Make your very own Pieces of My Heart Tee!

pieces of my heart tee refashionI must warn you…this tutorial is packed FULL of images! This shirt was created by refashioning a super soft v-neck tee from Old Navy. It was the hub’s, but he never wore it, and it was basically brand stinkin’ new, so I felt the need to show the shirt some love. Hubs, however, didn’t feel quite as big of a need. (You should’ve seen his face when he walked into the room with his cut up shirt laying on the floor!) Ha! Luckily for me, he’s more for appeasing my creativity need than hoarding huge stashes of clothes in his closet that never see the light of day. Seriously. He has more clothes than me…by at least three times. Sheesh. Anywho, if you’d like to make your own version of my Pieces of My Heart Tee, here’s what you’ll need:

  1. old t-shirt large enough to cut out your pattern (I used an XL for a girl’s size 7 shirt)
  2. printed image of heart shape in the size you’d like (I chose mine from MS Word clip art)
  3. knit fabric in contrasting color for neck binding (cut on bias, 1.5″ wide)
  4. knit fabric scraps 2″ wide and a few inches longer than the distance from left to right of your printed heart
  5. square of knit fabric large enough to cut out printed heart
  6. thread matching t-shirt color, and thread matching knit fabric for neck binding
  7. 1/4″ elastic
  8. sewing machine (no serger needed!)
  9. iron and starch (Yes, I press EVERYTHING when I sew. Makes it neater that way!)

Before you get started, click HERE to see what problems I ran across while trying to make this and how I remedied them (coming soon). Could be a huge time saver for you so you don’t repeat my mistakes! IMG_20140629_125145_184 Start with the t-shirt you are going to refashion. Cut all of the seams away to leave you with two pieces of fabric. This makes it sooo much easier to work with. It’s almost as if you are working with fabric you brought home from the store. IMG_20140629_130036_353 You’ll want to make your pattern next. I drafted mine from scratch so I can start to get the feel for it. However, I would recommend grabbing a shirt you already know fits well and use it as a starting point. Shwin&Shwin has a great tutorial on drafting a shirt pattern here. I did, however, attach the sleeves in my pattern to the bodice piece (testing things out to see what grants certain looks). You can do it either way for this project. I would say that the sleeves for this shirt need to be a bit longer than a standard tee for the ruching we’ll do later. Once you’ve drafted your pattern, fold your fabric pieces in half and get to cutting! IMG_20140629_132412_434   See how my sleeves are attached? If you read my Lessons Learned page (coming soon), you’d have also read that this was not the best route to go when deciding to add the ruching later. It would’ve been so much simpler with detached sleeves! Okay, now that you’ve got your basic shirt pattern cut out, find yourself (or make one of your own) a heart image and print it out. I found mine from MS Word’s clip art. Print out a few different sizes so that you can cut them out and place them on the shirt to find the size you truly want. Don’t forget that you’ll have a seam allowance to account for! Whatever size you chose for you seam allowance when drafting your shirt pattern will be taken from each side of the shirt. It may not seem like a whole lot, but even just a 1/2″ here and there ends up being a whole inch off the width, which can end up making your heart look too large once completed. So, factor in those seam allowances. Once you’ve got your heart shape and size, place the heart on top of your square of knit fabric and cut out the heart. IMG_20140628_203412_679Sew a zig-zag stitch around the outside edge of the heart (right side up) to essentially hem the heart. I used a 3.5 wide stitch and 2.0 long.IMG_20140628_204527_443 IMG_20140628_204501_978Now comes the part that you might feel like ignoring. Pressing/Ironing/Whatever You Wanna Call It! See, you’re probably moaning right now. But trust me, the more you press, the better your garment will be. It will look more professional, polished, and really takes away the “made at home” feel. I always hated any reason that made me get out the ironing board. Now, it makes me super happy because I know I’m doing something that will greatly alter the finished look. If you’re in the market for a great starch that doesn’t get those irritating flakes or makes everything feel like cardboard, try Mary Ellen’s Best Press. You can find it at any fabric store, and it works wonders! IMG_20140628_203910_161Another good thing I’ve found, especially when working with knits, is that when you starch and press them, they become so much easier to work with when going through the sewing machine. So, if you just skipped this step, go back and do it! I promise you’ll thank me later when you’re not digging your fabric out of your machine because it’s too flimsy. 