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Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt

Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt

by Megan Nicolay

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Make it yours. This inspirational guide with DIY attitude has everything you need to know about the world’s great T-shirt: how to cut it, sew it, deconstruct it, reconstruct it, and best of all, transform it. • Features more than 100 projects (plus 200 variations) for customized tees, tank tops, tube tops, T-skirts—even handbags, a patchwork


Make it yours. This inspirational guide with DIY attitude has everything you need to know about the world’s great T-shirt: how to cut it, sew it, deconstruct it, reconstruct it, and best of all, transform it. • Features more than 100 projects (plus 200 variations) for customized tees, tank tops, tube tops, T-skirts—even handbags, a patchwork blanket, iPod cozies, leg warmers, and more. • Not a DIY expert? Not to worry. More than one third of the projects are no sew, meaning anyone who can wield a pair of scissors can put a personal stamp on her wardrobe. But the sewing basics are here too: backstitch and whipstitch, gather and ruche, appliqué and drawstrings. • And the mission statement for Generation T: Ask not what your T-shirt can do for you; ask what you can do for your T-shirt. And then Do-It-Yourself!

Editorial Reviews

Most of us regard old promotional T-shirts as embarrassing vestiges from our past; Megan Nicolay sees them as blank canvases beckoning to be filled. Ever since she was nine, this Pied Piper of do-it-yourself has been resurrecting giveaway shirts and transforming them into chic halters, tank tops, and peasant blouses, not to mention an occasional drawstring purse or wine bottle cozy. This thoroughly fun book teaches you to make more than 120 nifty, imaginative projects. A super idea for a group craft night.
Publishers Weekly
The scope of Nicolay's how-to book is broader than its title suggests. It's a breezy, trendy call of encouragement to a young crop of do-it-yourselfers, with enough ideas to inspire experienced crafty types, too. The T-shirt is the starting point; the 108 end results-many of which have an edgy, even punk-like feel (much like the projects in Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'n Bitch)-range from slightly modified tops requiring no sewing to much more intricate fashion products like the sexy "sidewinder" skirt and the two-piece "teeny bikini," with variations suggested for many projects. Offering celebrity tidbits ("In the 1950s and early '60s, James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presley delivered a triple dose of T-shirt sex appeal onscreen and onstage, turning the garment into an icon of rebellion") and "tee trivia," a condensed history uncovers one of the world's favorite pieces of clothing. The book starts with an introduction to design terms, tools, measurement, materials and stitches, making it accessible to beginners. And because the author-who got into transforming Ts by gathering friends and hosting "Brooklyn Tee Parties" to resuscitate old T-shirts-is budget-conscious (and so are all the projects in the book), anyone can afford to experiment with this kind of fashion design. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The t-shirt has not seen a revival like this since the birth of the baby tee. In Generation T, Nicolay inspires novice crafters, as well as the creative and crafty. She opens by discussing design terms, tools, measurement, materials, and stitches for those new to crafting. The seven chapters are organized by style, with easy to follow steps describing how to create each style. Sidebars, such as "Celebri-tee corner" and "tee-trivia," offer interesting insights on the cotton. An ingredients section lists the supplies needed, and each project is rated on how advanced it is. Because the book is budget conscious and one third of the designs are no-sew, anyone can be a designer. Projects include tanks, tubes and halters, a bikini for the bold and brave, and even a t-shirt wedding dress. Many variations are suggested and there are numerous projects explaining how to transform Ts into everyday objects: pillows, potholders, rugs and tablecloths, or hats, leg-warmers, and a t-blanket. While the styles are counterculture, they are overall a creative and great way to experiment when recycling old t-shirts. From the novice to the experienced, anyone can join Generation T. 2006, Workman Publishing Company, Ages 12 up.
—Elizabeth Sulock
Library Journal
Nicolay transformed her first T-shirt with batik at age nine and went on to turn this alternation of her favorite garment into a career. In this colorful manual, she includes illustrated step-by-step "recipes," many of which do not even require sewing machine know-how. With just scissors, a needle, thread, and (for some designs) safety pins, readers will learn how to cut, fold, sew, gather, embellish, disassemble, and reassemble second-hand T-shirts. And, yes, there are actually 108 designs, from simple earrings made from T-shirt scraps to a three-tiered "T-skirt" to the ultimate budget wedding gown constructed out of seven white tees for less than $40. Interspersed throughout the book are tidbits of T-shirt trivia and anecdotes about celebrities and their tees. An excellent choice for public library young adult collections. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.06(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)
Age Range:
11 - 15 Years

Read an Excerpt

Let’s get a few things straight. Getting crafty with Generation T does not mean adding glitter to every accessory. It does not mean “BeDazzling” everything from your calculator to your toothbrush or affixing pre-tied bows to your blazer. No adhesives (that includes hot glue guns). No puffy paint. You need scissors, needle and thread, safety pins, and sheer moxie.

