I am the 99% and I am Getting Really Creative

A funny thing happened on the way to our reduced family income, our creativity is blossoming. My husband and I experienced pay cuts this fall. We both work for organizations that not only froze salaries, they reduced them. I am not complaining, I am explaining. I am honored to be part of the middle class. We are hard workers. We are resilient. We are resourceful. We have less money. So what to do?

Change. Now our monthly dollars are used to purchase food, shelter and insurance. Beyond those items, we set aside money for savings and a minimal amount for necessities. That is it. No more eating out. No more Starbucks. No more Black Friday. No more land line. No more wants, just what we absolutely need. Budgeting is taking on a whole new meaning for me.

So with Christmas around the corner, I am facing my first big challenge. How to preserve our gift giving traditions without spending much money. We are letting creativity be our guide.

This weekend I continued to cut up an old sweater as I made sweater jar candle holders.

To make my sweater jar candle holders:

  • I found jelly jars that have resided in my pantry for years.
  • I cut a rectangular shaped section of sweater slightly larger than the height and circumference of my jar.
  • I  sewed a straight seam down the side so that the ‘sweater’ fit snugly on the jar.
  • To finish the top and bottom I folded the edges under and hem stitched or attached a strip of fleece, which I had on hand.
  • I cut flowers and hearts from felt from my felt drawer and hand sewed them on with buttons from my button box.

The cost for my project, nothing but time. And my sweater? I returned the unused portions to my sewing basket. I am beginning to think this sweater regenerates because no matter how much I cut I still have more!

If you want to see what else I have made from this sweater, check out Old Sweater, New Life

Old Sweater, New Life

I had an old sweater I no longer wanted. As I was putting it into the Goodwill bag I realized I could transform this sweater into something special for family and friends.

After cutting my sweater it looked like this…

And here is what I was able to create with my sweater pieces…

  • I made a vest and matching hat for my granddaughter. I can’t wait for her to try them on.
  • I am finishing a pair of mittens I plan to line with fleece for the cold winters in the midwest.

Now my only problem is figuring out what to do with the rest of the sweater. I think I will make a small pair of mittens for my granddaughter but am not sure what to do with the remaining material. Any ideas? I would appreciate them!

Monday, November 7th update:
Today my daughter emailed a picture of our granddaughter in her new sweater and hat. She makes everything she wears look adorable. Evidently she did not want to wear the hat but mommy persevered and now I have a new picture to treasure.

The Great T-Shirt Memory Quilt Challenge – Week Two

The challenge: To construct a T-shirt memory quilt for my niece
for her high school graduation

This was a tough week for the Great T-Shirt Memory Quilt Challenge. The good news…I thought about the quilt a lot. The bad news…that is all I did.

In my defense:

  • 6 of the 7 days I was traveling for work or working;
  • 4 of the 7 nights I was out of town;
  • 2 of the 7 days I had company;
  • Any spare time I had this week was used to clean the house, cook, blog, entertain company or just try to recharge for the next day.
This week I did get to visit a pumpkin patch.
I did get to golf.
And I did think about the T-Shirt quilt. So my accomplishments for week 2 of the great T-Shirt Memory Quilt challenge are:
  1. I researched the best quilt size for a T-Shirt quilt and decided I will make a lap size quilt (54″ by 72″) or a double size quilt (72″ by 90″). It takes about 25 shirts to make a full size quilt. Since I have 42 T shirts I have enough for my project.
  2. I now know I need to purchase fusible interfacing to back each shirt block to prevent my blocks from stretching. I plan to purchase Pellon #906F interfacing. I still have to figure how many yards to purchase.
  3. Pohey continues to reside in the bin waiting for me to think about setting it free

If you want to keep up with my weekly progress, please see Week One.

The Great T-Shirt Memory Quilt Challenge – Week One

The challenge: To construct a T-shirt memory quilt for my niece
for her high school graduation

My niece is graduating in May 2012 and I promised I would transform her t-shirts and jerseys into a memory quilt. I am a chronic project starter/non-finisher so I am blogging about my weekly progress to keep myself accountable. I know I can make the quilt. I am unclear if I can actually complete it.

Why you ask? Another niece gave me her very much loved baby quilt a few years ago to mend. Pohey, the quilt’s name, arrived in tatters and pieces which I painstakingly tried to reconstruct. It was precision work and stressful. The other day I opened a bin and her partially repaired quilt stared back at me. I slammed the lid shut and said to myself, “I thought I had finished that!” Oh the guilt.

And now I start another project. Week one of the great t-shirt memory quilt challenge did not start auspiciously. I opened the box of my niece’s shirts and quickly became overwhelmed by the number and variety of choices. Pressing on I pulled out one neatly folded shirt after another and tried to envision a quilt design. I spent five minutes going through the first few layers then stepped back and looked at the mess.

I am pretty sure I felt a small popping in my brain similar to a circuit overload. I crammed the shirts back into the box, closed the lid and moved the box into a closet. Out of site, out of mind. I then left the house and went for a walk. I was in big trouble. I couldn’t even make it through the initial sorting of shirts. After pondering my initial reaction, I realized I needed to find out what my niece liked and did not like before I could envision what to do with the 42 shirts in the box.

