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DIY: 5 No-Sew Tshirt Alterations

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When I first started writing this column – two years ago! – I promised myself that I would only do it as long as it stayed fun. I figured at some point, I would run out of awesome DIY projects and ideas, but I’ve written almost 100 posts now on projects from infused vodka to post-in note art and not only am I still having a blast, but I’ve still got a plethora of bad-ass crafty ideas I want to share with you.

In fact, I’ve been purposefully sitting on this one for a while, because although it’s one of my favorite craft categories, it is also a Pandora’s freakin’ Box of thousands of ideas exploding all across the internet. There are, in short, a bloody million different ways to DIY a tshirt – it’s probably one of the first things anyone ever tries to creatively alter. Tshirts are the very soul of DIY; after all where would a million punk bands be without screen printed merch shirts? Who would make my “I heart Jake Ryan” tshirt if there were no BangOn?

However, the rabbit hole that is tshirt alteration goes way deeper than that, so in order to pare it down some, we’re going to start sweet and simple so even if you’re drunk, lazy or not at all crafty, you can get down. And if you have an idea you want me to include, give a holler.

Paint It: Don’t hesitate to just graffiti the heck outta your T, stencils work really nicely here. Just use sparingly, in small areas of fabric and be sure to air it out for a good long while. Or, do the reverse and block out stripes, shapes, or letters using tape and bleach. That will also probably need to be aired out.

Convert It: Perhaps this particular piece of fabric no longer works as a tshirt for you. Fine. Grab scissors, cut off the hem and slice 1.5 inch horizontal strips all the way up to the armpit. Then grab strips, stretch them out to curl and twist into an awesome string scarf. There are alternate ways to do this with more intricate knotting, a fringe version, or a super-quick tube scarf. Also super quick is this two-step tshirt to grocery bag tutorial (sew at the hem, cut at the arm and neck holes).

Cut It: Still got those scissors? Cool. You’re gonna need ’em to cut out giant skulls and his-and-hers hearts. Just slide cardboard under your T, trace any design or shape on the fabric and cut away. (An x-acto blade works well for fine detail work). And, if you cut it and %^&* it up, you can just:

Tie It: You can weave a neat corset shape out from strips cut into a T, or you can slice and tie all along the back in a few different ways. There are some great ideas here, or at Generation T (one of my favorite craft books). If you can stomach it, there are some videos of an Ed Hardy designer deconstructing some Ts. Or you can just tie up the tops and sides to make an easy old school punker tank. Add ribbon on the sides for extra credit.


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Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

A freelance writer, blogger and poet based in San Francisco, Amber has written for PC World, InfoWorld, and the 16th & Mission Review. She has performed at City Hall, Litquake, the Brainwash, 16th & Mission, BlueSix, and SFSU among other places. Amber is also consummate fan of swearing, organizational freak, yoga practitioner, music geek, caffeine addict, and tattoo enthusiast who enjoys platform shoes, making out, thumb wrestling and fighting the good fight. She owns a bicycle named Gretel, a motor scooter named Elroy and a cat named Simon. She can be found in various virtual locations all over your interwebs.