how to alter a tshirt by hand, a tutorial featured by top US sewing blog, The Sewing Korner

What do you do if you pull out your Tshirt and discover that it doesn’t fit quite right? Luckily, you can alter a T-shirt in a few easy steps. 

Here is the basic overview on how to alter a T-shirt:

  1. Cut along the side seams to remove sleeves
  2. Hem and sew seam shut
  3. Cut off excess fabric
  4. Hem the shirt to your desired length
  5. Test fit before final sewing

After you’ve completed these steps, your T-shirt should fit perfectly. You could also take your old shirt and cut it into a new style, such as off-the-shoulder, cold shoulder, or asymmetrical hemline.

Copy Master PIN SET 21B 2021 - 1000x1500 (3)
Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Read on to learn a bit more about how to alter a T-shirt, and how to achieve some of today’s most popular looks!

    What You Will Need to Alter a TShirt by Hand

    Here is what you will need for this alteration:

    • Tape measure (a flexible tape measure or tailor’s tape)
    • Fabric marker (or fabric crayon, chalk pencil, removable marking pen)
    • Paper clips or large safety pins
    • Scissors, sharp fabric shears or rotary cutter, and mat
    • Iron or steamer
    • Needle and thread in a color that matches the fabric of your shirt
    • Ironing board
    • Sewing machine (optional)

    What Can Be Altered by Hand on the TShirt?

    Alteration is the process of making changes to something that you already own. The alterations give it a new look or fit, and if done correctly, it can make an old favorite into a new showstopper.

    Pretty much anything can be altered depending on your skill level and what tools you have available. This means clothing such as T-shirts, pants, shirts, suits, or dresses can all be customized for your personal style. It also includes accessories such as scarves, hats, and shoes! Basically, if it’s possible to cut it up (no pun intended), then you can probably liven it up with some alterations.

    Unfortunately altering certain items may not be possible due to the fabric type or other reasons. Leather and vinyl items should not be altered, since the material may tear and will not revert to its original state once cut.

    Even some fabrics are too delicate for alteration, so make sure you test your garment in an inconspicuous place before trying out alterations on the whole piece.

    Let’s take a closer look at how you can start to alter your T-shirts!

    How to Alter a TShirt by Hand That Is Too Big

    T-shirts are great for casual wear, but sometimes they can be too small or too big. Whether it’s because you’ve gained or lost weight, or if it’s just time to update your style, the tips in this article will show you how easy it is to alter a T-shirt!

    Step 1: Turn the shirt inside out and lay it on a flat surface, with the front facing up. Don’t worry about which side is the front and which is the back, as long as they’re both facing up.

    Step 2: The ends of the sleeves should point toward the top of the shirt, with the collar facing down. Cut off a small amount from both sleeves at a time, until you get the desired length. Make sure to cut straight across!

    Step 3: If you’d like, leave a small section in between your last cut and each sleeve’s end unsewn, for an unfinished hem look.

    Step 4: Once satisfied with the length of one sleeve, repeat Step 1 to 3 on its opposite side.

    Once you are completed, you should have a shirt that is the same length on both ends, but two different sizes. You can also customize your T-shirt with other design elements!

    Video: How to Resize a TShirt

    How to Alter a TShirt by Hand That Is Too Small

    Step 1: Take your shirt and lay it flat on a work surface with either side up. Place pins horizontally through each armpit so they can later be removed while trying on the shirt.

    Step 2: If you’d like, remove the collar or sleeves at this point to open up more room.

    Step 3: Align a ruler with one armpit pin and cut straight across until you hit your mark.

    Step 4: Get rid of the pins and try on your newly altered shirt. Make any adjustments as needed. Repeat Steps 1 to 4 for the opposite side of your torso (the back). For an off-shoulder T-shirt, make each shoulder bigger by cutting along the front neckline of your T-shirt all the way down through both shoulders. Remove sleeves entirely if desired.

    For cold shoulder shirts, use safety scissors to cut around where you’d like the shoulder to end. Leave a section unsewn and try on your new look.

    For asymmetrical hemlines, use safety scissors to cut the bottom hemline in opposite directions: one shorter than the other. Try on and make any necessary adjustments.

