June 21, 2012

T-shirt Quilt

Kludging goal: A comfy quilt made from screenprinted t-shirts
Kludging skill level: Advanced
Permanence: Permanent
Starting materials: As many t-shirts as you can round up, batting, blanket binding, thread
Required tools:  Sewing machine, ruler, pinking shears, tons of pins

Throughout the years we somehow accumulate an incredible number of screenprinted t-shirts. I go through a major purge when the dresser drawer no longer closes, but I always find a few that I don't wear, but I don't really want to trash or donate. The stack of frat party tees may have sentimental value, but they don't need to be in the wardrobe rotation these days.

A number of years ago, I got the idea to cut up our old shirts and sew them together into a quilt, preserving the memory, but feeing up drawer space. I recently made another quilt for a friend who will be moving cross-country and wanted to condense her sentimental shirts into something functional and easy to move.

**Kludging Disclaimer: I am in no way "a quilter". My lack of attention to detail, precise measurement, and well-honed skill is pretty much an insult to the longstanding artistic tradition of quilting. I apologize in advance for the slapdashery to follow.

I started with about 20 of my friend's shirts with front and back designs. I separated the shirts into stacks of similar colors,

then used pinking shears to cut out the screenprinted areas.

Cutting out large front design

Cutting out small chest design
Be sure to leave as much extra fabric around the design as you can. You'll need at least an inch of space on each side for seam allowance and you can always cut the square down later if it's too big.

I then cut the remaining fabric from the t-shirts into rectangles of the same size. I used an arbitrary number (6" x 12") and made a template. These plain pieces will be used to make the back of the quilt. (If you have enough shirts, you could use screenprints on both sides.)

Left- Cut out screenprints...Right- Cut out plain rectangles

Next, I arranged all the screenprinted pieces into a relatively even rectangle. This took forever. Because the screenprints aren't all the same size or shape, it's tricky to get it symmetrical. You'll notice that the arrangement in this photo isn't the same one I ended up with, either. As I began sewing the pieces, I kept rearranging them to make a more even shape. I also tried to distribute the colors evenly.

First attempt at layout.

Through trial and error, I've found that the easiest way to get the layout right is to arrange pieces of similar size and shape into strips, then sew the strips together later. 

Strip of large squares.

Once you have a strip laid out, pin the good sides together leaving a seam allowance of about an inch. Make sure the pinned seams are as straight as possible or you'll regret it later!

When you have a strip pinned together, fold it and trim the edges to make them even.

Folded strip, ready to be trimmed.

Bottom strip, trimmed.
 (Additional support by my kitty, Motörhead , who makes sure that the squares don't float away.)
Continue pinning sections of squares together, then sew the larger sections to each other. Make sure that you don't sew over the seam allowance when sewing sections together. You'll need to stop sewing before you hit the seam allowance or you won't be able to get right angles between the four pieces. (This is probably one of those things that you won't understand in writing, but you'll know when you mess it up!)

Don't sew over that seam allowance!
I also added a "surprise" square-- a blank piece of fabric on which I wrote a message to my friend.

When you've finished sewing together your front sections, measure the whole front of the quilt and then lay out the pieces to make up the back. For this quilt, it worked out to be 5 1/2 of the rectangles I'd cut out in each row, with 11 rows (9 are shown below). I tried to arrange the rectangles to spread out the colors evenly.

Back of quilt laid out.
The sewing on the back is quick and easy, just sew the pieces together into strips, then sew the strips together. You can play around with this, lining up the vertical and horizontal seams, or offsetting them like I did above-- whatever you think looks best!

When you've finished sewing the back of the quilt, it's time to add the batting. Lay the front piece of the quilt face-down, then cover it with the batting, then the back piece face-up. Pin the edges the whole way around, then trim any excess batting or fabric.
Pinned front, batting, and back pieces.
I did a quick stitch around the edge of the quilt to keep it all together before adding the blanket binding. You could do it all in one step if you're brave.

Right edge pinned, top edged sewn.
Front and back with quick stitch.

The last step is to attach the blanket binding. This covers the ugly edges of the quilt and makes it look "finished". I used a 1" tri-fold binding which worked nicely. Open the binding and slip the edge of the quilt into the fold, then pin. Be sure to leave an extra inch or so at each end so you can tuck the raw ends under and hand-sew the corners into a neat point.

Adding the binding.

And, voila! A memory-filled quilt at little cost, plus room in that t-shirt drawer to grow into!

July 7, 2011

Add Support to a Bandeau

Kludging goal: Add support and shape to a bikini top
Kludging skill level: Beginner
Permanence: Semi-permanent
Starting materials: Bandeau top, old molded-cup bra, coordinating thread
Required tools: Scissors, sewing machine or needle and thread

I've had this retro-style bikini for several years but haven't gotten much use out of it due to the unflattering way the top fits. It tends to sag in the cups and ride up in the middle, due to the lack of reinforcement and the placement of the straps. It wasn't very flattering and had the potential for a wardrobe malfunction...

