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Two into One Bowling Themed Aloha Shirt Renovation

I recently attended the recent Gaslight Expo steampunk convention as a speaker and workshop leader.  I’ve been so busy over the past two months, that I really didn’t have a lot of time to invest in a new costume to fit the theme of Tiki. I knew that I had a couple of old bowling themed aloha shirts hanging in the back of the closet.  So I excavated those old shirts, gave them a wash and contemplated all of the potential things I could do with them.

Right: Sample from my 3-D Bead Embroidery Demo/Workshop

However, I was so freaking busy the three weeks before the convention I was focussed on getting a bedlah set completed for a customer and my workshop completed for the Belly Dance Bundle 2018.

Basic Aloha Bowling Shirt

I headed south to stay with my family the week before the event, and I took along the pair of shirts, thinking I would wear them as is.  I had purchased these shirts many years ago when I was a competitive bowler. Back in the day, I was so excited to have bowling themed shirts, that I bought one in each color.

Left: Blue Bowling Aloha Shirt, before the redesign

For a red-hot second, I almost abandoned the project, figuring I could just wear the shirt as-is.  But after talking to my family, they encouraged me to take an hour and do something wonderful with it. I wasn’t feeling particularly creative, but I thought I should at least try.

Taking Two Shirts and Creating One Garment

My design mind came up with a lot of complicated things to do with this shirt. First I considered using both shirts to make a dress, disregarding the shirt-shape and treating the cloth like yardage.  I didn’t think that was a reasonable 1-hour project, so I contemplated other approaches.

The next thought was to do a parti-colored shirt or dress that was half blue and half tan. This seemed like a fast way to transform the two garments into something new and different.

Redesign Process

Once I had decided to simply combine the two shirts into one, I made a simple four-step order of construction.

  1. Cut the shirts in half up the back
  2. Pin the left side of one color to the right side of the other color.
  3. Machine sew the back seam.
  4. Swap pockets.

Cut Shirts in Half:  I carefully folded each shirt up the center back. For this project, I used my mum’s fabric shears and standard pins.  I folded the shirt in half, pinned the fold in place, and cut along the fold.  You can see what the tan shirt looked after cutting the back.

Pin the back seam:  Using standard pins, I pin the left side to the right side. For straight line sewing, I like to place my pins perpendicular to the seam.  As I sew, I pull the pins, rather than sew over them.

Machine sew the back seam: My mum let me use her machine.  This Brother is what I recommend in my sewing classes for new students.  It’s a very affordable kit that includes a lot of great tools and accessories for an amazing price. It’s nice to sew on it and remind me how nice this machine is and that I’m still glad to recommend it.

Swap Pockets:  Well, since I was chatting and socializing with my mum and brother, didn’t quite make it that far!  But this detail can happen later.  I decided to stop at this place because the shirt was wearable.

If I had started to take the pockets off, I would have been committed to finishing that step, which was much bigger than the other three.  It would require spending a lot of time with a seam ripper to remove the two pockets.  Then I would have to pin the pocket into place and then carefully top-stitching it into place. I just didn’t have the time or focus to tackle this last step.

Done is Good!

As a designer, you get to decide when a project is done.  Since I committed to working for just an hour, I stopped at a good stopping point!  Although this may not have seemed like a huge change, I had so many people ask me where I got this unusual shirt.  I’m glad my mum challenged me to do something with my old shirts!

In the fullness of time, I can swap the pockets out, or just choose to leave this restyled shirt just as it is.  Either way, I had a wonderful time wearing my old/new creation.  Are there any garments in your closet that you can use as a basis for creating a new design?

I wish you luck in all of your sewing and costuming adventures!
Davina ~ Dawn Devine
Oct. 9, 2018


PS: Here’s a photo of my mum’s sewing machine.  She purchased it from using prime for around $100.  Prices vary from moment-to-moment, but here’s a link to check it out if you are in the market for a  budget sewing machine.

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