04 April 2009

126. 302Designs T-Shirt Refashion Project - Getting Started

Diana asked me, via a comment on my post about my self-dubbed "micro-line" with 302Designs, if I planned to blog about the process of creating the garments/ line.  Since this is much of the sewing I'll do the next few weeks, I thought I would.  The timing of Diana's comment was uncanny -- Martha McQuade from Uniform Studio had just posted on her blog about the benefits and challenges in blogging her clothing design process, and then wrote a great follow-up.  So blogging process/ progress for an unfinished product was already on my mind.

I rarely show, in my self-sewing for fun, pictures of works in progress;  nothing trumps the contrast between a "before" photo and an "after" photo.  But since the final garments from this project will get more attention than my clothes are used to, I'll probably only blog works in progress for this line.

About 302Designs if you haven't been over to their site yet... I don't want to oversimplify and inaccurately describe what they do by saying they are a t-shirt screenprinting company.  Their design and production process is very unique:

image from 302designs.com

Their key executives drive the vision for each collection by setting the initial theme, but the entire process is collaborative and productive, all the way to the end.  I've always appreciated 302's process, guiding beliefs, and involvement and leadership in the Austin community.  You can read more about 302Designs here. 

So, you see, these 16 shirts are really not just any ol' t-shirts.  The printed designs are much more than pretty pictures.  If I had picked up old corporate t-shirts at a clothing swap, I wouldn't think twice about hacking out the graphics and tossing those into the trash.  For 302, the graphics and concept really make the shirts and, as long as the printing is clear and in good condition, they should be worked into the new line.  Here they are:
(BTW, the shirt on Carmen in the bottom right corner is not a 302 shirt.  I just needed one more photo to complete the mosaic.  Haha.)

I had a really hard time getting started!  At first, for a couple of weeks, I was sketching out ideas, assembling an inspiration book from old tear sheets and various images, and still kind of in shock over how I got into this agreement.  There was a significant part of me thinking, "You've only been seriously sewing for 2 1/2 years -- why do you get this opportunity instead of someone who's made far more sacrifices for much longer?"  And then it occurred to me that I'm getting to do this because, basically, I asked for it.  I try to remind myself of that when I need to.

It was important to me to get clear about my own philosophy leading this whole project, and my mantras are: sustainability -- which is multi-faceted -- and local.  I knew I would stick with sportswear separates because I only had these 16 specific shirts, in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and printed designs.  Even with this in mind, I couldn't figure out where to start with my pile of sketches and pile of 302 shirts.

I felt that there were suddenly too many limitations:
  1. Color.  Three shirts were that golden mango color, which is such a strong, intense color.  Three were that green I can't define.  I just know I would not wear that color or pick it for myself.  (Which is one habit I need to break if I am going to keep designing clothes for other people.)  
  2. Fabric weight.  The shirts range from semi-sheer to lightweight, so unless I doubled up on fabric I couldn't see successful skirts coming of these recons.  So now only tops in the line?
  3. Size.  My form has a 32.5" bust, and the size 6/8 that I borrowed has a 35.5" bust with matching proportions.  Even though a Size 2XL shirt would make a great dress for short me, it's not long enough for a (decent, modest) dress for a size 6/8 woman.  Another reality check for designing for others!
  4. Damage and inconsistency of printing.  The whole reason why these shirts were not sellable is because a couple had stains, a couple had holes, at least one had a print that was asymmetrically printed on the front that was obviously not supposed to be asymmetrical, etc.  Just more details to mind that equalled more limitations.
  5. Time.  As in, sew.  Right now.
I could feel my energy stalling out, so I just started with a huge pile of old white t-shirts and company shirts from my husband.  I cut out and sewed up three muslins based on sketches.  I wasn't in love with any of them and couldn't come up with any ideas about how to make them love-worthy.  I went back to the sketchpad, created some variations, and was suddenly lost in the myriad of options.  In a week, I had gone from too many limitations to too many options.  What is wrong with me????  LOL

So it occurred to me to lay out all the shirts on the floor, like a puzzle, and see if things started to make more sense.  Fortunately, they did.  This post is looooong enough so I will fill you in next time.  Hope your weekend is off to a great start!


  1. It doesn't matter that you have "just" 2.5 years of sewing experience. Whether you realize it or not, you are an amazing sewist! and this is a very cool concept you are working on You are making it happen with your creative and environmental vision!!
    You're rockin' this microline!

  2. I have all the same thoughts when trying to "design for other people." for the first year I was making clothing everything was a size "tina" - which was fine if it ended up not selling. it just went in my closet. :)


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