Upcycled Construction Truck Shirt
Are you looking to sew up a polo shirt? Are you looking at figuring out how to include a smaller garment within a larger one? I've answered both questions here.
A couple of weeks ago I was going through Zoey’s outgrown clothing and found a construction vehicle onesie I bought her at Wal-Mart. Have you found that with your second child you find yourself buying clothing you know the older one would love to see her in? Since the onesie was technically more for Ada instead of Zoey and since I knew the upcycling challenge was approaching through the Facebook group “52 Weeks Sewing Challenge” that I’ve been participating in this year I decided to set it aside for later.
As the upcycling week approached I decided to add it to a shirt. After making my peppermint swirl dresses before Christmas I bought a Soda Pop shirt pattern through Candy Castle Patterns that I hadn’t had a chance to try yet. Before looking over the pattern I was planning on cutting my pattern pieces, using appliqué to sew the image from the onesie directly onto whichever pattern piece became the front of the shirt, trimming the onesie, and then following along with the directions to make the shirt. After reading through the pattern I discovered reverse applique along with detailed instructions on how to do it as they have the option to create a pocket with a star, lightening bolt, or heart reverse appliquéd to the front of it.
We started with a trip to our local Joann’s to find some matching fabric to go with our onesie. We weren’t able to find the dinosaurs riding construction vehicles that I used for Ada’s sheets which was rather disappointing… so instead we bought some more construction vehicles fabric (same one that was used for our peppermint swirl dresses) in woven for the highlights (and because for some reason I was thinking long sleeves in woven which was wrong) and bought a simple black knit for the main material. I had forgotten the onesie in my diaper bag in the car (as I thought I just needed the potty bag and wallet) so we weren’t able to match exact colors.
After looking over the pattern’s in-depth directions I decided to sew my placket before adding the onesie to my pattern piece so I’d know how far up to do the reverse applique. After completing the placket I cut up the back of the onesie, took the front pattern piece, laid the opened and flattened onesie over the shirt, and figured out how and where I wanted it to lay on the shirt front.
After I was sure of its placement I flipped the front of the shirt over and laid the onesie overtop. I then used a disappearing ink pen to sketch out what shape I wanted. Originally I was thinking something lightning shaped as I was going to add a lightening shaped pocket to the shirt but with Valentine’s Day a week before and the shape of the vehicles I decided instead to draw a heart. Once I was sure I liked how it looked I pinned alongside the outside and a couple pins inside the heart to keep it in place.
I then sewed along the heart with a zigzag stitch so the fabric will still be able to stretch. After sewing around the heart I decided to go around it one more time for more security. The second time around I echoed the first heart by sewing alongside the first line of stitching.
Now comes the two scariest parts. The first is to trim your excess onesie from the shirt. I found this easiest by holding the onesie and letting gravity pull away the heart and the folded over black fabric so I could safely cut around the heart.
The scariest part was cutting the black fabric. To get inside I lifted up the center of the heart so it separated from the onesie. I then cut a small nick (peek-a-boo backhoe), cut towards the stitching, and then cut beside the stitches. Again I held the onesie by the center black fabric and let gravity drape the fabric I didn’t want to cut away from my scissors. When you get to the bottom of the heart the space seemed to small for my large sewing scissors so after cutting as close to the tip as I could I used my seam ripper enter the space from my cut, go under the black fabric, then brought it upward to pierce the tip of the heart, and the pulled it up to tear through the fabric.
With all the scariest steps behind you (the instructions say the placket was the scariest) you’re now good to go… unless your sewing machine also tried to eat your fabric when you were sewing around the heart. I ended up with two places where the front of my fabric had a ‘mountain’ pile up. At first I wasn’t concerned as I was cutting off the black fabric later. At the time I widened the heart in those areas and then after I finished sewing I seam ripped the beginning of the stitching where it left the heart area. After cutting the black fabric away I realized I was left with two holes in my onesie applique.
I decided to fix it by covering up the holes with applique. I cut out two more hearts out of the leftover onesie fabric and laid them over the holes. I noticed the bottom of the onesie was a bit stained so I cut out a third heart to cover up the bottom better. I put the whitest side up and after deciding where they’d go I attached them with Heat’N Bond.
I then used a blanket stitch on my sewing machine to stitch around the sides of the hearts. One of the hearts was overlapping another so I started by sewing at the point the bottom heart disappeared under the top heart. After I sewed around the bottom heart I stopped where the other side of the heart disappeared under the top heart, turned the fabric, and then started sewing along all the sides of the top heart. When done I then moved over to blanket stitch the third heart at the top.
After I was done altering the front of the shirt I continued sewing the Soda Pop shirt according to the pattern’s directions. Originally, I had planned to have a reverse applique heart pocket, a white collar from the onesie back, the insert sewn onto the outside of the back, and use vehicle buttons on the placket. While sewing the collar it looked cheap so I ended up using more of my black knit fabric for the collar instead. I also decided the front of the shirt was too busy to add another element so I left the pocket off the shirt. For my placket I think I used interfacing that was too stiff and I was a bit worried about damaging the shirt while attempting a buttonhole on the stiff material (I hadn’t played with buttonholes in over a year since the ribbon pull quiet book page) so I instead switched to using KAMsnaps instead (in red to match the vehicles from the onesie).
Once I was done I was excited to show Ada as she hadn’t really seen the progress I had made since the pattern pieces were cut. I told her to close her eyes while I changed her shirt…. and then let her look!
I think she loved it! Which was all that mattered in the end.
Tips when sewing the shirt
- A while ago I watched a YouTube video for quilting that mentioned using tweezers to hold your quilt blocks together when you couldn’t fit you fingers close to the sewing foot. I remembered that so when I couldn’t stretch the elastic anymore while sewing over it I pulled out an old cheap pair of tweezers. The tweezers also made an appearance when I had trouble keeping two pieces of knit lined up.
A quick tip I heard while doing my buttonholes before was to use a sewing pin to stop your seam ripper from going to far. When cutting the placket I decided to use that hack just to be doubly sure I wouldn’t cut too far. (And yes the glittery gel pen was the quickest to grab and luckily wasn’t visible in the finished product… though Ada did choose which pen to hand me when I needed it.)
Overall, I loved this pattern and love the reverse applique upcycling hack I added to it. Ideally I wish the construction vehicles matched the onesie better, but overall I love the shirt. I can’t wait to make another Soda Pop shirt again, but first I need to find out if there’s a better interfacing. Additionally, I wonder if using a tear away stabilizer on the front of the shirt would’ve helped or if too much of it would’ve been stuck in the stitches after I was done. Another solution might be drawing out the heart shape I came up with on paper, cutting it out, flipping the paper over, and then transferring it to the front of the shirt so I could sew with the front of the shirt up and stabilizer underneath.
I’m not an affiliate but if you’re interested in the pattern I used for the shirt you can find it through Candy Castle Patterns. If you’re still learning, like me, there’s an active Candy Castle Facebook group where you can ask questions. There’s also the 52 Weeks Sewing Challenge that gave me a reason to come up with this challenge. There’s a new project topic every week and a large group so you can share what you made and ask questions. It’s a closed Facebook group, but after answering a couple of questions they easily let you in.
I can’t wait to see what clothing you end up upcycling and how you do it! I would love to hear from you in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or through Instagram.