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Upcycling Fabric Scraps

August 26, 2008

I’ve always liked the Japanese conceptualization of owls. I had fabric left over from making the bean bags and I decided to upcycle a T-shirt that could have been thrown away. This red T-shirt was handed down to my daughter when she was less than 2 years old. We ironed on an image of Chicken Little that we got as a gift from the Disney Movie Club. But since the shirt has been washed many times, the image is peeling. I could have thrown the T-shirt away because no other little girl would want it. But, I cut some coordinating fabric into an owl shape and planned to sew it right over the iron-on. I could easily save the shirt from being put in the garbage can!

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chicken little iron on

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This owl was fairly simple to make. I did an internet search of Japanese owl images. I freehanded the outline of a horned owl on the back side of the fabric and folded it down the middle so that it would be symmetrical when I cut it out. I’m proud of what I was able to do since it looks exactly like I conceived it in my head.

I did this while my children were sleeping. When they woke up, I showed the owl to my daughter, as well as a bird and a heart that I had cut out. She didn’t like the owl on her red shirt, so I put it on a brown shirt of mine using the sewing machine’s zig zag stitching. She gets the bird and the heart on her red shirt. The bird wasn’t big enough to cover up the old iron-on so we had to tuck the heart in there too. I am sewing these on by hand.

And there was still more fabric left, so I sewed a bird onto a onesie that I sent to my newborn niece in Peru. The onesie belonged to my daughter, then to my son, and now it belongs to my niece. I did most of the sewing by hand and then used the machine for the zig zag stitching around the straight edges of the background piece of fabric. This type of animal appliquΓ© is very “in” this year. I’ve seen owls and birds on little girls t-shirts in the displays of back-to-school clothes, both in stores and on Etsy.

This is what they looked like as I was trying out different placements. I ended up choosing not to use the brown ribbon as a tree branch. I thought it would fray too much.

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fabric scraps on shirts

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  1. August 26, 2008 12:35 pm

    Wowie! Those are so much FUN!!

  2. August 26, 2008 4:21 pm

    I *literally swooned* when I saw how beautiful these are! WOW~so talented! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  3. August 26, 2008 4:27 pm

    Mrs. Chili and Sandi, thanks! I had fun making them. Actually I’m not finished sewing the bird’s wing onto the red shirt yet.

  4. rosiemolinary permalink
    August 26, 2008 10:55 pm

    I am so impressed with your creativity and craftiness— the critters are beautiful. I am especially crazy about that onesie. It’s sure to be a favorite gift for your niece and her mom!

  5. August 26, 2008 11:19 pm

    Those are amazing! I am so impressed with your ability to visualize something and then bring it to life.

  6. August 27, 2008 9:43 am

    those look sweet– how adorable! Now I want to do that on some of the “sports” baby clothes people have given us. My son doesn’t want footballs and baseballs on his clothes, he wants goats and chickens and other cool farm-y, outdoors-y stuff! πŸ™‚

    I’ve finally caught up reading your blog– I love the soulemama blog you linked to a while back πŸ™‚

  7. August 27, 2008 10:48 am


  8. August 28, 2008 4:12 pm

    Rosie, thank you! My sister-in-law does like the onesie. I hope it will be comfortable for my niece and that the stitching on the inside won’t be too irritating. Or maybe she can just wear it on top of another undershirt.

    Kemi, thanks so much. I’m not good at sewing, but at least I could cut the fabric into the shapes I wanted.

    Kristin, haha. Yes, put farm animals over the sports paraphernalia. Excellent compromise!

    westwardbound, thank you for the compliment.

  9. pppj permalink
    August 29, 2008 12:28 am

    You are so talented. It looks wonderful

  10. August 29, 2008 8:19 am

    you should do craft shows! well done!

  11. August 29, 2008 11:03 am

    PPPJ and Goldie, thank you both! The fabric’s colors and patterns were certainly inspirational.

  12. refincher permalink
    August 31, 2008 7:48 am

    Wow! Those are beautiful!

  13. September 2, 2008 10:24 am

    Wow! Kemi is right – visualization into realization is the key here. Good on you!

    You probably know why Japanese people like the owls so much. Because the name sounds like good fortune – fuku 福

  14. September 6, 2008 11:29 pm

    Thank you, Rebecca!

    Bikkuri, thanks for helping me understand more about the Japanese language! I didn’t know that, but it makes sense. I finished sewing my daughter’s shirt today. I’ll post updated photos when I get around to it.

  15. September 14, 2008 12:44 am

    Beautiful! I love your choice of fabrics. I’m sure your family are very proud to be sporting such beautiful creations made by Mom’s loving hands. WOW!

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