Tuesday, September 6, 2011

how to alter a mens t-shirt into a womens (or maternity) size {tutorial}

When I first moved to Seattle, I noticed there was a sort of "uniform" that locals subscribed to: jeans and a black North Face fleece jacket. Comfort is king there. And I loved that no one cares what you look like--they take you as you are, even if you show up at the Symphony in jeans and fleece. It was very freeing. My first week in Iowa City I noticed a different kind of local uniform: Iowa gear. Anything and everything that says Iowa, Hawkeyes, or Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes are like a religion here. No, more than that--a way of life. College kids, moms, babies, old men, it doesn't matter--they're all walking around proudly promoting their team. It's always appropriate, like the jeans and fleece in Seattle. I had to get in on it.

Saturday was a big day. The first game for the Iowa Hawkeyes football 2011 season. The first game in which I would be in attendance. Which means I had to get some Iowa gear, quick! Do you know how hard it is to find college team maternity wear? At least under $30? It's hard people, very hard. So I decided to make my own.

{Please try to forgive the awkward self-portraits. I'm home alone all day, okay? Just hoping the neighbors haven't noticed me out in the yard posing yet.}

Here are some simple steps to alter a men's t-shirt into a womens size, even if you're not looking for maternity. Just take in a little more than I did.

Alter A Mens T-Shirt Into Womens (and/or Maternity) Size Tutorial

*T-shirt 1-2 sizes larger than your size (for maternity), or your regular size for non-maternity
*1/4" elastic (about a yard will be plenty)
*Sewing machine, matching thread, scissors, ruler, sewing marking pencil

1. Get a t-shirt. If you're not going for maternity, a t-shirt that fits like a men's size should will be fine. You'll mostly be altering the neckline and sleeves. If you want some room for baby, go bigger, like 1-2 sizes up. I would normally wear a men's small, so I went with a large. Found this beauty at the consignment shop for $4.99.

2. Next grab a t-shirt that fits you well. I chose a fitted maternity t-shirt (I have 3 of these and live in them right now--so comfy and cute). Lay it on top of your mens shirt. This will help you determine how much you're going to alter your big shirt. Mine--a LOT.
3. The neckline is a good place to start. I didn't want mine to be too low and cut off the Iowa logo, so I first just cut off the trim. Then I cut the front of the neckline a little lower than the back (rearrange the fold of the shirt so the sides of the neckline are together, rather than the front and back--this will help you keep the front even. )
I wanted to use some of the shirt's width to add some charm. I created 16 pin tucks around the front of the neck. Haven't done a pin tuck before? It's easy! Here's how:

*Mark your fabric with lines using a ruler and a fabric marking pencil. Mine were about 1.5" long and .5" apart. I followed the curve of my neckline.
*Next, pinch the center line between your fingers and fold along your line.
*Put the fold under your sewing machine and stitch just 1/8" or so from the fold (don't forget to backstitch!) along the length of the line your drew.

Repeat for all your markings. Cute, huh!

4. Now it's time for the sleeves. I was totally winging it when I did this, but I liked how it came out. Cut your sleeves off at the seams and cut out the bulky seam. 

Then lay your fitted shirt on top of the big shirt again. Mark where your fitted shirt's shoulder seams are, plus a little for the seam allowance. This is one of the biggest problems with mens-sized t-shirts--the shoulder seams are halfway down our arms!
Remove the fitted shirt and mark the new shoulder seam the rest of the way down. Notice I stopped before the bottom of the original sleeve. I wanted a smaller arm hole, so I followed the fitted tee's line.

Lay the fitted shirt's sleeve on top of the sleeve you cut off and trace around it. Again, I left 1/4" for my seam allowance (although I didn't end up hemming my sleeves, so you could leave that off if you don't want to hem yours, either). 

Cut off the excess fabric from the sleeve. 
Mark and cut the body-side of the sleeve as well, so it matches the size of the sleeve in your fitted shirt.

Cut off excess fabric from that side of the sleeve, too.  

 New sleeve! Looks a little better, right?

5. Before we can re-attach the sleeve, we much first tighten up that giant armhole.

If you're not making a maternity shirt, you can also use this step to make your t-shirt more fitted. Lay your fitted shirt on top again and trace the sides of the shirt from the armholes down to the bottom hem (or half-way down if you're making it maternity). Maternity will taper off slowly. This will leave more fabric to give you room for your bump (I want my shirt to last all season!). Sew along this line and trim excess, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance.

Now we can attach the sleeves! Turn your t-shirt inside out and leave your sleeve right-side out. Insert your sleeve into the armhole with the outside of the sleeve going in first. This will make your sleeve and shirt right sides together. Pin in place.

Sew around the armhole with a 1/4" seam allowance. If you have a serger, serge the edges. If not, try using your regular machine's overlock stitch on your new seams.

Now for the sides. This is a maternity shirt trick that I love, but it is also cute on non-maternity shirts! I'll leave it up to you if you want to do this step. 

With your shirt inside out, pin the top of a piece of 1/4" elastic a couple of inches under the armhole, where the side seam would be. Many t-shirts don't have a side seam, and this is desirable for maternity shirts. Since you'll be getting bigger in the front than you will in the back, you want to move the elastic back toward the back a couple of inches. Now it's time to sew it in. 

