Introduction: The T-Shirt Hack (Or: How to Revamp an Old T-shirt With Nothing But Scissors)

Picture of The T-Shirt Hack (Or: How to Revamp an Old T-shirt With Nothing But Scissors)

How to make an old hum-ho t-shirt (that you ignore in the back of your closet til everything else is in the wash) into something funky & unique that you'll want to wear all the time! Using nothing more than scissors. (Pen optional.)

Step 1: You Will Need...

Picture of You Will Need...
You Will Need:

  • a hum-ho t-shirt that needs a second life
  • scissors
  • (optional) a pen

Step 2: Choosing Where to Cut

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There are lots of places you can 'hack' on your t-shirt: I've done sleeves, sides, and 2 different kinds of back, and I can see applications for a frontal hack as well (maybe just halfway down).

For the purposes of this instructable, we are doing an hourglass spine hack.

If you would like precision, grab your pen and mark two rows of dots on the back of the shirt to indicate where you're cutting to and from.

I've placed mine wider at the top and bottom to create an hourglass effect - helps my figure look curvier! (or so I theorize at this point)

You can make a narrow hack, say - the width of your spine, or you can hack from side seam to side seam - its up to you. It doesn't have to be centred either - I just like it that way.

In short: Decide where you'd like your Hack to go!

Step 3: Start Cutting

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cut from dot to dot.

Or randomly where you have chosen.

the idea here is to make strips. they must be longer than they are wide, otherwise they'd be too hard to manipulate for the under-over-y bit.

Step 4: Trimming Bits Off Etc.

Picture of Trimming Bits Off Etc.

cut the bottomest strap/piece in half.

cut off the neck band.

I hated the arm cuffs so I cut those off too :) Besides, it made it more uniform - matched the neckline that way.

Step 5: The Under-Over-y Bit (that I Mentioned Earlier...)

Picture of The Under-Over-y Bit (that I Mentioned Earlier...)
ok, this is simple - but hard to explain. So I've made a wee video of me doing it, which may do the explaining better than pictures and words.

Step 6: Tying Off

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ok, now your end result should look like pic1 of this step.

pull the chopped halves of the last strap through the last loop, as in pic2, and knot off in the corners (pic3).

Your end end result should now be pic 4!

Step 7: Stick It on and Dance Around!

Picture of Stick It on and Dance Around!

Note to readers: it is hard to photograph your own back. :)

But it looked something like this, when I'd finished my T-shirt Hack!

I did a second one, with two rib hacks instead, and have the final result picture of that for you here as well.
How to? same as the hourglass spinal hack we just walked through, but on the sides.

Good luck! :)


Ellledee made it! (author)2015-09-26

So happy with the way this turned out. Thanks jyssa!

CAScreate (author)2014-01-30

So trying it

Ilovepups101 (author)2013-08-13


Ilovepups101 (author)2013-08-13

I just don't get how to tie it off…

Ilovepups101 (author)2013-08-13

This is exactly what I needed because all I had was scissors and a t-shirt! Lol.

ssnape (author)2013-05-24

just read and done this, been wanting to know for so long :) thanks very cool easy to understand instuctions :)

Jyssa (author)ssnape2013-05-24

thanks :D glad you found it easy!

MusicForever (author)2012-07-24

I'm confused how do you do the twist?

Jyssa (author)MusicForever2012-07-25

I have emailed you in reply - I'll post it here as well in case it can be of assistance to someone else as well.

Imagine these are some of the straps you've cut into the tee:


Hold strap 1 in the middle and pull it up over strap 2, so it looks like this:

1- ---1
2--\-------+------/----2 ( the + is where you pick up strap 2 in the next step)
\_______/ (just imagine that this lines up properly!)

OK now pick up strap 2 in the middle where you can see it underneath strap 1, and pull it up over strap 3 (at this stage you can let go of strap 1, as it will be held by strap 2, where the pluses are in the following diagram.):

1- ----1
2-+_________+---2 (The ____ line here is strap 1, running underneath strap 2, from + to +)
\_______/ (just imagine that this lines up properly!)

basically, keep repeating those steps again and again til you get to the end of your straps: lift the first strap up and over the next strap, grab that next strap through the gap in the middle, and lift THAT strap up and over the NEXT strap, and grab *that* one in the middle, etc. etc. :)

Byanyothername (author)2011-08-24

Wow! I tried this just today and did the sides instead of the back. This is a really great instructable, it had enough detail to get us through it, but short and to the point enough that it wasn't boring or tiresome. I really liked that you threw in the suggestion to cut off the arm bands along with the neck, as I too like the more uniform. This is the best way I have found to mod a tee shirt and I will for sure use it again! (Everywhere my dad goes on training or courses, he brings me back a shapeless too big tee shirt!)

rpgfan713 (author)2011-08-02

This is AWESOME. I have never done or tried anything like this before and you made it so easy. Granted, there was a bit of confusion during the twisting part (that I blame on lack of experience on my part) but overall a great and fun thing to do. I have a new shirt to wear at no cost to me! :D

thepinkcupcake (author)2011-06-25

This was a totally awesome and clear tutorial. I chopped up my husband's extra large cotton shirt (it has no stretch to it) and now it fits as a tight large/medium women's t-shirt. Thanks so much! And the video clip was a big help. :D

spon-tan-ii-us (author)2011-06-22


czintx (author)2010-11-14

Love it!!!!! It was so easy to do.

fenrirsmuse (author)2010-09-30

I love this! Thanks so much, I'm working on modding up my own shirt! :)

kingmii (author)2010-09-10

Yet another awesome inscrutable for woman's clothes I'm so jealous!!!!!!!!!!!

