Simple Sewing: T-Shirt “Something Old but New For You”


Turning Something Old into Something New For You

Summertime, summertime, summ summ, summer time – t-shirt time!!

If you’re like me. you troll vintage shops, thrift stores, the Goodwill, Salvation Army.  And regardless if you’re a girl or a boy you have to check out the t-shirt sections in both areas.  Heck I even check the kids section.

Inevitably on these excersions into the men section I discover a t-shirt that I love but that is a XXL or some such thing.  Happens to you too huh? Bummer.


This is what you do.  Buy that sucker!  No seriously.  Buy it!  I scored this t-shirt at Sally’s Army (Salvation Army) on a Wednesday. So you know what that meant?  Yep half-off!  So it cost me a full $1.60, no kidding. 

Okay so you bought the shirt, smart! Now that you have it home this is what you do.

Now after you wash it and put it in the dryer (always a good a idea to start with something clean and make sure no more shrinkage is going to happen).

Lay it out on a flat surface, a table is a good idea.  Not a wooden one though we are going to be cutting here and you don’t want to ruin the table the table that has been in the family for 80 years or the new table from Ikea you just bought. 

Now over the t-shirt that is large enough to fit a Steeler linebacker, place your most favorite fitting t-shirt over it.  (No I am not going to make you cut your favorite t-shirt, honest.)  

The line-up before the cut

Place it so that the necklines are over each other and the shoulder lines are right on top of each other. 

Lining up your proper fitting t-shirt with the one you will alter.

Now if you have tailor chalk create an outline of the sides.  Now give yourself some lee-way here, if it is your first time out make a 1” seam allowance so that just means draw a line an inch away from the t-shirt on the top, directly onto the t-shirt on the bottom.  The line won’t be seen once you sew it.   Now also line out the bottom hem. 

Now this is where the styling part comes in.  Decide what kind of sleeves you want, cap sleeves – tight and short, or longer and wider sleeves.  Draw those in as well.  If your not sure leave enough room to play around once you sew the first seam line. 

Outline with tailor's chalk or pencil, make sure to leave 3/4" to 1" for the seam allowance, you can make it smaller later.

The key is once you draw an outline the only thing that will remain of the original t-shirt is the neckline, shoulder sleeve and the Duran Duran logo on the front.  I mean Journey, opps I mean Run DMC, oh well whatever it is. 

Now take your properly fitting shirt away.  You should have a nice line going that looks something like what you can wear. 

Cut away!

Take a minute to look at it.  Looks good?  Okay get the scissors.  Now what I do is even after I measured the line out an inch or so I still cut a little bit further out. 

In sewing you can take away but not add once it is cut, especially in the sleeve area, better to make it longer than you think you want to have it, you can cut more later.

Cut away.

What you should have now is a kind of silly looking t-shirt cape.  Drape it over you just to get an idea but don’t freak out.  Just a reminder the neckline and shoulder seam are still in tact. 

How it will look after the cutting, looks odd but your half way to having a "new" t-shirt.

Now the simple part, turn the shirt inside out so the good side is inside,  now just sew up the side seam and the sleeves! 

Sewing up the side seams and sleeves

If you like it – you got yourself a new t-shirt! 

Review of what we have so far.

If you want to make further adjustments, you can cut the neckline, cut the sleeves shorter whatever. 

I like shorter more cap-like sleeves so I am going in for another cut. See the original outline of the chalk? I always leave a little extra just in case.

 I like to sew the side seams up twice and then do a lock stitch to finish the seam.  For the sleeves I like to keep a raw edge, ditto for the neckline I probably cut out. 


My old Kenmore (love!) this is my setting for lockstiching, your sewing machine maybe different.

If you would like to have a finished hem on the bottom (I don’t) you can do a lockstitch on that as well.

The easiest thing to do is to iron the hem ½ to ¾ inch is good.  Now iron the hem down so that the inside out has the folder over hem.  Now with the shirt still inside out and the lockstitch setting on your machine on a wide setting (I have a vintage Kenmore so I would select 4 width and the needle placed not at but near 0) sew the hem down.  This stitch will show on the outside so be careful you made a straight line. 

Done! I also cut the neckline a bit too.

Now you have a new t-shirt!

2 Responses to “Simple Sewing: T-Shirt “Something Old but New For You””
  1. Lisa says:

    I’m on my way to Sals, Thanks!

  2. idiadega says:

    Oh yeah! I am rocking my t-shirt today! Enjoy! And thanks so much.

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