Introduction: Recycled Clothes Bib With Versatile Pattern

About: I crochet and do crafts. Oh and I also work full time and have a family to take care of. I'm on here because this site is so cool and easy to post to. You can also check me out on Ravelry: http://www.ravel…

Much to my husband's chagrin, I love recycling.  The problem with it comes when I save an excess amount of items that just end up taking space because they go on my "Someday" to-do list, and sit in containers in my home and garage.

One of my saving 'graces' is that I save an item knowing EXACTLY what I am going to do with it, and that was the case with my children's 3T sized shirts, left over jeans, and a few of the husband's T-shirts.

I found a tutorial (off of Pinterest of course) that showed how to make a baby bib using old T-shirts.  The writer of that particular tutorial used size 3T to 4T shirts and mens t-shirts to create the "front" of the bib, and minky fabric for the back.  The downside to that tutorial was that she specifically requests that the bibs not be sold and are used for personal use only.

Well, not meaning any disrespect, AND not knocking anyone's opinion of that concept, I disagree with that, so I knew I had to make my own bib pattern and tutorial and give a full declaration:
If you want to make these and sell them, more power to you!

I mean, how much money can you make selling bibs anyway?  I would love to make these and sell them, but I don't have the time for that so I'm glad there are people out there that want to.

I made these particular bibs shown in the photos for gifts for family and friends, and donated a couple to my son's school fundraiser that went along with other handmade baby items.

You can get a baby bib pattern virtually anywhere on the net, and here on Instructables, they can be found here:

jessyratfink'sHow to sew a baby bib + pattern Tutorial - This one I found particularly useful, and followed almost all of the steps to the letter.

jessimata's Re-Purposed Reversible Baby Bib

I call it a 'versatile pattern' because I wanted to be able to make a one-page pattern that had an option for a pocket and could be used for multiple sizes for different kinds of printing on old shirts.
If you came here to get the pattern, jump to Step 3.

Read on to see how I made them, and I hope you'll decide to make these cool looking bibs for your personal use, as gifts, or heck, sell them to make some money while saving the planet with recycling!

Step 1: Using Recycled Clothing

Materials & Tools:
  • 3T to 4T clothes - I used all T-shirts or long-sleeved shirts and one pair of girls shorts for the bibs in this tutorial
  • Optional: Old 18-month to 2T footed pajamas
  • Optional: Men's printed T-shirts, not used here
  • Optional: Pair(s) of old Jeans
  • A sewing machine (you could hand stitch it, but it would take a lot longer)
  • Coordinating thread
  • pins
  • Scissors and/or a rotary cutter with a cutting board (I don't know what I would do without my rotary cutter)
  • One to four printed copies of the pattern (See Step 3)
  • Tape (to tape copies of the cut pattern)
  • Metal Snaps or velcro - I use snaps because in my experience, babies pull off velcro bibs WHILE eating.

Notes on Using Recycled Clothing:
  • The biggest challenge is the existing sewn edges on the clothes. 
  • I use a jean-type needle on my sewing machine so that it goes through many layers of fabric.
  • When you cut the clothes up, try to use as much material as possible.  You can use recycled clothes for headbands, cloth flowers, and other fun little imaginable projects that would use scrap material.
  • Don't be afraid to throw stuff away.  Unfortunately, not all the material will be used.  I feel comfortable that the clothing is being re-used at all and not all of it is going to the landfill.
  • Imagine the possibilities! Perhaps there are "saved" shirts in your home when your children were young and are now grown with their own babies.  Wouldn't it be cool to give them a bib with their old shirts?  How about those T-shirts you just can't make yourself throw away?  There are so many things that could be made into these functional bibs, and in so many different ways....

Notes on Recycling:
As I write this (not published though) it is April 22, Celebrated as Earth Day in America.  I am using recycled materials to make the bibs, and I specifically read up on what "Sustainable Materials" are just for my personal knowledge. had a great description of the concept of "Sustainable Materials" and asks several questions that I wanted to pose to you all and gave my answers here.

A good first question: Do we need it?

My answer for this project: Any mother knows you need a baby bib for a baby, even if it used for maybe a year and half to two years.  And, you know you need A LOT of them. 
When my first child was born, I probably got about ten new bibs as gifts, and many (maybe ten more) hand-me-downs from friends.  I remember using every single one, so much that they were stained with food, throw-up, drool, you have the idea, and many of them did not make it to being used by the other two children I had.

