually use it.  I folded down the top side of each pocket to hide the rough edges and sewed it down.  Then, I folded and ironed the other three sides, pinned each pocket where I wanted it, and sewed it down.  The ironing isn’t necessary but it helps the edges stay in place better prior to sewing.  (Note: I attached the pockets to their respective apron sides prior to putting the two sides of the apron together.)

The final assembly:  I put the two apron halves together, with the right sides of the fabric inward, and pinned them together.  I pinned the neck strap and waist ties in place so that the straps themselves were inside the apron halves (between the right sides of the fabric) and the rough edges at the ends were sticking out, if that makes sense.  I sewed all the way around the pinned edge, leaving a gap at the bottom large enough for me to turn the apron right side out.

When the edges were all sewn, I turned the apron right side out and hand-sewed the hole at the bottom.  Voila!  An adorable apron.

The proportions aren’t perfect – the torso is a bit too long, as is the neck strap – but that’s my own fault for not measuring more carefully.  I’ll have to remember for next time to think about where the straps will hit me.  Of course, it wouldn’t be one of my projects if I didn’t measure something incorrectly.   Anyway, it looks cute and it has served me well so far, and that’s what matters.

End of the waist strap, with the fabric folded in on itself and sewn down
Large (useful) pocket

Smaller (decorative) pocket

Side of the apron with kiwi/cherry prints

Side of the apron with cherry/cherry print

rozsamaria: apron project (sadly, photo-less)

First off, I’d like to apologize for the lack of visuals accompanying this post.  I have misplaced my camera cord.  As soon as I find it, I promise to update the post with explanatory pictures, and in the meantime I hope the instructions are clear enough without them.

As anlichan’s birthday present is still in production, this post will be about a previously-completed project of mine, an apron I made for myself.  Papa S’s mother gave me a plastic apron when I moved into my first apartment, but that was a few years ago and it’s ripping.  I wanted to make myself an apron, and I had lots of cute bright fabrics in my stash.  I picked two cherry prints and, to mix it up, a kiwi print.

I made a reversible apron for Mama S in a sewing class in middle school, so I’d done this before, albeit many years ago.  Reversible is more of a pain to make, but it’s cute and I don’t like when the seams show on the back.  I didn’t bother to use a pattern because I’m lazy.  I just had a vague idea of how large it should be on me and I used a measuring tape to measure myself several times.  I cut out the two bodice pieces and sewed each one to a larger bottom piece.  I cut strips to serve as the waist ties and neck strap.  I folded each strip in half so that the wrong side of the fabric was on the outside, sewed it lengthwise, and turned it right side out, then ironed it flat.  I then had three flat tubes of fabric.  For each of the waist ties, I took one open end and folded the fabric in on itself so none of the rough edges were showing, and then sewed straight across that short edge to close it.

Prior to assembling the whole apron, I made myself pockets.  One is small and mostly decorative.  The other one is larger and I plan to actually use it.  I folded down the top side of each pocket to hide the rough edges and sewed it down.  Then, I folded and ironed the other three sides, pinned each pocket where I wanted it, and sewed it down.  The ironing isn’t necessary but it helps the edges stay in place better prior to sewing.  (Note: I attached the pockets to their respective apron sides prior to putting the two sides of the apron together.)

The final assembly:  I put the two apron halves together, with the right sides of the fabric inward, and pinned them together.  I pinned the neck strap and waist ties in place so that the straps themselves were inside the apron halves (between the right sides of the fabric) and the rough edges at the ends were sticking out, if that makes sense.  I sewed all the way around the pinned edge, leaving a gap at the bottom large enough for me to turn the apron right side out.

When the edges were all sewn, I turned the apron right side out and hand-sewed the hole at the bottom.  Voila!  An adorable apron.

