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  • Londa

Elvis T-Shirt Upcycle Top #1

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

It was fun to upcycle one side of an 'Elvis' T-Shirt I picked up at a restaurant near Graceland in Memphis this summer. Here's my creation...And: This garment is now available for Sale HERE.


The T-Shirt had both front and backsides identical, which I found to be quite unusual. It was easy to realize that with this one T-Shirt, I will have the strong potential of creating 2 different garments.

As always, I take what I call a 'dive' into my stash which I've organized by color. Here's one 'collection' that fell together. Would I combine ALL of these?? For sure - NO NO NO! To start, I pull out anything and everything that might work - EVERYTHING. The main thing I'm looking for at this point is both hue (color, and undertone of color) and intensity - brightness or dullness. The T-shirt has a soft grey overall look, so the black/white knit stripe at the right was quickly rejected. At the lower left is a pair of socks I purchased at Graceland as well, but they seemed to be a much 'cooler, almost navy-ish black - so they were rejected as well (at least for this project - but I 'see' them as lower sleeves on another garment). The 'ball' in the middle is a glorious hunk of jersey knit cut into strips which turned out to be used as the unifying 'trim' on my top. More on that later...

The WINNER was this lusciously soft heather knit dress with a gored skirt, turtle neckline and rib-knit sleeves. The soft heathered look of this dress was perfect with the T-shirt, so I pretty quickly determined to somehow 'work' the front of the T-Shirt over top of this dress as the base. Where did I find this dress? I can ASSURE you that I didn't purchase from a store. Likely, it come from an estate sale. I'm scoring some real 'finds' at estate sales, taking time to really dig into the wardrobes of the lady of the house. I recently found a mink stole for $35 that I gave to my little granddaughters for their dress-up! Usually,the garments are priced around $5 - at least around here in western TN. Some of the other 'finds' in the collection above were then delegated to a basket to use with the backside of the T-Shirt on another upcycle project.


The decision to use the dress as the base being made, it was time to start cutting! It's hard to actually cut in, but eventually, I find I just HAVE To CUT - so I just take a deep breath and start cutting!

I knew I wanted to make use of the great gored bottom of this dress, so I decided to cut it at about 5/8" above the top of the godets.

At this time, I also realized that the godet skirt part of this dress was plenty long - especially for the top I envisioned - with a normal hip length top, NOT the 'tunic' length which now seems delegated to 'past fashion' - so I knew I would be shortening it eventually in the construction process.


After 'trying' on the T over top of the dress on my dress form, I finally decided to cut the front of the T apart as shown below, and to use the lowermost portion for the backside of my garment.


With the bottom of the dress cut off, I started pinning the front of the T-shirt to the bodice of the dress. Obviously, my goal was to preserve both the photo and the names: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins (a huge personality here in Jackson, TN - and songwriter of 'Blue Suede Shoes' made so popular by Memphis). I just worked to tuck and pin the T on top of the knit dress bodice. Once I got it looking good, I cut the T right along the neckline at the top, and along the armholes.

Below is a similar design process using the lower portion of the T-Shirt over top of the back bodice of the dress. At the neckline, I had to 'piece' in some of the 'background' fabric of the T-Shirt sleeves. I knew at this point, that I'd have to come up with some creative solution for the very top neckline. I also was not sure if I'd maintain the turtleneck of the original dress - or not. A later decision. One decision at a time is my mantra.

There really wasn't that much 'sewing' to this up-cycle project. The hardest sewing task was 'anchoring' the T-shirt to the dress 'base'. To accomplish this, I used clear thread in the needle at my machine. If you have a 'stacked' wound spool like Transfil, you MUST use a vertical spool pin. Wonder Thread from YLI can 'ride' either on a vertical spool pin or a horizontal spool pin. Play wit