I decided to move the straps and add additional support in the cups. I started by removing the flimsy pads from the top (they slipped in and out of the inner lining).

I then traced the pad on the cup of a bra that had streched out in the band but still had usable, supportive molded cups.

I repeated this on the other cup, and cut out the cups (above the underwire) on the traced lines.
Note: If you need extra support and the bathing suit cups are big enough, you could keep the underwire with the bra cup when cutting it out.

I slipped the new cups into the bandeau and it improved the shape immediately.

I then snipped off the straps which were attached in the middle of the bandeau.

I tried on the top and decided where the best new location for the straps would be for the most support (this ended up being about the midpoint of the cups). I sewed the straps on to their new location.

Greatly improved!

No more sag...

...or risk of flashing!

April 18, 2011

Restoring a leather bag

Kludging goal: Redye and condition a leather bag
Kludging skill level: Beginner

Permanence: Semi-permanent
Starting materials: Leather bag, leather dye, leather creme, mink oil or similar leather protectant

Required tools: Rags, kitchen sponge

I found this gorgeous purple leather bag on eBay and fell in love, but it's seen better days. The leather was dried out from lack of conditioning, and the dye had been worn off the seams. Otherwise the bag was in wonderful condition--  the leather without stains or scratches, all the seams perfect, and the lining clean and free from holes.

Faded leather and worn seams
 The color of the bag had faded to a reddish purple. You can see the difference between the original bluish hue (protected under a flap) and the faded reddish hue here:

I decided to spring for the bag as well as a leather dye and creme kit to restore this bag to its original beauty.

Tarrago shoe dye and creme kit in Purple, purchased online. $15 including shipping.

The first step was to prep the leather for dye. The kit included a preparing solution which is applied with the scrubby side of a kitchen sponge. This removed any dirt or leftover conditioning wax that would keep the dye from penetrating the leather.

Next I applied the dye to the most worn areas like the seams and strap. I admit that at this point I started to worry about the color matching, but since I knew I'd be treating the whole bag with coordinating leather creme later, I continued.

Dying the seams

After the seams were dyed, I applied the coordinating leather creme with a rag, working it over the whole bag.

The creme made a world of difference in correcting the faded color and restoring the leather's softness and lustre.

Reddish faded areas corrected with leather creme

Next I buffed the entire bag with a soft rag. I found the easiest way to do this was to put the bag over my knee.

Finally, I gave the whole bag a nice coat of mink oil to further condition and waterproof the leather. This also served to even out any irregularities in the color.

All done!

Seams after treatment...and before.

I'm very pleased with the final result. I can't wait to carry this bag for years to come!

February 4, 2011

Update a Turtleneck Sweater

Kludging goal: Remove turtleneck from sweater and repurpose as embellishment
Kludging skill level: Intermediate
Permanence: Permanent
Starting materials: Turtleneck sweater, matching thread
Required tools: Sharp scissors, needle

I received this heavy knit turtleneck sweater as a hand-me-down. The sweater seemed well-made, and I liked the soft, thick yarn and the charcoal color, but, due to what my mother lovingly refers to as my "pencil neck", turtlenecks just don't work on me.

Nice on the mannequin, bad on me.

I discovered that the neck piece (which is knitted separately, then attached to the neckline), rather than being sewn on, was attched by a knitted 'rib' (perhaps even by hand?). This would make it easy to remove the turtleneck piece, leaving a crew neck.

That rib around the neckline = sweater is well-made.

The first step was to turn the sweater inside out, then put the tip of the scissors into the 'rib' that was formed by yarn that covered the joint where the neckline and turtleneck met.

Cutting into the rib.

I continued pushing my scissors along inside the rib until it was opened the whole way around.

This uncovered the finished edge of the neckline, which had been hidden inside the rib.

 Now I needed to remove the turtleneck entirely. I did this by locating and then snipping the yarn that was stitched through the now-exposed neckline, then into the turtleneck.

This was tedious.
 As I snipped away, the turtleneck came off until, voila!

There were a few places where the knit pattern ended in visible knots or loose yarn (this had been hidden by the rib).

In the front...

...and at the shoulder seams.
 This was easily remedied by knotting any longer loose yarns, then tucking them in and securing by hand stitching a few times.
All cleaned up!
 I now had a perfectly good crew-neck sweater.

...but I decided not to stop there. I cut the leftover neck material into two uneaven strips, one with two raw edges, the other with one raw edge and the existing finished edge.

I rolled the larger strip into a tight spiral, and stitched through the bottom edge few times.

I continued rolling, letting the spiral get looser and looser, and then stitched through the bottom edge again.

And this made a ruffly rosette! I stitched it to the neckline of the sweater.
Peony-esque, no?
I repeated this same technique for the strip with one finished edge, resulting in a neater, less frilly rosette. I sewed it next to it's larger counterpart, and voila!

All done!
I'm really happy with the way this turned out. Embellished sweaters are everywhere this season, and I got a good fitting one for free after just a few quick alterations.