T-shirt Scarves: The Art of Repurposing

Scarves repurposed from T-shirts. It’s nothing new. It’s been done. In about a zillion ways. But I believe that the best design for T-shirt scarves has everything to do with not just the graphics, but the cropping of them. I wear scarves, a lot, as where we live, near the Northern California Pacific Coast, it gets very cold in the evenings while watching kid’s outdoor sports as the fog bank hits around 6pm year ’round. T-shirts are such perfect material as they are so soft and flexible. So, here’s my quick and easy, no pins, minimal ironing T-shirt scarf project.

I began by digging through the Goodwill racks today in search of some yummy graphics.

I picked up several light-weight T’s from the Junior and Ladies sections and some heavyweight graphic T’s from the Mens and Boys sections. I did a quick-cycle launder on the shirts before cutting up.I created a patchwork template from a standard No. 10 business envelope. Making a window template helps you isolate the section of graphics that works best. I prefer cropping tight on graphics. Some T-shirts yielded two to three sections of graphics, while others only one good envelope sized section. Using a white colored pencil on dark shirts and brown pencil on light, I traced out the rectangles and cut out the pieces. I used 20-21 sections for the fronts of my scarves.

After each section was cut, I laid them out in the best visual order then simply sewed one to another, 1/4″ seam allowances to the back. Once all were sewn together, I pressed the seams flat. I then created the back side of the scarves by cutting solid sections of the remaining T-shirt fabric. For my lightweight scarf, I again used the envelope for a template and made one more section than the front and sewed the horizontal seams askew from one side to the other, not intending for the seams to line up. For my heavyweight scarf, I used longer blocks of fabric.

I seamed back sections together, then stitched front scarf sections to back sections, leaving an opening for turning right side out. I trimmed away excess selvage and cut angles along each corner. I turned the scarves and stitched the openings closed. I pressed the finished pieces, using parchment paper when ironing over silk-screened sections.

Finished lightweight scarf.

Finished heavyweight scarf.For added interest, I cut out a smaller graphic section and stitched it to the back of the heavyweight scarf.

If you want to make a unique graphic scarf like these, watch for thrift store sales that offer $1 shirts, as the cost can add up pretty fast with this many shirts. Dig through the closets in your house for shirts no one really wears anymore. And, just like those T-shirt quilts, scarves make nice gifts using the personal T-shirts of someone special. In fact, while I was making these, my kids brought me rarely-worn shirts from their own closets to include in my new neckwear.

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147 Responses to T-shirt Scarves: The Art of Repurposing

  1. I’m so glad you showed us how to make this scarf, Cathe! I love it {squeal}!! Bookmarking and hoping to make one soon!!

  2. #3 - Arielle says:

    So incredibly cute, Cathe! Thanks for the great tutorial! What an awesome way to recycle tees! Your finished products look like something you’d pay an arm and a leg for in a trendy store. Great work!

  3. #4 - Aida says:

    Oh, what fun! this will be great project for me to do with my teens this summer – I pomised to teach them how to sew!

    As always, thanks for sharing!

  4. #5 - Joy B Massa says:

    I love the color combos you’ve done with these two scarves…covers a whole palette of possible outfits! It’s got to be one of the easiest projects ever! With rock-star-worthy results! I’m IN! Many thanks for your inspiration & teaching!

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  6. #6 - Louise Fortune says:

    I absolutely Love that idea !
    I have saved some of my kids T’s because I loved the shirt and/or loved my kids in that shirt, I had always intended to make them into a quilt or include them in a quilt. This project is so much easier and more immediate. Thanks

  7. #7 - Louise Fortune says:

    Just noticed my blog link is incorrect, have amended it now – Thanks

  8. #8 - Michelle L. says:

    These are wonderful! I love how you used the best art from so many shirts – brilliant, and very affordable when you hit the thrift sales. Thanks, Cathe, looks like so much fun and so beautiful!

  9. #9 - Lynnae says:

    This is so awesome. I’ve got to hit the thrift store while there is still winter left to wear the scarf. Also this would be a great idea for all the flag shirt tees I’ve saved over the years.