Generation T is all-inclusive—if you wear T-shirts, you’re part of it. If you own a pair of scissors, you’re already equipped to make one-third of the projects in this book. The others that do require a needle and thread can be made entirely by hand, no sewing machine needed—though some projects will go a lot faster if you use one.

But before you slash, read this chapter. “Tee Off!” is your reference; it includes the materials and the basic stitches and sewing techniques you’ll need to make all the projects in the book. Refer back to it whenever you hit the proverbial snag or need a quick refresher course.

Finding Inspiration

Beyond the 108 projects and 175 variations offered here, you can find inspiration for DIY fashion everywhere. From an item on a store hanger, a friend’s closet, or the outfit of a complete stranger walking down the street (just don’t shadow the person for more than a block). Grab a piece of paper, a napkin, a receipt—whatever’s handy—and sketch it out to try later at home.

If you see something you like in a magazine or catalog, tear out the picture and copy the design. Chances are you can make it—or something better. Observe the world around you. I keep my sketch pad handy and scribble down design notes about outfits I see people wearing on the subway platform, on the crosswalk, at an outdoor café. At a punk rock show I snapped pictures of fans backstage.

Some of my designs come into my head in very abstract ways—a shape inspires me here, a color catches my eye there, and then the two meet. Let yourself be inspired by your surroundings. I was sitting in Washington Square Park one summer afternoon, eating my lunch and sketching pictures of the arch under construction. Several of those sketches, combined with some from my daily street fashion observations, inspired the Cover Girl halter top design in Chapter 4. The lesson here is: Keep your eyes peeled, and your sketch pad handy.

Gathering Supplies

Each project in Generation T is written like a recipe, starting with a list of ingredients (a.k.a. materials and supplies) and followed by the steps needed to create it. Basic ingredients include a T-shirt (bare minimum), scissors (almost always), needle and thread, straight pins, chalk, and a ruler.

T-Shirts You’ll need one or two T-shirts for most of the projects here. So where can you find them? My largest collection includes old softball uniforms, from Little League tees (a very hot commodity on the thrift store circuit) all the way up to high school summer softball tees. If you don’t have quite the stockpile that I have, fear not. T-shirts are everywhere. Scout around for promotional giveaways (good sources for clever slogans or, at the very least, exciting splashes of color) and credit card sign-ups (you can always cancel them). Root around in your own bottom drawers for bar mitzvah tees, travel souvenirs, and rock concert treasures. You can even rescue one of your dad’s old T-shirts before it’s reduced to a household cleaning rag (never thought you’d be raiding Dad’s closet, did you?). You’d be surprised at how many free tee opportunities there are out there. (If you opt for the thrift-store purchase, just make sure you wash the tee before you start slashing it.)

When you’re choosing a T-shirt to refashion, pay attention to the weight of the fabric, as well as its stretch and color. The weight depends on the material (is it 100% cotton? a 50/50 blend?). T-shirts made from blended fabrics are slightly lighter than all-cotton ones and will drape more elegantly (they’re also more susceptible to static cling). Despite being heavier, all-cotton fabric is more breathable— which is why we wear it on the hottest summer days. You can make any project out of just about any T-shirt, but keep in mind what you want the final outcome to look like and use your common sense. If a shirt is stiff and rigid to begin with, it’s not going to make the flounciest skirt. And the super-soft lived-in T-shirt will never regain its shape, so don’t expect a structured A-line skirt out of that one.

On to the subject of stretch. The beauty of jersey knit is that it stretches a little in every direction. Single-knit jersey stretches from 20% to 25% across the grain (that’s horizontally across a T-shirt). Check out the stretch scale below. You can measure any piece of fabric against this scale to test its capacity for stretch.When spandex or other artificial materials are added to the mix, jersey can stretch more than 35% (and it retains its shape better).

I like to try on the T-shirt I’m using before I start a project—even if I’m making a skirt—to see how it stretches and hangs. It’s important to be aware of the original fit of the T-shirt (the fabric will hug the same way whether it’s across your bust or your butt). For instance, if your shirt has 3% spandex and is a little snug around your shoulders and torso, cut off the sleeves and make it into one of the fitted tank tops— you avoid the tight shoulders and accentuate the tight torso.

And lastly, color. Feeling timid about picking your color palette? Here’s an exercise: Throw all your T-shirts in a pile on the floor and look for colors and patterns that work well together (match complementary colors and mix primary and secondary colors). Also, pay attention to logos. In a project that calls for more than one T-shirt, pair a maroon shirt that has mustard-colored text or graphics with an all-yellow shirt. And as you place them together, remember that precision doesn’t matter in terms of the angle of the logo. If you get the chance, turn the logo on its side. Note: There’s no need to find T-shirts exactly like the ones used in this book; even if you do, your version of each project will, happily, be unique.


Meet the Author

Megan Nicolay has been traveling around the country like a pied piper of DIY, giving workshops and consulting at craft events since the publication of her bestseller, Generation T. She is a founding member of the Department of Craft, a New York City–based craft collective, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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