Got a T-shirt that's way too big and might as well be a night shirt? Cut it up into a form fitting tunic, mini dress, or long top with lace up sides. New sewing required, just scissors and pins/safety pins.
I added a weave on the back (aka T-shirt laddering) and a twist weave on the front. Wear a complementary color underneath to complete the outfit. For this baby blue colored shirt, I'd wear it with a pink tank top/camisole under it.
I made this at TechShop San Jose. They have an adjustable mannequin dress form that makes it easy to work on the shirt and see how it looks and fits.
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Step 1: Items You Need
1. T-shirt that's too big for you. Mine here is a size large and baby blue in color. Material is 50% cotton, 50% polyester. I got it from the heat press class at TechShop. I like the color but a large is too big for me.
2. Scissors. Sharp shears are best for cutting fabric.
3. Pins and safety pins. Use to mark where to cut and to allow you to try on the work in progress to check the fit.
4. Tape measure (optional). Use it to take your body measurements for adjusting the mannequin and for measuring cuts.
6. Adjustable mannequin dress form (optional). Makes it easy to work on your shirt and check how it looks. Otherwise it's hard to pin the shirt while you're wearing it.
Step 2: Pin and Cut
Cut off the bottom hemmed part of the T-shirt. Discard.
Making the lace up strings:
Cut off two strips from the bottom of the T-shirt. Stretch the strips with your hands, like a rubber band. They will roll up into shoelace-size string. Cut the stretched strips to make strings. This is what we'll use to lace up the sides of the shirt. Put aside.
Initial pinning and cutting:
- Put the shirt on the mannequin. Adjust the mannequin to the appropriate body dimensions for bust, waist and hip.
- Pin the shirt close to the mannequin body. The pins will form a line we use to cut off the excess shirt.
- Put the shirt on the table. Cut along the pins. It's better to be conservative and cut off too little rather than too much. You can go back and cut more off later but you can't "undo" when you've cut too much.
Keep checking the fit and cutting off excess fabric until you have a gap that runs down the shirt on each side. The gap should be about 1-1.5 inches wide (see photo). We want the gap to be even all the way down. Repeat the following couple of steps until you get to that stage:
- Checking the fit: Put the shirt on the mannequin. If you don't have a mannequin then check the fit on yourself. Use the safety pins to secure the sides of the t-shirt. A mannequin really helps out here because it can be hard putting safety pins on yourself!
- If there is excess fabric, then put the shirt on the table and cut off the excess. I switch to pins to mark the line of where to cut.
If you end up cutting off too much and the shirt is too tight/small, there are ways you can still save it! The lace sides can be adjusted/loosened. Also, you can cut horizontal slits in the back or front to loosen the shirt up.
Make the holes for lacing:
Lay the shirt on the table when the fitting is done. Cut little slits along the edge of the sides, on front and back of the shirt (see photo). They should be about 1.5 inches apart. If you want the lacing to be more compact, then less distance between the holes. The holes should be about 1/4 inch away from the edge of the fabric. Make sure the hole on the back side is lined up with the hole on the front side. Remove the safety pins as you cut the holes.
Now you're ready to lace up the shirt.
Step 3: Lace the Sides
Take one of the "strings" you created from earlier and thread it through the top holes on the side of the shirt. Then lace the side from top to bottom just like you would lace a shoe. Take the second string and lace the other side of the shirt. Double knot the ends at the bottom. See the annotation on the photos for more detailed help.
Next we cut up the front and then the back of the shirt to give it more style.
Step 4: Weave the Front
I cut the front of the shirt and did a weave to add some decoration.
With the shirt on the mannequin, cut off the collar.
Make 5 horizontal slits below the collar, the first one long and each one below it shorter. Space the slits about 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart. Stretch the fabric to roll up the edges. Make a tiny 6th cut -- this is where we'll tie the knot to secure the weave. You can do more than 6 cuts if you wish, it depends on the size of the shirt .
To do the weave:
1. To start the weave, take the top strip and twist it around your finger to form a loop.
2. Pull the second strip through the loop from step 1.
3. Twist second loop around your finger in the same direction that you twisted first strip in step 1.
4. Now repeat steps 2-3 with the remaining strips (pull next strip through, twist, etc.) until you get to the bottom.
Secure the weave by cutting the last strip into two and tying it in a double knot through the last little hole.
After trying on the shirt, I decided to make the cuts wider. To do this I put it back on the mannequin and used the scissors to widen the slits.
The front is now done. Next we move on to cut up and weave the back side.
Step 5: Weave the Back
For the back of the shirt, I cut slits all the way down in the center of the shirt.
To do the slits, fold the shirt in half lengthwise. Cut 2 inch strips along the folded edge about half an inch apart. I cut the slits at the bottom of the shirt a little wider. If the shirt is too tight, you can cut the strips wider. Stretch the slits to get the edges to roll up and the slits to turn stringy. You can leave the shirt with just the slits but I decided to do a weave down the back.
To do the weave, cut a small shorter slit at the top so we will have a smaller gap when we do the weave. Starting with the top strip, work your way down with the following steps:
1. Take first strip and pull it below the second strip.
2. Take the second strip in your fingers and pull it out of the first slit hole.
3. Pull second strip out and down.
4. Pull second strip down below third strip.
5. Repeat steps 2-4 with the remaining strips until you get to the bottom.
Secure the weave at the bottom but cutting the last strip and tying it in a double knot to the loop of the last weave.
Now try it on and see how it looks and make adjustments if needed. Great job!