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Alabama Chanin Inspired Birthday Shirt

Added Feb 24, 2010

by jenniewolff

Nashville, Tenne...






Each year I make special birthday shirts for my children to wear on their birthdays. They are usually a numeral of the new age cut out of quilter’s cotton and appliqued to a store bought cotton knit shirt. My daughter’s birthday was February 14, and I decided that instead of buying a new shirt for the birthday shirt, I would upcycle a long sleeve dark pink Christmas t-shirt she wore at the end of the year that still fit and was in great condition. The t-shirt had two striped candy canes with a bow that made a heart shape right in the center of the t-shirt, and at the bottom hem was the Gap logo. Originally I was going to do one of my standard appliques to cover up the candy canes, but then I realized the techniques of reverse applique and applique as laid out by Natalie Chanin in her Alabama Stitch Book would work great in repurposing this t-shirt. I’ve made many projects out of the Alabama Stitch Book which is probably my favorite “sewing” book ever, and I was about to start making myself a beaded applique swing skirt when I started working on the birthday shirt. I realized that I could use some beading on the birthday shirt, and be able to practice using beads before I started my skirt.

I first drew a large heart that was slightly bigger than the candy cane heart on the shirt (I used a cookie cutter for the first draft of the heart), and cut it out of card stock. I placed the template on the shirt and traced around it with a purple sharpie (purple is my daughter’s favorite color), then attached a scrap of light pink organic cotton jersey bigger than the heart shape to the back side. I stitched around the heart with button and carpet thread with a running stitch, threading two (since this shirt was for my daughter’s second birthday, I used groupings of twos everywhere on the shirt) gold seed beads on the needle for the stitches on the outside of the shirt. Once I had stitched all the way around the heart, I cut away the t-shirt material leaving a border of 1/8 inch, which revealed the light pink jersey underneath. I then cut out a 2 out of scrap gray organic cotton jersey, and appliqued that to the center of the heart, using silver glass bugle beeds, button and carpet thread, and whipstitches to secure the 2 to the backing fabric. The shirt was almost done, but I still wanted to cover up the awful Gap logo at the bottom edge. I cut out a second smaller heart out of gray cotton jersey (remember the 2 theme of this shirt?), and appliqued it over the logo using the same silver bugle beeds and whipstitches I used for the 2. I then decided to add some extra decorative stitching around the hem and neckline, and decided a simple running stitch was best for time was running out and my daughter’s birthday was the next day. I forgot that Natalie says to only use stretch stitches around neck and armholes, so I eventually had to cut out the stitches at the neckline when I couldn’t get it over my daughter’s head. I also would like to go back and add some sequins and other beads, but I’d better do it soon before the shirt is too small for my daughter to wear anymore.

Material Notes

-recycled Gap t-shirt
-scraps of organic cotton bought at the Alabama Chanin on-line store
-Coats and Clark button and carpet thread in white
-glass seed and bugle beeds




Garment Type
Cotton, Knits/Jersey


Jennie Wolff
Alabama Chanin

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  • Fullsizeoutput_11ea_large

    Feb 24, 2010, 02.57 AMby sew4my3

    Sooo…. cute! Great inspiration piece! I really like the beading addition!

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