Inca Kola shirt

A long time ago, maybe 6 years ago by now, my brother in law and sister in law went to Peru and brought back a red Inca Kola T shirt for my husband, who was just my boyfriend at the time. Inca Kola, by the way, is a brand of soda from Peru. It’s pretty good as sodas go. The first adventure the shirt went through was accidently putting itself in the wash with a bunch of white clothes. The dye bled a lot, and so my boyfriend was left with some very pink underwear and shirts. We had a good laugh about that after he told me the story.

Next the shirt started shrinking. After only wearing it 2 or 3 times, it was a little too small. But by then it was about my size, so it became my shirt. But it kept shrinking and disproportionately too. After a few more washes, I could no longer get my head through the neck hole, even though the rest of the shirt probably still fit.

I couldn’t just get rid of it. After all, I lived in Peru when I was very young, and Inca Kola is one of the few things that has stuck in my memory from my time there. So I threw it into my clothes-to-be-sewn-with pile and forgot about it for several years.

Eventually, my brother and sister in law had a baby girl. So one day I thought, “I want to sew something, but I don’t want to make any of the projects I’ve already planned out.” So I rummaged through my fabric and found the shirt. The first thing I remembered was the neck hole had to go, but what could I make with it. I decided on a onesie for my niece.

The problem was I didn’t have any way of measuring her or modeling her size off of one of her onesies, so I had to improvise. I took a newborn onesie that had been given to me and layed it down next to the T shirt. I used this to eyeball the overall proportions. To determine the length, I thought about when I picked up my niece, and she rests on my hip, how high do her shoulders come. So I used the ratio of this length to the newborn length, to determine how wide it should be.

To start cutting (pictured below) I folded the shirt in half with the logo on the left side, pinned the four layers of fabric together, traced the outline with a white colored pencil, and started cutting. Then I layed it out flat, with the armholes at the sides and cut the front bottom flat a little shorter than the back flap, because I discovered that most onesies are made this way.

Next I sewed the sides and sleeves together. Then I cut pieces of fabric to sew on the bottom as a binding (pictured below). Once I had the binding on the bottom, I think I got a phone call from them about some other reason, so I told them to come over so that I could do a fitting before I completely finished. That way I could make adjustments, which were definitely needed.


The first mistake was leaving my work space out on the floor. As soon as my niece got upstairs she immediately started grabbing things like scissors, pins and other things that I had been using. So for the first frightening seconds, I ran behind her, yanking dangerous objects out of her hands before she could do any damage. Once the area was baby proofed enough, I could relax and let her try on the onesie.

As you can probably tell from the picture, the arm holes were too small. Also the neckline was too big, but I knew that would happen because I hadn’t put the binding on that area yet. Since the neckline was too big, it was sagging down too low so it looked too long. But I figured, if I brought the neckline up a little, than the length would be ok.

So I finished it after they left. I tried to fix the sleeves, but just couldn’t figure it out, so I took them off and made it a tanktop style instead. After binding the arm and neck holes, then I put snaps on the bottom flaps and adjustable snaps on the shoulder straps. (Large picture on the right is the finished look) The next time she came over, it fit perfectly. Yay! Successful experiment.

Making clothes is pretty hard, especially when you don’t have patterns to work with and you have to make your own. But it’s so much more fun that way. And when you’re using scrap fabrics, you have nothing to lose really.

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One Response to Inca Kola shirt

  1. Jenna says:

    Very cool!! That is a unique onesie, and I love the sleeveless look. I think the way you measured the initial pattern by remembering how she fit in your arms was so smart!

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