  10. #10 - arlene says:

    I love your projects so much, and you never fail to inspire me. Thanks so much for your generous posts!

  11. #11 - ALAYNA HOWARD says:

    I just love this & your blog. I would be honored if you would link up your super cute blog on my blog stalkin’ page.

    http://alaynahoward.blogspot.com/p/blog-stalkin.html

  12. #12 - Lisbet / Denmark says:

    What a great idea!
    I’m quite sure I could never find such cool and colorful T-shirts here in Denmark, but… I’ll give it a try.
    Thank you for sharing! :-)

  13. #13 - Frieda says:

    Another great idea! This will be definitely on my to-do list. One more Cathe-project! Thank you so much for your tutorials.
    Many greetings, Frieda

  14. #14 - Sherry Murray says:

    This I love!

  15. #15 - objectsofwhimsy says:

    great tutorial I love repurposing of objects its so resourceful

  16. #16 - Sibel Enneli says:

    love this job absulately magnificant

  17. #17 - shelly kennedy says:

    this just be my favorite JSIM EVER! thanks Cathe!

  18. #18 - Virginia says:

    Awesome project! I wish we had decent thrift stores in my neck of the woods. Sigh….

  19. #19 - Diane@InMyOwnStyle says:

    Hi Cathe-

    What a fabulous idea – projects like this are why I love you!! My daughters literally have a hundred t-shirts that don’t fit and they don’t want to part with – I will be making two – they are going love them.
    My best- Diane

  20. Cathe,

    Love this idea. We have so many old t-shirts in the office we have printed for clients over the years that we could make into scarves!

    Alex

  21. #21 - Amy C says:

    That is freaking AWESOME!

  22. #22 - Rebekah says:

    Before Christmas I made a circle scarf using some of my daughters baby and toddler tops and dresses. It doesn’t have the same rockin’ vibe as yours — more sweetness and light — but it’s so soft and every time I wear it I remember how tiny she used to be. I really like how you used the patterns on one side and just the solids on the other.

  23. #23 - Trish says:

    love this scarf! thank you for the detailed instruction! and i love that you used a #10 envelope as template. will be linking, if you don’t mind? a trip to the thrift store is in order…

  24. #24 - Tania says:

    what a fantastic idea, I’m afraifd I never see such cool t-shirts at out thrift stores ;-)

  25. #25 - foo says:

    OH yes. You did it again, Cathe. I love it. Too bad I wore my favorite 80s t-shirts until they wore right through.

    love.

  26. #26 - Bethany says:

    What a fantastic idea! Very vintage looking, but bright and fun!

  27. #27 - Marti says:

    Very pretty! Did you use a serger to join the pieces, or a regular sewing maching with a stretch stitch – or something else altogether?

    • #28 - Cathe Holden says:

      Hi Marty, to answer your question…none of the above. I’ve yet to master stretch material techniques, and for this pieced project it wasn’t at all necessary based on how it was configured and no need for stretching as it won’t get stretched. So, regular stitching on regular sewing machine without serging.

  28. #29 - Jill says:

    …always outside the box! Thanks again for sharing!

  29. #30 - june blasingame says:

    Wow! Loved these! What a fabulous idea…and even a way to preserve some of my little boy’s shirts that were his favorites….making them into a small quilt or pillow cover, etc. You really gave me some ideas to work with. Thanks for sharing!

  30. #31 - amy zimmer says:

    Freakin’ Amazing!

    It is your color choices that are so, so, so…AWESOME!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Amy

  31. #32 - Sherry says:

    This nearly made me cry, Cathe! I am 54 yrs old, don’t wear printed T-shirts so well anymore BUT, I have a collection of “special” shirts from special places that date back to the 70’s! They take up a ton of space. I just have not been able to get rid of them. YOU gave me a new project and a huge space in the closet! You never cease to amaze me! Thank you! Also, I got to sit down with my new Country Living and enjoyed seeing your article.

