Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to Recycle, Refashion, Upcycle or Repurpose a Man's Shirt

The other day, my DH brought me a shirt and told me he couldn't wear it anymore because it had "shrunk." Yeah, right, my clothes keep shrinking, too, which is why I have a closet loaded with three different sizes of clothing. But, I didn't want to make him feel badly, so I smiled sweetly and took the shirt to add to the pile of clothing going to the rummage sale.

I looked at the shirt and no longer did I see a man's shirt. No, I saw a summer purse. Just how or why this shift in reality occurred, I cannot imagine. But I felt compelled to turn that shirt into something else. I think my brain is going Green, or maybe it's just getting moldy. Who knows?

I have a stash of lovely, new fabric. Why did I feel the need to upcycle or recycle this shirt? Maybe it was the challenge of turning something unusable into something useful. Maybe it's because everywhere I turn, people are talking about being Green. Whatever the reason, I was now obsessed with this idea.

I didn't have a clue how to do this so I Googled "recycle man's shirt into a purse." There were many instructions for turning a tee shirt into an assortment of items, but there were very few articles on recycling a man's dress shirt. Most of these had to do with turning a man's shirt into a child's dress or an apron. I couldn't find any suggestions on how to make a purse. I tried using the words "refashioning", "upcycling", and "repurposing" and got the same results. Nothing. As a parenthetical thought (I just love parenthetical thoughts), can anyone tell me what the difference is between upcycling, recycling, refashioning and repurposing? Lately, I've seen all those terms used and can't figure out if they are referring to the same activity or if there are subtle differences between them.

I decided it couldn't be that hard and set about to figure it out for myself. To be honest, it wasn't all that challenging. Should you find yourself with this same compulsion, I've written a simple tutorial. I hope it saves you some time.

Pin button placket together. Cut along the right and left side of the shirt to just below the collar.

Cut along the bottom and the top of the shirt to form a rectangle.

(Note: You can click on any picture to enlarge it)

Take both left and right piece from the front and stitch the button placket together to make one piece.

Iron a piece of heavy fusible craft webbing (I used Pellon) to the wrong side of what was the front of the shirt. I wanted to use the shirt's front pocket for my cell phone so I wanted the pocket to wind up inside the purse. By ironing the webbing to the wrong side of the front, I felt the pocket would have more strength and stability.

Place the right sides of the front and back together and stitch around three sides. Leave the fourth (small side) open so you can turn the fabric right side out.

Turn the fabric right side out. Press to even out the corners and seams. I wanted my purse to have a flap, so folded my fabric roughly in thirds to allow for the overlap. If you don't want a flap, fold the fabric in half. Iron. Stitch both sides of the purse together being sure to reinforce the top and bottom of the seam by going back and forth a couple of times.

In the picture above, you'll notice a dowel to the left of the folded piece of fabric. I decided that I needed to add a dowel to give the bottom of the purse stability. I didn't want it to scrunch up after I filled it with all my junk. Cut the dowel a couple of inches shorter than the bottom to allow for the side seams. I used my zipper foot (for the first time) and sewed as close to the dowel as I could. I then evened out the open edge (top of purse) in preparation of sewing it shut. Fold the raw edges to the inside and press.

I made a shoulder strap by braiding some thin rope I had in the house and sewing it to the back of the purse. I was being Green and using up things I already had. Hint: When sewing on the strap, be sure to reinforce at the bottom and top of the purse so that it doesn't rip when you fill your purse. Before closing the open, top edge, decide what type of clasp or closure you want. If you want to use a magnetic snap, now is the time to attach it so you can hide the prongs inside. I wanted to use a piece of elastic and a button, so I pinned my elastic in place when I was pinning the opening. Stitch closed. Add trim and button.

Voila. The finished purse. I added the trim to cover my less then stellar sewing. To the right is a picture of the inside of the purse where the shirt's pocket now holds my cell phone. That sure does tickle my fancy

All in all, I'm quite pleased with how this project turned out. I used the purse today for the first time and was amazed that I got two compliments at the dentist's office. They were quite impressed that I made it, but what really amazed them was that I made it from an old shirt. Maybe they'll think I'm poor and stop charging me those ridiculous fees. LOL

Here is what I learned from this experience:

It's was much harder to write clear instructions (anyway I hope they're clear) than to actually make the purse.

It's fun the get an idea and run with it.

No matter what Kermit the Frog says, it isn't all that hard being Green.