The Great Shirt Project, continued…

Suddenly I seem to have some time to myself again. I could, maybe even should, spend it catching up with 30-odd years of neglected housework. Or there again, I could do something creative…

Creativity wins hands down! I went down to the recycling warehouse, thinking I quite fancied making a Japanese-style padded jacket out of old shirts, in the spirit of make-do-and-mend (see also my “Great Shirt Project“) to keep me warm around the house this winter, as the heating will only be on for a short time each morning & evening to keep the house from becoming damp, thanks to the enormous rise in fuel costs. I was rootling through the bins full of discarded clothing when a piece of red chintz quite literally bit me; it was an old curtain pelmet, complete with tacks still in place, as my poor scratched hand can testify. Underneath it I found another piece of pelmet, and two cut-off curtain ends, each about 18″/45cm by 6’/180cm. These had clearly been part of beautifully-hand-made and very expensive interlined curtains, probably in the 1970s; the cotton “bump” interlining was exactly what I needed for my jacket padding. But the chintz also spoke to me, and has ended up being the jacket lining & details, such as the cuffs, belt (I know, not in the original!) and pockets.

It wasn’t difficult to make; there’s no tailoring involved. I kind of followed the “Hanten Jacket” pattern from Susan Briscoe’s inspiring The Book Of Boro, but the cotton bump was lightly stitched into the curtain ends & pelmets, so I left it that way and just stitched the pieced-shirt outer onto it. The thread came from my existing stash. Flattering it isn’t, and it’s a bit big for me, but warm it most certainly is & I’ll be very happy to wear it around the place, at the cost of something around ¬£3; 50p each for 5 shirts and another 50p for the curtain bits, and there are still plenty of oddments to use up. Now I know it’s not hard, I’m planning at least one more, from an old linen curtain, a cotton duvet cover for the lining, and a lightweight blanket as padding, which I’d picked up intending to sell on, before I noticed the stained fringe. I could just have cut that off & sold it anyway, but it’ll make great padding that I’d otherwise have to pay for!

The finished article, made entirely from “thrifted” bits for very little money!

Now I’ve started, there are at least 20 more ideas for creative recycling projects jostling for space in my head. Not to mention other simple ways to add to our comfort this winter, with fuel prices through the roof. Though we do now have double-glazing, some of our curtains aren’t lined; now there’s another use for redundant sheets and duvet covers! So the poor neglected house may get a look-in and a spruce-up too. Watch this space…

The Great Shirt Project strikes again…

For several years now, I’ve been working on a one-woman challenge: to find as many uses for old shirts as I can! Every quilter knows there’s a whole lot of good, still-useful fabric in a decent gent’s shirt, often in lovely colours and nicely understated patterns, and so many of them just get chucked away when something frays, or a button falls off, or the owner gets larger or just goes off that colour. I’ve been paying 50p for superb quality cotton or linen shirts down at the recycler’s warehouse-shop, chopping them up and using the fabric in little quilts, and weaving the side-seams into bags and rugs, and making hanging “pockets”, needle books, mending kits and laptop covers, to name just a few of the ideas that have occurred to me. A few of the resulting items have even been sold.

Yesterday I experimented with some cuffs; I’ve been steadily selling lavender hearts made from the embroidered bits of old stained table linen, but they are delightfully feminine when all’s said & done. I wanted to make something that a guy would be happy to hang in his wardrobe to make his clothes smell fresh & deter moths, too. So now I’ve invented the Lavender Cuff! Time will tell whether anyone will ever actually buy one, but it’s got to be worth a try…

Lavender-stuffed cuffs!

But the thing that I really, really wanted to make was a hat. It struck me some time ago that the stiffened bits of a formal shirt, i.e. the collars and cuffs, would be ideal for making a hat, if I could just get them joined together somehow. But before I had my big Pfaff machine serviced, all my attempts came to nothing; I broke a number of needles and wrecked several collars trying. It could always have been done by hand, but that might have taken rather a long time, so it didn’t happen.

Anyway, I tried again yesterday, and to my delight & surprise, I succeeded. The machine ran perfectly, I squared the collars & cuffs off to make even joins, and found an elegantly simple pattern to try (pattern & instructions here) and – it worked! I am now the proud possessor of a shirt-collar-and-cuff hat… This one’s a bit big; I made the bigger size because lots of hats feel too tight for me, so there’s another, slightly smaller, version in the making, but I’m actually really rather proud of it and will certainly wear it!

Collar-and-cuff hat!