Earlier this spring, I received this T-shirt (Husband’s alma mater). I loved the idea of wearing it and I loved the color, but I didn’t love the way it fit. So I decided to take a risk and refit it.
I’m proud of the way it turned out, and I learned a lot in the process– and I learned that I still have a LOT to learn. I decided to write a post to document my steps. I am not an expert at tailoring (though I’d love to learn more!), so these methods might not be the “right” way to do things, but they worked for me this time!
Let’s get started.
In these “before” photos, you can see that it’s baggy on me, and I prefer shirts that are a bit more fitted. The neckline is quite high (and a bit tight for my taste), and the sleeves are not only too long, but the shoulders are too wide for my frame.
Therefore, I had these four goals for my refit:
- more fitted body
- wider neckline
- proper placement of shoulders
- smaller (and “girlier”) sleeves
I decided to use this pink shirt that I already had in my closet as a “pattern,” because it already has most of the features I was looking for. I laid it out on top of my red T-shirt to get a general idea of how things would change.
I carefully folded the pink T-shirt in half and made a paper pattern from its body section. Since the neckline is lower in the front than in the back, I used a straight pin to pierce through to the paper underneath. I also used this technique to trace the armscyes.
After I’d readied my paper pattern, I took the big plunge and chopped into the red T-shirt. It was scary, but I managed! I carefully cut up the sides, then cut out the sleeves.
I left the shoulder seams intact (and they would end up being the only original seams left in the finished shirt!!), and carefully, lining up those shoulder seams and making sure that the screenprinting on the front was centered, I folded the deconstructed shirt body lengthwise.
I pinned my pattern pieces to the T-shirt, lining up their fold lines with the fold (now *that* is an earth-shattering statement) and lining up the outside corners of the shoulders. I cut the neckline a bit wide on the paper pattern’s front piece.
Then, holding my breath a little bit, I cut the T-shirt to the pattern, leaving some seam allowance around the sides and eyeballing the curve of the neckline.
The tricky part was the sleeves. I have absolutely zero experience with pattern drafting, aside from having read a few blog posts and books (for me, reading about a thing like this doesn’t sink in unless I actually *do* it). I knew that sleeve drafting is pretty tricky. I didn’t really want to get into that for this particular project, so I took an easy way out.
I have another shirt that I love, but that has unfortunately worn out past its prime. I’ve had it set aside to deconstruct and possibly duplicate, so I carefully chopped into it to remove a sleeve and examine its shape. I traced the sleeve onto some paper and cut it out. Then I slashed the traced paper sleeve at the shoulder point and widened it a few inches to include a gather (a little bit of girliness!). I traced this cut-and-slashed piece onto another sheet of paper and cut it out to use as a pattern. I used this pattern piece to cut new sleeves from the original sleeves of the red T-shirt. I used the original hem of sleeves and cut around the top “bell” of my pattern piece.
Finally, with all of my cutting finished, it was time to put things back together. I did a trial run with basting stitches to make sure that everything worked (especially the sleeves… I figured that if they were a failure, I could leave them off and just make a tank top instead!). To my delight, things came together quite well.
I used a bit of a trick to put in my sleeves. I inserted them before sewing the side seams, then sewed from the hem all the way through the armpit and to the end of the sleeve. (In retrospect, this would have worked better if the sleeve pieces weren’t already hemmed 🙂 But I made the ends look nice!). I used the (awesome!) cover-stitch function on my serger to add a new hem to the bottom of the shirt, since I cut off a couple inches of length.
Finally, I used the former hem to bind the new neckline. I cut a strip just below the cover stitching of the old hem so that I had the folded piece left. My intent was to use it in a way similar to bias binding. I sewed one raw edge of the folded piece right-sides-together with the neckline, then flipped it up and topstitched the remaining raw edge behind the neckline (hopefully that makes sense…).
I am really happy with how my T-shirt turned out. I know I’m going to enjoy wearing it!
That being said, it’s not perfect. If I do this again, I want to figure out a better way to bind the neckline so that it lies a bit better. I also want to learn more about fitting sleeves. This shirt fits fairly well, but it is a smidge tighter under my arms than I might have chosen…if I knew more about what I was doing. Sounds like a challenge!