Design Challenge: Refashion a T-Shirt with Nicole Blum

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We posed a CraftFoxes T-shirt design challenge to Nicole Blum, sewing designer and co-author of the book "Improv Sewing" along with her crafty colleague Debra Immergut. What did Nicole sew up with one T-shirt and a little creativity? You will love her amazing refashion, which pairs hand embroidery with a new collar and decorative darts!

"There are a zillion things you can do to re-fashion a T-shirt and I wanted to make it unique. The CraftFoxes graphic is fun and cute and I wanted to be sure to highlight it. Since I’ve been a little obsessed with embroidery lately, it seemed like the natural embellishment choice. I used the graphic like a coloring book and varied the stitches to create texture and to keep it interesting. I also knew that I would want to do more to it once I got started, so I chose the X-large T-shirt even though I wear a small or medium. That way I could nip and tuck."

Step 1

What you’ll need:
- A CraftFoxes T-Shirt, of course
- Selection of suitable embroidery floss
- Embroidery needle
- A strip of jersey cut across the grain for binding the neckline
Thread an embroidery needle with an arm’s length of embroidery thread and knot the end. Start the first stitch from the backside of the T-shirt and outline the graphic using a backstitch. Play around with a variety of stitches and ways to fill the parts of the design you want to embroider. I chose to not embroider the entire thing – I didn’t want it to look machine made (unlikely, I know). For some of the fill and small stars, I only used a couple strands of the embroidery thread. This is a time to play around and have fun with hand stitching – there is no right way.

Step 2

Cut the Shirt
Remove the neck band, the hemmed bottom and the hemmed sleeve ends. This will allow a nice rolled edge to occur – I love that!

Step 3

Bind the Neckline
For an easy bound neckline that doesn’t really require measuring, cut a 1” width of jersey across the grain (or stretch) so it is at least as long as the neck opening is around. Cutting across the stretch would mean cutting a T-shirt from side seam to side seam – the stretch goes horizontally across the body. If using yardage, this would be across the fabric, not the length of the yardage. Give it a pull if you are unsure how to tell – your strip should be stretching the long way.
Thread your needle with a contrasting color of embroidery thread. Fold the strip the long way (you can press it with an iron or fold as you go) and align the end where the shoulder seam meets the neckline. The fabric should fold around the raw edge. Make your first stitch through all three layers of fabric, and reinsert the needle at an angle, bringing the needle back to come through aligned with the first stitch (see picture).

Step 4

Note: Stretch the binding as you work, being sure not to stretch the t-shirt fabric it encases. The gentle stretching will make a neckline that doesn’t flop to the outside of the shirt.

Step 5

When you have worked all the way around the neckline, overlap the raw edge of the binding about 1/2” over the starting point and add some cute little stitches to secure in place.

Step 6

Adding Darted Shoulder Details
I used a shirt that was a little bigger than I normally like to wear so I could play around with the fit and add little design-y tweaks. Since my shirt was too big in the shoulders, I added a dart of sorts to pull the fabric in. With the shirt on, I pinched the fabric to see how much I would want to take away and then stuck a pin in it to mark the amount.
The process is simple. First, thread a needle with desired color and knot the end. then, make a chalk mark where you want the dart to start. This will depend on how roomy the shirt is to begin with and how you want it to look.

Step 7

Pinch the amount of fabric to be reduced so that excess fabric goes to the inside of the shirt. Pin in place. The first stitch will come from the inside of the shirt and then proceed using the invisible stitch.

Step 8

Continue the "invisible stitch" over the shoulder seam and down the back of the shirt. The front and the back will be stitched the same amount – mirror images.

Step 9

Have fun personalizing your own project! Here's a close-up of the embroidery.

Step 10

This T-shirt refashion is courtesy of Nicole Blum, co-author of the book "Improv Sewing: A Freeform Approach to Creative Techniques." You can visit her blog, Improv Diary, for more on her sewing tutorials and projects.

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