Taking a men’s T-shirt (or your own fabric), we’ll refashion it into this:
Skill Level: Intermediate
* Mens’ XL tshirt (or appx 3/4 to 1 yard of fabric)
* Appx 1/4 yard knit ribbing
* SERGER (optional. Makes for the best look but instructions included for sewing without)
Size used in this Tutorial: 2T
I call this the 90 Minute Shirt because I’ve made it so many times that I can do it 90 mins (and sometimes even in 60!) The first time you make it, it will take longer than 90 mins. Don’t feel ripped off. It took me longer the first (few) times. But over time, you’ll get the routine down and you’ll be cranking these out for all your little guys and gals!
The first step is to make the pattern for your shirt, using our Make Your Own Pattern Tutorial:
Then gather your T-shirt and fabric supplies.
It’s hard to “embellish” a boy’s shirt. So I love to use ribbing to spice things up. It’s subtle, but adds a pop. Ribbing is simply this: knit fabric you find in the fabric store with little ribs in it. That’s it! There’s often a variety of colors to choose from. I buy mine at Joanns and I usually get many different colors when they’re on sale (since they look so pretty together) and then I have options for whatever T-shirt I end up using. Of course you’ll only need about 1/4 yard (or less) for each shirt, so even if they’re not on sale, it’s pretty cheap. (If you don’t want to use ribbing, you can use fabric from another T-shirt or even the same shirt! Just use something KNIT, so it can stretch):
Now for your shirt fabric….
I love the concept of Refashioning or Upcycling something old. So for these shirts I often hit the local Thrift Store and buy a Men’s XL T-shirt. If you’re using new fabrics from a store instead, you will need appx 3/4 to 1 yard of knit fabric for a little boys shirt (1-2 years), depending on sleeve length. If you’re making something larger than that, take your pattern pieces with you to the store and figure out exactly how much fabric you need.
Once you’ve made your pattern pieces, using our Pattern Tutorial above, you should have pieces that look similar to this:
Prep your existing Men’s T-shirt by cutting off all the seams and laying it out flat. This orange shirt didn’t have a seam on the sides, so I had even more fabric to work with! Carefully cut off the sleeves. If you’re making short sleeves for your new shirt, you’ll want to use them!
Decide how to lay your fabric pieces to maximize your space. If you made pattern pieces similar to mine, REMEMBER that the shirt pieces are only HALF of the shirt, so you’ll need to trace part and flip it over and trace the other side.
BUT DON’T DO WHAT I DID AND TRACE DOWN THE MIDDLE. See those squiggly lines down there? you DON’T want to trace that part!! That’s the MIDDLE of your shirt! Yep, and I did it….
Look at this picture below. See the mess-up one in there? Thankfully I had enough fabric to make a new piece. LESSON LEARNED: if you think you’ll make this mistake too, make your pattern pieces FULL-sized shirt pieces.
If you’re going to use the hem of the existing shirt for your new shirt (which I LOVE to do. Saves time and looks cool), make sure your pattern pieces are placed along the bottom of the shirt. Don’t worry if your shirt is a bit wonky and bent out of shape. It works out in the end:
And if you’re cutting short sleeves (instead of the long sleeves above), use the hem of the existing sleeve as well. Just place your pattern piece right on the edge of the hem and cut out the new sleeve:
Measure around the neck of both the FRONT and BACK of the shirt pieces (they will be different lengths. The front neck scoops further down).
Add those two lengths together, and this is how long you need to cut your strip of neck ribbing. For my two shirt pieces combined, it was 27 inches long. Now the width of the neck ribbing is to your preference. 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide is good. The ribbing will be folded in half, around the neck, so keep that in mind. For the orange shirt I cut it 2 inches wide. For the Brown shirt, I did 1 1/2 inches wide.
If you’re adding a cuff to your sleeves, cut two cuffs just slightly larger on the sides that the bottom of your sleeve piece. And cut it 4 inches wide (or whatever width you like. The cuff will be folded in half when finished):
Now your pieces are prepped and ready to go!
The first sewing step is to prepare your ribbing pieces.
NOW IF YOU DON’T HAVE SERGER, DON’T FREAK OUT HERE. There will be more info below.
But for those who have a Serger, there are more proper ways for doing this, I’m sure. But if you’re like me, you find a way that works for you and continue to use it. So that’s what I’ll show you here. Using your serger, serge down both sides of your long ribbing strip. I like to use contrasting thread on my ribbing so it adds more color to the shirt:
It should look like this:
Do the same for both your cuff pieces:
Now, if you don’t have a serger….
Just leave all your edges raw. They won’t unravel (knit does not fray). The serging is really just to add decor. It’s not a necessary step. Your shirt won’t look quite as “decorated” but it’ll still be plenty cute. Just make sure that your edges are cut straight and even (a rotary cutter is best for that).
