Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tees to Tote Tutorial

I rarely wear T-shirts. In fact, a close friend first saw me in a tee after knowing me for over three years and commented on how surprised she was. I was in the midst of moving so a tee was definitely called for.

Whether you wear tees or not, everyone has a few novelty T-shirts that don't see the light of day often enough. So what's a Qutie to do? Turn tees into totes, of course.

There are many ways to make a bag from a tee, but I created this style to preserve the graphic and show it off when the bag is being carried. Some shortcut options are offered below to make this project faster.

Other fun ways to personalize this project are to use a button down shirt or jacket instead of T-shirts, and a belt or wide ribbon instead of the sewn strap extension. You're only limited by what's in your wardrobe (or the local thrift store)!

I'm an intermediate-advanced sewer and this took me 2 1/2 hours. Click here to help you if you have no idea where to start, or just Google for help. My seam allowances were about 3/8-1/2".
Sewing knits can be tricky, especially for a beginner sewer. Use a ballpoint needle (or universal if you don't have a ballpoint). Practice on scraps of fabric, like the cut off arms. Use stitches that allow some stretch. There's a good article

Nitty Gritty
  • Two T-shirts of  the same or close to the same size
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine & bobbin (you can hand sew, of course, but this will be quite tedious)
  • Ball point pins and pin cushion
  • Scissors
  • Optional:  rotary cutting mat, guide, and cutter to make long cuts easier and cleaner and ironing board and iron for pressing seams.
  1. Cut the arms and neck off your tees.
  2. Turn one tee inside out and slip over the other tee so that one is inside the other (right sides facing each other).
  3. Trim arm and neck holes as shown.
  4. Pin tees together at the neck hole. I'm not sure if this is self-explanatory; you will be sewing through two layers of fabric, not all four. If it doesn't make sense just ask questions in the comments or email me at :-)
  5. Sew around the neck hole, removing pins. Use an edge binding and seaming stretch stitch.
  6. Turn tees right side out and press around new neck hole seam. Pressing will give your finished project a much crisper, more professional look.
  7. Choose which side you think will be the outside the most often. This bag is reversible, but one side will be more "deconstructed" looking.
  8. Fold under about 1 cm around armholes and pin. Another option is to skip folding and just stitch around the edge. You could also use bias tape if you like, but I didn't want to buy any extra supplies for this project.
  9. Sew around armholes. Use a straight stretch stitch.
  10. Turn inside out (the "lining" inside is now on the outside).
  11. Cut off the bottoms of your shirts. I cut off about 5 inches,
    but this will vary depending on how long your shirts are. If you're going on to step 15, be sure to leave yourself enough fabric for the strap extension. Mine was three inches wide.
  12. Pin and sew across the bottom of the shirts through all four layers. Use a straight stretch stitch. If this bag will see heavy use, you may want to sew a second seam 1/4" up.
  13. Trim a bit off the corners in the seam allowance, being careful not to cut into your stitches.
  14. Turn and press. YOU CAN STOP HERE! Yay, you have a cute shoulder tote! If, like me, you want to show off the graphic more, keep going.
  15. Take the cut off strips from step 11. Cut each piece in one place
    (at the seam if your shirts have side seams) so you have two long strips.
  16. Lay strips right side together, and line up the hemmed edges neatly.
  17. Cut so the strips are 3" wide.
  18. Pin and sew along the unhemmed edge. Use a straight stretch stitch.
  19. Open and press.
  20. Fold along the hem you just sewed, wrong sides together. Press.
  21. Pin along the prehemmed edges, lining them up neatly.
  22. Sew along the prehemmed edges. Use a straight stretch stitch.
  23. You're ready to add your strap extension to the bag. Thread it through the armholes and pin ends together, being careful not to twist the strap.
  24. Sew strap extension ends together using a regular straight stitch. Press the seam allowance to one side and stitch down.
  25. The strap is reversible at the point, but very loose and twisty. I sewed it together in the middle.
  27. I wanted to add a bit of reinforcement to the bottom, so I folded
    up the corners and stitched them down with a triangle shaped seam. Stitch through the folded up bit and the sides, not the bottom.
  28. Now you are REALLY done with all steps. Stand back and admire, or better yet, head out to the farmer's market.
A few more pics are available here to help you out.

Thanks for stopping by and keep living the qute life!
~Susie Qute

It's reversible!

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