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Generation T: 108 Ways To Transform a T-Shirtby Megan Nicolay
Let’s get a few things straight. Getting crafty with Generation T does not mean adding glitter to every accessory. It does not mean “BeDazzling” everything from your calculator to your toothbrush or affixing pre-tied bows to your blazer. No adhesives (that includes hot glue guns). No puffy paint. You need scissors, needle and thread, safety pins, and sheer moxie.
Generation T is all-inclusive—if you wear T-shirts, you’re part of it. If you own a pair of scissors, you’re already equipped to make one-third of the projects in this book. The others that do require a needle and thread can be made entirely by hand, no sewing machine needed—though some projects will go a lot faster if you use one.
But before you slash, read this chapter. “Tee Off!” is your reference; it includes the materials and the basic stitches and sewing techniques you’ll need to make all the projects in the book. Refer back to it whenever you hit the proverbial snag or need a quick refresher course.
If you see something you like in a magazine or catalog, tear out the picture and copy the design. Chances are you can make it—or something better. Observe the world around you. I keep my sketch pad handy and scribble down design notes about outfits I see people wearing on the subway platform, on the crosswalk, at an outdoor café. At a punk rock show I snapped pictures of fans backstage.
Some of my designs come into my head in very abstract ways—a shape inspires me here, a color catches my eye there, and then the two meet. Let yourself be inspired by your surroundings. I was sitting in Washington Square Park one summer afternoon, eating my lunch and sketching pictures of the arch under construction. Several of those sketches, combined with some from my daily street fashion observations, inspired the Cover Girl halter top design in Chapter 4. The lesson here is: Keep your eyes peeled, and your sketch pad handy.
Each project in Generation T is written like a recipe, starting with a list of ingredients (a.k.a. materials and supplies) and followed by the steps needed to create it. Basic ingredients include a T-shirt (bare minimum), scissors (almost always), needle and thread, straight pins, chalk, and a ruler.
T-Shirts You’ll need one or two T-shirts for most of the projects here. So where can you find them? My largest collection includes old softball uniforms, from Little League tees (a very hot commodity on the thrift store circuit) all the way up to high school summer softball tees. If you don’t have quite the stockpile that I have, fear not. T-shirts are everywhere. Scout around for promotional giveaways (good sources for clever slogans or, at the very least, exciting splashes of color) and credit card sign-ups (you can always cancel them). Root around in your own bottom drawers for bar mitzvah tees, travel souvenirs, and rock concert treasures. You can even rescue one of your dad’s old T-shirts before it’s reduced to a household cleaning rag (never thought you’d be raiding Dad’s closet, did you?). You’d be surprised at how many free tee opportunities there are out there. (If you opt for the thrift-store purchase, just make sure you wash the tee before you start slashing it.)
When you’re choosing a T-shirt to refashion, pay attention to the weight of the fabric, as well as its stretch and color. The weight depends on the material (is it 100% cotton? a 50/50 blend?). T-shirts made from blended fabrics are slightly lighter than all-cotton ones and will drape more elegantly (they’re also more susceptible to static cling). Despite being heavier, all-cotton fabric is more breathable— which is why we wear it on the hottest summer days. You can make any project out of just about any T-shirt, but keep in mind what you want the final outcome to look like and use your common sense. If a shirt is stiff and rigid to begin with, it’s not going to make the flounciest skirt. And the super-soft lived-in T-shirt will never regain its shape, so don’t expect a structured A-line skirt out of that one.
On to the subject of stretch. The beauty of jersey knit is that it stretches a little in every direction. Single-knit jersey stretches from 20% to 25% across the grain (that’s horizontally across a T-shirt). Check out the stretch scale below. You can measure any piece of fabric against this scale to test its capacity for stretch.When spandex or other artificial materials are added to the mix, jersey can stretch more than 35% (and it retains its shape better).
I like to try on the T-shirt I’m using before I start a project—even if I’m making a skirt—to see how it stretches and hangs. It’s important to be aware of the original fit of the T-shirt (the fabric will hug the same way whether it’s across your bust or your butt). For instance, if your shirt has 3% spandex and is a little snug around your shoulders and torso, cut off the sleeves and make it into one of the fitted tank tops— you avoid the tight shoulders and accentuate the tight torso.
And lastly, color. Feeling timid about picking your color palette? Here’s an exercise: Throw all your T-shirts in a pile on the floor and look for colors and patterns that work well together (match complementary colors and mix primary and secondary colors). Also, pay attention to logos. In a project that calls for more than one T-shirt, pair a maroon shirt that has mustard-colored text or graphics with an all-yellow shirt. And as you place them together, remember that precision doesn’t matter in terms of the angle of the logo. If you get the chance, turn the logo on its side. Note: There’s no need to find T-shirts exactly like the ones used in this book; even if you do, your version of each project will, happily, be unique.
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