Category Archives: Tutorial

Deconstructing t-shirts – Tutorial

I’m in the midst of making a keepsake quilt from old baby clothes – which I’ll share with you next week! I thought, as I was working through all the little t-shirts and baby-grows, that a tutorial might be in order.

So …. deconstructing t-shirts, tutorial ……

I’ll get this bit out of the way early on …. yes, it is perfectly possible just to cut squares without first taking the t-shirt apart, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I do this if there is a large motif on the front that I want to include – often playing with the size of my square – so, for example, if I’m piecing 4″ squares and I have a large motif that’s going to be bigger than that, then I’ll cut a piece that’s, for example, 4×8″ or even 8×8″ …. as I did here ….

deconstructing a t-shirt


(I’ll talk more about vilene later).

…. but when I make my keepsake quilts, I try to use as much of the fabric as possible, and get as many squares out of each garment as possible – deconstructing the t-shirt before you start cutting squares for piecing can make the difference between getting 4 squares out of the t-shirt and 6 or even 8 …. which makes it easier to build a pattern in your quilt when you come to piece them.

So, to start …. you will need ….. scissors, seam-ripper, a quilt square (a ruler and set-square are fine too), a fabric marking pencil or pen (I tend to use regular drawing pencils for this – they don’t fade like tailors chalk, and they wash out easily) and a medium-weight vilene (or other iron-on fusible interfacing). And, obviously, a t-shirt.

deconstructing t-shirt tutorial

I always start at the bottom hem and work my way up …. t-shirts tend to have a lot of overlocking going on, so your seam-ripper is your weapon of choice …

And when I say weapon, I’m not joking – those things HURT if you jab yourself, so I’ll make this *important health and safety announcement*.  Always, always, always point your seam ripper AWAY from your body, and make sure you’re in control of it – it’s better to go slowly and come away without any punctures, than to race along and shred your hands. If you do jab yourself, and (heaven forbid) bleed on your t-shirt, the only way to get the bloodstain out is with saliva (your own, of course!) Moisten a clean cloth with it, and then gently scrub away until it comes off – this works, I promise, as long as you don’t let the blood dry.

OK, onwards ….

Slide your seam ripper under the stitching and gently but firmly push it along the line of stitches …. you’ll need to hold the fabric taut with one hand, and rip with the other. Keep the sharp edge on top, otherwise it could slide into the fabric and rip it ….

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

Once you’ve gone all the way along the hem, you should be able to gently pull the edges apart. If you’ve missed a couple of stitches, don’t force it, get the seam ripper in again.

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

Now the bottom hem is done, you can start on the sides …. because these have usually been heavily overlocked, I tend not to bother with the seam ripper, and just cut the seams out with scissors …. I’m cutting along the seam, just above the inner edge of the stitching.

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

Next, sleeves, collars and cuffs …. get the seam ripper in between and rrrrrrriiiiiiiipppppppppp them up (carefully!) and then pull them apart.

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

The tedious bit is picking off all the loose threads once you’re done ….

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

Once you’re done, you should have a t-shirt broken down into its individual pieces …. if you have any motifs on the t-shirt that you’re planning to use, it’s a good idea to pull any old interfacing off the fabric before you use it. Generally, it comes off fairly easily ….. though you may have to be persistent with some.

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

So far, so good, and no wastage!

Iron the pieces, and then you’re ready to start making your squares (or whatever shape you’re using) ready for quilting ….. this is where the vilene comes in.

T-shirts (and any jersey knit, for that matter) are very stretchy …. so you will need to interface them, or you don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of cutting and sewing square squares ….

Using your quilt square, draw your block pieces onto the vilene first, and cut them out (remembering to leave some seam allowance – I generally work to at least 1cm, preferably 2cm at this stage (they get trimmed back once they’re sewn together)). Now iron your vilene onto your fabric … carefully! I always lay an old towel on the ironing board before I use vilene, and I have a separate iron that I use for this …. even though you’re ironing through a damp cloth, you really don’t want either your iron or your ironing board to get sticky from the adhesive ….

Once the vilene is secure, you can cut out your pieces ….

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

you can see here that the square is visible on the back, and this becomes your seam line … just line them up and away you go!