    How to Cut up an Old TShirt for a New Look

    Simply cutting up old shirts to create new looks is one of the most popular trends out there. Whether it’s adding white sleeves for a cold shoulder look, or chopping off and gathering the bottom of pieces for an asymmetrical hem if you’ve got an old shirt lying around, here are some ways to give it new life.

    Cold Shoulder: Trace around your arm where you want the “cap” of the sleeve (at top), as well as where you want the short sleeve to end on your shoulder. Cut both the cap sleeve and the short sleeve, then sew them together with a straight stitch.

    Asymmetrical Hemline: Cut across the bottom of your shirt, leaving more fabric at one end than the other. Gather each piece by sewing a running stitch along either side of where you cut to make gathering easier. Once it’s gathered to your liking, finish off any raw edges with a zigzag edging or serger for a clean look.

    Off-the-Shoulder: Chopping off the collar is easy enough, but if you want an extra cute style, start by tracing around your neckline with chalk. Then take two separate pieces of fabric for each shoulder (one large rectangle and one smaller rectangle) and sew the right sides together with a straight stitch. Turn the shirt inside out and pin the pieces to your neckline, then try it on for size.

    Recycling Old TShirts

    If you want to recycle old T-shirts into something new, follow these simple steps and turn them into anything from an off-the-shoulder blouse, cold shoulder top, or even a cute summer dress!

    Step 1: Make sure you know which direction a shirt is going to stretch by hanging it from the shoulders. Then, put the shirt on inside out and cut away.

    Step 2: Trace your arm where you want the “cap” of the sleeve (at top), as well as where you want the short sleeve to end on your shoulder. Cut both the cap sleeve and the short sleeve, then sew them together with a straight stitch.

    Step 3: Starting from one side of the neckline, use sharp scissors to cut around to about an inch past that point. Cut a few slits into this section for a wrap-around style effect.

    Step 4: Turn a T-shirt right side out and pin down where you’d like to gather the bottom piece. Sew a running stitch along both sides of your cut to make gathering easier, then use fabric glue or basting stitches (longer stitches) to pin down the gathered fabric.

    Step 5: Try on your new dress for size! Work with different lengths and styles until you’ve got it right. You can also experiment with other pieces, such as cold shoulder ruffles or asymmetrical hemlines.

    Once you are satisfied with your look, make sure to finish off any raw edges with a zigzag edging or serger for a clean look.

    Video: How To Alter a HUGE Shirt to a FITTED Shirt!

    5 Tips to Consider When Altering a TShirt by Hand

    Measurements: Take measurements of yourself before beginning this project; write them down for future reference when shopping for shirts that fit you perfectly! If you’d like, measure the shirt itself (i.e., not including length or width).

    Altering Sizes: Depending on how oversized or undersized your T-shirt is, you may want to alter it multiple times before being satisfied with your results. You could also leave extra fabric at the seams.

    T-Shirt Material: You can buy T-shirts at most department stores, so try them on and decide the best material for you.

    Time Checking: Keep in mind that you will need time to wait for your shirt to dry. Old school irons may not get hot enough to properly alter the fabric and may instead just cause it to shrink.

    Get Creative: With each of these alteration ideas, there are endless possibilities. Try different colors or patterns on your shirt, such as lace trims or denim stitching, for a new look. Don’t forget adding accessories such as hats (stretchable ones work best), hair scarves, and belts make great finishing touches. Once you get the hang of altering your own clothes, go for it and make something new!

    Now You Know How to Alter a TShirt by Hand

    We know that there are a lot of reasons you might want to alter your T-shirt, whether it’s for an upcoming event or just because the weather is getting warmer.

    Fortunately, altering your shirt doesn’t have to be difficult! You can turn any old shirt into something new with these simple steps and ideas.

    Whether you’re looking for off-the-shoulder dresses or cold shoulder tops, alterations can help you look great. Remember to make sure the T-shirt’s fabric stretches before cutting it! If you’re worried, try taking measurements of yourself before beginning this project for future reference when shopping for shirts that fit you perfectly.