For this project, I took an old sweater and added some cute accents to make it into something completely new. The changes include an open back with a sash and some ruffled cutouts on the sides. I hope you enjoy making this project your own.
Step 1: Step 1 - Choose Your Garment
Before you begin, you'll need to decide on a shirt or sweater to use. For this project, it would be best to use a garment without a hood, but you could totally work around a hood if you wanted to get creative. Any weight, length or sleeve style will work, but there is a bit of cutting involved, so I would stay away from largely knit sweaters as they will be harder to work with. Got your shirt? Move on to the next step.
Step 2: Step 2 - Mark the Back
Turn your shirt over to the back side. Measure the shoulder width to find the center point of the back and from that point, measure and mark as far down as you want the back shape to go. I marked mine about 9 inches down, but it's totally up to you.
Then, align the 1 inch mark of your ruler/tape with the top center point line and make a small reference mark 1 inch from both sides of the center.
Step 3: Step 3 - Prepare and Cut Out the Back Shape
Now you'll want to draw out the shape you want for the back cut out. I've enhanced my lines here so you can see. The circle should be less wide than it is long. When you wear the shirt, the shape will appear wider than how you cut it, so you want to keep that in mind.
Then, all along the inside of the shape you marked, mark a 1/2 inch seam allowance (shown in blue) and then cut out the shape along the seam allowance line.
Step 4: Step 4 - Pin and Sew the Back Shape
Now turn the shirt inside-out and fold your 1/2 inch seam allowance down, pinning as you go. You can cut little slits at intervals along the folded edge to help the edges stay flat.
Then sew all along the shape.
Step 5: Step 5 - Prepare the Straps
For the sash, you'll need other material not belonging to the shirt. I used material from a dress, which is why my strips look sewn together. Anyway, you can use any material you want, just cut two strips about 30 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. You can vary the size according to your preference.
Step 6: Step 6 - Sew the Straps
Working with one strip at a time, fold it in half the long way with the wrong side out, pinning as you go and sew down the length of it at least 1/4" - 1/2" from the edge.
Step 7: Step 7 - Pull the Strips Through to the Right Side
Using a bodkin or a pair of tweezers if you don't have a bodkin, pull the strips through to the right side. Do this by inserting the bodkin or tweezers into one end and scrunching up the tube until it reaches the other end. Then clamp down on this end and keep a tight hold as you pull the end back through. Do this slowly and pull through little by little to avoid ripping the fabric.
Step 8: Step 8 - Finish Your Straps
Now you will have two tubes. Press them down with an iron if you want them to lay flat. You can finish the ends by overlocking or using a zigzag stitch.
Step 9: Step 9 - Affix Straps to Shirt
In order to attach the straps to the shirt, there are different methods depending on the shirt you are using.
My sweater had a band which, when cut into, could be opened up, so I just slipped one end of my strap into that opening and sewed it down. If your shirt doesn't have a band like this, you can fold the edge down over the strap and then you will have to fold and sew all around the neckline.
Step 10: Step 10 - Contour the Bottom Hem (optional)
I wanted to create a contour on the bottom hem of my shirt so I cut off the original hem and measured 2 inches up the center front and drew a curve from this point to either end on the front side only. Then I cut out the curve.
This step is optional.
Step 11: Step 11 - Measure and Cut Out Side Fabric
Again, you'll need other fabric that you want to put on the sides of the shirt. I used fabric from another old dress. You'll want to decide how big you want the cut outs to come and how high you want them. draw an outline on your shirt to get an idea of the measurements you want. Add 1 inch to your width and length measurements.Then divide the width measurement in two and measure that amount from one end of your fabric and make a mark. Then fold the fabric in half at that mark, with the folded edge to your left. Measure the length and make a mark. Draw a curve from one point to the other. Pin on the outside of the curve through both thicknesses and cut along your line (if you added 1 inch to your length and width measurements, the seam allowance will be included here).
Then fold your leftover fabric in the same way and put your cut piece on top of it and trace it and cut it out.
Step 12: Step 12 - Prepare the Cut Outs
Sew a running stitch along the curve of one cutout. On your sewing machine, use a long stitch and medium tension. Start about 3/4 up from the bottom edge of the cut out and stitch along until about 3/4 from the end (just along the curve, it doesn't need to be exact). DO NOT BACKSTITCH ON EITHER END. Stay within 1/2 inch or less of the edge of the fabric.
If you are familiar with easing sleeves into an armhole, this is exactly like that.
Repeat with the other cut out.
Step 13: Step 13 - Sew the Cut Outs to the Shirt
Pull the bottom string of the stitch you just made in the previous step to create the ruffles on the cut out. Evenly space out the ruffles - you don't need too many.
Determine how you want the cut outs to sit on the shirt. Align the back bottom edge on the shirt with the back bottom edge of the cut out. Adjust the ruffling so that the front bottom edge of the cut out aligns with the front bottom edge of the shirt (since the front hem is shorter due to the contouring). Trace around the edges of the cut out onto the shirt, add 1/2 inch of seam allowance and cut the shirt.
Step 14: Step 14 - Sew Cut Outs to Shirt
With right sides facing, sew along wrong sides (you may need to turn shirt inside-out to see this properly). Make sure you re-adjust your machine's stitch length to a shorter stitch and lower the tension. Try to sew on the inside of the running stitch you made on the cut out. Repeat on the other side with the other cut out.
Step 15: Step 15 - Check Your Work
After sewing both cut outs to the shirt, check your work by turning the shirt the right way and inspecting the ruffled part. If there is a clump of ruffles somewhere, the edges don't meet, or just a crooked stitch somewhere that you want to correct, you can rip out that section and re-adjust the ruffling along the running stitch and re-sew. When you are satisfied, you can rip out the running stitch used to ruffle. Do not rip out this stitch until you are sure you don't want to make any more adjustments to the ruffling.
Step 16: Step 16 - Finish the Bottom Hem
Turn the shirt inside-out. Fold bottom edge over 1/2 inch and fold over again to create a finished bottom hem. Pin and sew all around.
You can also just serge the bottom hem, depending on the look you want.
Step 17: Voila!
You have a finished re-made shirt.