Ask yourself: Does it suit the purpose to which it is applied?

My answer for this project: Yes, and the design of the bib gives it a double duty for the phase the baby is in.  I included a crumb catcher (a pocket) on at least one side, so that the little hands that cannot quite grasp the food that slips through their fingers or misses the mouth gets caught in the pocket.  (I remember cheerios well.)

My favorite question: How far did it come?

My answer for this project: The clothes you are looking at here are as follows -
A pair of maternity jeans: A hand-me-down to me, previously used by two other women.  (Two different friends.)  I used them while pregnant with three children, over the course of five-and-a-half years.  I did not want to give them to a charity, because they had a hole in the belly pocket and were quite stretched out.  I couldn't throw them away either because I have several "jean" themed projects planned.

Three-T (3T) shirts, one pair of 3T girls shorts and a footed pajama with broken snaps: These clothes I identified as not-suitable as hand-me-downs to cousins, and again, too stained or worn to give to charity in my opinion.  Many of the clothes my children wear were (or are) hand-me-downs.  My oldest son's clothes were saved for my youngest son to wear so many of those clothes have been through at least two boys (and probably more.)

Lastly, I had an option to use my husband's T-shirts: Unfortunately, I have to say that my husband was the first and last occupant of these T's.  The reason for not giving them to charity is the underarm stain that inevitably becomes a topic my husband and I argue over.  I am ready to give those shirts away before the stain is too set in, and he says he loves them and wants to keep them, until I can't stand him wearing them any more.  "Painting and work shirts" he calls them. Right. 
But in his defense, he does wear all his T-shirts until they become not wearable by others.  That counts for something right?

More Useless Information:
All of my materials are cotton and because they have been worn so much, I know they have been pre-shrunk.  I could iron them, but I don't, mostly in an effort to save time, and after they were laundered, I stored them folded in a box until I have the time to work on them.

My motivation for completing this project was two-fold: I wanted to make these bibs for upcoming functions and I wanted to enter the Dream-It, Draw-It, Wear-It contest.

{Here is where I give myself a shameless plug: Please vote for me if you enjoy this Instructable!}

Lastly, I would appreciate if you would give me credit for the pattern with a link to Step 3 or this Instructable.  Use it freely to make great bibs though, please!

Step 2: Creating the Pattern Using SketchBook Pro

The pattern was created in the trial version of Sketchbook Pro.
I have to admit, AFTER I got the hang of Sketchbook Pro, I was pleased with making the pattern in the program.
For me, the key to creating this pattern was all about the layers.
I am also very impressed that the printing is darn near perfect.  I've had the hardest time finding a program to print what is shown on the screen, especially when the lines go outside of the "margins."

I started off with a free bib pattern I found in a .jpg format from: Sunny Vanilla Blog
I really liked this pattern because the whole pattern fit on one page.

I did an "Insert .jpg" that is located under the file menu and scaled the page so I could see it.

Once I figured out how to do the layers on the program, I made each piece of the drawn bib in a separate layer.  I did it this way, because I ended up having to erase lines so much.  I used the pencil, the symmetry button, and many ovals.  I changed the eraser to a chisel tip to get more of an exact eraser area, and changed the size depending on the lines or pixels I needed to erase.

I turned off the bottom layer with the original picture, and had my outline of the bib.

I then worked on the "seam allowances", which just give people like me an idea of how big the bib will end up.  Those were done using the felt pen and I changed the spacing to 10.0 to make the dotted look.

Finally, I added the opening for turning lines using the Copic Fine Nib drawing type, and changed the opacity of those layers to 80% or so.  (No need to make everything black.)  I also hand drew an arrow using that pen type as well.

I added text with more layers and the pattern was done!

This pattern went through at least five changes while I was using it.  I kept adding to the pattern the more bibs I made, and the attached final pattern was literally tested over and over again to make the various bibs you see in this Instructable. 

Some Other Notes:
  • Some of the photos in this Instructable show the different "phases" of the bib pattern and are not the final attached product.
  • And... if you see the word "versatile" spelled incorrectly on a few of the photos, my apologies if that bothers you.  I got it right for the download though!
  • Finally: You have to be a Pro member in order to download the file in Adobe Photoshop.  Just FYI. =)

Step 3: Using This Versatile Bib Pattern

I attached the bib pattern to this Step for you to print out.  I printed out two (to start out with) to have a separate copy of the overall size of pattern to lay over the print on the shirts and one to cut up to make different sizes for each pattern.

