Skip to content

T(reasured) Shirt


So, you all remember my little Tanzanian adventure, right?

I’m slowly working my way through my few souvenirs, to make them fit my life better.  One of the select few extras I brought back was my team t-shirt. I wore it every night, to bum around camp and to sleep, and it was quite worn and beaten and loved by the time it got home.

It was also a men’s large.  Men’s larges do not fit me.  For example (and apologies for the blurry picture- I didn’t take before pictures, thinking “Oh, I wore it every night at camp!  There has to be tons of pictures of me in that shirt!”  Turns out this was the only one.):



Blurry as it may be, I’m clearly swimming in the thing.  But it had vast sentimental value.  What’s a girl to do?



For reference, here’s Jafari in his.  As a side note, I spent this particular day in the back of the support vehicle trying not to vomit up the huge dose of malarone I had choked down that morning.  Fun times.


Once I got home my ill-fitting team shirt it suffered much the same fate as the fabric that went into this skirt: folded away in a closet until I could figure up what to do with it.  I knew I should re-sew it and yet was scared that I would destroy it.  What if I made this relic of a grand adventure  unwearable?   What if I reduced it from souvenier to scraps?


Apparently, I can get emotional and dramatic over t-shirts.  Who knew? This week I finally got up the courage to pull it out again… and then stared at it for a hour, scissors in hand, as I built up the will to actually cut into the thing. What eventually got me cutting was this thought: “what’s the point of letting it take up space if I don’t wear it?”  I think it’s a very valid question, and so I began to try and make my beloved t-shirt wearable.


I think I succeeded.



I began with a pattern I’ve used before (indeed, one I’ve used to reconstruct a shirt before), McCalls M4872.   I did manage to make a few alterations to the basic pattern.



For one, I added the side panels- which completely threw off sewing on the sleeves.  See, these sleeves are raglan , and usually when sewing ranglan sleeves you stitch them to the shirt’s front and back at the shoulder seams, then run a single seam all the way up the arm and down the side of the body all at once.  Alas, the panels turned one side seam on the body into two.  As such, I abandonded the pattern instructions oh, one or two steps in and didn’t pick them up again until I hit the neckband.


Here’s the thing about those side panels, though: most men’s t-shirts aren’t actually that stretchy.  Adding some stretchy fabric into the mix (in this case, a yellow microrib from Really helps with the whole “comfortable curve hugging” thing, and is certainly worth it if you don’t want your shirt to have much positive ease… even if you do have to ignore the pattern instructions for a while.



There’s one last problem.




Taking a shirt on a 900 mile journey across a foreign country tends to do damage.  There are stains, in crucial enough locations that I couldn’t sew around them.  They may not be all too visible in the pictures (bwa ha ha GIMP powers activate!), but, as I humbly submit above, they are there.  Suggestions?  What would you do for two-year-old plus set-in dirt stains?

I suspect the final answer may be “live with them”, but I can hope. Perhaps there’s a miracle up the internet’s collective sleeves.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. 01/13/2011 8:35 PM

    The shirt looks awesome!
    As for the stains, I think I would embrace them (they are part of the shirt’s history).
    But if you really can’t stand them, maybe some creative appliqué or printing could fix the problem.

    • 01/23/2011 1:27 PM

      I’m kind of leaning towards “embrace them” as well, except that, to absolutely everyone else, it’ll just look like I’m a sloppy dresser. If people went around going “Where did you get that fascinating stain?” it might be different.

      I may just keep ’em anyway.

  2. 01/13/2011 9:52 PM

    I hope you believe that imitation is the best form of flattery because I am going to have to make a shirt just like that. I am not big on refashioning but I love what you did with your beloved t-shirt. I have a few that don’t fit, but I just can’t quit. So they will be renewed via your inspiring refashion.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Oh, about the stains, oxyclean seems to get everything out so maybe spot clean the area by scrubbing in oxyclean and letting it soak. good luck!

    • 01/23/2011 1:29 PM

      Alas, oxyclean has failed me so far, though I’m intrigued by the gel stick they’re advertising nowadays.

      It’s basically red dirt, which is actually used as a dye sometimes, so I don’t have a lot of hope.

      I can’t wait to see what you make!

  3. 01/14/2011 12:57 AM

    Oxyclean. If Oxyclean doesn’t get it out it’s not going to come out. Dampen the stain, take a little bit of oxyclean on a toothbrush and scrub. Let it sit for a few hours. Then either soak it in hot water (with a 3-4 tbs of Oxyclean added) or run it through the washing machine on hot. If you use the machine, use a big scoop of Oxyclean.

    Seriously this stuff has gotten dirt, grease, grass, and blood stains out of my clothing.