Jyssa (author)kingmii2010-09-11

well...technically this is fairly unisex - it's just on a woman cause I'm one :) A guy could have a MEAN spinal hack - and can have front hacks where girls would look indecent.

Don't let gender limit you! :) give it a whirl, old tee shirts were MADE for this.

Digitized (author)2010-08-26

Thats really a unque idea, just got this post by chance, but really informative one.

JaimiLynne (author)2009-04-20

I did this tonight! I was super excited :D THANK YOU! I have pictures... The things on the front i thought would be cool to have and it worked way better than i thought. Plus it's really a simple process :D

Oh yum! Very nice job and addition to the front!

Thanks, I was pretty amused with that shirt. I haven't had many opportunities to wear it though haha.

Jyssa (author)JaimiLynne2010-07-31

wow....the front of that is like a ribcage hack! spunky! :) awesome work.

JaimiLynne (author)Jyssa2010-08-18

Thanks I liked it quite a bit :) I thought I was all creative and junk :)

SpellboundAngel (author)2010-08-13

would it work the same way as far as making the shirt fitted if I were to do this to the sides? any other advice for that?

Jyssa (author)SpellboundAngel2010-08-15

yes, it would :) my advice really is play with the idea! the core of this is "cut the strips" and "twist them as shown" nothing else about this is set in stone: run with it! :) anywhere on the t-shirt will shrink it - hacks that go up and down the shirt shrink it in width, hacks that go across the shirt shrink it in length. if it hasn't shrunk enough for your liking, you can cut the strips, remove a bit and sew them back together shorter, then twist/weave them.

SpellboundAngel (author)Jyssa2010-08-17

thanks ^^ I ended up doing this for a color-themed dance I went to, with a yellow 'hacked' shirt over a black tank. Worked nicely and I got lots of complements.

Lithium Rain (author)2010-07-31

Hey! I ordered the Instructables t-shirts I won a size too large - this might work. :D

gmjhowe (author)Lithium Rain2010-08-01

Pics or it didn't happen! (how are you anyways?)

Lithium Rain (author)gmjhowe2010-08-01

Haha - pics when it does! (Fine, thanks, you?)

gmjhowe (author)Lithium Rain2010-08-02

I look forward to it! (I am good thanks)

Sagi (author)2010-07-31

Cool, I love it!

spektorish (author)2009-08-12

This is absolutely incredible, especially since I'm not good at sewing. I recently won a cool t-shirt in a contest, but it was too big. After doing this, it's one of the radtastic shirts I've ever owned and scissor-styled.

Jyssa (author)spektorish2010-07-31

wow that's so cool to see this one someone else! :D You look great in it! (author)2010-01-07

would anyone happen to know how well this holds up in the wash?
i just want to know before i were to try it.... im thinking about doing this to one of my favorite t's. but am a tiny bit hesitant

Jyssa (author)tutu.paris2010-07-31

It holds up fine in the wash, so long as your tee is a knit fabric (doesn't fray like woven) and you didn't cut thru any seams (like the ones usually found down the sides of a tee). If you do cut seams, and want the shirt to endure, hand stitch over each seam-section on each strip, so when the snipped stitching washes out, yours will hold it together. Good luck!

Depraved (author)2010-07-30

This is so cool! I have so many shirts I can do this to, thanks!!

totallysquirrel (author)2010-03-28

Great first Instructable! I've done three t shirts already, and their will be more to come I think, a lot more :-D   I'll upload some photos when I get 'round to taking them XD
5/5 from me!!

VampireFrancesca (author)2010-02-14

this is awesome! i'm off to search the closet!

Riann13 (author)2009-12-30

this is really cool-looking; I think I'll try it ^.^

you has received a 5/5 from me =)

Dameventh (author)2009-08-16

This is a really good instructable! The video was very helpful. Sadly a few weeks ago I went through my wardrobe and goodwilled most of my old T's. You should check out some of the T-shirt recon videos Threadbanger on youtube has. TONS of ways to redo an old t-shirt. I think you would love them! Now i just need to bye an some old T-shirts at a thrift store so i can redo them.

28.martine (author)2009-06-19

some years ago i bought a t-shirt yust like that on the back and the sleeves but the front is dull so i made the front matching with to the back.

leerose (author)2009-05-21

I just did this with one of my shirts, and while I don't have pics to share, (camera's batteries are dead lol,) I gotta say, I LOVE MAH NEW SHIRT. It's really humid right now, and it feels sooo much cooler wearing it. Thank you for sharing!

ladydebs (author)2009-03-18

This is a great idea!! Going to try it out on a few tops. But more importantly, does anyone know if this will work with a slightly larger t-shirt to make it more fitted?? I have a small boys top and want to make it fitted.

Jyssa (author)ladydebs2009-03-19

Hi, I'm glad you like it :)

Yes, doing this to a t-shirt *does* make it more fitted! :) very nice for downsizing a tee from 'sack' to 'sexy'.

michosa (author)2009-03-15

Awesome! I just did it to this boring plain shirt I have, along with the front, and I'm really happy with it! A wonderful instructable.

treeza81 (author)2009-03-12


penumbra_ (author)2009-02-25

Excellent instructable and very nice result! I can't wait to try it out. Thanks!

MizzMouse (author)2009-02-22

i hated t-shirts til i found this instructable, i was about to throw a bunch of mine out ( as in give them to goodwill or something ) but you saved me! thanks a million!

Ohhmyydice (author)2009-01-11

Thanks so much for the instructions, its really creative and diffrent. I tried the origanal tie on the sides and everyone stole the idea for our band shirts, im pretty positive they wont now.

Irina (author)2008-11-19

Thank you for making this. It's a great idea. Yoink!

About This Instructable




Bio: I am obsessed with making things, and am developing a love affair with upcycling. I make babywearers and other funky parenting tools, and teach people ... More »
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