Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to cut down an XL t-shirt

Do you have any t-shirts lying around that have an amazing design but the fit is terrible and it feels like something you would sleep in? You can transform this t-shirt into a fitted shirt suitable for everyday wear. Super casual, and very comfortable. This is a very simple DIY project for the most inexperienced sewer.


I've had this t-shirt in my fabrics piles for years. It's vintage, I purchased it at a thrift store in Michigan; I believe it was $.99 at Hope's Outlet, a Christian run thrift store that supports the local homeless shelter. I originally planned on cutting up the t-shirt, backing it with interfacing, and making a tote out of it. But the screenprint on the shirt is so large, making it a more difficult project, so I never did. 
Made in the 80s, this shirt's screen printed design is of Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River. My favorite part is all the stars that look like spackling all across the sleeves.

You will need:
  • scissors
  • tailors chalk or a marker of some sort
  • pins (optional)
  • thread
  • sewing machine
  • seam gauge or small ruler

There are only two seams that will be sewn in this project, the side seams. There probably isn't an existing seam in the t-shirt because of the way the fabric in most t-shirts is woven. If this is the case, you will need to be sure that you are going by the exact point at which the shirt meets your sides. If you do not, you will end up with crooked seams that aren't even. 
Start by putting on the shirt. You can pinch, pin, or measure, but find the exact amount you will be taking the shirt in. Measure at your hips, waist, underarm, and at the sleeve. Take off the shirt and turn it inside out. Mark the shirt from the sleeves and down along the sides where it will be taken in. You can always start by taking it in a little bit, try it on again, then take it in more.

Because of the screen print on this shirt, I am not moving the sleeves to make the shoulders fit perfectly. I'm creating a "batwing" sleeve, so to speak. Sew along your chalk or pin line. Be sure to back stitch every few inches since the fabric is a knit and you are only using a straight stitch.

Trim excess fabric.

To change the neckline, you can simply cut off the 1" wide trim. I chose to create more of a scoop look to the shirt. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT cut the neckline any wider than the original seam! You will end up with a Flashdance style, boatneck shirt that falls off your shoulders.

 Now to make the sleeves a little shorter. Mark with tailors chalk where you want the new sleeve to start. Cut fabric. Be sure to back stitch the seam along the bottom of the sleeve so it does not come undone.

A little trick to be sure your sleeves are exactly symetrical, take the fabric you just cut from the first sleeve, and place it on top of the uncut sleeve. Use this scrap fabric as your guideline for where to cut. This way, you are cutting the exact same amount from each sleeve!


Total time on this shirt: only 20 minutes!

I am very pleased with the end result. It's a shirt I can wear with skinny jeans and Keds. Even throw a cardigan over it with a scarf, and that's a winter outfit here in Georgia. I love that it's nice and long since I didn't cut the bottom hem.

Question? Comments!
Feel free to comment and tell me what you think, or suggestions for my next tutorial.

Stay tuned. In two more entries, I'll be hosting a giveaway for my 100th blog entry! Not sure what the prize will be yet, but it will be something amazing!

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  1. Thanks for this tutorial. Recently dropped a lot of weight and was going to have to throw out all my t-shirts - not now! Not only is this ecofriendly, it saved me a lot of money!

  2. Good on you! I'm going to give it a try.

  3. Good on you! I'm going to give it a try.

  4. Thank you for a great tutorial!

    Unfortunately, may of the other "tutorials" out there simply said "wash in hot water many times". Lame.

  5. Just saw this--best have seen. But, did you seam finish the neckline? That's the ugliest part of old T's--the crew neckline. Anyway, thanks for the tutorial!

  6. hot!!! i will be trying this out