Again, jessyratfink had a great tutorial on how to sew a bib.  I had that tutorial open while sewing my first couple bibs to see if I missed something.  I am not the best sewer by any means and usually only break out my sewing machine for patches and making torn jeans into shorts for my kiddos so really, this was a big project for me.

Helpful hints for the novice sewer with a sewing machine (like me):
  • When cutting the pattern, leave an extra amount of selvage material around the areas marked as "opening for turning."  The first one I made I didn't do this and my seam allowance was too small so the selvage stuck out a bit.  Novice mistake. 
  • Go slowly with your machine.  Getting the curves right are easier if you go slow around each curve and constantly lift up the sewing foot to make a small turn after a few stitches.
  • Use the seam allowance lines on your machine.  My intent for this bib was to have about a 1/4" seam allowance, and that allowance came out when I printed the pattern. 
  • Use sharp scissors when cutting the notches around the curves or use pinking shears.  This really cleans up those bunches in the curves at the ends of the bib and even a few around the neck line and rounded corners.
  • Take your iron out and press the bib after you turn it.  Trust me, this is worth the time.
The next few steps show the different variations I made using this bib pattern.  As a mom, I like the crumb catcher pocket, so I included a pocket where I could.

The bibs I made are varied like so:
(Step 4) 3T shirt & short clothing bib, sized to the one page design, with a crumb pocket on one side (one bib made)
(Step 5) Back pocket of jeans on one side, printed clothing on the other with a crumb pocket (two bibs made)
(Step 6) Printed 3T shirt on both sides, no crumb pocket to save designs - The photos for this bib tutorial show various ways to use the versatile template.
(Step 7) Printed 3T shirts with both jeans and t-shirt backing - Again, another way to use the versatile template, and a different approach on the using the recycled garments for the bib.

My kids are a little too big for bibs, but thankfully they were willing to pose for the pictures anyway!

Step 4: One Page Pattern Size Bib With Crumb Pocket

The procedure I used to make each type of these bibs is essentially the same.

First, I laid the pattern over the area I wanted to capture on the main portion of the bib.  I cut the pattern over both the front and the back of this shirt, so I could make a second bib at a later time.

Next, I used the same bib pattern and placed it over the shorts I was going to use for the second side.  I avoided the existing seams as much as I possibly could to make the piece go through my sewing machine easier.

Placing the right sides together, I sewed up the edges with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.  I used the foot measure on my sewing machine to get the seam allowance all around the bib.
REMEMBER to leave an opening to turn the piece on both the bib and the pocket (if you make one).  In the final version of this pattern, I wrote on the pattern a location to leave the opening.

Once the sewing around the bib and the pocket was complete, I cut notches near the curves as suggested by jessyratfink's Instructable, Step 5.

I turned the bib and pocket inside out and ironed them both.  I used a crochet hook when turning to make the corners stick out.

Before I sewed the edging around the bib, I pinned the pocket on the side I wanted it to be on.  I sewed a 1/8-inch seam allowance around the bib and the pocket and ironed it again.

Finally, I hand sewed a "snap" closure onto the neck ends, using a matching thread.

Step 5: Jean Back-Pocket With Clothes Side and Crumb Pocket

So for these two bibs, I used a pair of old maternity jeans (hence the weird top-of-the-pants), one 3T girls shirt and one 18-month size footed pajamas.

I prepped the jeans by cutting off the stretchy top using my rotary cutter, cutting board and ruler.

I placed one copy of the bib over the back pocket.  I did not like the length of the bib past the pocket so I cut off the lower half of the second pattern and taped it to the bottom of the full printed pattern.

I cut through both layers of pants, so I could have a piece of jean material that was already shaped into the pocket.  I know this method would NOT work for normal (non-maternity) jeans.  There are too many pockets and seams to cut through or to make look good.  When I try this with regular jeans, i will cut the side seams and only have one layer just to isolate the back pocket.

I used the cut piece to draw a line on the back of the pattern to show me where the edge of the material was.  I will be sewing additional material to the top of this for the neck hole, and I wanted to have an idea of how much material I need to measure too.

The piece I need to sew to the pocket piece is pictured.  I cut FARTHER than the line drawn, so that I would have my seam allowance that will be sewn up to the pocket piece, probably by about an inch.  I measured 1/2-inch above the top of the pocket piece for seam allowances.

I ironed the jean seam flat for both bibs.

