sew + tell: bento tee, alabama style

I love our neighborhood here in Madrid, which is kind of funny because it looks pretty sketchy at first glance. In fact, we almost skipped our appointment to view the apartment when we were saw where it was located. Across the street from our building is a vacant building that once housed a disco, and we’re right in between two very touristy areas. But it’s a quiet street, close to everything in the center of the city, and our corner location gives us lots of great light and space. Plus, the views from the roof deck.

Madrid, as seen from our roof

In New York that would be unthinkable in our price range. Mostly, though, I just like that the neighborhood has lots of character and is still so authentically Spanish. Including the crazy Fruteria/Kwik-E-Mart around the corner, with its bright mosaic tile sign.

Liesl + Co Bento Tee with ringer neck and applique

Pattern: This is a Liesl + Co Bento Tee with ringer neck and reverse applique, Alabama Chanin style.

Fabric: Laguna cotton jersey from Robert Kaufman, 95% cotton 5% spandex. I love the hand on this fabric because it’s substantial and feels like 100% cotton. But the spandex helps it to keep its shape, so you get the best of both worlds.

Construction: The neckband is cut from navy Laguna jersey to make a vintage-style ringer neck tee with a boxy shape. I also used the reverse applique technique from Natalie Chanin’s books to add the “gracias” letters. The letters themselves I printed from my computer and transferred using a basic lightbox tracing technique with the window as my lightbox and using a water-soluble fabric-marking pen to trace the letters. (I can’t remember which typeface I chose, but I just kept making the word bigger until it felt like the right size.)

Gracias t-shirt

I love a good project you can take along with you, and this one was quick and fun. It’s so cool to trim away the letters after they’re stitched! I didn’t really make any other changes to the pattern, just had fun with the applique technique and the contrast neck. It’s fun to wear with a pencil skirt or my favorite City Stroll Wrap Skirt. Of course you could easily add these same details an Oliver + S Lunch Box Tee to do a similar style for girls. I think S wants one, too.

gracias bento tee

Liesl + Co Bento Tee with ringer neck and applique

Rachel has lots of other Bento Tee ideas for you later this week, so stay tuned for more inspiration and ways to use this pattern.


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  1. Jane Bates

    Is the entire t-shirt lined with the black fabric that shows through or is there just a small rectangle of black behind the letters? I can’t see any “line” that gives away the technique.

    1. Oh yes, I should have mentioned that! I only used the contrast fabric for the applique portion. The rest got trimmed away once I was finished. The edges might curl a little bit, but it’s really not noticeable, even after washing. And the Laguna jersey is thick enough that there isn’t much transparency (which I like, too). Cheers!

  2. Kristl Pelz

    Lisel, I was so excited when I saw the title of your post today. I am a huge fan of Alabama Chanin and her slow production ideas. I am a native Alabamian, and have followed A C since before she open-sourced her techniques. I am working on a stencil now to make my third A C inspired skirt. So glad you know, and appreciate, this technique and Natalie’s company. By the way, your Tee is fab!

    1. I’m a fan of Natalie too, Kristl! Have you seen these posts? They are both from a while ago: and (this is my very old blog)

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