How to Use Scraps of Knit Fabric to Make Origami Squares, Part I

comments (0) January 17th, 2009     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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This is how the squares look when the neckline is cut away.
Here is a close-up of the attached squares.
This is how the squares look when the neckline is cut away.

This is how the squares look when the neckline is cut away.

Photo: Jen Stern

This is my Anthropologie moment of the month—fabric origami squares. I saw...and purchased (I couldn't help myself!) a short-sleeve top that had folded-up pieces of knit fabric around the neckline. It's perfect for a girl like me who has a hard time with the accessories. The knit squares have a built-in accessory look! This technique has a lot of design potential...and they are really easy to make. Even if your squares aren't folding up perfectly, they will still look great. In part I, I'm going to show you how to make these origami squares and how to attach them onto a T-shirt, restyling the neckline in the process. In part II, I'm going to add some variations on how to fold the fabric to create even more interest and show you how they look when the squares and the shirt are the same color.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Scraps of lightweight knit (or an old T-shirt)
  • A T-shirt that could use an update
  • Thread to match your fabric or T-shirt
  • A straight stitch plate for your sewing machine (it's super-helpful if you have one)
  • A 4-inch square ruler (that would be helpful too but not necessary)

Here is my T-shirt before I started to play with it.

tee shirt
I chose it because the neckline is nice and I can scoop it out and it still won't show too much cleavage!

Cut a bunch of 4-inch squares out of lightweight knit. The finished size of the square once it's been folded up is 1-1/2 inches. Use the finished size to help plan how many squares you will need for your neckline.

cut out squares
I ended up using nine squares to embellish my neckline.

Fold the corners of the square into the center, creating a smaller square.

Press the corners into the center
Use gentle steam, or you'll end up blowing your square back open when you lift up the iron.

If you have a straight stitch plate, use it while you're sewing the corners of the square down. The nice small single hole in this plate makes it easier to sew thin knits without jamming your machine...just remember you can't move your needle position off of the center position!

put on your straight stitch plate
The larger opening in a regular zigzag stitch plate allows the knit fabric to get stuck down into the bobbin area.

Sew a small square to hold the points down.

sew a small square to catch all the points
Don't worry if your stitching isn't perfect; you won't see it when you are finished.

Position the square on the ironing board so that the folded points are face down. Fold the corners to the center again. Take your squares to the sewing machine and stitch small squares in the center to hold down the points—you're repeating the step above.

Fold the points into the center again
After you finish stitching, take your straight stitch plate off and replace it with the standard zigzag plate.

Take the squares to the ironing board, positioning them folded side face down (again). Fold the corners to the center one last time. Give the square a good press. They should measure approximately 1-1/2 inches.

pin the squares around the neckline
The centers of the squares will be tacked down after they are positioned along the neckline of the tee.

Use the squares to reshape the neckline. I played with having some diagonal...honestly, I sketched two or three different tops that I will be designing later using this particular neckline. Picture a sleeveless chiffon top...

pin squares to tee
Pin the squares directly to the T-shirt when you're happy with the positioning.

Set your machine for a bar tack and use it to sew the points down. Make little "+ signs" by stitching the left and right points down, then turn your tee and stitch the top and bottom points down.

use the bar tack to tack down the center points
Use an open toe foot so you can see where the points are. 

If you're having trouble getting to the centers, turn your tee inside out—it's much easier!

working with the tee inside-out makes it easier to get to each square
To make it easier to reach the centers, try turning your T-shirt inside out. 

Set your machine for a blanket stitch, and stitch across the top edges of the squares. You're sewing them to the tee and connecting them to each other to define the new edge of the neckline.

Use a blanket stitch to sew square around top edge
Stitch right along the edge of the square, catching them every time the needle swings to the left.

If you don't want the stitching to show, you can handstitch them to the tee from behind, or play with a narrow zigzag that barely catches the squares.

close up of blanket stitch
Here is a close-up of the bar tacks and blanket stitching. 

After you've stitched the squares down, trim the T-shirt away to reveal the new neckline. If you want a clean finish, trim the T-shirt fabric away, leaving a 1/4-inch allowance. Press it under and handstitch it in place.

cut neckline away, close to stitching
I don't mind a raw edge on a doesn't ravel.

Join me for part II next week. I will show you a couple of other ways to fold the fabric and I'm dying to try this using tone-on-tone fabrics...stay tuned!


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