by Katy Westcott
Edging patterns present us with the opportunity to transform a garment into something unique and extraordinary. The crocheter is free to decide how edgings will be placed when they are completed. It's fun to piece the elements together and watch them slowly grow into a lacy texture, like stars appearing in an evening sky.
I’ve always loved fancy lace edgings. I have updated the classic white cotton T-shirt by adding a lacy collar and bottom trim. The circle motifs recreate this shirt as more delicate, hip and beautiful. I named this the Galaxy Top because its crocheted motifs remind me of a cluster of stars.
Crochet thread is a great material to work with. It’s inexpensive. It’s small and easy to stuff into your travel bag. It will sometimes even get you a “wow” from someone observing how tiny your project is. Keep in mind that delicate crochet is also incredibly time consuming and will require some patience.
- Mercerized cotton crochet thread, size 10. I used 1 ball in white made by Coats & Clark (325 yds / 297 meters).
- 3.25mm (size D-3) hook
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing needle that fits your cotton crochet thread
- Cotton T-shirt. It should be 100% cotton in order for it to have the same washing properties as your cotton crochet thread. Make sure it’s a T-shirt you like and that it's in good enough condition to justify spending a lot of time making pretty.
- Straight pins
- Dress form for shaping. (This is not absolutely necessary, but definitely helpful. I am thankful that I bought mine last summer at a yard sale!)
- Iron (optional)
I used a Medium T-shirt (size 10 from H&M).
Motif measurements are:
Small: 1 ½” (approx. 38mm)
Medium: 1 ¾” (approx. 44mm)
Large: 2” (approx. 51mm)
Gauge is not critical for this pattern. Sizing will vary with the size of your T-shirt. You will use the top half of your shirt as a template for your motifs. For smaller and larger T-shirts just adjust the amount of space between motifs.
A note of caution for beginners: This shirt is made by connecting circle motifs to the body of an existing shirt. There is a freeform aspect to connecting the motifs.
Washing instructions: This garment should be hand washed and dried flat.
Overcast stitch: Working over the edge of your shirt, insert threaded sewing needle into fabric and bring back through to the front. Keep the height of your stitches consistent and the tension even as you work your way around the shirt.
The top part of the shirt requires 40 rings: 23 small, 11 medium, and 6 large. The bottom trim of the shirt requires 20 rings: 13 small, 5 medium, and 2 large.
Small Circle Motif
Row 1: Ch 7, sl st to first ch to form ring.
Row 2: Ch 1, work 17 sc all into ring.
Row 3: Ch 2 (counts as dc), dc in same st as join, 2 dc in each sc around (34 dc). Sl st to top of ch-2 and fasten off.
Medium Circle Motif
Row 1: Ch 13, sl st to first ch to form ring.
Row 2: Ch 1, work 23 sc all into ring.
Row 3: Ch 2 (counts as dc), dc in same st as join, 2 dc in each sc around (46 dc). Sl st to top of ch-2 and fasten off.
Large Circle Motif
Row 1: Ch 19, sl st to first ch to form ring.
Row 2: Ch 1, work 29 sc all into ring.
Row 3: Ch 2 (counts as dc), dc in same st as join, 2 dc in each sc around (58 dc). Sl st to top of ch-2 and fasten off.
Cutting the Top Off Your Shirt
Use a ruler to measure your sleeve seam from the armpit to the shoulder seam. Find the halfway point and mark it. Do this for the left and the right seams on the front and back of the shirt. Using your ruler and pencil, draw a line across the front between these marks and another line across the back. Starting with the front of the shirt under one arm, cut along the sleeve seam. Staying close to the seam, cut until you get to the line that marks the halfway point. Cut across on this line to the opposite sleeve seam. Cut along the opposite sleeve seam to armpit. Repeat these steps for the back of the shirt until you’ve completely removed the sleeves and top of the T-shirt in one piece. Set the top part of your shirt aside, as you will use it later as a template for arranging circles.
Creating a Border to Work From
Fold the cut edge of your T-shirt over about ¼”. (You may want to pin it down and iron it to facilitate sewing). Thread your needle with crochet cotton. Starting at one of the side seams, work in overcast stitch around the shirt about 1/8” down. The stitch should sit on top of the edge of the fold. Pull the work as tight as you can without bunching up the fabric but loose enough to crochet into. Space the stitches out evenly around the shirt, about 1/8” apart.
Use the top of the overcast stitch as if it were a foundation chain; sc 1 into each ch. Ch 1 at each of the four corners.
Arrange Circle Motifs onto Template
The part of the shirt that was cut away from the body will be used as a template for crocheting its new bodice. The idea is to create a 3-row-wide band of circles that passes over each shoulder. One row of circles will run across the front and back of the shirt to connect these “sleeves” to the body.
Starting at the front bottom edge of your template, arrange the circle motifs, staggering the various sizes of circles. As you puzzle the motifs together, keep in mind that the shirt will be three dimensional on the body. Some of the circles will need to be pinned over the top of the sleeve to connect the front and the back of the shirt. Make sure that a few of the circles hang over the bottom edge of the shirt about ¾” to 1". These will be attached to the shirt itself, so there should be a uniform bottom edge to the circles that hang off the bottom of your template.
Leave anywhere from ¼” to ½” of space between motifs, or as much room as you need to leave in order to make all of the circles to fit on your shirt. (Feel free to use more or fewer motifs than the pattern recommends, if needed). Once you have them where you want them, pin the circles down. You can always move them later if they don’t seem right.
Attach Circles to Shirt
Next you will attach your circles to the body of the shirt. Begin by placing the top and bottom pieces of the shirt down flat as they were before you cut them apart. The bottom edge of the circles that are hanging off the top template should be just touching the top edge of your shirt body. Pin to connect the edge of each circle motif where it touches the sc border of the shirt. Slip stitch on the reverse side to connect each motif in place of where you have pinned.
Repeat to attach circle motifs to back of shirt.
Connect Circles to Each Other
This is the part that is somewhat freeform.
Connect the front motifs to each other by weaving back and forth in chain stitch. Your chain should make a zigzag pattern to fill the spaces between the circle motifs with a structural lacy web. Make sure that your chain is only as long as the amount of space between the circles. Otherwise there will be weird puffy spots or buckles in your fabric. This is where a dress form comes in handy, because it helps keep female shaping instead of working flat.
In some places you will need to slip stitch over the top of a ring that sits higher than the others so its edge will continue the edge of the border. You may also find dc and triple crochet helpful for navigating the gaps between your motifs.
Be careful not to crochet any tighter or looser than necessary to join the circles.
When you get to a chain stitching dead end, leave an inch of thread, knot it, and weave in your end.
Try the shirt on before connecting the circles at each armpit. This area requires tighter shaping and will need to be pinned on your body in order to fit correctly.
Cut bottom of T-shirt off just above its hem (mine was about ½”). Repeat folding and overcast stitch steps from above. Arrange circle motifs to hang down off of bottom edge of shirt and pin, leaving an equal amount of space between each motif to use all of your circles. Slip stitch into the foundation chain to attach to shirt. Fill in the space between circles by zig-zagging in chain stitch as explained above. Make sure the bottom edge of the trim is a straight line that is parallel to the bottom edge of the shirt.
Weave in loose ends.