😉 Starch and press each of your bodice pieces (and sleeve pieces if you made those separate). With right sides together, pin one of the shoulders (or in my case with the attached sleeves, the shoulder and sleeve). Also, pin down that same side (and the under side of the sleeve if yours is attached like mine). IMG_20140629_135741_051 When sewing with knits and not using a serger, I have found after research and personal use that the best stitch to use is this little lightning bolt looking one. I can’t tell you the technical name for it because, oddly enough, that is literally THE ONLY stitch not listed in my owner’s manual. But, this is what it looks like: IMG_20140628_194244_474 Using your seam allowance and this stitch, sew down the length of one shoulder, then the under side of the sleeve and down the side of the shirt where you’ve pinned. IMG_20140629_141154_899 When figuring out how long to make your binding when using knits, I’ve read the general rule of thumb is that it’s 70% of the length of space to cover. That being said, it all varies depending on how much stretch the particular fabric that you’re working with has. And since I’m mortal enemies with my seam ripper, I prefer to figure 80% and then just cut off the excess. So, measure the distance around the shirt’s neck hole. Multiply that by .8, and you’ll know how long your binding strip needs to be. I also round since I’m doing more than the 70%. So, if you get 22.2″, make it 22″ long. If you get 22.8″, make it 23″. Make sense? Either way, you’ll have a bit of excess to cut off at the end. So don’t sweat it too much. After cutting your binding strip (1.5″ wide by whatever length you calculated), pin it right sides together to the neck line of your shirt, starting with one of the sides that isn’t sewn together. Don’t know how to tell right from wrong on a jersey knit? Here’s an example for you: IMG_20140629_144024_337 Notice how the right side has distinct, clean lines? That’s what you need to look for if you’re sewing with a jersey knit. I only put two pins in to get me going because you have to stretch your binding fabric the whole way through, otherwise it won’t fit over the head once you’re done. IMG_20140629_144547_792 Using your lightning bolt stitch, and stretching the binding the entire time, attach your binding to your neckline using your seam allowance. Make sure you ONLY STRETCH YOUR BINDING. Do NOT stretch your shirt fabric. IMG_20140629_145443_826         Now, your favorite part…press your seam open from the right side of the fabric. When you’re done, it should look like this from the front: IMG_20140629_145930_666 And like this from the back: IMG_20140629_145905_709 Folding your binding over to the back, pin to sew. I don’t measure during this part to ensure my binding is even all the way around. I line up my binding with the seam on the back. This works fine if you make sure that your first seam attaching the binding is straight. However, you can also measure to ensure an even neck line. IMG_20140629_150413_634 Now here’s where my neckline tends to differ from most. There is a method called “stitch in the ditch”, and this is what you would want to use for that bought from the store look on the inside of the shirt. I’ll show you how to stitch in the ditch at a later time. But for today, we’re gonna do it my way. 😉 I like to call the stitch I use for this part the triple zig-zag. It looks just like a zig-zag, only each stitch is gone over three times, so it makes for a much thicker looking stitch, and therefor, a bit more decorative. My width is set to 5.0 and my length to 2.5. IMG_20140629_150805_887 Center your binding under your needle, fabric right side up. IMG_20140629_150913_577   We’re going to do a decorative top-stitch. I used the same color thread as my binding fabric, but you can use whatever color you want. Top-stitch this onto your neck binding. Stretch gently as you do this. IMG_20140629_151138_909 IMG_20140629_151430_393 See that little extra we have there at the end? Go ahead and cut that off now. 