Have you caught the cleaning bug? If getting organized in the new year is on your to-do list, chances are you have – or are planning to – tackled your closet and dresser drawers, pulling out clothes that you no longer wear. If your “to donate” and “trash” piles include some old t-shirts, you might want to move them over the keeps instead!
Related Reading: 24 Ways to Reuse Old Sweaters
Old t-shirts are great for crafting, even ones that are beyond wearability. That Def Leppard tee with a stain and a hole in it might not be wearable, but there’s lots of fabric that you can harvest from it, rather than tossing it in the trash.
Sewing with T-Shirt Fabric
T-shirts are made from jersey fabric – a stretchy, knit material. The knit can be a combination of cotton, polyester, lycra, or a myriad of other fabrics, but the results are all pretty similar.
Jersey’s stretch and knit give it some unique properties. Because it’s knit, rather than woven, it won’t unravel over time, even if you skip the hemming. What will happen with un-hemmed jersey is a bit of curling. How much your unhemmed edges will curl depends on the makeup of the fabric and how much you use it.
That curl can work to your advantage, too! You’ll see how in a couple of the tutorial ideas on the next page.
You also use different tools to sew jersey. Don’t worry – you don’t need a whole new sewing machine, but you would be best off swapping out your needle for one for a ballpoint needle. A standard sewing needle can snag the fabric, causing it to jam your machine or even to develop a run, and that blunter ballpoint helps avoid those problems.
The stretchiness of jersey is great in a final product, but while you’re sewing it can be tricky. There are a couple of solutions here. You can try using your machine’s walking foot, which helps feed the top and bottom fabric at the same time so you get an even stitch. Sometimes it can help to put a piece of very thin paper, like tissue paper, under the farbic while you sew to help it feed evenly through your machine.
When sewing jersey, you want to use a zig zag stitch, because the stitch will allow the fabric a little give, where if you pull on the fabric with a straight stitch, your stitching might break. There’s also the “stretch while you sew” method, where you can use a regular straight stitch, but you stretch the fabric as you feed it through the machine, so the stitches won’t break. This takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s great!
Don’t let all of this scare you off! The best way to get better at working with jersey fabric is to….work with jersey fabric! And what better opportunity to practice than with some old t-shirts that you weren’t planning to keep anyway!
We also have plenty of no-sew projects on this list, so you can start with those, if you want, to get a feel for how the fabric behaves.
Ready to do some t-shirt crafts? Check out these fun ways to reuse old t-shirts on the next page!
Image Credit: Remixed Creative Commons photo by Dano