** For the purposes of this post, we're discussing woven shirts, not knits or t-shirts. **
*** And I apologize in advance for some of the crappy photos. Shooting pics quickly in a busy thrift store didn't make for a nicely lit, well-composed photo shoot. :( I'm sorry! ***
First, some ground rules for ALL thrift store clothing and fabric shopping. . . .
Pass on an item if you find these blemishes or issues:
-- funky smells (especially moth balls! UGH!)
inspect all items carefully and closely!
Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules. I buy vintage linens all the time, and 99% of the time, there are stains or tiny holes in them somewhere, but there's enough good, usable fabric to justify the purchase.
Another example would be if you find a cool shirt with some amazing embroidered detail that would be perfect on a tote bag, but you spot a small stain near the hem. Buy it anyway! You can probably work around the stain, and hey -- it might even wash out!
The only rule I would never break is the funky moth ball smell rule. Just don't. Not worth it.
Choosing your shirt. . . .
Some fabrics, while very wearable, aren't good choices for, say, home decor projects or tote bags. They're too flimsy or soft, and won't hold up to daily use. If it feels too flimsy or soft in the hand, it's probably best to pass on it. (Rayons, satins and silks are good examples of what to avoid.) Like this one. . . .
This next shirt caught my eye. I liked the unique print and boxy shape (no darts, tucks or seams!). . .
but upon closer inspection. . .
I can see my hand through the fabric,
so I passed on it.
If the fabrics feel stiffer, heavier, "bolder," then it's probably a better fit for your sewing needs. Look for cotton, cotton blends, poly blends, linens, linen blends, even wool and wool blends. . . .
nice poly-cotton blend, so this one's a. . . .
Men's shirts. . . .
As far as shirts go, you'll find the most yardage in men's shirts. They also tend to have the least amount of tailoring and darts, so the fabric will lay the flattest = easiest for you to use in your planning and cutting.
if possible, go for the bigger sizes!
bigger sizes = more fabric
no stains, no holes, no tucks, darts or seams!
Many men's dress shirts are constructed of high quality fabrics, so you can easily find nice fabrics in unique prints and solids, and are suitable for a large array of sewing projects. . . .
sturdy wool blend shirt
now a pillow. . .
. . . or two! (leaf pillow is also backed with the wool plaid shirt!)
I often use men's shirts for bag linings. . . .
Women's shirts. . . .
. . . are a little bit trickier. While you'll have a much larger array of gorgeous fabrics, colors and prints from which to choose, you'll have to be more careful in your selections. Pay close attention to fabric choices (remember: sturdier is better!) and garment construction.
Try to avoid shirts with lots of darts and seams. . . .
it looks promising. . . a good, sturdy fabric, a nice stripe,
neat pocket with lace details, but. . .
I'll pass on this one, too.
This next shirt is pretty close to perfect: high quality fabric, unique print, no stains or holes, and no darts, tucks or seams. . .
the back = lots of usable fabric!
Jump on something like this!
Jackets and blazers make for some neat, heavy-duty fabric choices, like this one. . . .
boxy, lots of fabric, no seams or tucks.
unique fabric! heavy duty! yay!
Since women's shirts tend to have more tailoring and darts in them, there's considerably less fabric available for sewing. I choose women's shirts for smaller projects, like zipper pouches or patchwork projects.
used to be a blazer!
These were all once ladies' shirts. . . .
Kids' shirts. . . .
too small to be of much use
No. Just not worth the hassle.
Wash it. . . .
Wash your thrifted shirts according to care instructions, or however you feel comfortable. I personally don't follow any special washing guidelines or instructions, other than making sure it goes through the wash until it doesn't stink. I've washed at least 1,000 thrifted shirts, and have ruined only 2 by just dumping them in the washer all together. However, if it's a very special, vintage, rare, precious and delicate item, then be careful with it. Use your best judgement on all of that, folks.
these fun buntings are mostly made from
thrifted clothing and vintage fabrics!
Tomorrow. . . .
I'll post how to deconstruct your new / thrifted shirts for sewing!
UPDATE: The Part 2: Deconstruction tutorial is HERE! :)
And be sure to check out my other posts on reclaimed sewing with thrifted clothing. . . .
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