Change your stitch on your machine to a zig zag stitch, about the width of your elastic. Sew a couple of stitches to secure one end of the elastic in place under the armhole. Pull the elastic a little and hold it as you continue sewing your zig zag down almost to the bottom of your shirt. The more you pull as you sew, the more gathered your side seams will be. It's something you might just have to experiment with to see what you like. Stop about 1" from the bottom and secure with a backstitch. Clip your elastic. Repeat on the other side. 

I did the same thing on my sleeves as well. I sewed a 2" piece of elastic on the inside middle of the sleeve to create a little gather, just for fun.
And you're done! Seriously, that was way easier than I thought it would be. But I must warn you--start with a t-shirt you don't care about, just in case. It's good to have a little practice before cutting up a cute shirt!
Go hawks! It was a great game on Saturday, but because it poured the whole time, I had to cover up my new shirt with a rain coat! But don't fret--there's always next week. Or any day this week, really, since Iowa gear is always appropriate!

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30 Responses to “how to alter a mens t-shirt into a womens (or maternity) size {tutorial}”

Jen @ lil Mop Top said...

Love this and I wish I knew about this when I was preggo and a cheer coach wearing size XL cheer shirts down to my knees! :) Maybe for the next baby...

Kristina said...

How did you know I needed this? I thought I could make my own maternity shirt out of two (one big, one small) Old Navy clearanced ones. It was a frustrating disaster. Thanks for posting this!

Lisita said...

I love, LOVE this idea. You look adorable!!

hawkeyejlp said...

Go Hawks!! Great tute, too!

Ethan Mashimo said...

could you be any more adorable?!?!? =) WAY CUTE baby bump.

Lettie B. said...

I have one thing to say...Go Cyclones!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow your good! Thanx for showing us the tutorial! Great Job!


mama dub said...

What a great shirt! You look fantastic and it is a wonderful tutorial. Go Hawks!

Unknown said...

Nice Mandi!! Your baby bump is super cute! I think I may have to make a couple YMCA maternity shirts... We sure miss you in Seattle!
- Cami

Janice said...

I just "pinned" you! Love the idea.

Jennifer said...

Iowa gear is always appropriate. And you must already be a true fan to stay for the game even though it was raining. Great job on the shirt - but I'm not sure I am brave enough to try. Those sleeves make me nervous.

KendasCrafts said...

Great idea! How did you finish the neckline? Did you leave it a raw edge? Love the pintucks. Super cute. Although I think it would look better in cardinal and gold. Go Cyclones. :-)

beckaboots said...

This is so cute! Love the tutorial and I may have to use it the next time I'm preggo :)


Teri said...

I *love* this! I'm preggers right now and have been searching the blogosphere for maternity-wear tutorials! Thanks for posting this! I wouldn't be at all offended if you wanted to post more of them! :)

Deal Saving Diva said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! I have a TON of shirts from previous vacations, conferences and such that I am excited to turn into a more "girlie" look! I haven't worn most of them because they make me look "boxy". Thanks for such an easy and creative way to repurpose old shirts! :)

Emily said...

Welcome to Iowa City!! It's a great place to live if I do say so myself! Hope you didn't get too soaked at that first game! The shirt is adorable!

emilyadamc said...

LOVE this! I have so many shirts that need to be altered, this post addresses everything I want to fix! Love your blog by the way!

Rene' said...

go hawks great shirt

Little Birdie Secrets said...

Kenda--yes, I left the neckline (and the sleeves) a raw edge. That's the great thing about t-shirt knit! Great game on Saturday, although it would've been a bit better if the Hawks could've pulled it off in triple overtime. :(

Jessi said...

Adorable! We do love our Hawkeyes, welcome to Iowa City.

Crafty P said...

Oh my goodness! I so want to try this! I just said, why don't they make maternity NFL gear?? And now, I can have my Steelers shirt and still look cute and pregnant! THX

Kates said...

Yeah we to treat our team like a religion. GO HAWKS!

Abbie said...

I did it! Except I think it makes a cuter maternity shirt than just women's shirt - I couldn't seem to get it to fit right around the middle as I'm not pregnant. Sure will save it for next time around, though!

Anonymous said...

I love how easy you made this look hahaha!!! I attempted this tonight and although the shirt was a success the sizing was a little, uh, small. However, it's a testament to your tutorial skills that you could teach me, someone whose sewing skills are probably on par with a monkeys, to make something even remotely wearable. I'm counting this one as my "learning experience" and trying again tomorrow (thank god for $2.50 shirts at Michael's). Thanks for sharing this!! Wish I could have found it last trimester (I've got 3 weeks to go!!)

DM said...

How did you do the sleeves? I didn't see that in the tutorial.

JKMac7 said...

Love this!! Was looking for something like this to try and downsize a t-shirt for my 10 year old. Just what I needed! Pinned it!!

shiva said...

hey really thanks for showing new and easy technique to modify our clothes.


Anonymous said...

I love your doily shirt! I shared it on my blog today. I hope that is okay. You can check it out by following this link. http://2ofum.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/tutorial-tuesday-creative-ways-to-alter-shirts-d/

Happy Crafting!

B.C. Fleecy said...

Google pointed me to your tut! I got lots of good tips to help me convert some shirts for a friend who has to wear a polo-style shirts to work. Since the shirts I used had side seams, I found that zig-zagging the ruching elastic to the seam allowance looked nicer than sewing through to the outside.
Thanks for sharing!

Rob and Toni said...

Pinned this forever ago and finally got around to doing it! Thanks so much! I love it! I have gotten so many comments on my "new" maternity shirt. Went to the D.I. and bought a shirt for $1 and altered it. Now I just need to make another one! Thanks again!

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