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How To Make A Play Tent From Old Shirts – A Tutorial

Last week it was our school’s Summer Fête and, as well as many edible goodies, I made a play tent for the PTFA to raffle off for their funds.

All week I had been making jam, marmalade, fudge….


….Elderflower Cordial….


…….and scones.


The day before the fair, Mr H-L had a delivery of some new shirts for work and decided to have a wardrobe clear out resulting in the eviction of nine of his ‘old’ ones.


Some of the shirts had never actually been worn and even those that had were still in great condition so, when he asked me to take them to the charity shop, and idea sprung to mind.

Why not upcycle them and make a patchwork play tent to raffle off for the school funds?

This ended up making far more money than they would have achieved in a charity shop, and the money was still going to a good cause, so off to my studio I went to formulate a plan.

I made a similar tent for The Boys last year which I never got around to blogging about, so I based it on that.



Nine men’s cotton shirts

1 x dowelling (2000mm x 25mm)

4 x planed timber (1800mm x 44mm x 18mm)

4 x eyelets

2m elastic cord

Drill a hole 15cm in from one end of each of the bits of planed timber using a spade bit the same size as your dowelling.


You now need to create one single piece of fabric that measures 1.60m x 3.20m.

The first job was to cut up the shirts into as many usable sections as possible using my rotary cutter for speed.

I started by removing the button flaps, cuffs and collars.


Look at all the buttons I rescued!


I wasn’t at all precise in my cutting as I intended to fit each piece as I went – very liberating and totally the opposite of normal patchwork!


I laid all the bits out on the floor and arranged them in a pleasing order, being sure to space out evenly the more brightly coloured yellow and pink.

This would not have quite the same impact with the more conservative blue or white work shirts, but you could always appliqué onto the patches for added interest.

I didn’t need to – Mr H-L likes a shirt that stands out:)

As you can see from the picture below, I sewed the pieces of fabric VERY roughly together into strips. The edges were then trimmed into a neat line before stitching the strips of patchwork together along their long sides.


As both sides of the tent were going to be visible, I used Flat Fell seams throughout.

This type of seam leaves a smart finish and adds strength to the seam.

Here’s a line drawing to show the construction: –

Flat fell seam

Image courtesy of Google images

In photographs, here’s what I did: –

Stitch a staggered seam where the lower fabric (pink) sticks out 1cm more than the top fabric.


Open the two fabrics flat with the raw edges of the seam uppermost.

Fold the seam to the left and tuck the (pink) overhang over the raw edge of the other (striped) fabric, enclosing all raw edges in the process.

Stitch close to the folded edge.


As I said, a very neat finish which I used as the outside of the tent.


Keep going until you have one piece of fabric measuring 1.60m x 3.20m.

Hem all around the outer edges.


In each of the four corners of the tent, fix an eyelet through which you need to attach a 50cm length of elastic cording as shown below.


Tie the ends of the cord in a knot to form a loop through which the tent poles will pass.

Align the holes in the tent poles….


….and insert the length of dowelling.


Lay the tent over the central dowel and pass the poles through the elastic cords at the bottom edge.

I also added a tie half way up each side of the tent – but, in my haste, forgot to document it. Basically, four 50cm long ties were made using scarps of leftover shirt fabric and sewn to the seam. These hold the tent more tautly to the frame.


We also decided to saw a shallow groove on the outer edge of the pole where the elastic cord sits – this helps stop the cord from riding up the pole.


With the addition of some bunting, a blanket and some cushions, it makes a lovely spot for young children to play.


Or the perfect place for No.1 Son to shade his cider from the afternoon sun!


We sold raffle tickets for the tent and raised almost seventy pounds for the school funds!

childs play tent

The lucky winner was thrilled to bits to win it for her little girls and, as it was such a success, I think I’m going to be asked to make one for next year’s fête.

Watch out Mr. H-L, I’ve got my eye on your shirts…..


Men’s T-shirt Refashion

Father-in-law needed some larger T-shirts, which meant a pile of too-small ones were destined for the charity shop – until I saw several holes in them.


I don’t know about you, but anything which is slightly damaged goes in the clothes recycle bin rather than the charity shop as I know lots of people are unable to make small repairs.

As the holes could either be cut around or patched, I decided to have a go at refashioning them into T-shirts for The Boys.

They were all polo-style shirts and the piqué fabric was good quality with plenty of wear in it yet.


Using a well-fitting T-shirt from No.3 Son’s drawer, I cut around the basic outline from the body of the shirt, cutting the sleeves from the original sleeves.


After sewing the shoulder seams, the sleeves were set in and the raw edges overlocked, then I sewed the side seams (right sides together) in one continuous seam from the sleeve hem to the bottom edge.

The raw edges of the seams and the hems were overlocked, then the hems were top stitched in place.

The side seams were reinforced at the bottom with some decorative stitching.


For the collar, I cut off a strip from the original polo collar, sewed the short edges to make a circle…..


….and stitched it to the neckline right sides together, finishing with some more top stitching.



Then to deal with the hole in the middle of the back….


I cut a square of left over fabric (about an inch larger than the hole all around) and pinned it to the inside over the hole.


Working from the right side, I used this stitch on my sewing machine (combined with a stitch length of less than one) to completely fill in the hole.



The repair is virtually invisible on the outside.


The inside looks like this: –


Trim close to the stitching for a neat finish.


No.3 Son was excited with his ‘new’ T-shirt!