The proportions aren’t perfect – the torso is a bit too long, as is the neck strap – but that’s my own fault for not measuring more carefully.  I’ll have to remember for next time to think about where the straps will hit me.  Of course, it wouldn’t be one of my projects if I didn’t measure something incorrectly.   Anyway, it looks cute and it has served me well so far, and that’s what matters.  (Since this post is currently picture-less, you’ll have to take my word for its cuteness.)  Once again, apologies for the lack of photos – they’ll be added as soon as I straighten up my apartment and locate my camera cord.

Anlichan: Sashiko Wall Hanging – Part 1

I feel like there is a whole lot of backstory to go through before getting to this project, but that would take approximately 5 posts and way to much insecurity for this Friday.  Therefore, let’s start not at the very beginning, but merely at the inception of this project.

My cousin is getting married later this month, and, inspired by the amazing gifts Rozsamaria makes, I decided I wanted to try to make him and his fiancee something nice as a wedding present.  [A decision partly prompted by the realization that yes, I have finally reached the age when I have to actually start giving gifts of my own instead of tacking my name on my parents’ presents.  *sigh*]  I knew I wanted to do something mostly embroidered, for a couple of reasons: a) that’s the kind of sewing I like to do the best, and b) I didn’t want to try anything new on a wedding gift.  After much hemming and hawing and panicking at how little time I have before the wedding, I decided to make a small wall hanging with large, embroidered squares as the focal point.

The cleaned-up, final version of my design.

For the embroidery design, I knew I wanted to try something modern-Japanese.  Mike and Aimee both really enjoy all things Japanese, and I have a little bit of experience with Japanese design (read: I’ve researched various pictures/techniques while I was making something for another friend), so I turned to a style I had read about but never tried, called sashiko.  Traditionally, sashiko consists of a white running stitch in a tessellated pattern on indigo blue fabric, and, like many old arts, there are needles and threads designed specifically for doing it the traditional way.  Now, I’m still in the “poor student” phase of my life, so I’m a big believer in making do with what I have and waiting until the next gift-giving holiday if I need something else.  I have several yards of genuine Thai silk (a gift from my brother) in different, solid colors, plus I have white silk embroidery floss (a gift from the other habibis on this site), and I figured that silk makes for a pretty classy design, so I decided to use those for my embroidered squares.  The choice of the brown silk came about after searching madly through Mike and Aimee’s registry to see what sorts of colors they were asking for, and brown came up the most often.  I hope it works out.

The next hurdle was picking the sashiko designs, so I started with my local library.  After checking out literally every book on sashiko in the district, I found a book that really meshed the modern and tradition the way I was hoping.  Paradise Stitched by Sylvia Pippen is the result of the author’s wish to meld the traditional sashiko she learned from her mother and the designs and colors of her home in Hawaii, so while there were a lot of designs that were beyond me (applique scares the living daylights out of me), the fusion sensibility helped me see what I wanted to do with my own wall-hanging.  I ended up choosing a circular, double-crane design for the center diamond (an example of which does not seem to be anywhere online), since cranes are a symbol of long-life and loyalty in Japanese tradition.  For the top and bottom, I used this bamboo design, but I drew a little extra onto the bottom and put it off-center so I could mirror the design for the bottom square (hence the bamboo L and bamboo R written on my design).

After taking what felt like forever to plan my design, I started to do all the physical prep-work before I started sewing.  First I cut out the squares of silk, then whip-stitched the edges.  Working with silk makes me feel like Witch Hazel from Bugs Bunny because, just like Witch Hazel used to always leave an endless supply of bobby pins behind when she would dash away (see 1:40 in the video for an example), I always seem to leave silk strings in my wake.  To avoid letting my fabric fray into nothingness, I would whip-stitch the edges, which wasn’t perfect, but worked well-enough.

whipstitched edge

After making sure I wouldn’t end up with half the fabric I started with, I chalked on the design using my lightbox (a birthday gift I had just received), then I started embroidering.  The prep-work is the hardest part for me on these projects; I really like the embroidery part, so to finally get to that point was such a relief!

