Your favourite t-shirts don’t fit anymore? Then it might be time for a refashioning! In this tutorial I’m going to show you in five easy steps how to make a cute tanktop from an old t-shirt. This sewing tutorial is very easy and suitable for sewing beginners.
What sewing supplies do you need?
- One of your old tshirts
- Sewing machine with a ballpoint needle and a twin needle
- About 40cm black singlejersey fabric
- Two rolls of matching thread (two because of the twin needle)
- A little scrap piece of fusible interfacbing
- 1-2m black lace, width 1,5cm
Before sewing the top: Create you pattern the easy way
Before you go and cut your beloved old t-shirt it’s good to know where to cut at least. Cutting necklines and armholes looks so easy, but they fit badly if you don’t know about tailoring and patternmaking. That’s why I work with selfdrafted patterns when it comes to upcycling.
To get the perfect pattern for your top, take a tanktop from your wardrobe that fits you very well. Lay it flat on a table or the floor and mark the vertical middle line on the front and back with a vanishing fabric marker or chalk. Now place a piece of transparent paper on the middle line and trace the outlines of the top. Do this on the front and backside. Now cut it out and your pattern is done!
I made a little adjustment to my pattern: I added darts to get a little more width around the bust, because all of my old tops where too tight around there. How this works in an ucycling I’m going to show you in another post
Find the missing pieces
Now it’s time to construct your new top! Now lay out your old t-shirt flat on the table and draw the middle line there too. Place your pattern on that middle line. Now you can see if it fits completely on the tshirt’s fabric or if there is fabric “missing” on the sides or the length to fill out the pattern.
With my top here it’s the case that I want to place the print below the original position. That’s why I don’t need to add length on the seamline, but there is some fabric missing on the top. To add this, I made a seperation in the pattern above the bust and continued it on the backside. The upper part of the top can not be cut from the tshirt, so I’ll use a matching black fabric for that.
If your top is missing fabric on the side seams, you have to make a separation here too. How this step works I’m going to show you in my next upcycling project.
Cutting the top
Now you can cut the pieces of the top from your old tshirt and the black jersey fabric. Mind the seam allowances on all the sides!
For elastic fabrics, i use 1cm all around the side and 2,5cm on the seamline.
Sew the front and the backside
I’m starting the sewing with the front and backpiece. Therefore I sew the upper and lower parts on the front and backpiece together. To sew this on my machine I use a narrow zickzack stitch. I finished the seam allowances with my overlocker and pressed them to the upper part of the top. Then I topstitched them with a straight stitch from the right side. This step is optional. You could also just sew the seam with the overlocker and press it flat. But I like the optical seperation the topstitched line gives the top. Plus, the seam is going to hold a lot longer that way. The disadvantage of my technique here ist hat the to will get a little less stretchy around the upper bust line because of the straight topstitching. If your top is very tight and needs to stretch a lot around the chest, I wouldn’t recommend it.
When I finished the parts of the top I sewed the darts and pressed them down to the seamline.
Sew the shoulder seams
The shoulder seams on a tanktop will need to hold the whole weight of the top. To prevent them from stretching out too much I added little stripes of fusible interfacing around the seams on the inside of the top. I cut these stripes from some scraps of interfacing and made them about 2 cm wide.
With the interfacing ironed on both sides of the top I sewed the shoulder seams with a low elastic stitch. You can also use a straight stitch here, because of the interfacing the shoulder seams won’t be stretchy anymore. But they don’t need to be, so sewing them with a straight stitch is no problem and I think it’s easier to press the seams flat when the are sewn with a straight stitch.
After sewing the shoulder seams I finished the seam allowances and pressed them to the backside of the top.
Time to try
Once your shoulderseams are done, it’s time for trying on the top. Put the neckline over your head and pin the sideseams on your body. Now you can check, if the neckline, waistline and armholes are in the right places. Different jerseys can stretch and fall differently, depending on the material they are made of and their weight. The top you took the pattern from might be a different material than your old t-shirt. That’s my it’s important now to control if every part of your top is in the right place.
- If the neckline is too low, you can shorten the shoulder parts on the front and backpiece, by cutting them and sewing the shoulder seams again.
- If the neckline is too high, you can cut it out directly from the jersey you added or your t-shirt’s fabric
Sew the side seams
Stitch front and backside together at the side seams with a narrow zickzack stitch. It’s important to use an elastic stitch here, because the side seams might need to stretch while wearing the top. Once you are done I recommend you to try it on again:
Are all the seams in the right places? Great! Then it’s time to finish the top!
Finish armholes and neckline with lace
There are a few different techniques to apply lace to a seamline. I want to show you one here, that I havn’t seen on any online-tutorial already. I saw that kind of seamline with lace on one of my bought tops. The lace gives a cute and feminine detail tot he top. Since the seams are made with the overlocker and an elastic stitch, they are still stretchy, so you can put the top on or off.
Be careful to use elastic lace! This technique won’t work with non-elastic!
First, I finished the seam allowance of the neckline and the armholes with my Overlocker. By doing this I let the overlocker cut a little fabric on the seamline, so my 1cm of seam allowance are gone then. If you don’t own a overlocker with a cutter, just cut the seam allowances by hand or don’t add them at all.
Then I measured the length of the neckline and the armoles. To cut the correct length of lace I took the lengths *0,8. The pieces of lace for the seamlines are a little shorter now than the width of the neckline because I want them to lie flat on the body and prevent them from standing up when they are finished.
Now I sewed the lace pieces together at the ends to create rings and pressed the seam allowances flat. Then I pinned the lace to the neckline and the armholes, stretching it a little while pinning. I let the lace stand up the top’s seamlines about 0,5cm. Be careful to stretch the lace equally so there won’t be any wrinkles in the top or the lace. The lace is sewn on afterwards with a big Zickzack stitch.
In the end I turned in the lower seamline about 2cm and topstitched it with the twin needle. And then it’s done!
Conclusion: Easy upycling with a great result
I can’t wait for the summer because now I have a new beautiful top to wear when the temperatures get high. My beloved old t-shirt from the Summerbreeze-festival was brought to live again – When it was still a t-shirt it was too tight and I didn’t like the high neckline. Now it fits my bodyshape perfectly.
Making this top gave me a lot of learnings about upcycling and made me improve my skills. When I finished my last tshirt refashioning I had to realize in the end, that the finished to was still a little too tight around the bust. That’s why I added the darts this time and the shape of the top turned out very nice.
The only thing that didn’t work out so well are the pieces of black jersey that I used for the upper part of the top. It has a little different structure than the t-shirts original fabric and a different shade of black. So it doesn’t look like the same fabric. It’s not visible at first sight, but I don’t like it anyway.
So next time I wouldn’t use black jersey anymore to go with a washed out black t-shirt. Then I will use jersey in a contrast color.