Tagged: how-to

The Monthly Mend: Bring an old t-shirt back from the dead

Halloween DIY: Bloody Repurposed T-Shirt | This I Wear

In my short career as a set costumer, I’ve had the opportunity to work on three horror films. Each time, I worked with amazing SFX (that’s short for “special effects”) makeup artists, who have taught me the art of making someone or thing bloody. In honor of Halloween, I’ll be sharing some of these tips with you to make a horror-film worthy bloody t-shirt, a classic foundation for any scary costume. For my purposes, I will be demonstrating on an old t-shirt, but these steps can be done on any article of clothing. This is a great opportunity to give an old stained or ripped t-shirt a new life, so try digging in the bottom of your drawers for the perfect costume items first.

Note: Every time I mention blood in the steps below, I’m talking fake blood, so please take necessary safety precautions with that box cutter.

An old t-shirt (a light-colored shirt contrasts well with the “blood”)
Fake blood (try a Halloween specialty store, costume makeup store, or make your own)
Box cutter or seam ripper
Syringe, eye dropper, or thin paintbrush
Dirt, grease, or oil (brown paint also works)
Small spray bottle (optional)

Start with something you don’t want any more – a stained shirt, for example – or find something at a thrift store. Put a piece of cardboard between the shirt layers and lay on a flat surface. Using a box cutter, cut gashes, sparingly, in a diagonal direction. You can also rip up the hem and sleeves. Then, flip the shirt over and repeat gashes on the back.

Using grease, oil, paint, or dirt, smudge around the neckline, hemline, and across the body and back. Doing this step first will prevent smudging of your beautiful blood drips in the next steps. I used a “dirt bag,” industry jargon for a rag with mineral oil and movie “dirt” (a brand called Schmere) mixed together. Mineral oil helps the dirt not look dusty and also lasts longer than dusty-style dirt.

Next, paint or syringe the immediate area around the gash starting with a small amount of blood. Real blood tends to soak into fabric in a crisp line, so resist the urge to spread it with your fingers. To make it realistic (and we’re getting real here), blood is all about directional flow, so when you are ready for more “blood,” stand the t-shirt up or hang it on a hanger. Caution: it will drip, so do this step outside or cover your floor! Add to the amount of blood around the gash. Make drips stemming from the gash. Put a longer, thicker drip at the lower corner. Repeat these steps for all gashes. When you are satisfied or sufficiently disgusted with the amount of blood on the front, let it dry and repeat on the back.

Using a small spray bottle filled with watered down blood (just enough water so it can get through the pump), spray across the body. As seen on the finished shirt, I created arterial spray by holding down the pump and moving in a diagonal fashion across the t-shirt in different directions. I wanted it to be a little bit over-the-top for Halloween, so I sprayed more blood overall.

And for that extra little touch of reality, add blood on your body underneath the gash sites. If you want to go all out, scab gel blood is available and makes realistic gash wounds.

Please feel free to share a photo of your bloody look with me through Twitter @lisammagee #ThisIWear!

The truly clean closet: How to donate the right way

This I Wear | Lost Sock Textile Recycling

When I was growing up, my mom regularly dropped off donations to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. It was just one of the ways she served our local community. She set a great example for me, and it’s a habit I still keep. But are we all good donors? While donating unwanted clothing is a great way to do something good and clean out your closet, are we donating the right way?

Small nonprofits, such as your local shelter, have little capacity to process these abundant donations. After seeing this firsthand during a recent volunteer stint, I realized that some individuals are dumping rather than donating. Instead of thoughtfully contributing to a cause they want to support, donating becomes a quick way to get rid of the burden of unwanted clothes. We know we shouldn’t throw away that moth-eaten sweater, so we tuck it in a donation bag in hopes that someone else can do our dirty work for us. Are we all guilty of this classic “donation hit-and-run”?

It is time to start being responsible owners of the things we’ve allowed into our lives and closets. Here are a few tips to make sure your closet clean up makes a difference:

1. Target your donation. If your donation is a handful of evening gowns, and the nonprofit you plan to give to needs business attire, your dresses won’t be of much help. In this example, a quick search for “evening gown donation” will direct you to a nonprofit like DonateMyDress.org that provides prom dresses for high school students in need. A little research will ensure your donations make it to the right place and deliver the maximum impact.

2. Ask the nonprofit for its needs and requirements. Each nonprofit is different, which means they all have unique rules for donations. Rules could include that clothing must be on hangers or only seasonal or certain types of clothing are accepted. Call ahead or check their website to make sure your donation is drop-off ready.

3. Wash those clothes. This may seem like common sense, but if you’ve ever volunteered in a donation center, you know it is not. There are no secret Laundromats in the back of charity shops and donation centers, so make sure the clothes are clean before you drop them off. If you’ve had a piece dry-cleaned, keep the dry cleaner tags on. This may take time and even a bit of money, but proper cleaning makes sure your donation is put to use rather than tossed in the trash.

4. Recycle rather than donate damaged or unusable clothing. Many cities now host textile recycling days or have drop off points for clothes that are seemingly beyond repair. This includes clothing with holes, stains, broken zippers, and yes, even that lone sock. To find a center near you, search Earth911.com for “clothing” recycling in your area. In NYC, textiles are collected at select Grow NYC Farmer’s Markets. Textile recycling is a huge industry and your items are likely to find a whole new life.