starting the sashiko

Another gift I received for my birthday was a gift certificate to Ruth’s Stitchery, a local store that I had never been to before, but where my mother found a huge selection of fabrics and the cutting mat she got me for my birthday.  I went there to pick the fabric I would use around the edges, since I didn’t have enough of any one fabric that looked good around the brown.  While there, I met an employee who has been doing silk and cotton piecing and stitching for 25 years, and she was able to give me all sorts of help and tips.  Here’s where I admit I’ve never actually tried to piece together silk and cotton.  I’ve embroidered on silk before, but I left the piecing part to Rozsamaria when we made decorative pillows, because silk kind of scares me.  I asked for it on a whim while my brother was in Thailand, and it was only after he brought me back 10 yards of fabric that I realized I had no idea what to do with it, so meet someone with firsthand knowledge was such a relief.  Did you know that you can, in fact, spot-clean silk with water and a little bit of soap?  Me neither.  But the best bit of advice she gave me was that there was this great fusible interfacing that you could use on silk that would keep your edges from fraying and would keep your silk from warping while you embroidered it.  The only thing was you’re supposed to use it before you start embroidering.  I had gotten a bit further than that picture up above, but I decided it was worth it to pick the embroidery and start again.

undoing the whipstitching

While it was somewhat depressing to render all that work I had done moot, I think it will be worth it in the end.  I’m certainly going to use the stabilizer every time I use silk in the future; it makes life so much easier.  Though, make sure to iron on the stabilizer before you chalk your design.  As you can see below, the chalk and the iron fought, and the iron won.  I had to go back and re-chalk all my designs.

picked and stabilized

Speaking of making life easier, let’s talk about supplies.  For you beginners out there, you may be looking at the various tools and acoutrements that I have and thinking “There is no way I can buy all of that, so how can I even start doing all these projects?”  I had the same problem when I first started, but the fact of the matter is you don’t need most of these tools.  Do the cutting mat and the lightbox and the rotary cutter make your life easier?  Yes, absolutely.  Can these projects be done without them?  Yes, absolutely.  Before this time around, I would make paper templates with the paper cutter then draw around them to make sure I had exactly the right size, then cut.  You can use standard fabric scissors to cut your fabric, and if you have a rotary cutter and no cutting mat, there’s always kitchen cutting boards (though that might not be the best thing for your rotary cutter; I’m not sure).  Before I got my lightbox (literally one and a half weeks ago), I would literally tape my design onto a window, then tape my fabric on top of it and draw like that.  For those of you with more artistic skills than a flipper-less penguin, you could try free-handing the drawing.  The point is, there are ways of doing these projects without all the fancy accessories.  If you do some of these projects and find you like them, then ask for the spiffy tools for a birthday or Christmas or Hanukkah, etc. and go from there.

beginning the sashiko: take 2

But back to the wall-hanging.  I have spent this last week embroidering like a mad-woman.  I have exactly 2 weeks to finish this project, so most of the time you can see me hunched over in the rocking chair, under a lamp, listening to a podcast or tv show I’ve already seen, and sewing my little fingers to the bone.  Thankfully, the sashiko stitch is a running stitch, so it’s as simple as it comes.  The only modification I made to a standard running stitch was that I made the top (visible) stitch about twice as long as the stitch along the back.  This was at the suggestion of Sylvia Pippen in her book, and the effect is really lovely; while there’s still open space between the stitches, the design looks full and complete.

completed top square

Whenever I got tired of embroidering, I would take out a different part of the project to work on.  In this case, it was cutting the cotton fabric pieces.  The cutting mat made this so much easier than in the past; I whipped through getting all the pieces cut in about 30 minutes.  I left room for 1/2″ seam allowances (instead of the more common 1/4″), since that’s what I had done with the silk, and it just seemed easier to have all my seam allowances be the same.  The way I planned the size of my pieces was based off my original design plan.  You may have noticed that there are lightly dotted lines on my plan; those are to indicate where the piece seams will be, even though they’re all the same material.

drawing my seam allowances

After thinking I had been so smart with my seam allowances, I realized as I was drawing my seam allowances that on the large triangles, I had not quite given myself enough room (planning right triangles as squares that you cut in half doesn’t quite do it for you), so my triangle seam allowances are more like 1/4″ instead of 1/2″.  Sometimes it’s good to give yourself some wiggle room in the event of poor math skills.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I finished the bottom sashiko square (R) as well.

