Upcycling a checkered shirt - Handkerchiefs (zero waste)

Lately I've been trying to cut down on single use products and being mindful of when I use them. I realised I was using a lot of paper towels at work, using them as napkins after eating.

I used to collect hankies as a child, and carried them everywhere with me. I always took one to school instead of a pack of tissues, and always bought one as a souvenir on day trips. I can't remember when I stopped using them, I think it was at the end of primary school when the novelty of the bright patterns wore off. I've long lost my collection of handkerchiefs and have spent ages pining over the handmade and vintage ones on etsy, which are surprisingly pricey!
I spent a while debating if it was worth the money to buy a pack of pretty check print hankies when they are so easy to make.

Organising the clothes in my chest of drawers one day, I found 2 checkered shirts that I no longer wear but don't want one part with. Checking the labels I found out that they're both 100% cotton and therefore perfect for making my own handkerchiefs!

Here's how I did it...

Find an old shirt that's seen better days.

Check that it's 100% cotton.

Using the checkered print as a guideline, cut out a square. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Fold the edges of the square over and use pins to tack into place. Take special care when folding the corners over, see below how to fold them neatly.

Stitch along the edges to create a border. This would be very fast on a sewing machine, but I just hand stitched it using a back stitch.

Dealing with a fitted shirt:

If you have darts in your shirt, cut a square out and carefully unpick the stitches in the dart before you pin the edges. You can iron the crease out if desired.

To fold a corner:

Fold one side as usual. Fold the entire edge over, you should have a square corner at the top.
Tuck the second side into a triangle at the corner as shown. Then fold this side down, so the corner is once again square.

A perfectly neat corner!

And that's it! A super simple way to make your own zero waste napkins, whilst also keeping your old shirts out of landfill.
I've made 2 hankies each out of these shirts so far, 2 small and 2 large. I still have more than enough fabric to make more and I've also made some other things from these shirts too!

There'll be a few more tutorials made from the same shirts coming soon, so stay posted. :)

Loppy x

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