While I was cleaning out my closet a few weeks ago, I found an old brown paper grocery bag with the words, “Clothes of sentimental value! DO NOT THROW AWAY!” scribbled on the outside in black marker. Inside were more than a dozen t-shirts and items that I’d saved throughout my life, and I was hoping to protect them from my mom’s purging habits with the scribbled warning. As I looked through the old t-shirts, ranging from elementary sports to high school plays, I was inspired to make them in to something special and wearable.
Having seen so many cool scarf ideas through our Me, My Scarf & I contest, I realized just what I could do with the shirts, and set about fashioning them into a Texas weather-appropriate scarf. I started by taking a couple of scarves I already had so I could take notes on their measurements. I decided to cut 11-inch panels from each shirt and use half inch seam allowance to result in a 10-inch wide scarf (I like big scarfs, and I cannot lie). I also like long scarves that are meant to be doubled up and looped through themselves, which worked perfectly for how many t-shirts I had.
I created an 11-inch square template and cut panels out of the front and backs of the shirts. From there, I pinned the panels right sides together and sewed across their widths to attach them in a patchwork fashion. I did the same with the panels from the backs of the shirts to create the backside of the scarf (I alternated the pattern of the shirt fabric from the front to the back so I didn’t have to worry so much about things matching up perfectly). From there, I stitched the scarf right sides together, leaving an opening on one end for turning. I then turned the scarf right side out and edgestitched the entire thing, closing the opening on the end.
The scarf is big, unruly and imperfect – just like me. I love it! My childhood Incredible Hulk piggy bank served as a nice model for me this morning, since I couldn’t get a good picture of myself in the scarf. My one complaint is that the Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt that ended up right at the nape of my neck is very stiff and hard to work in to a comfortable position. It’s the only shirt with a large, heavy print, and if I’d just moved its placement one or two spots, this would be a non-issue. Live and learn!
I was tweeting as I cut the shirts to make this scarf, and put the question out: Do I cut up my Space Camp t-shirt? The shirt is more than 20 years old, and is one of my prized possessions. Overwhelmingly, folks voted to spare the shirt, which I did. I have plans to stretch it and hang it in my office.
Here’s the low-down on the shirts I included. With the exception of a representation of my space geek influence, it’s a pretty fair picture of my personality and experiences! Now if it will just get cold enough here in Austin to wear it ….
Top L to R:
Makezine Permission to Play shirt One of my favorite Makezine slogans!
My T-Rex t-shirt that I wore all through high school and college, to the point of it almost disintegrating. I love dinosaurs!
Vintage San Angelo Standard-Times “Best News Running” T-shirt My father was the publisher of our hometown newspaper when I was a kid. This was the place where I developed my love of journalism and the smell of ink.
Les Miserable t-shirt from a trip to Toronto. I love visiting Canada, and I loved this play!
My high school newspaper staff t-shirt that reads, “The Power of the Pen” I was the editor of my high school newspaper, and this was one of my favorite shirts. I thought I was so cool (very Andrea Zuckerman)
My Clinton-Gore election t-shirt that I wore on the night of the election. I worked at the city newspaper that night, running returns from the library to the newsroom. Such fun!
My Fiddler on the Roof high school theater t-shirt. I was also a big drama nerd in high school, and Fiddler on the Roof was a major production we did. It was loads of fun.
My Obama hand screen printed shirt from my pal Sarah in Portland.
My New York Yankees t-shirt from my 3rd grade little league team. I played left field, where I would spit and pick weeds and never see a hit.
My Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt from a concert at Southpark Meadows here in Austin. I found a twenty dollar bill on the ground and bought this shirt.
My Tiny Scarecrow “Nobody Panic” t-shirt. I did some marketing and PR work for The Biscuit Brothers, an Austin-based children’s duo and television show. It’s a brilliant show, and the guys are sweethearts. Tiny Scarecrow is one of my favorite characters ever.

  • Kate

    I have a stash of old concert t-shirts that I cut up in hopes of some day making a quilt. Well, I’ve hauled them 1500 miles from MN to OR…and they’ve waited quietly from move to move…only to find that I don’t even know how to quilt! This is a great idea! AND a little less intimidating than my first ever quilt! :o) Thanks so much for sharing! I’ll post a pic when I get around to making a scarf! Thanks again!