With this particular t-shirt, deconstructing it along the seam lines rather than just cutting into it meant that I could take a small block out of the chest area, and preserve the cute motif …. and I got 8 4″ squares out of an age 18month t-shirt.

deconstructing a t-shirt tutorial

So there you have it …. I hope you found this useful 🙂

Do let me know in the comments …. and if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them …


How to make …. a fabric heart tutorial

I have been making little lavender stuffed fabric hearts today … I think I must be getting in the mood for Valentines day!

As I was getting ready, I thought that some of you crafty people might like a little fabric heart tutorial so you could make your own ….maybe not as a Valentine gift to the man in your life, but maybe a birthday present for a friend, or for mother’s day, which is sneaking up fast! …. of course, you are still more than welcome to buy one already made up (or order a custom one!) from my Etsy shop 😉

You will need …. a template, fabric (these little hearts are a great way to use up scraps … you can even piece strips of scrap together to make up a piece big enough for your heart). Cotton or linen is best – very light cottons, voiles, etc aren’t great unless you interface them first, and very heavy fabrics like wool or upholstery are a pain when it comes to turning right-side out and make it harder to acheive a smooth curve. Add to that a little ribbon or lace for embellishment, maybe a button or beads …. whatever you fancy.

So … to start. First, you need a template. The easiest way to do this is to take a piece of card or paper, fold it in half, and draw the outline of half a heart onto it, then cut it out. (This means that both sides of your heart will be the same).

fabric heart template

Unfold the heart, and lay it over 2 pieces of fabric, right sides facing …. draw around the outline with tailors chalk, or a fabric pen, and cut it out ….

(simple so far, no?)

fabric heart tutorial

For this particular heart, the fabric was so pretty I didn’t want to add any embellishment …. but if you want to embellish your heart with a strip of ribbon, or a piece of lace, or some embroidery, or some beading, now is the time to do it …. BEFORE you stitch it all together, as I did with this little selection ….

fabric hearts tutorial

Once you’re done with any embellishment, put right sides together, and pin so that they can’t slide around …

fabric hearts tutorial

And ….. off to the sewing machine we go. If you don’t have a sewing machine, or you’re phobic about machine-sewing around curves, you can hand-stitch – a fairly small backstitch should leave everything secure enough.

The important thing to remember in either case is that the fabric heart is, at this point, inside out. So, DO NOT SEW all the way around. Believe me, I’ve done it, and it is possibly the most irritating thing in the world.

fabric heart tutorial

Leave a gap of approximately 1-1.5 inches (between 3 & 5 cm), and run a little back-stitch at the start and end to stop the seams pulling apart when you stuff it.

Trim off the loose thread ends, and trim the seam allowance to about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) and clip the curves. (This means that you make small snips from the outer edge in towards the stitching, *without* cutting into the stitches).

fabric hearts tutorial

Now you can turn the heart the right way round …. it can be a bit of a fiddle, as you need to pull the right sides out through the hole you left. (You did leave a hole, didn’t you 😉 ). Use your fingers to push the heart into the right shape once it’s right-side out …. a pencil, knitting needle or even the end of a paintbrush can help you get a nice point at the pointy end – just be careful you don’t push it right through the seam.

Iron it …. this will help when it comes to stitching the hole closed. Promise.

Now you can stuff your heart …. I generally use lavender, but you can use wadding, or rose petals, or wheat if you like (but if you use it as a wheat pack, you may get some staining from the moisture released when its heated). A teaspoon is your best friend if you want to use lavender, otherwise you’ll be there all day fiddling around. Pack it in nice and tightly so that your heart is well stuffed and plump …

Then slip-stitch the open edges together …. where you have ironed, you’ll have a nice fold line to guide your stitches – the needle makes a small stitch just inside the ironed line, moving from one side to the other. When the hole is closed, tie off the thread, and lose the end inside the heart.

fabric heart tutorial

And there you go.

fabric heart tutorial

You can stop here, or you can carry on and add a little hanging loop if you like ….

lavender heart tutorial

Job done …. simples, and so pretty 🙂

fabric heart

Now it’s over to you ….. if you do make one, I’d love to see it …. drop by and leave me a comment to let me know how it went, and post a link so I can be nosy and have a see!!