I hate t-shirts. I never wear them. When you’re a busty gal, even “girly-fit” t-shirts (oh, how I hate that descriptor) don’t fit right, largely because of a hideous mix of low-stretch knit and boxy cut….
I also don’t like the idea of being a walking advertisement for someone else’s product without some sort of personal benefit…
These aspects combined, mean that generally the only time you’ll see me in a branded shirt is if you come over to help me paint or putter in the garden.
There are, however a (very) few exceptions… I attended a large conference a number of years ago (actually, I attended a few years in a row) and ended up getting their t-shirt. Rather than adding it to the dust-rag or donation bin, it went into a ‘re-fashion’ pile – clothing I need to update, alter, or in some other way re-fashion into something else. There are also band t-shirts. While I have no interest advertising a sports team or business (even where I work…) on my chest, sharing the love of all things Cello-Metal (Finnish metal/hard-rock cello group Apocalyptica) or beloved Scandinavian melo-death Metal is a lot more tolerable… shirts from concerts and other events have been added to that same ‘re-fashion’ pile, just waiting for me to have the time, energy, and inspiration to recycle these shapeless knit blobs into something a little more wearable.
A number of people have asked me how I re-make my shirts, and if I’ll help them do the same, so I figured I’d make a blog post to show off what I’ve done, and how to do the same.
The first attempt – conference t-shirt
The first shirt I worked on was from the conference. The shoulders were too wide, the neckline too high, the fit across the bust too shapeless…. I figured that if the alteration worked out well, I could wear the shirt to the gym, and if it didn’t work out, then there was no huge loss – after all, I haven’t worn it at all since I got it!
Step 1: lowering the neckline front & back
I used a well-fitting v-neck shirt as a template and cut out a v-neck in the t-shirt, removing the ribbing. I wanted to show off my new tattoo too, so cut a similar (though not as low) v-neck in the back as well, and smoothed the shoulders so that the lines connected nicely.
Of course I tried it on at this cut-out stage, and then took 1.5″ strips of plain black cotton knit (actually off the hem of another t-shirt) to work as binding/ribbing on the neckline. I hate the fussy-ness of mitered neckline trim, so did a fold-over treatment that I’ve seen time and time again in ready-to-wear instead. Once I got the hang of it, it worked like a breeze. While the binding/ribbing was just basted on, I took some leftover trim and made a turned tube to connect the shoulders in back. If I didn’t connect the back, the neckline would be too large overall and likely it would slip off my shoulders, 80s-shirt-style. (I figure if you wore it once, you shouldn’t wear it again… and I did the whole over-size sloppy, falling-off-the-shoulder t-shirt + leggings look back when I was a kid….) The neckline band was stitched in while permanently stitching the binding/ribbing, and then serged in place as well.
Step 2: armholes & bust adjustment
Because the shirt was so wide across the shoulders (to make up for my need for width in the chest) I needed to get rid of some of the fabric in the arm area. Once again I layered a well-fitting shirt over the t-shirt and trimmed off the sleeves and part of the shoulder. From there of course I tried it on, and made sure this would work. Since there aren’t any darts in t-shirts, the armholes gapped because of my bust, but this gave me the perfect opportunity to add in a bust dart, albeit coming from the armsye rather than the side seam where I would normally put a dart. From there I smoothed the line, and cut out the new “sleeves” (really more like shoulder-caps rather than sleeves…) from the old sleeves, finished the outer edge, and sewed them in.
Step 3: hem
At this point I mostly considered the shirt done, but when I tried it on, the straightness and length of the shirt didn’t work well with the fluttery sleeves, so I decided to make it more tunic-style (rather than trimming the length) and so cut up 9.5″ on each side (no seams, just the area) to about my waist, and then bound the edges with more 1.5″ wide t-shirt knit fabric using the continuous binding method. I could have gotten fancier, but for just a t-shirt…I couldn’t be bothered…
Second modification – Apocalyptica
On the next shirt (a shirt from the 2008 Worlds Collide Apocalyptica tour) the logo was too high for me to lower the neckline as much, and the shirt fit much better, so all I did was:
Step 1: Lowered the neckline, front and back
For this shirt I did similar to the first, but since the neckline wasn’t lowered anywhere near as low on this shirt, I didn’t need the back neckline band to keep it up. I bound the neckline the same way as the shirt above.
Step 2: Hem the sleeves
The shoulders of this shirt fit a lot better, but the sleeves were still really long, so I trimmed them off, curved them up a little, and then folded and lettuce-hemmed the edges.
Step 2: Hem the shirt
I also trimmed off the heavy hem, and did a simple serge, fold, and stitch hem. In retrospect I should have just left the hem as it was – it wasn’t too, too long, and the serge-fold-stitch hem tends to roll up a little in the wash.
Third alteration – HIM
For the next shirt I was inspired by some of the redesigns by Toxic Vision on Etsy, and thought I’d try binding the edges of the neckline with latex-coated spandex (which has a very PVC look, just not quite as shiny), lowering the neckline, grommeting the neckline, and lacing up the bottom of the v-neck. For this I started off with a HIM t-shirt that actually fit pretty well apart from the really high neckline.
Step one: Cut and bind the neckline, add the back strap
Just like for the first attempt, I used an existing shirt to re-design the front and back neckline, removing the binding in the same step. I went a bit lower-cut on this one than the others, mostly because I didn’t imagine wearing this one to work out! Instead of using extra t-shirt material as ribbing though, I used the latex-coated spandex to bind the neckline and added the back-strap.
Since I’ve used this fabric before, and know that it can look pretty crumby if it stretches out – I filled the tube for the back-strap with twill tape – so that the strap won’t stretch, and the fabric won’t stretch out and look gross. I knew that I’d be using silver-tone grommets for the next step, so instead of just sewing the strap down into place, I added small silver-tone O-rings to attach the strap.
Step two: Grommet the neckline
At first I wanted to just grommet the bottom of the neckline, so I started measuring and placed five three-part silver grommets at the front neckline. I didn’t LOVE the way it laced up though – the v-neck at the front just wasn’t narrow enough or sharp enough to really make the lacing necessary. I ended up putting grommets all the way around the neckline instead, which I love. It makes the shirt a little heavier, and kind of ‘cold’ to first put on, but I love the look.
Three-part grommets have the face (which you see from the right side of the garment) the washer, which goes on the back, and then a second washer which basically distributes the ‘force”. I use these in corsetry each time. Obviously none of these grommets will take the strain of a corset – but with thin fabric, the extra washer also helps the grommet “hold”.
Step three: Trim the sleeves down
Like the first version I trimmed the sleeves down in length, to make them a little more like cap sleeves and a little less boring. I finished the hem with a serger, then turned and stitched a very narrow hem.
Step four: Gather the shoulders
Since I didn’t add the bust dart like I did with the first version, I wanted to do something to fit the shoulders a bit better in relation to the bust. I ended up adding two grommets to the top and ‘bottom’ of the shoulder seam (closest to the neckline and at the sleeve edge), and then took some black ribbon to ‘gather’ the shoulder a bit. Eventually however these ribbons came out in the wash, so I’ll need to stitch them in place instead of just tying the ends together.
Stay tuned.. I have a few more re-makes to share with you in upcoming posts.