I'm too sexy for these shirts!
September 21, 2006 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I have a pile of "one size fits all" T-shirts that don't fit me at all! I got them for free, I'm keeping them because they're souvenirs, but I'd like to modify a few to make them more useful to me, and I need some pointers/ideas.

Two specific way-too-big-shirts and what I want to do with them:

1) A polo shirt in Dutch national colours that I wear once a year on the national Dutch holiday among other Dutch people in Toronto. As it is now, it fits me like a really wide dress... If possible, I want to turn this into either a dress-for-over-pants or a T-shirt that fits me. I think I want some kind of pattern to explain how to do this without ruining the shirt completely. I have no sewing machine, but since I don't need it until late April, I have time to sew it by hand.

2) An L or XL regular men's T-shirt which has a square block of text on the back that I want to preserve in some way, while turning the T-shirt into something I'd actually use (not a T-shirt). Current dumb ideas: a pillow or a bag. I want something more creative! I also still need part of the front of the shirt. The front says: "I'm a molecular biologist and I know..." and the back has a list of things MBs know ("how to cook lobster in an autoclave", "my lab mates better than my family", "how to pronounce apoptosis", "what cold coffee tastes like" etc.) So what can I do with a patch of T-shirt material, leaving it legible?
posted by easternblot to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
For #1 you just need to sew some darts in the back of the shirt. Here is a basic tutorial. I didn't read it though. Darts are really simple and would take about three minutes if you had a machine. Just make a pleat and sew it from the wrong side.

For #2 You should turn that tee into a skirt. Here is a another (poor) tutorial. I would advise against the flare. But the idea is there. Cut out the the parts that have the text and sew them into a skirt. Also simple, but if you are without a sewing machine, annoying. Maybe you should just attach them with some fusible interfacing to a skirt or another shirt that fits right.
posted by sulaine at 10:44 AM on September 21, 2006

I have a lot of T-shirts from over the years, I've always kind of held out hope that I'll someday marry a gal who likes to sew and would be interested in helping me make a quilt-cover of sorts out of all the patches from each (ie. use a single sheet for the backing, then sew together the 1'x1' cutouts from the front / back of most of the tees).
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:44 AM on September 21, 2006

Check out the Craftster Forum, specifically the Clothing Reconstruction board- lots of great ideas and tutorials. Members usually reccommend this book.
posted by muddgirl at 10:46 AM on September 21, 2006

You can make underwear out of them.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 10:46 AM on September 21, 2006

(also, try anything new on a t-shirt you don't like first, in case you screw something up)
posted by muddgirl at 10:48 AM on September 21, 2006

T-shirts make a great quilt. Just cut the designs out into squares, cut the backs into same-sized squares for a little break in the pattern, stich 'em together and back with one of those "T-shirt" sheets that are available now, slap a sheet of batting in between and tie some yarn through where the seams meet, and there you go. It's a nice cozy throw that reminds you of fun times. And, like the t-shirts themselves, it just gets softer w/washing.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:56 AM on September 21, 2006

For the first shirt, I'd suggest getting a shirt pattern in your size. Since the one you have is so huge, you should have lots of fabric available to entirely remake it in a smaller size. Just take the existing shirt apart at the seams, and lay the new pattern pieces over top of the fabric you've got, making sure you position any emblems or graphics appropriately.

The difficulty with remaking things into smaller sizes is that there are some places (specifically arm holes) where you actually need *more* fabric for smaller sizes. If I was going to attempt a quick and dirty cut-down of a shirt to make it quite a lot smaller, these are the steps I would likely follow:

1. Remove the sleeves and open them flat, and collar.
2. Open the side seams and hems.
3. Take up the shoulder seams enough to bring the side seams up to where you'd want them to sit under your arm.
4. Figure out how much to take in the side seams enough to make the shirt fit you around the bust.

3 and 4 interact with each other, though, so you may have to play with these amounts a bit to find a combination you like.

5. If 4 has completely borked the shape of the armhole (and it sounds like it might), reshape the armscythes on the main fabric.
6. Add front vertical darts to make it fit around the waist if waist vastly smaller than bust and if pattern of the shirt allows this.
7. Recut the sleeves to fit the new shape of the armhole. This will likely mean cutting some off each side and then remapping the top to the new armhole shape.
8. Reset the sleeves.
9. Remove length from the back center of the collar proportionate to how much you took in the shoulder seams.
10. Reset the collar.
11. Sew the side seams and arms
12. Hem.

Okay. That wouldn't be quick. It probably would be dirty, at least if I did it.

An alternative you might consider to hand sewing it would be to go to a drop-in session at Sew Be It Studios (they're near Yonge & Eg, I believe). They have machines that you could use, as well as people who could help you figure out what alterations to make.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2006 [3 favorites]

If you are interested in the quilt idea and don't want to do it yourself, google T-Shirt into quilts -- there are companies that do just that.
posted by nnk at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2006

The current issue of Bust magazine has a how-to article for modifying existing clothes, including instructions that you could use for the polo shirt. I got the magazine last week and followed the instructions in that article for another project and it worked fine, and I have very little sewing experience (I've hemmed things and sewn buttons).
posted by xo at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2006

Lots of good ideas so far! I'm now thinking of a lazier version of jacquilynne's pattern for shirt #1 (without putting the sleeves back on, I can probably manage this) and of a skirt for #2 for which I'm looking at the Craftster forum (which is big!)

Underwear...yeah, I saw one of those patterns before, but my butt is not square, so I'd have to cut off some text and that's something I want to avoid for shirt #2.
posted by easternblot at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2006

lazier version: Find a shirt that fits you nicely. Lay it over the polo shirt (the shirt should be inside out) and trace around the outside. Sew all appropriate places closed on the outside of that line. Turn right-side in and try it on. If it fits, cut off the excess. Voila, cheap "fitted" t-shirt.
posted by muddgirl at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2006

in other words, use an existing t-shirt as the pattern for your new t-shirt, instead of buying one.
posted by muddgirl at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2006

Hooray for T-Shirt Surgery!
posted by wildgarlic at 1:16 PM on September 21, 2006

Check out a copy of Generation T at your local library. It has lots of step-by-step instructions for reconstructing T-shirts, many of which don't even involve sewing. There are pros and cons to sewing with T-shirt material--you don't need to hem it to keep it from fraying, but it is also very stretchy and the edges roll, so watch out for that.

Coincidentally, I'm wearing a reconned T-shirt today, and it looks and feels awesome!
posted by folara at 5:15 PM on September 21, 2006

You can always frame it.
posted by oxford blue at 11:10 PM on September 21, 2006

One thing to rememeber is that it doesn't work well to hand-sew stretchy T-shirt material with an ordinary non-stretchy sewing stitch. However, a stretchy one is not very complicated.
posted by Idcoytco at 12:51 AM on September 23, 2006

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