😉 If you want to add your own personalized tag, you can do that now. This is the tag of my recently released clothing line “puddles and freckles”. Take a peek at that here. IMG_20140629_154547_165   Next, cut your fabric scrap strips. Each piece should be 2″ wide. Cut them a few inches longer than your heart is from left to right to give some extra wiggle room. Base how many total strips you need on the height of your heart. (My heart was 7″ tall. Once folded in half and sewn, the strips will be just under an inch wide, therefor I needed 7 strips.) IMG_20140628_185212_401Starch and press. Fold each strip in half, right sides together, and pin. IMG_20140628_185427_512Sew down the length of each of your strips of fabric, staying very close to the edge. Always make sure to lock in your stitch at the beginning and end. IMG_20140628_185728_644 If you have any problems with your fabric strips getting jammed up in your machine, a little trick that works is to stick a layer or two (I always use two just to be safe) of tissue paper between your fabric and the machine. Then, just pull it away from the fabric when finished, and it comes off nice and clean! It just acts as a stabilizer to add some sturdiness to the fabric. IMG_20140628_193743_368 See my glittery tissue paper I totally hijacked from my son’s birthday party gift bags (after his actual party, of course)? And I saved it just for times like this! Now, iron out your seams, and turn your strips right side out. Then, starch and press. Now for the fun part! Play around with your strips. Put them in order, then re-order them, and keep doing so until you find just what you’re looking for. It took me a few times to finally get it to look right for me. IMG_20140628_204840_955Place your heart on top of your strips and trace around the outside of the heart. Having a fabric marker at this point would be helpful. I used a pencil since I know it’ll come out in the wash.IMG_20140629_164435_325Cut out your heart shape about a 1/2″ outside of your traced lines. This will serve to have the frayed edges we’re looking for at the end. Trust me, you’ll see. IMG_20140629_165148_963Now, position your solid fabric heart where you want it on the front of the shirt. Pin, pin, pin! IMG_20140629_161216_745 Using matching thread, sew your lightning bolt stitch around the heart, staying as close to the edge as possible. You will sew over top of the zig-zag stitch. IMG_20140629_163209_465 Now, align your fabric scraps over top of the solid heart, pin away, and sew that same stitch around the entire piece attaching the strips to the heart as well as the shirt. Stitch right on top of the line you drew when tracing around the solid heart. IMG_20140629_173110_280 IMG_20140629_175010_723With right sides together, pin your other shoulder/underarm/side and sew just like you did on the other side. I decided to add some ruching to my sleeves since they weren’t quite working out to be what I had envisioned. It was my first time ever trying this method, and it took a few times of ripping out the seams, but it was fun to learn. It does take a bit of practice to get it right and to match on both sides, but it’s totally worth it. I can definitely see a lot of ruching in my future! (And hopefully, it will look better and better each time!) I did this to the inside of both sleeves on the top side and underneath side. Turn your shirt inside out. Take your 1/4″ elastic and pin it about 2/3 the way up your sleeve from the bottom. Do NOT cut your elastic. This will save you wasted elastic, and thus, frustration, later on. IMG_20140629_202720_132Using a zig-zag stitch (I set my width to 2.5 and my length to 2.0). Place two stitches in your elastic to hold it in place and back-stitch to lock it in. Make sure to try to keep your stitches a centered as possible. Go slow and take your time to make sure it’s done right. IMG_20140629_203250_528Gently pulling on the elastic as you sew, put your zig-zag stitch all the way to the end and then back-stitch. IMG_20140629_203631_946 If your ruching doesn’t look the way you want, simply rip the seam out and start over. Don’t cut your elastic until you are absolutely sure it’s done the way you want. Once you’ve finished the first piece, do the same to the other side. Then, repeat with the underarm sides. Now, you’ll have ruching done to four separate places! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!! Fold your sleeves under 1/4″, press, and fold under another 1/4″. Pin. (Sorry, of course from sheer excitement of near completion, I forgot to photograph this part.) Using your lightning bolt stitch, and thread that matches your neck binding, sew around the sleeve from the top side using an 1/8″ seam allowance. Make sure your stitches line up nicely as you come around to the beginning again so that when you lock in your final stitch, it blends in with the beginning stitch. IMG_20140715_184440_309 That lovely zig-zag with skipping stitches is for you to ignore. That’s featured over on the Lessons Learned post (coming soon). 😉 Repeat that hemming process with your other sleeve, and then do the same to the bottom of the shirt. Voila! You now have a Pieces of My Heart Tee of your very own making to share with someone that has pieces of your heart! pieces of my heart tee refashion3 I’d love to see your version of the Pieces of My Heart Tee! And if you have any questions, leave me a comment, and I’ll be glad to help!            


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