As a little lagniappe, here are a few of my favorite places to give:
Housing Works (NYC) – Great charity shops that support the organization’s incredible work serving New Yorkers living with AIDS.
Dress for Success (International) – Provides suits and career support for low income women who are job hunting.
Bridge House / Grace House (New Orleans) – Donations to their thrift shops support their residential recovery program for men and women with alcohol or drug dependencies.

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear #cleancloset to share your favorite place or tips to donate or recycle clothing.

The Monthly Mend: 3 tips for recognizing quality clothing

In this series, I’ll be featuring a new topic every few weeks on how to make better choices when shopping and how to take care of your favorite items once they find a home in your closet.

This I Wear: Stitching Samples

How do we shop? Each of us has different priorities, but I imagine that for the average shopper, it goes something like this: (1) a fabric or style catches your eye, (2) you look over the whole garment for cut, (3) you check the price tag, and if it has passed the test so far, (4) you try it on. For those of us without extensive garment construction knowledge, we just want it to feel good and fit our budget. But there are actually a few things you can look for in a garment to make sure you are heading home with something that will last, whether it is from the Gap or Bergdorf’s.

I’ve recruited our resident sewing guru, Lisa, to teach us how to look under the hood of a garment before we commit. So find your garment’s care label and follow Lisa’s tips:

1. The Fabric
Look for breathable long-lasting natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool, linen, and silk. Synthetic fabrics—polyester, nylon, acrylic, Spandex, and more—are less breathable. Often these fabrics simulate a natural fabric counterpart, but the quality and enjoyment of wearing is rarely the same. While Spandex is the necessary evil to getting my skinny jeans on, it can change the fabric’s overall quality and wear. Designer labels do slip in synthetic fabrics in some form in their collections, though I could argue that these synthetics are better quality that what you would find at a mass-market store. You as the consumer can tell by touch: the hand (meaning how it feels when you touch the fabric) is usually of higher quality. If you are still unsure, think about when you will be wearing the item. If you’re headed to an outdoor summer event, opt for cotton or linen rather than polyester to keep you cool. When purchasing a winter coat, an investment in 100% wool over acrylic is wise—wool is naturally water (and snow) resistant, great at regulating heat, and very durable.

2. The Details
What we don’t see is often more important than what we do see. The stitch length, thread quality, hem type, and seam finishing all come together to create a better garment. The better the details, the longer the manufacturer spent on that garment, raising its quality.

  • Stitches should be tight and close together for maximum durability; larger stitches are reserved for topstitching (the stitching you see on the outside of the garment). Thread should not be too thin or too shiny. Too shiny indicates 100% polyester or nylon thread, which can melt when ironed, particularly when the garment’s main content requires a higher iron heat than the synthetic thread.
  • Hem style depends on the type of garment. Casual pants usually have topstitched hems, but nicer pants and skirts should have invisible hems, which means you should not be able to see the stitching on the outside of the garment.
  • Look for shirts that have flat-felled or French seams. These seam finishes not only take longer to create, but they are also sewn 2 to 3 times, so that the seam is more highly reinforced. Check out A Fashionable Stitch for additional styles.
  • Finishing details are one of the simplest indicators. “X”-shaped tacks that keep slits in place show care for the garment. Same with stitches that hold pockets together. The manufacturer took the time to add these temporary stitches, so that pockets don’t stretch and slits don’t rip before they get to the consumer. Just make sure to remove these stitches when you get home! Using scissors to remove just the first stitch should make it easy to pull the remainder of the thread out by hand.

3. The Fit
Fit is vital to how we look and feel in our clothes. Many people go through life with ill-fitting clothing, not realizing that small alterations or trying a different brand that fits their body shape better could make a big difference in comfort and style. While sizing seems universal, every brand has its own exact size measurements, and this can vary by style. A woman’s size 6 in one store could be a size 4 or 8 in another. Use sizes as a starting point, but don’t rely on them to determine fit. Instead, look for key construction aspects to indicate fit:

  • Women should pay special attention to where darts (fabric tucks to shape the garment to the body’s curves) hit on their bodies: a bust dart should end close to, but not at, the apex of the bust.
  • Shoulder seams should hit at your shoulder, not below or above. (Note: I do confine that to traditional button front shirts and T-shirts, as different fashions of shirts may alter the shoulder seam placement.)

Utilizing the services of a tailor can also help with fit. If you find something you love but the fit is off, consider having it altered. I will say, having performed my fair share of surgery on garments, tailors are not miracle workers. There are things they cannot resolve, and good ones will tell you that before they accept your money. Better to return the item than to have a garment you can’t wear and have paid for twice. Quick tip—Tailoring doesn’t have to be expensive: the Japanese brand Uniqlo hems all pants bought in store for free, even for a cheap pair of jeans. Nordstrom offers free alterations on select full-priced merchandise. Make sure to ask about tailoring services when you’re shopping, especially if it is an investment piece.

Tweet your sewing questions to Lisa directly @lisammagee #themonthlymend. Photos by Lisa Magee.

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