Monday, December 21, 2009

Self Drafted -- T-shirt with Chains

A few weeks before Christmas, a project leapt into my mind, fully formed. It just appeared out of nowhere. This must be what it was like for J.K. Rowling when Harry Potter jumped into her mind while riding the commuter train that fateful day. Except my idea wasn't nearly as original, take 10 years to execute, or make me the richest woman in Britain. ;)

Back in September, I had been shopping in Bloomingdales with DD1, when I saw a top in the expensive, boutique department on the top floor. It was black and was printed, or silk screened, with long necklaces. Then, over the necklace print a few actual chains were attached. DD1 loved it, but with a very high price tag (approx. $100 for a t-shirt) neither one of us wanted to pay for it. I forgot about it (or so I thought).

Fast forward to early November, when I was shopping at the discount fabric store and my favorite sales lady had on a black t-shirt with chains on it. The chains (if I recall correctly) were attached in a bandoleer style, so some went from the left shoulder to the right hip and others started from the right shoulder and crossed to the left hip. It was very edgy and very cute and I realized that she had sewn it because I recognized some of the chains from their discount wall. I confirmed she made it, and complimented it, but forgot about it (or so I thought).

Fast forward to three weeks before Christmas, when an idea popped into my head to make a top along these lines for DD1. Don't know why I didn't think of it before, except that I don't generally think of sewing for anyone but me. :)

I went to the fabric store and bought a handful of jewelry off their discount wall. These were really cheap necklaces and bracelets, and I selected only very lightweight pieces (heavy chains would pull too much on the garment). Most of these peices featured flowers, or butterflies, or similar "uncool" charms, but I knew I could cannibalize them. I was mostly after the chains, after all. Some were $.25 each, some were $.50 and a couple were $1.99. So, for a few dollars, I bought a nice assortment.

The raw materials. A pile of jewelry from the discount fabric store.

I had the t-shirt fabric at home – a wonderful, buttery cotton jersey with lycra and a 4-way stretch. I used the Burda twist knot top pattern in a size 34, except I cut the front in one piece, omitting the front knot detailing. (I did this because I am cheap, lazy, and it was a pattern that I knew would fit DD1.) I had to cut it on the cross grain because this pattern is cut as a single piece from wrist to wrist and, even in a 60" wide fabric, it was not wide enough. I quickly sewed it up. (Being a dolman pattern, there are only four seams to deal with.)

Then the fun began. I dug my jewelry tools out from the garage (from the days that I made wire-wrapped jewelry) and I started to cannibalize the pieces I had purchased. I removed rhinestones, and loud flower charms. I pieced together chains, and added a few of the less cutesy charms back. I liked the back of one charm better than the front, so I turned it around. I wanted a variety of chains, some with little adornments – I wanted it to look like she had thrown on several necklaces. This was so much fun and reminded me how much I enjoy making jewelry. :)

I auditioned it on the top and lived with it awhile...

Auditioning the chains

After living with it for 24 hours, I decided it was good to go. I sewed the necklaces onto a small square of the fabric and created a sandwich with a second rectangle. I tried to snug the ends of the chains to be fairly close to each other.

At first I was going to leave the top with raw edges (and told myself it was edgier that way), but in the end I did hem the sleeves, and the bottom, and I finished the neck with a strip of the fabric. I figured the top would last longer that way.

I sewed the ends of the necklaces to a scrap of fabric and then created a "sandwich" with another scrap. I let it pucker as I stitched the sandwich together – I liked the effect. I opened the shoulder seam and inserted the scrap in and hand stitched it together.

The end result:

I figured if DD1 doesn't want long sleeves, we can lop them to whatever length she wants, all the way to sleeveless.

After I finished the top, I wandered over to the Bloomingdales website. They had given me the idea, after all. If the link doesn't work, go to and then go to Womens and Tees, I was surprised out how many t-shirt styles they had featuring chains. If you page through the 10 pages of tees, you will see a variety. In fact, seeing those tops reminded me that the top DD1 liked originally was a BCBGMaxAzria design. (For me, I like that fringed necklace top on page 5!)

I then went to the Urban Outfitters website and found more tops with chains. I guess this top is right on-point, fashion-wise.

And if you are wondering why I am posting it now, before Christmas, it's because DD1 never, ever looks at my blog. DD2 looks at it now and again, but DD1 never. :)