Recycled Tee Shirt Fashion

This is a project for intermediate to advanced sewers. If you want to create a high fashion piece of clothing using your old tee shirts or other clothes keep reading! This project can be adapted to create any type of clothing you want, a tee shirt, a dress, pants, etc. I will be demonstrating how to take your old clothes and fabrics, cut them into smaller segments, and create a new textile that can be used to create fashionable new pieces.

For this Project you will need

- 4-8 tee shirts

-scissors

-ruler/measuring tape

-serger or sewing machine

-thread

Step 1: Collect Your Materials

Go to your closet or the local thrift store and get multiple tee shirts of similar texture. For this exact example we will use 4 but for other projects like a dress or pants you will need around 8-12 The shirts can be all the same color or all different colors, its up to you. Try to get shirts with little to no images on them, but if they have images, it's fine it will just become part of the look.

Step 2: OPTIONAL: Do a Pattern Trace

Since this instructable was made specifically for people with intermediate to advanced sewing skills, doing a pattern trace of a preexisting garment is not necessary as you may have a full understanding of how the textile will work as the garment by eyeballing it(this is what I did.) If you would still like to create a unique piece of sustainable fashion, but do not feel comfortable just doing it, here is a link to a pattern tracing instructable.

https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Copy-a-Garment-that-Fits-Perfectly-Without-/

A quick overview of what you will need to do.

Take any simple piece of clothing you want to create, a turtleneck, a body con dress, and pin pattern paper or make a layer of tape over the original garment to copy.

Mark where the seams are on the paper or tape and cut the paper out/peel off.

Lay your newly made pieces flat and now you have a pattern to cut your new textile to!

Step 3: Cut Out Seams

Lay your tee shirts flat on a cutting surface. With fabric scissors cut off the tags, of the shirts. The cut the seams off of the entire shirt, separating the sleeve from the main body part, the front from the back at the side seams. Cut off the hems from the bottom of the shirt and the sleeves. Cut off the neck ribbing. You will have the front piece, back piece, and two sleeve pieces. Do this for all shirts.

Step 4: Cut Squares

Make a pattern of whatever size you would like the squares on your textile to be. For this project we used a variety of sizes, but you could do 4x4, 6x6 or any size you want. Keep in mind the smaller you make you're squares the longer it will take you. Doing a variety of sizes is a time consuming process but the finished effect will be very rewarding. When you make your square template place it on your shirt material and cut as many squares as you can, using as little fabric as you can. you should be able to get at least 4 squares out of each shirt.

Step 5: Cut Your Textile to the Pattern Size

With your pattern, or with your prior knowledge of garment shapes, cut out the main pieces for your design out of your textile.
For our turtle neck, we did a front, back, two sleeves and a collar, for the skirt we just did one giant square and folded over for the waist band. Keep in mind that if you used tee shirts the fabric will stretch, so most likely zippers won't be necessary.

Step 6: OPTIONAL: Pin the Pieces Together

This step is optional depending on how confident of a sewer you are. If you are using a serger to create the desired deconstructed look I would recommend not using pins as it may not be necessary. If using a sewing machine and you want your pieces to be as precise as possible, maybe with the seams on the inside, you should pin the squares together.

Lay your pieces side by side together, and stitch away! I find its easiest to make chains of 5 or 6 pieces and then sew the long strips to the side of other long strips. Whether you want your seams on the inside or the outside, make sure all your seams are on the same side. You should sew as big of a textile as possible, using all your fabric scraps.

Step 7: Serge/Sew Pattern Pieces Together

Serge or sew the pattern pieces together, remember if you are leaving the seam on the outside for a high fashion look to sew these seams on the outside as well, I even chose to leave the loose threads on as I thought it created a really unique textural effect.

If you're using a sewing machine, you might want your seams all on the inside, so sew it like you would a normal textile and pattern.

Step 8: Wear Your Sustainable Design With Pride

Once your garment is finished to your desired effect, congratulations! You have successfully created a high fashion, sustainable, completely unique piece of clothing, wear it with pride and advocate for sustainable choices in fashion when people ask you where you got the amazing look(they will.) Make sure to tell them that learning how to sew and/or repairing garments is one of the most important things that they can do in helping reduce textile waste (the words 2nd most wasteful industry.)

Wear it with pride and remember your a fashion icon and no one can stop you on your path to saving the world!!!

Thanks for reading! For more design/art weirdness and fun follow me on instagram @isabellakost and check out some other cool sustainable designers like Gypsy Sport, Patagonia, Stella McCartney, EDUN, Eileen Fischer and if thats not your style, thrifting is THE most sustainable way to get clothing! Check out your local Salvation Army or goodwill for amazing deals and awesome unique finds.

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    4 Discussions

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    Penolopy Bulnick

    9 days ago

    This is such a fun style! So once you have all the squares, do you line them up and serge them together? or do you sew then serge?

    1 reply

    I directly surged mine together but you can sew it too! I know a lot of people only have sewing machines, so I think it's a perfectly reliable option, but I think the surging looks great!

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    Uncle Kudzu

    9 days ago

    Very cool! I like the recycling aspect, and the end result looks great. Reminds me of a Piet Mondrian a little bit too :)

    1 reply
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    ikostrzewa323Uncle Kudzu

    Reply 8 days ago

    Thanks so much!! Yeah I've been getting that a lot, must be my subconscious working from art history class!