Introduction: Boro Inspired Vest From Old T-Shirts

Hi... hello... do you want to have a vest? A nice one! Yes? So, you can make it! Maybe even nice one... Maybe even two... or three... or...

Well... ok, it's a vest. It's made from old t-shirts and it looks interesting. But before going into details about the process of its making I want to say that, despite being a nice first attempt this project is not the ultimate success of mine. The thing is that I'm not the greates sewer and have a little experience with making things like this. Also it was one of those projects that rarely turn out great at the first try. Some things didn't work as I expected and it looks a bit ugly in places... so I'm addresing those aspects in the tutorial for you not to repeat my mistakes. Also with that being said, there's nothing wrong with the general idea and whole concept, so in more experienced hands it can turn out much better than it did in mine and I recommend to try anyway.

Initialy I wanted to make a hoody but eventually I decided that jumping over my own head is a theam for another instructable. Although, concidere it being a clallange if you're up to it.

Step 1:

So, I've got a bunch of t-shirts, generously donated to me by my older brother. They're one size bigger than I prefare and I have enough of my own t-shirts to wear, so I really had no use for them... Well, untill I've got this idea.

For this project you're going to need a few t-shirts. Maybe old ones of yours or you can buy some at the secon hand shop. It's even ok if they have some small holes in them. For my vest I used 4 (I ended up not using the blue one on the photo) but even 7 is a reasonable number if you want to get thicker and warmer vest.

With having one shirt of contrasting color you can implement some nice looking decorative effects into your design, as I did, but generaly it's a wide field for artistic experiments so you can try something different colorvise, or, in opposite, make it very simple.

You're also going to need a relatively large ammount of thread and a sewing machine along with some different common tools and supplies. And if you're good at handstitching and don't mind doing a lot of it, you can accomplish this project without a sewing machine, although from some point in the tutorial the procedure will be somewhat different for you in this case.

Step 2:

But before continuing I want to say a couple words about the inspiration behind the project.

Boro is a name for traditional Japanese technique of reparing clothes, which implements applying patches of cloth by sewing them onto the clothes with multiple stitches (mainly in parallel lines). At the old times fabric was very expensive so even more wealthy people used to repare their kimonos in this fasion. Over the time layers of patches were accumulating making the cloth thicker thus making the clothes more suitable for colder weather.

On the photos of boro fabrics you can see that the cloth on the highpoints is often rubbed through which makes underlaying layers of fabric of different color visible. That creates interesting unintentional decorative effect.

Practical side of things like this facinates me and I'm finding the overall aestetics of boro textiles pleasing for me, so in my project I'm trying to replicate both, not in strictly direct way, but rather in more stylized fasion.

Step 3:

So, let's begin.

Important part of whole project is t-shirt shaped frame which the shirts will be pulled on for more convenient treatment in further steps. I made from a piece of stiff corrugated cardboard.

First, I marked rough shape using some of the shirts I've got. Then I defined and enlarged it with the ruller. The frame has to be a bit larger than the t-shirts themselves, so that when being pulled on they were uniformly stretched, but not too much though.

Later sleve pieces were added. It may need to be neccessary for them to be able to flex or bend to make the pulling the shirts on possible.

Step 4:

When the is done it's time to pull the shirts on it (ontop of each other ofcourse).

You can use contrasting color shirt first creating vivid inside lining. You can turn it inside out to make the picture or pattern design visible, if there any. You can do the opposite, or make them all different colors. As I sayd it's up to you, but here I will tell abot what I did.

So, two first t-shirts I polled on the frame are black. The third one is yellow. And the last one is black again.

Step 5:

Flatten the wrinkles and secure the edges with pins. At the same time try not to stretch the fabric verticaly too much.

Using suitable tools and templates mark folowing lines on the stack of shirts:

- vertical line through the middle on the front (centre line);

- vertical line through the middle on the back (centre line);

- horizontal line at the bottom;

- by continuing the imaginary line of the sides of the shirts on frame up mark the sleaves on bot sides;

- curved line around the neck;

Make sure the end of the lines coinside on both: front and back side.

Lines at the bottom, at the sleaves and around the neck are meant for cutting off pieces at further steps. While positioning those lines make sure all the layers of fabric will be presented on the edge, when the cuts will be made.

The cut along the centre line on front is also going to be made later but in somewhat different way and I'll talk abot it separately.

Step 6:

The zipper is going to be implemented on the vest, so I'm marking two more lines a bit wider than thezipper itself using in the center line on the front sor reference.

Step 7:

I'm marking additional set of lines parralel to those that are meant for cuting by stepping 1,5-2cm inwards to the body of the t-shirt. Those are for sewing.

Step 8:

Finaly, I'm basting all four layers through by the all "sewing" lines (at the bottom, at the sleaves, around the neck), by the centre line on the back and two "zipper" lines I marked earlier.

Step 9:

I'm also marking and basting four vertical intermediate lines. It will help to keep layers from sliding and shifting too much during further operations.

Step 10:

And now it's time to take of the zipper.

You need one of those that separete in two pieces when unzipped.I recomend to buy zipper first so that you'll be able to mark your t'shirts according to it's lenght. I found mine in my moms basket of salvaged zippers and while being the most suitable one it was a bit too long. If, for some reason, it's your case too, I'll show, what you can do about it in the next step.

So, first of all I'm cutting two top layers (half of the total number of layers |'ve got) of fabric along the center line on the front and positioning the zipper in place to mark the lenght I need.

Step 11:

I'm adding ~2cm to the desired lenght and cutting the excess at the top portion of the zipper (where the dog is when it closed). Then I'm bending those two petals to the sides and securing them with seams.

