My favorite tools in my sewing studio are my OLFA Rotary Cutters. I use them in almost every sewing project I do. Today, I am going to share with you are few reasons why they are so essential for garment sewing!
OLFA CUTTING TOOLS:
Over-sized Knit Tee-shirt (I used 2 for added color but you can complete this project with one)
Large Wooden Craft Beads (pony beads would work as well)
Basic Sewing Supplies
Optional: Twin Sewing Needle, extra coordinating knit fabric strips
STEP 1: CUT OFF SLEEVES WITH OLFA ROTARY CUTTER
The OLFA rotary cutter makes this such an easy and fun step! Simply place the shirt on your OLFA rotary mat (I keep the 23″ x 70″ on my table as a base at all times) and cut the sleeve off on the bodice side of the seam line. By following the seam line that exists in the shirt already, you will keep your sleeveless cover-up constant on both sides.
STEP 2: CUT OFF THE BOTTOM HEM
You are basically going to repeat Step 1 but you will be cutting off the hem of the shirt with your OLFA rotary cutter. If you are using two shirts like I did, you will do this step for both.
STEP 3: CUT FRINGE WITH YOUR OLFA ROTARY CUTTER, QUILTING RULER, & ROTARY MAT
Here is a great tip on an alternative use for your OLFA quilting rulers; use them as a barrier. Often times we use the rules to help us measure & cut but I have found that they work great as a barrier or cut-to positioning tool as well.
I want my fringe to be the same length around the whole shirt and I also want them to end at the same point. So I simply am using the 6″ x 24″ Quilting Ruler as a cut-to-line or a barrier. First I laid the shirt down flat on the cutting mat, then used the markings on the ruler to positioning it 2″ below the bottom point of each arm opening (this is called the armscye in the garment world).
I used pattern weights (aka a can of Coke and some snacks) to help keep the ruler in place while I cut the fringe up to the ruler. To cut the fringe itself, I used the smaller 6″ x 12″ quilting ruler. I have found this ruler to be a perfect size for garment making because I can use it is not so long that it is in my way while cutting out individual pattern pieces or marking seam allowances & hemlines.
I cut each of my fringe pieces at 0.375″ (3/8 of an inch) wide. The length will depend on your shirt. I was able to cut through both the front and back of the shirt at once thanks to the sharpness of the 45mm tungsten steel blades that I use! They stay sharp cut after cut and I do not knick them as easily as I do with the endurance blades (sometimes I rush and hit my rulers – please tell me I am not alone)!!! Again, IF you are using two shirts you will repeat this step for both.
STEP 4: PREP THE FRINGE FOR MACRAME
I have always loved the look of macramé and knew that I wanted to incorporate it into this fringe look. I choose a very simple but fun knot to use. This is a great beginners knot and it can be used to make many amazing looks. I found it easiest to make my knots with the shirts on a mannequin. I put both shirts onto the mannequin with the main cover-up shirt as the top layer. Then I turned on a good movie and started to macramé the fringe together. My advice is simple: Don’t give up! Keep going, it will be worth it! Here is how you do it –
DESIGNER’S TIP: ADD COLOR POP WITH INDIVIDUAL STRIPS OF KNIT FABRIC
While I loved the bright blue shirt and the striped grey & black, I felt like it was still missing a bit of drama. To add a color pop I incorporated individual strips of knit fabric. I added the strips strategically and symmetrically on the left & right side, but you could scatter them in anywhere. Have fun with it!
- Use the 5″ precision smooth edge scissors to cut a small hole in between two of the pieces of fringe.
- Fold the individual strip in half creating a looped end.
- Feed the loop through the small hole.
- Pick up the bottom two ends of the strip and thread them up through the loop.
- Gently pull the two ends of the strip until a knot forms in the small hole.
- Repeat this for all the pops of color you want to add!
STEP 5: LARK MACRAME KNOT
To complete the lark knot you will need 4 pieces of your fringe. I started by finding the center four fringe pieces on my cover-up. Then I split these down the middle so that I had two center sets each having two pieces of fringe in them. I then added the next 2 pieces of fringe on the off-center side of each set to make two sets of four fringe pieces.
DESIGNER’S TIP: KEEP THE SETS OF FOUR GROUPED WITH WONDER CLIPS
I used wonder clips to group these sets then continued to make sets of four around the front of the cover-up. I did not macramé the back of the cover-up because I thought it would make sitting uncomfortable.
It’s time to make the Lark Macramé Knot. Take one of the center front sets and complete the following steps.
Take the outer fringe piece (yellowish) and lay it on top of the rest of the set making the number ‘4’
Take the opposite outer fringe piece (yellowish) and lay it over the free end of the first piece
Still holding this fringe piece wrap it behind the two middle fringe pieces (red) and out the corner point of the ‘4’
Gently pull the two outer pieces of fringe (yellowish) knotting them over the center two pieces of fringe (red)
You have now made your first knot. You will make a second knot with this same set before you move on to a new set of fringe. Repeat the lark knot but mirror the steps so that your initial ‘4’ is facing the wrong direction. Altering the starting direction of the four steps is what creates beautiful macramé knots.
You will repeat the lark knot in both directions for each set of fringe. I suggest finishing the two center sets first then working your way out to the right, then the left. After all the sets have one complete lark knot you will split the sets into new groups. Start in the center and take the center four fringe pieces to be the first new group, clip them with a wonder clip. Now work your way down the line making the new groupings. Repeat the lark knots for all of the new sets. Then you will alternate the grouping back to the original sets by splitting the middle set into two center sets each having two pieces of fringe in them. I then added the next 2 pieces of fringe on the off-center side of each set to make two sets of four fringe pieces. Repeat this process until you are happy!