Okay, iron your long strip in half, with the back half just slightly higher than the front. This makes it easier to attach to your shirt later on (in the same way that store-bought bias tape is slightly wider on one side):
Then starting with your back shirt piece, sandwich the neck edge into the ribbing, with the longer side of the ribbing on the back (inside). This ensures that when you sew it on near the edge, it will definitely be sewn on the back too:
When you get to the end, just snip off the ribbing and use the remaining ribbing to go around the front pattern piece:
If you have a label for your shirt, insert it into the back, tucked into the ribbing and pin it in place:
Then, sewing on the OUTSIDE of your shirt (the side everyone is going to see), start sewing your ribbing on to the shirt. I sew two lines, one on the right side of my serged lines:
And the other line, near the left edge of the ribbing:
If you don’t have a serger, you will just sew two parallel lines. You can use a double needle for this (see your machine manual. You’ll likely need to purchase one), OR you can just sew two separate lines. I often do this. First, sew the line on the left, near the edge, using your presser foot as a guide so your line is “straight” with the fabric’s edge. Then sew your 2nd line about 1/4 inch to right of your first line. I often use that method for hems and other decorative sewing. When you’re done, it might not look as pretty on the inside, but no one’s going to see it much:
Another option for your shirt label is to add it to the back of the shirt. If you’re really lame like me and made the same mistake twice when tracing your pattern (SERIOUSLY), then you ended up with an unwanted Sharpie mark in the middle of you shirt. So…..I cut out a rectangle of ribbing, matching the neck ribbing, sewed my label on top, and sewed it right over the mistake spot.
An impromptu (and needed) design:
Okay, on to the sleeves…..
NOTE: if you don’t want to add cuffs, you can simply serge the edges of your shirt sleeves (and bottom hem of your shirt) or even leave them raw. In this tutorial, we’ll be adding cuffs.
* UPDATED NOTE* : The color of my sleeves have changed here because I realized an easier way to do them after creating this tutorial. So, the sleeves here are gray and the cuffs are white. We’ll pick up with orange sleeves again in the next step.
With your cuffs serged on the sides (for decor, not necessary), iron them in half and get ready to sew them to the ends of each sleeve:
Sandwich the end of the sleeve right inside of the cuff:
Then sew each cuff down (similar to how you did the neck line above):
Each sleeve bottom should look like this:
SEWING ON SLEEVES:
There are two ways to do this.
This is the alternate method I use from time to time — you’ll find the info HERE.
(photos used on a beach robe, but the concept is the same)
And this is the method I learned years ago.
Decide which method works in your creative mind and go use that…..
With RIGHT sides together, fold the sleeve in half:
And sew down the entire side:
Serge off the seam (zigzag or leave raw):
Iron down your seam and you sleeves are done!
Pretty easy! Now let’s attach them to your shirt…..
NOTE: we are now back to the orange/yellow sleeve color 🙂
Okay, with RIGHT sides of your shirt pieces together, pin the sides down. We are ONLY sewing the sides right now:
If you have a side tag/label, insert it about 2 inches from the bottom of the shirt:
Sew down the sides of the shirt , serge them off, and Iron out your seams:
Okay, this part isn’t tricky but it’s hard to show visually. Now it’s time to sew in your sleeves and sew the top of your shirt closed. This is the final step. Yay! So, with your sleeve turned RIGHT side out (the way it will look when you’re done) and with your shirt INSIDE out, take the armpit seam of your sleeve and match it to the armpit seam of your shirt:
and pin it in place:
Then you start to wrap the shirt shoulders around the sleeve, one piece at a time. It always takes me a moment to remember which shirt side to wrap around first (the front or the back?) When your shirt is finished, the back shoulder will wrap around to the front. SO (though it will feel backwards to do it this way), start by pinning the BACK shirt shoulder around the sleeve first (if none of this is making sense, study how a onesie looks and it should help):
When you finish pinning the BACK shoulder side down, wrap the FRONT shoulder around and pin it to the sleeve also:
As you go around, it will start to overlap where you pinned down the BACK shoulder. Just take out the pin and pin the Front shoulder to it also.
When you’re done, it should look something like this:
Now before you sew it down, ALWAYS DOUBLE-CHECK that you pinned both arms down properly by turning the whole shirt right-side out slightly just to see that you have both sleeves with the BACK folding over to the Front. I’ve made the mistake before and had both sleeves going in different directions. Good thing I caught it before sewing!
If everything is good to go, sew the all the way around the sleeve. Turn your shirt Right side out again to make sure it looks good and then serge off the edges and iron out your seams:
And woohoo! You’re done! Go throw it on your little guy.
He sure looks cute, scrapes and all.
Other variations on the shirt….
(UNO image done by Freezer Paper Stenciling….Tutorial HERE. Image HERE.)
And that’s the 90 min shirt! How fast can you make a shirt?