Step 12:

Now the zipper fits ferfectly... well... in your case, because when you will be making your vest you'll already be familiar with that part, where I'm talking about the thing that didn't work the way I thought, so you'll know how to make it right... but that's for later.

I'm separating the zipper it two parts for convenience of use. Than I'm placing one part under the plap created by the cut and basting it on place through all four layers. The same for the second part.

Step 13:

At this point our vest can be pulled off from the frame (or not, if you're sewing it all the way by hands). But first it's convenient to cut off some "unvanted" pieces while it still stretched. So I'm cutting out the neck opening and the sleaves. Be accurate while cutting off sleaves as we're going to use them for making pockets and put them aside when finnished. At this point you can cut off the bottom part too, but I decided to leave it for a bit longer.

At last cut reamaining layers of fabric between the zipper halves.

Remove the frame. Do not thow it away as we're stell going to use it.

Step 14:

And now it's sewing machine time.

I'm using bright yellow colored thread to match the yellow t-shirt.

Sew along the basting around the neck and sleaves openings, at the bottom and sew down the zipper.

At this point I'm cutting off the bottom.

Remove the basting where it's no longer neaded.

Step 15:

The vital part of this design is series of parralel stitching covering all the surface of the item creating distinctive texture and practicaly binding all the layers of fabric into one.

I have to admit, it's a bit tedious process, making all those seams, but the result is quiet unique looking, so it totally worth it.

So, to start, use the edge of the foot of your sewing machine as a guide and the seam that holds the zipper as a guiding line. It's practicaly convenient to start the seam at the bottom moving up to the shoulders. Make all seams mooving in the same dirrection and use every new one as a guide line for the next.

Wrinkles on the surface will amost inevitably form. Especially at the end of the seam. It caused by the foot movement shifting and stretching top layers of fabric, so to ease the effect try to reduce pushing force of the foot on your sewing machine and time after time lift it up to release the tension a bit. Othervice spread the wrinkles that still form as uniformely as posible and just sew them down. In general such artifacts complement the overall style very well. But it still can look pretty ugly in some places, like in my case... so no guaranties there..

The other thing about my case worth mentioning are troubles I went into with the thread I used. It was spool of old cotton thread I grabbed from the basket of threads we have. It was too weak and kept snipping all the time. For this reason I wasn't able to regulate the thread tension correctly. It all resulted in missed stitches at some parts and overlaping seames where I had to start the seam anew which you can see on the photos. It kind of worked with the overall aestetics but practicly it was a mess. Anyway I had to continue using this thread atleast to fill all the front side of the vest because the new one I bought was a bit thinner and the difference would be notacible. With new polyester thread I had no problems, So yeah.. the thread is important.

Anyway... keep making parallel seams moving from the zipper to the sides and then stop there. Fill both halves on the front. Remove basting where it's no longer neaded.

Step 16:

On the back sew along the centre line first. Than use it as guideline and move from it to the sides. This way even when at the place where the back and front portions will meet some unparallelness or irregularity will occure, it will on the sides, where it's less wisible.

Step 17:

A this point Ialready was able to see that some thing are not going to work as I thought they will. I imagined that the edges that were cutten will curl up the way this type of fabric usually does revealing bright yellow strips of material. The effect was much more suttle than I expected, so I decided to achieve the desired look in more artificial way. This is, probably, what you'll have to do also.

So I separated fabric at the edge in two portions. I folded one portion ontop and the other one to the back and sewed it down. At this point I regreated that I wasn't too accurate when cutting because the edges vere pretty rugged at places.

At the zipper, to make my life a bit easyer, I folded only two top layers.

You can see how the zipper is sticking out at the bottom now, while before sewing and folding the edges it was flush with the edge. This is what I was talking about previously. Make adjustments while positioning the zipper.

Step 18:

At this point I had to deal with the pockets but I've got a bit tired with this project so I jumped straight to the fun part.

Here I wanted to replicate the distinctive quality of boro fabrics I mentioned earlier. By cutting the top black layer of fabric I wanted to reveal contrasting underlying yellow one, creating vivid decorative effect. But once again... it turned out not that vivid in the result. Who knows, maybe it'll become more visually distinctive after couple of washes, or it's the quality of this particular t-shirt...

Anyway, on the other hand it looks really cool when stretched, so if you find yourself in the Alien movie suspecting to vave a chestburster within... just wear this vest... it'll be cool!

So, what I actually did there.

Firts of all I took that plastic lid from cake packaging and used it draw a circle on the chest area of the vest with a piece of dryed soap (and this is what I used previously for making all those marks). It can be any shape you want, since it's not too complex. Then with those little scissors with pointy ends I cut the top layer of fabric between the seams within the drawn circle area.

Step 19:

And I did the same on the back too.

Once again, it looks really cool, when streched.

Step 20:

So, now it's time to deal with pockets. This is where we're making use from those sleave cut offs. I'm using just two pairs of them because there's no need for the fabric to be too thick here.

Otherwise there's nothing principaly new here and all the steps are shown on the photos.

Step 21:

A few final touches: cutting off sticking out ends of threads, making that ugly part on the shoulders a bit nicer, some details here and there and we're done.

Also I wanted to attach a hood but I have no any unwanted t-shirts left, so, maybe, I'll do it some time later and post it as an update.

Step 22:

So, this is it for now, thank you for your attention and have a nice boro.

P.S. (from 10, 3, 2017): I've been browsing throug old instrucrables in craft category and found this one by Teensy Doodles. Basically it's the same idea, but she's making a blanket, so I recommend to check it up.

If you like what I'm doing and want to see more projects from me with with increasing qualitie, please considere to support me on Patreon

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