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Fit to be teed — salvage your favorite shirts

Most everyone has one – a favorite T-shirt. Maybe the color looks good on you, or it fits a little too well. Perhaps it’s got some quote or picture on it that serves as a window to your soul (or it is just really cool). Chances are, your favorite T-shirt is worn often and is now bordering on ratty, tattered, rundown. But, you’ve become too attached to the thing. You’re not ready to let go.

Fear not, you can save that oft worn article of clothing, and even reuse it, without dishonoring its legacy. Try one or more of these options and you and your T-shirt will have many more memories together.

Repair it. Most clothing repair involves sewing up a hole, seam or fray. In truth, unless your T-shirt was caught in some power equipment, you’ll need only a foot of thread and a needle and 15 minutes of your day. If a needle and thread scare you, grab an iron and material called fusible webbing. Instead of sewing, you iron the problem shut. If even this seems too complicated, try another solution or having someone knowledgeable in the sewing arts complete the task as you both watch “Full House” reruns.

Dye it. If this tee is looking dingy or faded, all it may need is a dye job. RIT dye comes in 35 colors, and since we’re talking about T-shirts, we’re talking about cotton – the easiest fabric to dye. All you need is a $2 bottle of dye, hot water and your shirt, and that favorite piece of clothing will lose that bottom-of-the-hamper look in favor of an off-the-rack one, in the time it takes to do a load of laundry.

Reposition it. After years of over-use, people are giving you a sorry look and offering you money whenever you wear your tee. Holes, frays and other battle scars are showing on your T-shirt. If mending is not possible, give your shirt new life as an undershirt. It may not be able to stand on its own, but under a cardigan, polo or button-down, your favorite shirt is still visible, but its imperfections are not. Problem solved.

Get crafty. Hobby and craft stores line their walls with buttons, patches, transfers, iron-ons, borders and paints to transform your T-shirt into a totally new creation. Such items can flatter what is there or hide something that shouldn’t be, and are easy to apply.

Salvage it. Think of your shirt as a car with many worthwhile parts and salvage what you can. For example, if it’s long sleeves, cut it down to short sleeves. Or, if the sleeves are going, lop them off and you’ve got a sleeveless tee. There’s also plenty of ways of altering your tee to give it a new neckline, seams, pockets, etc. – consult the nearest clothing store for inspiration.

Reuse it. Your T-shirt can enjoy a new life as a pillowcase. Turn the shirt inside out, and sew a straight line near the neckline, from arm to arm, and sew the arm holes shut too. Voila, you now have a RocaWear-like pillowcase. If you are ambitious, you can also make a drawstring bag from a T-shirt. Turn it inside out and sew the bottom and armholes closed. Get a nice piece of cord you like – as long as you want the strap to be – plus about 4 inches. Make a small incision into the neckline hem and insert the cord through it, putting more and more in until it comes full circle around the neck. Pull the cord tight, and you’ve just closed your new bag. For a simpler way to reuse your old favorite, cut around the picture or quote that made it so great, and sew it on to a new shirt, book bag, jacket, whatever. Frame the thing if you’re really nostalgic.

If you’re really sentimental, these options will prevent your lucky T-shirt into becoming a forgotten memory. And if you’re broke, you’ll save the cost of a new tee – in fact, these steps require little to no money. And of course, that venerable institution that is the favorite T-shirt will live to see another day.


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