How to Girley-Up a Men’s T-Shirt

Supplies: Ugly T-shirt, Cute Tee to use as a pattern, Pins, Chalk, Seam Guide, Double Needle

Last February at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, hubs and I went with friends to see Little Big Town. I love them and wanted to get myself a really cute “Day Drinking” tee.   Although, I knew if they had a cute “Pontoon” shirt complete with double-decker, slide-wielding-grilling-fun, I knew I’d be in a pickle because, well, I’m not going to drop $60 on two t-shirts. I mean I can…but I’m not, ya know? So…I’m a bit of an audiophile and follow a lot of the new Country artists and I was having visions of looking super cool in a pink and white, LBT bedazzled, cap-sleeve, scoop neck, shapely, princess-cut cutie. Before the show, I went hunting around the booths for a shirt. And what do I find? IMG_3115The ugliest, most gawd-awful royal blue blah t-shirt known to man. The only other one they had was a black LBT shirt with concert dates on it. So it’s the royal blue or nothing. It wasn’t even in a ladies style. It looked like it was yanked from a Hanes bag in the WalMart men’s underwear aisle and run through the printer. Really? You want me to drop $30 on a piece of crap ugly tee just because it says, “This is my Day Drinking Shirt”?  OK. I’m in. The day after the concert, I got to work. First – WASH THE ORIGINAL SHIRT.   You want as much shrinkage out of the original as possible.  That, and you need to get the Bangladesh off of it.  I’m pretty sure those t-shirt factories don’t have signs that say “Employees must wash hands before returning to work” if you know what I mean.

The Pattern
I like the shape of my Bucky’s tee so I used it as my pattern. If you’ve ever driven the Texas highways, you understand Bucky’s. If you’ve never seen a Bucky’s, it’s literally a gas station that is bigger than some WalMart stores with the cleanest bathrooms you’ll ever find for a “pit stop”.  They have nearly 100 gas pumps, cheap ice, and cute stuff.  And I don’t care what time of day it is, those stores are PACKED! Now, you should know right off, there’s nothing to be done about the neckline. Just get over it and move on. If you can’t, don’t buy the ugly version to begin with. It’s virtually impossible to reconfigure a neckline on a pre-made t-shirt and have it come out looking right. I’ve tried and it sucks Turn the original tee inside out, fold it in half vertically, and then lay the pattern tee (also folded in half) on top of the original making sure the center folds are even.  Arrange the height of the pattern tee to the underarm seams so they match exactly as possible. Pinning them helps. Again, ignore the shoulders and neckline – there’s nothing for it. Take chalk and draw an outline of the pattern tee down the sides and be sure to use a seam guide to add hem length for the sleeves and bottom hem. Remember, you’re not going to do anything with the shoulders or neckline. I moved my pattern tee over a bit so you could see the chalk line.IMG_3120 The Sleeves
Using a seam guide on the sleeves, add a cuff length big enough to fold up as much as the original so it looks “factory”. You can true-up the line if you have a French curve and then cut on the hem line.IMG_3121 IMG_3122IMG_3124 On the side seams, use a boat-load of pins to pin exactly on the chalk line, (not perpendicular to it) almost to the point of creating a faux seam, and do this the entire length of the tee to include into the sleeves.IMG_3126 Flip the shirt over and draw another chalk line where your pins lead the way. This makes the shirt symmetrical and keeps it from shifting.IMG_3127 If you have a serger, you do not have to cut the sides. The blade will do that for you. If you don’t have a serger, cut the sides of the tee using the chalk line as a guide very close to the pins. Don’t take the pins out first or you’ll make yourself miserable.  Then look for an overlock stitch on your machine.  If it doesn’t have one, you can use a wide zig zag to finish the edges.IMG_3135 I used my serger to finish the sleeve edges and then folded them up and pinned a bunch to keep them straight.  Lots of steam in the iron helps with this. Do you love my ironing board cover?  I totally made that.  Fabric from WalMart.IMG_3129 The Side Seams
My serger cut and finished the sides for me (I was a by-stander) and I just followed the chalk line, pulling pins as I went.IMG_3128 If you don’t have a have a serger, use a very wide zig zag stitch (so it looks almost straight) down the sides of the shirt on the chalk line and then press with steam to set the stitches. After you’ve pressed, cut the excess fabric off the shirt (on the outside of the seam line!) and then use your machine’s overlock stitch to finish the side seam edges. I know it seems a little backwards to stitch and then cut, but believe me, your life will be much easier in the long run to do it this way. The Hem If you have a coverstitch machine, I’m green with envy. But for the rest of us that don’t… Once again, break out the seam guide and add length to the bottom for the hem (I didn’t because I’m tall so I just used the edge of the original hem as a guide) and then cut along that line. I know the image below looks out of order from the side seam images above.  It really doesn’t matter which order you do this in if you’re cutting off the bottom anyway.IMG_3125 If you have any stretch stay tape it would be good to use it to stabilize the hem but I didn’t have any. Just fold up the hem to the size you want (look at the original for a guide) and then pin, pin, pin and use steam from the iron to even out any ripples. Time to sew. Using a double needle is really easy and I recommend using a Stretch Twin Needle (ball point).  IMPORTANT!!  Set the needle position to CENTER!  If you skip this, the left needle will break if your machine defaults to a needle-left position. Of course, I didn’t learn this lesson from personal experience (ha-ha).  Also, you can’t use the auto-threader (duh).IMG_3131 A ball point (or Stretch) needle will not pierce the fibers of the fabric but instead move them out of the way as the needle goes up and down. If I don’t have two top threads of the same color, I’ll make a bobbin real quick and use that as my 2nd top thread. My machine says to thread both threads through the machine at the same time (check your manual for yours) and then thread the needles separately. Thread one needle completely first and then thread the second. Don’t worry about the threads getting tangled in the machine…they won’t.IMG_3132 Set your stitch length to 3.5 or 4.0 for a more factory look and then starting on a side seam, start sewing on the FRONT of the shirt. Right side up and you want to try to capture the underside edge of the hem between the two needles. Sew slowly and take your time. This ain’t NASCAR.IMG_3133 Use lots of steam for a final press and ta-da!  A super-cute, fitted, rockin’, “Day Drinkin” Tee!  IMG_3139

Power Tools With Thread

Sewing nerd who is absolutely determined to perfect this insanely fun hobby.

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