How to Revamp a T-shirt. Makeover style.

In celebration of MUSE coming to Utah on Monday (please don’t let me forget. I keep having dreams that we forget.) I am posting this DIY-licious tutorial on how to make a BIG t-shirt into a small t-shirt.

You see, we like a good deal. Last summer Muse put a ton of shirts on sale for $5. $5. So we bought a couple, even though Dave already had one of them (you’re laughing. I can hear you laughing). Luckily I was super pregnant with Eli and HUMONGOUS. Cautionary whale. The kid was 9.5 lbs. I am 5’1″. You do the math. I was majorly in need of some tent-type clothing, so I used the duplicate shirt we purchased. So now that I don’t need a tent-type shirt and since Muse is coming (eek!) I decided to size it down.

Here is the before shirt:

t-shirt makeover

Super frumpy. It totally adds 100 lbs. So let’s get started, people.

First find a t-shirt that fits you really well. One that you love to wear. This will be your “pattern.” Before you start cutting, though, check the stretch of the knit on each shirt. If your “pattern” shirt is a lot more stretchy than the one you’re revamping, you won’t be happy with the result. So here’s how you check the stretch of your knits:

Lay down a measuring tape like so (horizontally) and put two fingers down 1″ from each other.

t-shirt makeover

Then pull the fabric with the finger on the right. Don’t over-do it, but make sure you stretch it pretty well. This fabric stretched about 1/2″:

t-shirt makeover

If your “pattern” shirt is too stretchy (compared to the shirt you are revamping), go back to your closet and find another one to use.

Okey dokey. Here are my two shirts. The one on the left is the one that needs to be smaller. The one on the right is the one that I LOVE. It happens to be just a straight t-shirt, but you can use a t-shirt with shape if you’d like.

t-shirt makeover

Now there are a lot of tutorials out there on the interwebs that help you make WEIRD things with your favorite oversized tee. Halter tops. Purses. Unspeakable things. Not this one. This is purely an alteration. Big to small. Perfectly perfect.

So first, you need to cut the sleeves off of your shirt. Cut right next to the seam (leave the seam on the sleeve, cut it off of the shirt). You’ll also want to cut the side seams. Some shirts don’t have side seams (most, really) because they’re made with a tube-like fabric. Cut straight down the sides as best you can.

t-shirt makeover

Next, take your “pattern” shirt and lay it down on top of the FRONT piece of your shirt. Fit the graphic underneath the pattern shirt in a way that is pleasing to you. I had to cut off a bit of the graphic on mine, but it was okay. I’ll only loose a little sleep over it.

Fold the pattern sleeves in on itself right along the seam lines.

t-shirt makeover

Now the fun part. Using your preferred seam allowance (I used 1/2″), start cutting your shirt, using the “pattern” shirt as a guide. Cut 1/2″ away from all the edges of the pattern shirt as shown below. Be sure to ONLY CUT THE FRONT right now. We’ll get to the back, don’t worry.

t-shirt makeover

**NOTE** When cutting your neckline, use the seam of the neckline as a guide, not the edge of the ribbing. Capiche? I don’t know how to spell that.

Now, turn your shirt over and do the same on the back, but this time (hold on to your hats here) use the BACK of the “pattern” shirt as a guide for cutting. You don’t want a low neckline on the back of your shirt, do you? Ok, if you do then you’re weird. But I still love you.

Here is what the front of my shirt looked like after I cut:

t-shirt makeover

t-shirt makeover

Okay, about the sleeves. They are a bit tricky to explain. Take out a sleeve.

t-shirt makeover

Turns out I don’t have a photo. Good one. Lay the cut sleeve on top of your “pattern” shirt’s sleeve, matching the folds. Match up the hems of the sleeves as well. Now, cut down the sleeve as needed using the seamline on your “pattern” shirt as a guide (don’t forget your seam allowance!).

These are my leftovers. Say, “Hi, Leftovers!”

t-shirt makeover

Staystitch the neckline on the front and back (about 1/2″ from the raw edge). This will prevent the neckline from stretching as you sew.

t-shirt makeover t-shirt makeover

Now, grab some Stay Tape.

t-shirt makeover

t-shirt makeover

This will keep your shoulder seams from stretching during sewing and during wear. Some are fusible, mine is not. Baste it onto the WRONG side of the BACK shoulders.

t-shirt makeover

***NOTE*** You can make your own stay tape by taking a piece of knit fabric and cutting in the direction that it does NOT stretch (you’d have to use interlock or double knit since they only stretch in one direction) cut two long strips to use for stay tape. Cool, right?