  32. #33 - Berta says:

    Wow, a great use for old Tee’s!!! Thanks for sharing!

  33. #34 - Aurora says:

    Love it!! I think it would be great to repurpose my kids old t shirts this way, too!!

  34. #35 - Juliet A says:

    This is pretty awesome – I might have to give it a try! My son has a lot of Harley Davidson tshirts that would really look awesome put together into a scarf!

  35. #36 - Bunny says:

    I love this. I made my boys quilts out of their old athletic team tees for high school graduation, so I can hardly believe I never thought of this. I have a question though: Did you cut all your pieces in a single orientation with regard to the jersey’s grain? Not sure it would make a difference, and it looks like some of your “crops” might be wonky. Just wondering….

    • #37 - Cathe Holden says:

      Hi Bunny, No, though I thought about it, I did not worry about grain when cutting as the pieces were small and with all sewn together and then again to a backing piece, there’s really no significant stretching going on with these scarves so it didn’t matter on these. Thanks for asking!!

  36. #38 - Kate says:

    THANK YOU so much for the great idea! I’ve been hanging on to scraps of a million old band t-shirts. Had plans of someday making a quilt, but I always get overwhelmed just thinking of making one! This is a great way to up-cycle my stack o’ band scraps! Thanks again!

  37. #39 - Melodee says:

    What a fantastic idea. Thank you, Cathe! The PD has a ton of unsold t-shirts. I wonder if they’d give ‘em to me? :o)

  38. #40 - Ashley says:

    Thank you! I like the way you assembled the shirt pieces and you chose great graphics!

  39. #41 - cindy says:

    What a clever idea! I love it.

  40. #42 - Dawn says:

    These are absolutely wonderful. I have got to make one.

  41. #43 - luckie says:

    supercute, I am wondering how it would look with rough edges out ( just sewn- not turned) it make it a more grungy look ( especially with rock band shirts)
    ok, off to goodwill

  42. #44 - Tai says:

    This is super cool. You have a great eye!

  43. #45 - joan kimball says:

    would you sell one of these? I do not sew a stitch.

    JoanE

  44. #46 - Lisa Menou says:

    Squeal! Great crafty minds think alike! I just made a t-shirt scarf using my old t-shirts for an Iron Craft challenge last week!

    http://thebunnylog.com/journal/2011/02/09/winter-iron-craft-challenge-6/

  45. #47 - lisa @thebeadgirl says:

    this is an awesome idea! i love it. can’t wait to make one!

  46. #48 - peggy gatto says:

    what a fabulous idea!!!!
    thank you!

  47. #49 - Nancy Jane York says:

    This is fantastic I can’t believe how beautiful these turned out for you. I need to search out some old T’s now.

  48. #50 - Curtains In My Tree says:

    Now that is talent, I can’t set still long enough to create something like that. Love it

    Janice

  49. #51 - Jane says:

    I love this tutorial. Can not wait to go to my sewing room and put all those t-shirt bits to use. I have left overs from a t-shirt quilt. Still lots of great colors and small graphics that I couldn’t bear to toss. I would very much like to showcase this project on my blog. Thank you so much!

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  51. #52 - Tiff@MakeLifeCreative says:

    This too cool! My daughter saw this and is now begging me to take her to Good will. LOL

  52. #53 - Gina "Gigi" Rodgers says:

    I stumbled onto this website and I find this idea A…wait for it…MAZING! I have some printed shirts that didn’t quite come out right. I think I’ll make myself a scarf out of those shirts so I can remember, during this winter season, to learn from my mistakes and then make them into something trendsetting.

  53. #54 - Tammy Sprinkle says:

    What a great idea! I love that you can add personal tshirts, as well. How fun for all ages!

  54. #55 - Stephanie says:

    I just love it! I never wear printed T’s but seem to accumulate them anyway… this is the perfect solution!

  55. #56 - Marissa says:

    Seriously?? How do you come up with such amazingly cool projects?!?!? These scarves are the most creative and wearable DIY apparel project I’ve ever seen. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, and the women used to make cloth out of stitched-up remnants of colorful fabric. This reminds me of that, but in a far more intentional, wearable way. Thank you for sharing your creativity so freely! I hope you start selling these. I would pay a lot of money for one.