And now we have arrived at my current stopping-point.  More adventures to follow in Part 2!

A sneak peek of what the wall-hanging will look like. Only, you know, actually sewn.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  I feel like there was so much information in this post, I must have missed something!

Edit: Part 2 is now available here!

Spry: not quite punk-lolita-ish shirt

One of the most frustrating types of shirts is the kind that almost fits, ie. those generic, boxy t-shirts that sure, fit, but aren’t fitted. And they just fit okay enough that busting out the sewing machine to tuck in the sides seems a bit much. Most shirts in this category are those free shirts you get at events that end up being gym shirts, so they don’t need to be fitted anyway. But sometimes you actually like what’s on the shirt, and want to wear it nicely. What to do?

This was the situation when one of my good friends gave me a t-shirt with his label’s logo on it. The music they release is darkish and experimental, but Vendlus means “brotherhood” in Estonian, and the logo makes me happy. Enter the time to experiment with a no-sew Gothic/Punk Lolita-inspired project, with a tied keyhole at the neckline, and a cinched empire waist.

First, cut out the tight neck that’s the bane of all unisex shirts. I do this by using a favorite scoop-neck shirt as a template. Stuff the shirt to be cut inside of the template shirt, and use chalk to outline the neck. (Use a template! Free-handing necklines can end in rather lopsided results, which require more trimming and fretting… Eyeballing ends in more work than taking the time to rustle up a template. I’ve learned the hard way.) Trim the sleeves to cap-sleeves (or a tanktop, if you prefer). Trim off the band at the bottom of the shirt, and make one cut to turn it into a “ribbon.”

Find the center of the neckline. Freehand or use a template to mark an oval 1/4inch from the edge for the keyhole. (Maybe try the shirt on first, to gauge how big/small you want the keyhole to be, and mark an appropriate guideline with chalk.) This 1/4inch gives you the beginnings for the ties. But don’t cut out the hole entirely! Cut down the center, starting at the top of the shirt, and go around… and leave two straps of fabric attached to the top of the shirt. The ties can be as wide or narrow as you please. Tie the straps together for a bowed keyhole. (An upgraded option could be to cut out the hole, and sewing on a lace ribbon at the top of the oval.)

Now put the shirt back on, and mark with chalk where the bottom of your bust is, front and back (for the back it’s easy to mark the bottom of your bra). This is where the empire waist will go. When the shirt is off, make several pairs of 1inch vertical slits (halves of the pairs up to an inch apart) around the shirt. The slit’s top should be at the marked line, and go down an inch. These slits are the belt loops for the empire waist, and the pairs should go approximately where the belt loops of jeans go, if they were on your shirt. I had 4 pairs in the front, a pair each at the sides, and another 4pairs at the back. Now loop the “ribbon” made from the bottom of the shirt through, like a belt, and tie at the front or the side of the shirt. (Again, an upgrade would be to use a length of lace or plaid ribbon.)

no sew gothic-lolita t-shirt remix

it's fitted!

close up!

The empire waist cinches the shirt in, so it’s more fitted and ladylike, if you will. This project is easily upgradeable with added fixins, like plaid ribbon or lace (for a more punk or gothic feel), or more ambitious sleeve-work. And once you have one keyhole shirt, trust me, you’ll want to start cutting them out in all of your shirts, because they’re so easy to do but really make liven up a shirt.