    If the stain doesn’t come out, you could do some type of embroidery over it.

    • 01/23/2011 1:38 PM

      I’ve tried oxyclean, but not with such specific instructions. I’ll have to try it again! Thanks!

  4. 01/14/2011 7:07 AM

    Oxyclean is great for organic stains. If it has any grease or fat of any kind in it, though, that’s not something Oxyxlean would be able to handle and you’d need a de-greaser first. Dishsoap usually works as a degreaser, but since it’s set for a while I’d personally try something like Greased Lightning or something that would be used in a commercial kitchen. My great-grandmother swears by a certain powdered dishwasher detergent for stain removal of all sorts. I don’t remember what brand it is, but she’s a whiz at removing all sorts of stuff so maybe she’s on to something.
    Awesome refashioning. I have a long sleeved tee from my high school jazz band’s trip to Denmark that I can’t fathom getting rid of but haven’t quite figured out what to do with yet and while I don’t think this would the right treatment for it, yours is still pretty sweet.

    • 01/23/2011 1:31 PM

      I’ll have to try that- oxyclean has failed me thusfar, though I haven’t gone through quite as rigorous a procedure as described above.

      Thank you re: the shirt comment! I’m very happy that it’s more wearable now.

  5. 01/14/2011 9:18 AM

    Embroidery over the stain?

    • 01/23/2011 1:32 PM

      That could be fun to try! I’ve failed at embroidering on knits thusfar (yes, even with stabilizer- I must be doing something wrong), but like I mentioned above, men’s shirts tend to be of a much less stretchy knit.

  6. 01/14/2011 11:32 AM

    I have the same attachments to many of my t-shirts. My husband keeps telling me to throw them away or use them as rags but I simply can’t!

    • 01/23/2011 1:33 PM

      Make them into something new and he won’t have any place to complain. :)

  7. 01/14/2011 12:21 PM

    That is a marvelous t-shirt mod- it’s very edgy and sleek.

  8. Erin permalink
    01/14/2011 4:37 PM

    You could try a bleach pen and then very carefully rinse it so it doesn’t get on the yellow part. You’d have to hand wash it right after, but once all the bleach is out it should be ok

    • 01/23/2011 1:33 PM

      Ooo, that’s an interesting idea. I’ll put it on the list.

  9. Elizabeth Korsmo permalink
    01/17/2011 8:58 AM

    For a last ditch on stains that nothing else works for…I love Folex instant carpet spot remover. It’s miraculous. Seriously. I spilled a whole iced tea on white carpet and it came outwith very little work. This stuff is the deal. If it doesn’t work on the shirt, it won’t hurt it either (like bleach which can make the fibers brittle and makes them rough) and you’ve got an awesome stain remover around the house.

    • 01/23/2011 1:33 PM

      Never heard of it. Will obtain some for experimentation. Thank you!

  10. Elizabeth Korsmo permalink
    01/17/2011 9:02 AM

    Should have added this before- what about a related travel photograph (either one you took or one you find online) transferred to fabric and sewn or ironed on? I’m picturing those stickers that people used to put on suitcases during the golden age of travel touting landmarks, travel tickets, passport stamps, airmail stamps and hotels. Like maybe an enlarged picture of a gorgeous stamp from the country you loved the best on the expedition?

    • 01/23/2011 1:34 PM

      I’ve always wanted to make a skirt like that. I hadn’t considered it for this shirt- thanks!

  11. 01/19/2011 6:49 PM

    Get some fabric dyes, and a paint brush.
    Tape that section of the shirt to a hard background, not stretched, but firm and decorate it with color or theme that reminds you of the journey.

    • 01/23/2011 1:38 PM

      I should paint a mosquito on, in memory of my other, erm, “souvenir”.

  12. sognograndi permalink
    01/22/2011 3:33 PM

    Will you post that as a tutorial someday? I love this reconstruction!

    • 01/23/2011 1:37 PM

      I actually used a commercial pattern, and just used the shirt like I would any other fabric. I may write a tutorial to that basic method soon (though it’s not exactly hard, there are a few things I could share to make cutting a t-shirt up with a commercial pattern easier, I think), but probably not for this specific shirt. Still, it would certainly apply- just get yourself a copy of McCalls M4872 (etsy or ebay would probably be your best shots- I believe the original pattern is out of print).

  13. Kirby permalink
    02/01/2011 10:12 PM

    I think the stain adds character! Also you have inspired me to reconstruct a few of my own shirts that I do not wear! except I can’t afford the pattern (poor college kid lol ; ) !) But oh well you can only learn from your mistakes!!!


  1. Here We Go Now: Reconstruction Month « Corvus tristis: Science, Craft and an Odd Bird

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: