In my art practice, I commonly work with a number of recycled items: worn clothes, scraps of fabric, paper, etc. I find that the use of these types of “throwaway” items also allows me a lot of creative freedom. When I don’t have to worry about wasting the “good stuff” I find that I’m a lot more willing to take creative chances, really allowing myself to go in and experiment, whether through new techniques or in the creation of silhouettes that I’ve not worked with before.
My goal in working with this t-shirt was one that I often have when upcycling items: to keep the used materials front and center while making the fact that they are being upcyled completely recede. I want people to see this as a new, fully realized article, with little or no thought to what it used to be. Generally, I feel my most successful projects are the ones where people don’t know that it has been upcycled at all.
In the case of this shirt I wanted to keep it as a top, but to combine it with a contrast material to move away from the feeling of it being just a plain cotton t-shirt. Ultimately, I chose a chunky, cream-colored yarn.
To start, I rolled and stitched the sleeves into very short cap sleeves, and then I cropped several inches from the length.
The design I decided on was a simple diamond pattern that was to be embroidered into the shirt with the yarn, so I used a ruler and fabric pen to mark out a grid across the shirt surface of where I would be doing the sewing. After that, it was ready to be embroidered.
The final touch was adding a wrap-around stitch to the cap sleeves and around the collar.
I left the cut bottom of the shirt as is, since I really enjoyed the ruching effect it was given by the tension of the embroidered stitches.