  • Becca

    Love this idea. I have way too many t-shirts that I don’t wear stuffed in my closet. But, I also have a Huntsville Space Camp shirt too! :)

  • Bruce

    this is a great idea, love how it turned out!

  • hzleyes62

    I wish I would have thought about this for my kids and all of their t-shirts and football jerseys. BRILLIANT!

  • StephMac

    The hulk maquette drew me in… It’s very fun! Then the picture of the Space Camp shirt… I always wanted to go to Space Camp. Then I see that you live in Texas too… so I keep reading… San Angelo? I was born in San Angelo and lived there for a few years and I was in the newspaper that your dad published a few times.
    Small World.

  • Shawn Connally

    Crafty projects that bring out the personality of the maker and hold lots of sentimental value to the crafter herself or himself are my fave. This is what crafting is all about!

  • Megnificent Made

    I have a similar collection of t-shirts. I used to run a company that collected t-shirts from interesting destinations all over the US and Ive got such a pile of my favorites that I can’t bare to give away. Thanks for the great idea!

  • Natalie Zee Drieu

    I love all the stories you have for each t-shirt!

  • Cisco

    I’ve always wondered what to do with all those theater shirts. I saw the Fiddler shirt and thought to myself, “She couldn’t have gone to Central? Could she?” Nice to see another one of Mrs. Watt’s kids making it in the world.

  • Rachel Hobson

    Thanks for all the wonderful comments, guys! I really appreciate them! This was a fun project, and a fun way to walk down memory lane. :)
    @Kate – yes, this is super easy and very doable. It’s just lots of cutting and straight line sewing (and not cursing too much at sewing knit … ;)
    @Becca – No way! When did you go to Space Camp!? I wish I could connect with more Space Campers. :)
    @StephMac – You’re kidding!? When did you live in San Angelo!? I was there from ’82 – ’93, then back after college from ’97 – ‘2004.
    @Shawn @Nat – thanks, ladies. This was a fun one! I’m glad I had the scarf contest to inspire me! :)
    @Cisco – CISCO!? The Cisco!? No way! Email me! Crazy small world! :)
    What fun! Thanks, y’all! :)

  • szeplany

    this is a such a great idea.
    take good care of it.

  • Heather – Dollar Store Crafts

    I love how it turned out! Your collection of t-shirts is great, too! :)

  • Edelweiss

    This is a great idea. and now I am regretting throwing out that old lobster t-shirt from Maine and the creative Philly t-shirt that was so well-loved and well-worn. Well, it will do for the next batch of t-shirts, I’ll console myself that way.

  • Britta

    I love the idea! I have a tshirt quilting company ( http://www.myqueenbquilts.com ) but I think I might have to make one of these scarfs for myself! Thanks for the idea. :)

  • Pam

    A friends daughter ran track in high school and she had lots of t-shirts from the many events she ran in.
    Her mom made a quilt out of them….it was very cute
    and brought back many memories.
    Pam, South Bend

  • Doggy Dessert Chef

    I’ve made tons of quilts but I still had a bunch of shirts I wanted to do something with and this is a perfect idea, and if I get started now I could have it ready to use in no time, I better get sewing!

  • rindigo

    I could have written the last post. I really want to quilt too, but my sewing skills are not up to the task. This seems much more friendly. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Sandra

    That’s a fantastic idea. I’m trying to clean out some of my old clothing and found a similar stash of favorite Ts. Some I’m making into shopping bags, but I think my favorites might go this way, though I worry some the designs might be too wide.
    And I’m a New Englander, so I don’t have to worry about it getting cold enough!

  • Betty

    This is an awesome idea. I’ve been working with t shirts lately and also have a lot I don’t want to part with. Thanks to you, now I don’t have to. AWESOME!

  • http://sayitwithlove.blogspot.com Angela

    Great idea! What did you use for the backing of the scarf?

  • http://serendipiteeblog.wordpress.com Tee

    What a great idea! I wish I could create a business that creates upcycled fashion.

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  • horseradish

    throw the clinton-gore BO in the rubbish
    wouldn’t wear this to a dogfight

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  • Nickycarp

    Fantastic! I’m going to do this for my children. I had planned quilts but secretly knew i would probably never get them done (4 kids). But this will be great because they can display it in a college dorm someday or wear it, like you. Lovely idea! Thanks! Yours came out great!

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