  56. #57 - alison says:

    These are GENIUS! LOVE them!
    You should sell them…. I would most definitely buy one!
    Thanks for sharing.

  57. #58 - Kathy says:

    Love this idea…my oldest is away at college for the first time (sniff, sniff) and left behind lots of tees that don’t fit, but just can’t part with.
    Question…can this project be done without a sewing machine? Other than the occasional button, I’ve never sewn a single stitch! Please tell me you have an idea for us non-sewers! :)

  58. #59 - Patty C says:

    These scarves are the greatest. What a wonderful way to use children’s t-shirts they’ve outgrown, as well as re-purposed t-shirts from the second hand store. Thank you!!

  59. #61 - marysworkshop says:

    Your project turned out amazing again! Love how you assembled the colors and graphics in such a wonderful pattern.

  60. #62 - Cindy says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I’m a visual person, and am especially appreciative for all the pictures! The envelope size template makes the graphic sections cut from it, much more interesting than using the entire printed part. I really love this scarf!

  61. #63 - Kaylen says:

    This is a wonderful idea! My kids are younger and grow out of their clothes fast. Sometimes they don’t want to give up their favorite shirts. I think they’d LOVE it if I made them scarves like this.

  62. #64 - Tina says:

    Found you through Gooseberry Patch! You have a LOT of great ideas! Can’t wait to see more! I’ll be back!
    You have a new follower!

  63. #65 - Marie,sophie says:

    I love this project. Thank you for the explications.
    have a good day

  64. #66 - Manayer says:

    I’m a big fan of your blog !

    You have gr8 taste in design:)

    Your idea is great for tshirts that are old and loved that I just can’t throw out.

  65. #67 - Jen L says:

    this is the coolest thing i have seen in a long time. it would be a super original idea for a blanket for the kids – guess i better start collecting tshirts! awesome!

  66. #68 - L D Nelson says:

    Great craft!!

  67. #69 - Marie says:

    This is AWESOME!! What a great idea. I will be doing this!

  68. #70 - Sadie says:

    Love this!

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  70. #71 - Olivia says:

    Those scarves are so cool. I have a ton of t-shirts laying around…I think I’m going to have to try this! Interested in winning a blog giveaway? Check out this one http://www.cherrykingdom.blogspot.com It’s going to be amazing

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  74. #72 - Mary says:

    Great idea! I just cut a whole bunch of T-Shirts into rags recently. This great idea never crossed my mind! Thanks for sharing!

  75. #73 - Dennis says:

    This is so clever! Scarves are so popular right now! Very impressive.

  76. #74 - Debbie says:

    I just love your blog. I recently posted about your scarf ideas with the teeshirts. You are so talented and I get so much inspirtaion from you. Thanks Girl!
    Debbie

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  78. #75 - Lani says:

    This is fantastic! I’ve actually never heard of this before. Great thrift idea!!

  79. #76 - Sara says:

    Thank you for a greate blog! I have been reading it to the end for several days now, love it!

    Love from sweden!

  80. #77 - Mandy says:

    I am beyond delighted to find your blog! Sooooo many great ideas! I love this scarf! It is now on my To-Do list… in the top spot!
    Thank you!

  81. #78 - Beth says:

    Now that is an awesome project :-)

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  83. #79 - VTBear53 says:

    I get it now. I have listened so many times to the comments about all my “junk”… I think my problem is organization of all my “treasures”! Non-crafters really don’t get it and being the grand-daughter of a strong woman who lived through the depression I just can’t throw away the good stuff – (“one person’s junk is another person’s treasure” comes to mind). Thanks for the encouragement – and now I have to go organize and categorize… then CREATE!

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  85. #80 - Dawn says:

    Cathe, I have been wanting to learn to sew for many years. When I saw this scarf, I knew now was the time. I had my t shirts cut up before I even bought a machine! It was my first project and it turned out fairly well, I will definitely wear it. I learned a lot, now I want to make more! Thanks for the inspiration!

