How I Made An Up-cycled Tee Shirt

A women's medium up-cycled yellow tee shirtThe Challenge

I recently started sewing my own tee shirts. However, I found that my local fabric and craft stores don’t stock a wide selection of knit fabrics, and that they don’t come cheap.

The Solution

Fortunately, as I was reading a variety of sewing blogs, I came across the idea of up-cycling and re-using fabric from existing clothing to make new clothing. I decided to try it out by making another tee shirt.

I Bought a Thrift Store Tee Shirt

I went to a local thrift store and bought a men’s extra large tee shirt made from a cotton knit fabric that was in great condition and cost only a few dollars.

A mens' extra large yellow tee shirt

I Reused the Fabric

After washing and drying the tee shirt, I cut it apart at the seams and removed and set aside the ribbing from the neckline. I then made a trip to the craft store and bought a spool of matching thread.

Next, I laid out the front and back fabric pieces on the fold and cut out my front and back pattern pieces. I used the sleeve fabric pieces to cut out my sleeve pattern pieces.

A nice bonus is that I was able to incorporate the existing hems on the bottom and on the sleeves of the old tee shirt into my pattern pieces, thus saving me a bit of sewing work.

Then, I labeled all the pattern pieces and noted the wrong side of each piece so as not to mix them up.

Cutting pattern pieces out of existing clothing

All the pattern pieces for a tee shirt laid out and labeled

I Sewed the Fabric

I pinned the pattern pieces wrong sides together and sewed them together using my very basic sewing machine. (It’s a Singer Advance.)

Because I was sewing knit fabric, I used a ball point needle, which is designed to more easily pierce the weave of knit fabric. And again, because I was sewing knit fabric, I used a stitch that stretches. I used a narrow zigzag stitch to sew the tee shirt seams and to sew the neckband onto the tee shirt.

I had planned to reuse the ribbing I removed to make the neckband for the tee shirt, but I made a mistake while trimming it, and so I ended up using some of the extra tee shirt fabric to make the neckband instead.

I Made an Up-cycled Tee Shirt!

Here is the finished tee shirt. It went from being a men’s extra large tee shirt to being a women’s small/medium tee shirt. Yay for up-cycling!

A women's medium up-cycled yellow tee shirt

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How I Was Driven to Sew My Own Tee Shirt

A green tee shirtThe Challenge

When shopping for clothes, I am forever in search of tee shirts with the perfect amount of scoop in the neckline.

Usually, I can find only tee shirts with necklines that are either:

A) entirely too high, and which cover my collar bones, or
B) entirely too low, which would require me to wear layering tees beneath them.

Since I don’t look good in high-necked tee shirts and I dislike wearing layers beneath low-necked tee shirts, I was driven—driven, I tell you!—to start sewing my own tee shirts.

The Solution

I Made a Pattern

I used this tutorial on YouTube to make a pattern of my favorite tee shirt.

A paper tee shirt pattern

I Bought Fabric

I bought a yard of cotton-polyester knit interlock fabric on sale at my local JoAnn craft store, which I prewashed and dried.

I Cut the Fabric

I laid out the fabric on my kitchen table, pinned on the pattern pieces, and traced them with a fabric marker. Then, I used my fabric shears to cut out the pieces. I labeled all the pieces and noted the wrong side of each piece so as not to mix them up.

Fabric cut into pattern pieces

I also reserved some of the extra fabric to make a neckband for the tee shirt. I used this tutorial and this tutorial on YouTube to learn how to make and sew a neckband onto the tee shirt.

I Sewed the Fabric

I pinned the pattern pieces wrong sides together and sewed them together using my very basic sewing machine. (It’s a Singer Advance.)

Because I was sewing knit fabric, I used a ball point needle, which is designed to more easily pierce the weave of knit fabric. And again, because I was sewing knit fabric, I used stitches that stretch. I used the overedge stitch programmed on my machine to sew the tee shirt seams and I used a narrow zigzag stitch to sew the neckband onto the tee shirt.

Then, I switched to a twin needle, and hemmed the sleeves and the bottom the tee shirt. Here is a tutorial—and here is another tutorial on YouTube—on using a twin needle.

I Made a Tee Shirt!

Here is the finished tee shirt. Note the perfect amount of scoop in the neckline!

A green tee shirt