Recycle Clothes: Refashion Thrifty Shirt

Introduction: Recycle Clothes: Refashion Thrifty Shirt

I will show you how I refashioned an oversized shirt and turned it into a nautical summer shirt. Refashion Oversized Shirts

If you enjoy sewing and making your garments, how many times you wonder how much money you have to pay for a durable, quality fabric? I am obsessed with learning to make knit tops. However, I find that usually the right fabric that is durable and stable for my shirt projects is a bit pricey. I really can't afford spending too much money on beautiful fabric these days. That is just my reality. I find it disappointing when I spent 20 dollars a yard for a good fabric and it turned out that it completely pilled after the third wash. Even more upsetting is when my first attempt goes wrong and I ruined precious fabric.

Thank goodness I found a really good solution. Why not going thrifting for clothes to test your sewing project ? I visit thrift stores and focus on the fabric look and feel. For example, I go to the XXL section of the tops either men or womens' section and I look and touch the fabric. I found this great looking striped oversized shirt and sew the potential. The fabric seems very stable, and has a good feel to it.

I will show you how I refashioned an oversized shirt and turned it into a nautical summer shirt. Very simple if you have a pattern that you know fits you well. If you don't like working with commercial patterns, you can clone your best looking and fitting shirt and make a pattern out of it. I have another video and tutorial that shows you how to copy your clothes and make your own patterns.

What is the advantage of using thrifty clothes and refashion them?

  • You don't have to spend a lot of money.
  • As a creative individual, your hands are itching for making something but unfortunately, a good fabric can be expensive and sometimes you are not sure about the outcome
  • If you make a mistake cutting or sewing you won't feel as bad as with your expensive fabric
  • You are giving yourself an allowance for errors and also you are learning to work with a muslin, that is a test fabric to make sure that you like the fit and look.
  • You have a lot of opportunities to optimize your outfit or to redesign your own pattern
  • Is an eco-friendly trend to recycle, upcycle, repurpose fabric or clothes.

Now that I built a case for refashioning clothes, lets get to the point!

Step 1: Go to Thrift Shop: Find an Oversized Piece. Focus on Fabric Quality, Not Actual Design

I found this oversized long sleeves shirt. I touched the fabric and I liked the stability, the stretchability, and the overall look and feel. This is a great candidate to refashion it.

Step 2: Cut Fabric Carefully. You Don't Have Much Real Estate, So Think Twice, Cut Once....

Get your pattern pieces ready. Make sure you are using a pattern that you are pleased with the fit.

Basic cutting means:

  1. Cut the sleeves at the armhole seam carefully. You may need the entire sleeve if you want a long sleeve shirt.
  2. Cut at the shoulder seams to open up the shirt so you have one piece of fabric for the front and another piece of fabric for the back of your shirt.

So you should have two sleeves, one front and one back fabric.

Leave the hems, neck line, and sleeve hems intact at this point. You are saving a lot of time and your work with look more professional because these are already finished.

Step 3: Walk Your Pattern Pieces: Are Seams and Hems Aligned?

Make sure the pattern pieces you will use are properly aligned. Otherwise, your shirt will look off.

  1. For example, when you match front and back pieces, the edges must match.
  2. Shoulder seams from front and back must align
  3. Sleeves must align with armhole

Step 4: Get Your Pattern Pieces and Lay Them Out on the Fabric

  1. Press the fabric as flat as possible.
  2. Fold the front and back fabric pieces in half and place your front and back pattern pieces.
  3. If you are working with striped fabric, make sure that the stripes from front and back pieces align perfectly. Sometimes you don't have much fabric room so is ok, just make sure you are comfortable with the placement of the pieces.
  4. Make sure the hems that are already finished match perfectly. This will save you a lot of time!

Step 5: Cut Fabric Pieces. Leave 5/8 of an Inch Seam Allowance. (1 and 1/2 Centimeters)

Now cut the fabric pieces. I use a rotary cutter when I can't waste any fabric. But you can feel free to use a good sharp pair of scissors. Just remember that you have to be mindful about not making mistakes because you don't have extra fabric to work with.

Remember to leave at least 5/8 of an inch. If you are very experienced, then you can just live a 1/4 of an inch which is enough if you have a serger machine. I prefer to leave a little more in case I need to fit or correct my stitches.

Step 6: Finish Neck and Sleeves and Hems.

Because you are using oversized clothes, you might need to refinish the neck or the sleeves. For this shirt, I had to make a neck facing. I could have hemmed the neck by turning over the fabric 1/4 of an inch and edgestitch. But I chose to make a facing so I can have more coverage around the neck. This is just a personal preference and I leave it up to you to choose whether to hem or face a neckline.

You may not need to do any finishing at all depending on the design or style of your choice.

I am showing you two pictures of two ways to finish a square neck:

First method: You can use fusible interfacing knit fabric and edgestitch the neckline. I love it! is so easy to work and it stabilizes slimy fabric before hemming. So you just iron on this stripe around the neck. Since this is a square neck, I am fusing several pieces to stabilize the neck. The next step is just turn the fabric edge under and edgestitch. You are done!

Second method: Make a neck facing. You need to trace the neckline front and back and leave at least two inches. Cut your facing. You have to sew the front and back "shoulder area" of the facing and then place this section right sides together. Then press and fold over and you have a nice coverage on the neck. You can coverstitch the edge and trim the excess. This just is another method for getting a clean square neckline.

Step 7: Sew the Sleeves to the Armholes

Align the center of the sleeve cap with the center of the armhole of your shirt.

Then pin the end of the sleeve with the end of the armholes. Then sew on the flat.

You can finish the hems of your sleeves

Your shirt should be finished.

Step 8: Keep Your Pattern, Find Good "fabric", and Have Fun Refashioning!

These are photos of two versions I made of my favorite Bebe shirt I purchased a long long time ago when I was twenty pounds lighter and cropped t-shirts were the rage. I adjusted the waist and the hem to fit to my current body shape. Once you have a good fitting pattern you can tweak it to get many variations. For example, v-neck, round neck, long sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, etc.

I hope you find this tutorial useful. Don't forget to check the video as well.

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    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    4 years ago

    Awesome job with that shirt! I think of this sometimes when I see things I like that don't fit at thrift stores, but I can never convince myself that I'll make the time to alter them. Bravo to you :)