Ooops, forgot. You need to use a stretch needle. Sometimes called a ball point needle. It pushes the fibers apart instead of piercing it which prevents pulling, holes, and crappy looking seams. Alrighty. You also need to use a much longer stitch length than normal for everything on knits. Basting is the same, longest stitch length.

t-shirt makeover

Okay! Pin the shoulder seams. Sew with the seam allowance you decided upon way back when we were cutting.

t-shirt makeover

Now, cut off the ribbing from the neck.

t-shirt makeover

Cut the seam stuff off of the ribbing.

t-shirt makeover

Now pin the ribbing to the neckline (big hole. where your head goes.) matching the raw edges. Pin once on the middle front and once on middle back.

t-shirt makeover

Now sew it on! Use a small seam allowance, like 1/4″ if you can manage. Stretch the ribbing as needed as you sew.

Take a short break to eat more Hot Cross Buns via P-Dub. Because I am obsessed.

t-shirt makeover

Press the seam allowance from your neckline ribbing toward the shirt. Don’t be stupid and accidentally iron some of the graphics. Seriously. And these photos are so dark, sorry. My light meter is broken AND the dark shirt sucks all the light out of the room.

t-shirt makeover

Now, topstitch close to the seam on the shirt side, catching the seam allowance underneath.

t-shirt makeover

Open up a sleeve.

t-shirt makeover

Open up the shirt.

t-shirt makeover

‘Nother snack break. Nom Nom.

t-shirt makeover

With RIGHT sides facing, pin the sleeve to the shirt. Begin pinning from the center. Don’t worry if it doesn’t fit perfectly. The main thing is that the center of the sleeve is matched to the shoulder seam. Sew the seam.

t-shirt makeover

Repeat with the other sleeve.

t-shirt makeover

Fold the shirt on itself (RIGHT sides facing) and pin the underarm seam and side seam. Beginning at the sleeve hem, sew your underarm seam and keep on going until you reach the hem of the t-shirt. Best kept secret in sewing.

t-shirt makeover

Trim up the hem of the shirt to make it even and to make it the length that you want (plus 1″). On the inside of the shirt, fold up the hem 1″ and press. Sew 5/8″ from the hemline and again 1/2″ from the hemline.

t-shirt makeover


t-shirt makeover

Here’s the before again, so you can compare :) By the way, I’m sorry I had to cut off my head. I didn’t actually take a shower today, so my hair is poof-eriffic.

t-shirt makeover


And after:

t-shirt makeover


Now, do yourself a favor and go put photos of your awesome revamped t-shirt in our Puking Pastilles Flickr Pool! We give out free patterns on the last day of every month. Happy.


  1. Christine says:

    I love, love, love this tutorial!!! Thanks!

  2. Kristin says:

    Wow, this tutorial was awesome!!! I can’t wait to try it! Thanks :)

  3. caroline says:


    As a S-sized woman, I can’t even begin to tell you how many ill-fitting shirts I’ve received from various races, events, concerts, etc. Thank you for sharing this tutorial on how to make them wear-able in public.

  4. btw… infertility is not always a woman’s problem, lots of men are also diagnosed with below average sperm counts (like in my case – it was my husband) that categorise them as infertile but the good news is we were lucky enough to deal with it and have get pregnant…

  5. Holly U says:

    Wow, got a little lost there in the middle, thanks for the snack breaks! I have a couple of shirts I need to do this to…including some I need to wear sometimes for work, but it’s cheaper to order all men’s shirts instead of women’s, so they don’t fit for beans…so now instead of bitching, I’m going to give this a shot! (Some day, when I actually make time to sew for me instead for my loved ones. It does happen, once in a while.)

  6. […] here we are three years later! I have since made a lot of tutorials! But none have been as popular as the Cape […]

  7. Polyana Paiva says:

    Hi, I´m from Brazil and your blog is lovely.
    I visited and recomended to my friends!

    Sorry for my english …

    Kisses, Polyana
    Brazil – Rio de Janeiro

  8. Jeri says:

    Love the site! You are so talented. I love, love, LOVE Muse.

    Also, I saw the superhero cape costume. How did you get away with an Obama cape in Utah? :) (I’m from there, btw.)

    • Jorja says:

      LOL – thanks Jeri! I have to admit I was a little nervous about the Obama capes at the Grand Parade for the 4th, but it went well. We even managed to avoid Jason Chaffetz wanting kiss babies in our area because of the capes. . .haha.

  9. Thank you for your wonderful post! It has been extremely useful. I hope that you will continue sharing your knowledge with us.

  10. Cynthia says:

    I just discovered your wonderful website today while I was checking out youtube for sewing tutorials…
    My husband gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and I am dying to learn. I tried my first project today and it didn’t come out quite right, but I don’t think the dog will mind!!
    Looking forward to trying so many things on your site!
    Thank you so much!!!

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