When it came to using the footed pajamas, the first thing I did was make the material as flat as possible.  I cut the feet off of the pajamas and found the place to lay the pre-taped pattern on, again taking existing seams into consideration.

I cut the pockets out of both the jean and pajama material, using the sleeve of the pajamas to make the pocket.

In order to use the girls shirt, I wanted to specifically get the hearts at the top of the shirt by the neck hole.
I cut the sides of the seams so that the material would lay both flat and only be one layer thick.

I used the sewn up jean side as a pattern to cut the shirt side out. 

I layered the pocket pieces over one-another to cut out the pocket.

After sewing all the individual pieces, I turned them all and ironed them.

For these pockets, I remembered to sew a trim seam on the top of the pockets.

There are four layers to sew through for the pocket.  I also lined up the pocket to the bib as best I could but admit I could have done a better job sewing the bottom of the bib more evenly.  Oh well.  I am getting better!

The final step for me was to sew the snaps on the ends.
These bibs took the longest to make.  I spent at least an hour and forty-five minutes (1-hr, 45-min) on each bib.  I do like the results, but I wonder if there was an easier way to do this....

Step 6: Printed Tees Bib (No Crumb Pocket)

So this bib/step is the reason why I created the pattern the way I did.

I had these really cool recycled shirts that I just could not part with. My youngest son LOVED Elmo and wore the shirt shown here with pride. I also couldn't part with the shirt with the logo: "The Ladies Love Me" because it was so applicable to my baby boy.

I used a total of four printed patterns.

First, I created the overall pattern so I would be able to use the size for both the front and the back of the bib.
I started by using one pattern and placing it over the print.  I added another pattern to extend the length and cut up two more patterns to cover both the sides and the bottom of the printing.

I cut both shirts the same way - first I cut up the sides to open up the material.  Then I pinned down the pattern to capture the printed area and used my rotary cutter to cut around the edges.

For the Elmo shirt, I folded down the back of the shirt so that it would line up with the pattern hole.  (Please see the photo.)  I also have a photo of the pattern upside down on that shirt, because I wanted the hole openings to line up on both pieces.

I was trying to keep the red collar on the Elmo shirt, but no luck.  I ended up using the Love-Me shirt as the pattern over the Elmo shirt, specifically to cut out the neck hole.

You will notice that I used the existing neck holes to my advantage as the neck hole for the bib.  It saves on cutting and already has a pretty perfect hole.  I reinforced the neck hole with a zig-zag sew-type, to ensure the material would not come apart.

Because there was no crumb pocket, the sewing went really fast.  I turned the bib inside out after making notches in the curves and sewed up a one-eighth of an inch (1/8-inch) trim around the bib.

Step 7: Printed Tee Bib With Jeans Material Backing and Crumb Pocket

For this type of bib, I used the lower half of a pair of jeans.  The jeans used for these bibs had a hole in the knee, so I turned those jeans into shorts and kept the lower leg pieces.

As with most of the bibs I have created thus far, I used a few sheets of the pattern to cover the entire front logo of the shirts and made the jean material fit on the back.

I used three sheets of the pattern, where two of those patterns were cut in half and stuck down using the guidelines printed on the pattern to line up the edges.

Again, I tried to create this pattern so that even a novice like me could understand and use it.

I took a blurry photo (and included it anyway because I think it's important to see my thought process) of the bib pattern laying on the jeans and the top of the back of the bib.  Because the remaining jean material wasn't as long as the pattern, I improvised the top of the back of the bib using the sleeves of the shirt.  The multiple colors of material on the sleeves made for a great pattern, but were definitely not easy to sew through.

With the right sides pinned together, I sewed the sleeve material to the top of the jean material.

After ironing the sewn edge flat, I laid both the print side of the bib and the pattern over the back of the bib.  I DID NOT cut out the hole using the pattern, but the printed side of the bib. 

In order to make it the correct size, I then cut off the bottom half of the pattern to make a crumb pocket and used it as the pattern on the different materials.

The remaining steps to create the bibs are:
  • sew the front and back together, allowing a small hole to remain to turn the bib inside out
  • sew the front and back of the bib pocket together, also allowing a small hole to turn the pocket inside out
  • trim around the curves by either notching or using pinking shears
  • turn all the pieces inside out
  • press with an iron
  • optionally add trim to the top of the pocket
  • pin the pocket to the bib and sew the 1/8-inch seam allowance trim around the entire bib
  • sew on the snaps
Enjoy!  I will add pictures of more bibs I complete and hope you will too!
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