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Book Review | 101 Tees: Restyle*Refashion*Revamp by Cathie Filian

Reported by Maria Del Pinto

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The book motto is to: “Restyle, Refashion and Revamp” your t-shirts. I borrowed a copy of “101 Tees” by Cathie Filian from a friend of mine to check it out.

You may know Cathie from the DIY Network show “Creative Juice,” the YouTube videos she films for Plaid, or her blogs.  

As someone who is always in support of recycling or upcycling clothing, this book was a treasure trove of ideas. A quick glance convinced me that I needed to purchase a copy of this book for my own personal craft library.

My kids are always bringing home t-shirts from various events they participate in, and often the design, color or cut of the shirt is not particularly flattering for them. In the past, we usually just cut off the neck and sleeves to change it up, or we turned them into pillow covers.

However, after reading this book, we realized the tremendous potential for individual expression that the author’s ideas allowed for.  Not to mention its potential for plenty of easy craft project ideas for teens and children alike.

So how does Cathie go about upcycling old t-shirts? Well, she gives the reader an easy series of steps to follow, along with a brief explanation of the different types of t-shirts to look out for. She also uses simple techniques which are broken down by chapters to transform old t-shirts into something that reflects the readers personal taste and enjoyment.

There are 11 chapters which include the following subjects:

  • cutting and stitching
  • painting on fabric
  • dyeing fabric
  • appliques
  • embroidery
  • ribbons and trims
  • iron-ons and patches
  • sparkle and shine (rhinestones, paints, sequins, glitter paints)
  • mixed media
  • just the boys (male-orientated projects)
  • holiday and special occasion’s
  • templates

Within each chapter she covers a lot of material in a concise and interesting manner. The book introduction gives some tips on supplies, preparation and caring for your t-shirts. Cathie Fillian immediately gets into the process the t-shirt makeover process rather than spend pages talking about non-related matters. The book also includes templates and great graphics  – a great time saver for the reader when one is trying to finish a project. After all, how many of us get hit by the creativity bug at a time when it is just not feasible to go and search for templates at our local craft stores. The pictures are really good and help you to get an idea of the style of shirt and its potential for re-styling. In her book, she mentions that the first step is to wash your shirt. This helps to remove dirt, stains, and any other chemicals that may be on the shirt. The second step is to lay your shirt out and really look at it. Decide what elements you want to keep and what elements of the shirt you do not want to keep. This will help you figure out your layout and which pattern from the book best works with your particular shirt. With over 101 different design ideas, you are bound to find one that works.

In the shirt that I choose, I like the color but find the shirt a bit boring. The shirt itself has a nice cut to it. It just needs something to make it more interesting. So I went to Chapter 6 in her book that focuses on “Ribbons & Trims”. She explains the different types of ribbons and trims, along with hints on how to best utilize them. So I decided to lay out different trims to see what would work with this particular shirt.

 I started with the lace collar. Then tried a piece of lace on the shoulder.

I could not get it to work with the neck lines, so I tried it on the bottom of the shirt to see how that would look. I liked the way that looked.

Then I decided to try a different type of lace on the center of the neckline. It was a bit too fancy for this shirt.

So I tried a different piece of lace on the shoulder area.

I then decided to try a ribbon flower and see how that would work. It looked a little better.

I like to keep some things simple and this seemed about right. My two favorite looks were the simple lace collar and the peach ribbon flowers. You can see that just by laying the pieces out on the shirt, you can get good feel of what would work with that particular garment.

Cathie also talks about trims like rickrack, floral trims, rhinestone trims, buttons, ribbon & silk flowers and much more. She gives you ideas on different ways to apply them to the fabric and to use them as a design element.

That being said, I wondered if I could apply the information from this book to something besides t-shirts. So I looked through my closet for a different type of shirt to refashion.  I found a great cotton button up shirt to work with.

I looked through the book and found that Chapter 7, deals with “Iron-ons & Patches”. So for my second project, I will just make some minor changes to the shirt by adding a cool iron transfer from Plaid that I recently picked up. I ironed the shirt to remove any creases.

Then I followed the directions and ironed on the patch. You should know that I have never ironed on a patch before and managed to mess this one up a bit. So I decided to add some rhinestones with heat activated adhesive on the back to cover some small flaws. It worked pretty well. Plus, I liked the way the shirt looked. It will be the perfect shirt to wear when my kids and I go roller skating.

The ideas from the book are applicable to many different types of items. I tried some of her applique tips on paper, and a couple of totes. This first is a tote that I added another some bits and pieces that I found around the house, along with a cute “Cup Cake” iron on (this one worked much better than the first).

Then I tried some applique, trims and an iron on a different tote bag.

The final one is of a gift bag; I just cut out fabric and glued it onto the paper bag to make it look like an applique.  Then added some sparkle with glitter glue.

All in all, this is a great resource that can is not limited to use just on t-shirts. You can apply the ideas in this book to a variety of projects. Please leave a comment below to tell us about your ideas and/or tips for recycling or upcycling t-shirts.