  86. #81 - Kelsey says:

    SOOOOO CUTE!!!! very inventive and i would most definetly wear it!!

  87. #82 - Michalis Argyrou says:

    amazing scarves!! Am making one for sure!!

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  89. #83 - Celeste B. says:

    How fun! I think I may need to make one of these for my little girl. She has some special shirts that she doesn’t wear anymore, and she’s is a big fan of scarves. :)

  90. #84 - anna-marie says:

    fabulous idea, what a wonderful way to recycle too!

  91. #85 - Vicki Otts Chappell says:

    I have just been sorting through stacks of t-shirts from my now grown & gone children. I just couldn’t bring myself to donate them the other day and now I know why!!! I am now planning a craft project to give as a nostalgic Christmas gift to both of them using their very own old graphic printed t-shirts. How cool will that be???? Thanks for the idea!!! I just came across your site via The Mother Huddle and I love it!!!

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  93. #86 - Rachael says:

    It’s been a little while since I have checked the site and I must say that this was the best idea…ever! I have been hording my old favorite tee’s that I just couldn’t let go of. Shirts that I’ve had since middle school/high school, that had stories behind them like great friends and fun vacations. It just might be the most cozy, comfy scarf I’ve ever had…and it goes with everything.

    Thanks for the great idea! My husband thanks you for helping me clear out about 2 boxes of shirts!

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  95. #87 - Kay says:

    I am so impresed by these scarves! I have NEVER seen this done before and they are so cool to look at! I am a new subscriber to your blog and I absolutely love your site! Thanks so much for sharing!

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  98. #88 - Elizabeth says:

    Made this tonight with some of my husband’s old tees. Turned out wonderfully! I think 25+ sections for the front might be my plan next time. 21 was a bit short, but made a great scarf nonetheless. Thanks from a fellow Northern Californian!

  99. #89 - Athena says:

    Cute! I’m making one of those right now. Can’t wait for it to be finished! :)

  100. #90 - Debbie says:

    I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how much I love your site. It is just so much fun and so very creative. Thank you so much for sharing all of your wonderful ideas.

  101. #91 - Daphne says:

    I just stumbled onto this! I love, love, love it. However, I cannot tell from your directions what’s the difference between the lightweight scarf and the heavyweight scarf? What am I missing? Thanks!

    • #92 - Cathe Holden says:

      The lightweight scarf is made from thin, American Apparel-style ladies T-shirts and the heavyweight scarf from heaver BeefyT style mens shirts. I still wear both (wore one out today!)

      Hope that helps!

  102. #93 - Maureen Lukas says:

    I love your t-shirt scarves. It has given me an idea to make a lap blanket or bigger. Thanks so much. You are very creative and talented. I’m going t-shirt hunting today and once I have collected enough, I’ll get busy. Thanks again.

  103. #94 - Darlene says:

    What a great idea!!! I can’t wait to get started!!!

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  105. #95 - Tamika Rybinski says:

    this is awesome. I still have shirts saved from Jr. High, what a great idea. I must do this

  106. #96 - Lisa says:

    Love this!!! Going to do after latest project gets done. Hint, you can use white chalk for outlining on the fabrics!! Thanks for posting!!!

  107. #97 - Mary Beth says:

    I have been “planning” a t-shirt quilt for years but the project just overwhelmed me…. now this is a project that sounds manageable and do-able…and although I live in Florida, I too love to wear scarves! Thanks for the idea and the instructions!

  108. #98 - Megan says:

    These are awesome! Just another reason not to get rid of clothes…on no!

  109. #99 - robyn blaikie collins says:

    this is completely magical and i love it. thanks for sharing.

  110. #100 - Elaine says:

    This is a great idea for me to use to repurpose all my T’s. Thanks for this neat idea. Have a blessed week. Elaine

  111. #101 - Shirley Hand says:

    Enjoyed this one…when I figure out how to use my machine…will definitely make some of these…thanks so much for sharing.

