Nowadays we seem to be communicating almost entirely by T-shirts. A woman friend appeared the other day in a T-shirt that stated in very small letters: "This is no ordinary housewife you're dealing with." Another friend, who always likes to have the last word, had this on his T-shirt, "I never make mistakes -- Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken!"
Besides making us chuckle at their sentiments, some T-shirts have blossomed to become a whole new art form -- covered with brilliant colors and images.
Well, if you've lots to say, as I do, we'd better get going and say it with stitches. Start with a plain cotton knit T-shirt, some sandpaper, a Trace-Erase pen and what's on your mind. Lightly stretch the T-shirt over a piece of sandpaper -- so the fabric will not shift as you are writing -- and letter your feelings with a Trace-Erase pen. (Great for poor spellers -- it washes out completely with a dab of cold water.)
Since stretchy knit fabric can be tough to handle, put a piece of thin muslin, lawn or organdy into an embrodiery hoop and baste your T-shirt to the fabric without putting the T-shirt into the loop at all. Stitch through both layers and, afterwards, cut away the excess organdy from around the stitches on the back.
If you haven't got that much to say, you could stitch your name or an interesting monogram or even a single letter. Think of what great one-of-a-kind gifts these "talking T-shirts" would make.
Use books and magazines to collect samples of different letter types and experiment with various stitches. Back, split and stem stitches are naturals for creating fine lines. An open letter, like "O," can be worked in simple white satin stitch, then the center hole and outside edges can be filled in with wonderful geometric or floral designs in brilliant colors.
Another technique, outline the letter, using back stitch. Instead of filling in the letter itself, satin-stich a shadow all around it for a 3-D effect. Try stitching a twisted vine of flowers in and out of your letter or monogram, or entirely filling in an extra large letter with masses of tiny flowers.
Of course, the most classic monogram -- perfect for blazers, bridal sheets, pillow cases and crew-neck preppie sweaters (as well as lowly T-shirts) -- is worked in slanted satin stitch with clean, crisp edges. The secret of the crisp edges is the monogram cut first from postcard-weight paper that is hidden under the stitching. Mount your fabric in an embroidery hoop and carefully take two or three tiny stitches through the paper monogram to keep it in place. Then completely cover the pattern with satin stitch. Perfection -- and so easy!
Not only are T-shirts talking, so are our handbags, scarves and blue jeans. So the time seems right for you, the designer, to create your own labels. And not just for yourself.
Q. A knitted Christmas stocking was given to my daughter several years ago. It has a snowman and her name on it. We have no way of knowing how it was made. It measures 20 inches from top to heel and 8 1/2 inches from heel to tip of toe. Can you give me some help?
A. To make the Christmas stocking, knit a plain stocking the dimensions you want in a bright color with a white heel, toe and band for a cuff. Then cross stitch any design you wish -- a snowman, Santa Claus or a tree-top angel on the leg section. Finally, cross stitch the child's name on the cuff band (you might want to add the year, too). To do this, outline any simple shape on graph paper and count it out in cross stitch. You count each stitch of the knitting as though it was one mesh of a canvas background.