I was just pleased to be able to make another wearable item from something which would otherwise have been discarded.

Now, onto the other two….


Refashion: Onesie To Hoodie

This the second in a three part series showing how I upcycled an old Onesie into three new garments.

The first post showed how to make a pair of tracksuit (jogging) bottoms and this one shows how to make the matching Hoodie.

before  and after

I had previously emancipated the top part of the onesie from its lower body and was left with this: –


The centre front zip was cut out next…..


….and a new centre front seam was made by sewing right sides together and overlocking the raw edges.


Both sleeves were shortened by a couple of inches, overlocked and then hemmed leaving a small gap through which to thread the elastic.


The bottom of the hoodie was overlocked and hemmed in the same way, leaving a gap for the elastic.


Having measured loosely around wrists and hips, pieces of elastic were threaded through each of the channels and secured together by hand.



A cute hoodie to match the tracksuit bottoms.


Not the most appreciative smile in the world….


That’s better!


So, that’s how to make a great little hoodie from an old onesie.




Refashion: Onesie To Tracksuit Bottoms

Have your kids (or you!) got one too many of those novelty Onesies that continue to be so popular?

We were given a couple of hand-me-downs from my nephew which would take my boys four or five years to grow into, so I had the idea to re-make one of them into something more wearable – Tracksuit Bottoms, Hoodie and the added bonus of a pair of Slipper Boots!

before  and after

It’s not a complicated refashion, but I seemed to take quite a lot of photos so I’ll split this upcycle into three posts, this being the first.


First up, I took an existing pair of well-fitting tracksuit bottoms and roughly cut the bottom half of the onesie to size.


I left plenty of space to turn up a hem and put the feet to one side for later.


A couple of inches was left at the top to add a little growing room and the top was also put to one side for later.


I started by unpicking and removing the remainder of the zip, then sewed the centre front seam closed.


There was just enough knit fabric leftover from a previous project to make a new waistband. I cut 4″ wide strips and pieced them together to measure the same as the onesie and added a seam allowance. The short ends were sewn right sides together to make a circle.


The new waistband was sewn right sides together with the onesie and the raw edge was overlocked.


The seam was pressed up towards the waistband.


The waistband was folded to the inside where the raw edge was pinned over the seam, enclosing the raw edges and extending over by about 1cm.


I stitched in the ‘ditch’ from the right side, leaving a gap at the centre back to thread the elastic.


I stitched again in the middle, leaving another gap for the elastic.


A final row of top stitching finishes off the top edge neatly.

Two pieces of 1/2″ wide elastic were cut to my son’s waist measurement and threaded through the channels using a safety pin.


The ends of the elastic were sewn together by hand and the gaps in the top stitching were sewn closed by machine.



For the bottom hems, I just overlocked the raw edges and sewed a small hem leaving a gap to thread through some 1/4″ wide elastic.



Et Voilá!

A perfectly good pair of tracksuit bottoms.


Ok, so the T-shirt doesn’t go with them very well, but No.3 son doesn’t care!


So there you go – how to refashion/upcycle an old onesie into a pair of tracksuit (jogging) bottoms:)

Next Post: HOODIE


Tutorial: How To Cover A Lampshade and use Chalk Paint to upcycle table lamps

You may remember a post from earlier this week when I mentioned that I had been bargain hunting in charity shops for Number One Son’s return to Uni. Part of our haul included two utterly minging shiny brass-effect table lamps complete with two equally vile lilac lampshades.

I snapped them up solely because they were in perfect working order and only cost a meagre £3.00 in total. No.1 would never have bought them but, as I was paying, he was grateful for anything and I convinced him that we could do something, anything, with them to increase their aesthetic appeal.

Quite frankly setting a match to them would make them more attractive so my plan to paint the bases and cover the shades was over and above, I think!

My lovely friend Roz over at The Velvet Cow has been extolling the virtues of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint for a while now and very kindly lent me a pot of Old White and a paintbrush for the afternoon. (Be sure to check her blog out to see the wonderful things she has done with it!)

We started painting before I remembered to take photos, but you get an idea of what we were up against: –



The great thing about Chalk Paints (we used Annie Sloan but Autentico also has an extensive range of colours) is that they eliminate the need for laborious preparation. No sanding necessary, just wipe clean and paint – it truly is that simple!

So we did…


One coat was all they needed before being left to dry. A coat of wax should then really be applied as a protective layer but, as these were table lamps, not table legs, we figured they weren’t going to get bashed about that much to warrant it. And we didn’t have any anyway:)


Much better.

Now to start on the lampshades.

Having mixed some PVA glue with an equal amount of water, it was slopped on the the shades very quickly.


Another charity shop find that I couldn’t resist ages ago was this book of musical scores, each one the National Anthem of a different country. It’s so old that the pages are the authentic tobacco-stained brown that is so often faked with cold tea; a lovely contrast to the white base.


We literally tore pages from the book and pasted them with more PVA onto the shades, smoothing it as we went.


Extra pages are slapped on, overlapping where necessary, until the whole shade is covered.


When dry, use a Stanley knife or (similar craft knife) to cut away the overhanging edges. (Tip: make sure you use a fresh blade or you risk ripping the paper).



I can’t wait to show you the result so, without further ado…..



No.1 is understandably chuffed with our efforts and I think they will add a cosy touch to his Uni digs. They look especially lovely at night time.


It’s amazing what you can do with very little cash and lots of imagination, isn’t it?