  112. #102 - Butt Naked says:

    you ruined some AWESOME looking t-shirts for one scarf. What’s better: 20 t-shirts for 20 days of the week or 1 scarf that gets boring after a couple wearings?

  113. #103 - JMarie19 says:

    Thank you so much for this pattern! I love my t-shirts, and after they wear out, I like that I can repurpose them into a cute scarf! I also like how the scarf looks reversible! (: So cute! Thank you!

  114. #104 - Debbie Fick says:

    Great idea! Thanks!

  115. #105 - Nuzha says:

    This is cheap & good

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  118. I wanted to let you know that I featured your t-shirt scarf on my 10 Ways to Showcase Special T-Shirts post at http://thedomesticatedprincess.blogspot.com/2012/11/from-t-shirt-to-treasure-part-3.html.

  119. #107 - Kathe says:

    Cathe, I was most pleased to see the spelling of your name. Years ago I changed from Kathy to Kathe while my girlfriend went to Kathie. When I told my parents what I was doing, I was informed that that was how my father had wanted to spell it when I was a baby.
    I am most interested in the T-shirt scarf pattern.

  120. #108 - strike says:

    Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author. I will remember to bookmark your blog and will often come back from now on. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great posts, have a nice weekend!

  121. #109 - Jeanne says:

    Cathe, thanks for a great tutorial. My daughter saw this and begged me to make her one and I finally got around to it today. It was fun and very quick. Being a quilter, I had a rotary cutter and mat, which made the cutting easy. I kept the same widths but varied the heighths of the logos so I wouldn’t chop them up. I used old concert and musical tshirts from my husband’s and my old high school days, so it was very retro. She loves it!

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  123. #110 - C. Prouty says:

    I travel a lot and often buy T-shirts from the places I’ve been. After a year or so they start to get tiny holes, I guess from washing and drying or they will get a stain. I hate to throw them away so I just hang them in the back of the closet. NOW I know what to do with them! Thanks!

  124. #111 - Hedda says:

    This patchwork scarf project really impressed me. Also i think T’s can be comfy and soft around the neck. The graphics on the shirts chosen can be selected to “say” certain things and have a gimmick (like horsey pictures and words for a cowgirl friend). Thank you so much for continuing to inspire.

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  126. #112 - trish says:

    I don’t wear scarf but this one I can’t wait to made and wear
    Thank you Trish

  127. #113 - Char says:

    Did anyone have trouble with the fabrics curling, after cutting?

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  129. #114 - C. Karby says:

    Are you using any woven interfacing to stop the t shirt material from stretching and loosing it’s form?

    • #115 - Cathe Holden says:

      No. In fact I think that would make the scarves less comfortable. I still wear these all the time and wash after wash they just get better. No issues with fabrics pulling in wrong directions against eachother. I think the real key is using like weight shirts.

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  131. #116 - Ruth Simpson says:

    I like the scarves!! I’ve been making bowls with the bottoms of T-shirts, and have been saving the graphics – now I know why!! Thanks for sharing your beautiful creations!

  132. #117 - Linda says:

    Nice tutorial! I’ve been saving t-shirts for years and now I know what to do with them. So colorful!

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  134. #118 - Valerie says:

    Hi Cathe, so please I found you site, love the scarf which I will be doing for my Grandchildren, thank you so much for sharing

  135. #119 - Cathy Sines says:

    I Love this idea of making the scarf out of t shirts. I want to Try this one ! ! ! ! !

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  138. #120 - Anna Maria Stone says:

    They look great and I love your idea of making a window template for isolating design elements.

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  140. #121 - Andrea Houser says:

    Love this scarf. Just for clarification, the template you made from the envelope shows how the finish would be so you mark and cut on the outer rectangle to allow for your seams?

  141. #122 - MMLG says:

    I just finished cutting out the shirts. I’m thrilled to be able to wear these in a new way! Your tutorial stands out more than the others in that you suggested to close crop and use a template. I made one with an old file folder. Thanks for sharing!