I saw my niece this weekend and forced her to look at images of t-shirt quilts on the web. She showed me four designs she liked and I feel I will be able to make something similar. I am hoping that I will have the will and find a way to make this quilt.

So my accomplishments for week 1 of the great t-shirt memory challenge are:

  1. I have a pile of shirts in a box in a closet.
  2. I have an idea of the type of quilt my niece would like.
  3. Pohey is still in the bin wondering when I will return to finish it and set it free.

A Caped Crusader from a Repurposed T-Shirt

The day after delivering a bib to my granddaughter (made from a repurposed T-shirt) I received a phone call from my daughter. My grandson had taken the bib and was running around the house with it on backwards. It was no longer a bib but transformed into a cape. The phone call was a reminder to me. Do not bring gifts to your grandchildren unless you have something for everyone.

My grandson is 3 years old and he is all about capes. This weekend I made him a cape. To make the cape I returned to my son’s Goodwill bag and found a camouflage T-shirt and thought, now this is the perfect material for a cape. It took me about 20 minutes to transform an ordinary T-shirt into a superhero cape. It cost nothing.

Today I delivered the cape and am happy to report the cape is a success. My grandson was able to dazzle us with his tricks and his beautiful smile. And now, hopefully, the bib can be returned to the dining room.

To turn an ordinary T-shirt into a cape, follow these steps (pictures below):

1. Choose any adult size T-shirt. My T-shirt was an extra large.

2. Place the T-shirt on a cutting mat. Using a straight ruler, cut off the side seam and sleeves on both sides.

3. Open the T-shirt, lying the wrong side down on the cutting mat. Cut a straight horizontal line on the front of the t-shirt 8 inches down from the center of the neck collar.

4. Fold the T-shirt lengthwise, right sides together. Cut a curved angle cut on the T-Shirt front to round off the edges.

5. Make a binding for the unfinished edge of the t-shirt. I cut material from an old black sweatpants in 2 inch width strips. I joined the ends of each strip together with a diagonal seam to make a continuous binding long enough to finish the edge of my cape.

6. Wrong sides together, sew the binding onto the unfinished edge of the t-shirt cape with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

7. Iron the binding open. Turn the binding, turning under the unfinished edge, to the wrong side of the cape. Pin and sew.

Making bibs from repurposed T-shirts

My grandma had a sewing machine in the guest bedroom in her small home. I remember many nights watching her sew. It was comforting when she was in the room working and answering my questions as I drifted off to sleep. Some nights she would sew, some nights she would sort through materials for her next project.

When clothes wore out in grandma’s house she placed them in a basket. She would go through these old clothes to salvage material and notions. She removed zippers and placed them in her zipper pouch. She cut off buttons and placed them in her button box. She examined the material and either placed it in her fabric drawer or cut it up and used for cleaning rags. Very little was ever thrown away. Most everything was repurposed.

I am a practical sort and love the idea of repurposing items that are worn or no longer needed. But I am not interested in repurposing unless I create something that is necessary. Since I have grandchildren, I have found that bibs are necessary. As I was going through my son’s Goodwill T-shirt pile the other day, I came across a Droopy Dog T-shirt and thought of my granddaughter and her need for bibs.


Here is how I repurposed this T-shirt into a bib:

1. Place the T-shirt onto a flat surface.

2. Using a bib as a template, place the bib on top of the T-shirt. Snip through both layers of the T-shirt on the top seam. Then slide the scissors between the two layers. Cut around the bib template on the front (top layer) of the shirt. Turn the shirt over, reposition the bib template and cut around the bib’s small back flap on the back of the T-shirt.

3. Place your new bib shape onto a coordinating fabric, right sides together. Using the bib shape as your template, cut the coordinating fabric so it matches the outer edge of your bib shape. I chose a black fabric for my coordinating fabric which I cut from an old pair of sweatpants.

4. Pin and stitch the outer edge together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Turn right side out by pulling fabric through the neck hole. Press the outer edge.

5. To cut the neck opening in the coordinating fabric, place the unfinished bib on a flat surface with the front side (in my case the Droopy Dog side) up. Cut a small X shape with a scissors in the coordinating fabric, right in the middle of the neck hole. Insert your scissors into the X and carefully cut a neck hole in the coordinating fabric slightly larger than the ribbed T-shirt neck hole.

6. Turn the bib over so the coordinating fabric with the unfinished edge neck hole is on the top. Turn the unfinished edge under and pin in place on top of the finished neck hole. Then topstitch around the edge.

When I was done, I went to visit my granddaughter so she could try out her new bib. Since she always loves to have a snack, getting her to try on the bib was not a problem.

The T-shirt scraps that were left over have been placed in my own fabric drawer. I will soon be starting a T-shirt crazy quilt for my niece’s graduation and I am sure I will need some white T-shirt scraps for this project.