STEP 6: ADD WOODEN BEADS TO THE FRINGE
Once I had made a sequence of Lark macramé knots that I was happy with I decided to finish off each grouping with a dark wood bead. I love the organic beachy-boho look that this small detail created in my final cover-up!
Feed the Loop Turner into 4-5 wooden beads
Attach the small top hook onto one of the fringe pieces in the set of 4 that you are working on.
Pull the fringe down through the wooden bead then remove the hook from the fabric
Push the Loop Tuner back into the same wooden bead
Attach the small top hook onto the second piece of fringe in the set and pull it through the same bead
Repeat this process for all four pieces of fringe in the set
Take two of the fringe pieces and tie them off in a square knot. Repeat this for the other two pieces of fringe to square the bead in place
*STEP 7: CUT OFF EXCESS OF THE SECONDARY SHIRT
If you used two shirts you will want to remove the top half of the secondary shirt. Carefully separate the secondary shirt from the main cover-up and cut it off the cover-up about 0.75″ from the start of the fringe. Since you have woven the fringe together in the macramé they will not fall off the shirt. I used my pretty Ruby rotary cutter, the rotary mat, the 6″ x 24″ quilting ruler, and the excess of my secondary shirt to create a few more awesome details that I added to the cover-up. They are all optional, easy, and complete the look!
STEP 8: CUT & SEW THE NECKBAND AND NECKLINE
You can keep the existing neckline of your shirt if you wish, but my teen wanted an “off the shoulder more grown-up style” (let the fun begin right!?!?!!) so that is what I did. Here is a great excuse & another fantastic tip for owning both big and small OLFA rotary mats: use the small 24″ X 36″ double-sided rotary mat INSIDE your garments to save time when changing necklines, sleeves or hems on one side of the garment. My new navy splash rotary mat fits perfectly inside the cover-up and allowed me to quickly cut a new neckline of the front of my cover-up without damaging the back. When you are upcycling you have to work with what you have. By inserting the rotary mat I was able to work with precision and control creating a consistent neckline curve on the front and then on the back by simply turning the shirt &mat over (it’s double-sided remember). How great is that! I cut the back neckline to be a deep scoop.
Adding an actual neckband is an optional step, as we are using a knit shirt so the fabric will not actually fray. It does create a more polished look, however, which I prefer. I cut from the remainder of my secondary shirt a strip 1.75″ by 80% of my neckline circumference. You can choose between 85-80% for a nice neckband that lays flat. The percentage depends on the elasticity of the knit you are using so maybe do a test run on this first by pinning it in place. You will first sew the two short ends of the neckband strip right sides together making a loop.
You will then quarter both the neckband and the neckline on the shirt. Match the quarter points of each with the neckband on the wrong side of the shirt so that the right side of the neckband is touching the wrong side of the shirt. Gently stretch the neckband to fit the neckline of the shirt as you stitch them in place. Grab that rotary blade out and cut the seam allowance in half.
Fold the neckband up and over the neckline so that the right side of the fabric is visible on the front of the cover-up. I wanted to keep with the raw edge look of the fringe so I did NOT turn the neckband under hiding the raw edges. I choose simply to use a twin needle and top stitch the neckband on with the raw edge exposed. I can’t wait to see which technique you will use!
STEP 9: ADD A BEADED BACK TIE
I used some extra strips to make a little tie on the back of the cover-up. To do this I simply laid 3 strips together and stitch across the short raw edge to secure them in place. Then I pinned them on the wrong side of the cover-up about 1.5″ below the shoulder seam. I stitched them in place following the stitch lines of the neckband. I added a bead to each set using the same technique we did earlier for the fringe. Viola! Just like that you have a cute back strap that will help the cover-up stay in place with that “off the shoulder more grown-up style” neckline.
STEP 10: SEW A RUCHED SHOULDER DETAIL
The last detail that I added to the cover-up is the ruched shoulder treatment. This is such a fun little sewing trick that adds function and style! Because the top is up-cycled the shoulder is much wider that needed for my daughter. To shorten the shoulder I added two more fabric strips and a rectangular fabric panel on the wrong side of the shoulder.
Cut your rectangle to be 2″ x length of the shoulder minus 0.5″. For example, my shoulder length was 6.75″ in length, so 6.75-.5= 6.25″. Once you have your rectangles & additional strips (at least 12″ long) cut and ready you will need to turn your cover-up inside out.
Lay the two strips about 0.25″ (1/4″) from the center seam of your shoulder so that one end is flush with the neckline and the other end is extending beyond the shoulder into the armscye. Center the rectangle, right side up, onto the shoulder seam so that there is a buffer zone of fabric around each strip. Starting at the armscye end of the rectangle sew up the long side, across the short side that is flush with your neckline. Be sure that the ends of the ties are sewn down along with the raw edge of the rectangle. Continue down the opposite long side until you reach the armscye again. Then you will stitch in the ditch of the shoulder seam, creating two casings around each tie.
To help my daughter ruch the shoulder and keep it that way I strung both ties through one bead, ruched the shoulder fabric pushing the bead right close to the shoulder, then tied a square knot with the two ties. I then added a bead to each separate tie and knotted the bottom of each tie to keep the bead in place. Most of this is decorative, but now the shoulder has a purpose and looks of sew stylish!