I had thought that I would do an entire radio show on t-shirts... and I still might. Have you ever considered how they began? Here are some details that you may be unaware of and since I am an avid trivia fan, I will be happy to share them with you.
They began as underwear issued by the Navy sometime between the Spanish-American war in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. They were to be worn under the sometimes scratchy military uniforms but in the warm climates the uniforms were often abandoned and the shirt was then their outerwear. This continued because it was an easy fit, it was easily cleaned, and it was inexpensive.
The word t-shirt became well used and became a part of the dictionary in the 1920s. It was not until Marlon Brando wore one in “A Streetcar Named Desire” in the 1950s that they became universally accepted as a form of clothing. It was in the Sixties that they began to have slogans and became a form of self-expression and often times , advertising.
So where does that leave us with T-shirts in the Twenty-first century? It leaves us with a canvas that we can use for our own creativity. A white or colored T-shirt is easily obtained and comes in all sizes. It is a canvas that can be used in a series of very creative endeavors. It can be used by children with Fabric markers to achieve their earliest form of expression through the clothes they wear. There are all sorts of iron-on decals available to choose and add to the shirts also.
Then as we borrow from the Sixties, there is the art of tie-dying. Classes are often available at craft shops and even colleges to show different ways of tying a shirt to get a different pattern of design. Once the dyes are applied and the tied areas are released, the shirt is then washed in a salt water or vinegar solution to set the dyes. If the shirt is carefully washed by
hand in cold water and not dried in a hot dryer, the design can last for a long time. Usually those kinds of shirts are not considered to be a permanent part of anyone’s wardrobe, so they usually last for the season in which they are created.
Then there are the t-shirts that are printed to go with an event such as a girl’s volleyball team, a concert, or a vacation destination. There is a current trend for families to get commemorative t’shirts printed for large family gatherings. They will have the family name, as well as the date and location of the reunion. Those are usually worn for the day of the event and quite often tucked away as a fond remembrance. The ones for vacations and concerts usually have a longer shelf life, or are worn in more casual gatherings. They also become the very comfortable go-to outfit when we spend an evening at home.
What happens to those that showcase some really significant times in our lives? How do we continue to save those long after the event. What about that family vacation to Disney World, or the time we went to Hawaii? Then there are the ones who show the progression of our children through the basketball seasons. What can we do to save those without having them packed in a box in the back of a closet?
The answer was supplied by a quilter. Turn them into a memory quilt. This is a rather simple process that anyone can master the main part of. You simply get a fusible interfacing and when the “wearing” stage of the shirt is over, you fuse the interfacing to the area of design with plenty of additional border space. Cut the shirt up the sides and out under both arms... turn it design side down, placing the fusible side of the interfacing to the back of the design... place a towel or other piece of material on top and iron (fuse) the two together. Remove the ironing piece of material and then amply cut out the design... You have removed most of the shirt material yet retained the part that is significant. After four years in high school, many shirts will have been accumulated and many designs fused. At this time, you simply
find a quilter who can put a top together. You can then have it professionally quilted, or you can sandwich a piece of flannel with backing and put the quilt top on.. Then using a tying technique that is easily learned, tie it together like a comforter and WALLA! You have a memory quilt that can be taken away with the child or grandchild to college to keep them cozy of those long nights of studies.
T-shirts have become icons in our world and important events are often chronicled by them. How important it is for us to remember those events and the people who shared them by a cozy wrap of love.
Something To Ponder