Friday, March 9, 2012

T Shirt Alteration

T shirts! As an engineer, my basic uniform is jeans and a t shirt. But as a female engineer, there are so many awesome shirts that are cut for a guy instead of a lady. (Though guys can definitely use this tutorial too - a male friend of mine is tall and skinny, so he has to buy larger shirts so they're long enough. I take them in on the sides and it works like gangbusters.) This is a pretty easy project and great for someone who is learning to sew, but you probably don't want to try this for the first time on your vintage The Damned shirt signed by Dave Vanian. (What you should do with that is give it to me so I squeal in a manner unbecoming in someone half my age.)

For this project, you will need:
-a t shirt you like the fit of
-a t shirt to alter
-straight pins

-marking pencils
-paper of some short
-pen, pencil, or a marker
-a Siamese cat that sits on everything you attempt to sew

First off, if you plan on doing this repeatedly, it might be in your best interests to make a pattern. If you want to make a pattern, then you're going to need paper of some sort. Place likes JoAnn's sell actual pattern paper, but you can use newspaper, wax paper, plain old printer paper, or whatever. I used newspaper because I am frugal. Here's the pattern I made for my aforementioned friend:

You'll just want to slide it under the t shirt you're using as a pattern and trace it. Then add seam allowance (I used 1/2 inch on the sides and 1 inch at the bottom).

Very important: make sure the shirt you want to alter has been laundered as you plan to launder it in the future - in other words, if you usually wash your shirts in warm water and tumble dry them on low, then do that a few times before you alter it. To avoid fading and shrinkage, I usually wash my t shirts in cold water, inside out, and hang them up to dry. YMMV.

1) For the t shirt you're using as a pattern, fold it in half and pin. If it has side seams, line them up. Line up the shoulder and sleeve seams too. If it's wrinkly, you can try to press it flat with your hands, smoosh it under some books, wash it, or even (shudder) iron it. It doesn't have to be perfectly flat, but non-wrinkly is good.

2) For the t shirt you want to alter, fold it in half and pin. The same standards for wrinkliness apply here too.

3) Place the pattern shirt on top of the shirt to alter. Line them up at the top and on the folds. Pin. Don't worry about it if the sleeves don't match up.

4) If the shirts are the same length or you're okay with the length of shirt to alter, then don't worry about this step.
Otherwise, measure out one inch from the bottom of the pattern shirt and mark. I used pins, but you can use marking pencils or whatever method you like.

5) Measure out half an inch from the side seam and mark.

6) Cut very carefully along the marking lines. Be sure not to cut the pattern shirt.

7) When you get near the sleeve seam, carefully cut off your excess.

8) If you're happy with how the original sleeves fit or they're the same length/shape as the pattern shirt, skip this step.
Unpin the pattern shirt from the other shirt. Re-pin, aligning the sleeve seams. From the underarm, measure out half an inch and mark. From the opening, measure out one inch and mark. Cut again, carefully.

9) Unpin pattern shirt.

10) Unpin the shirt to be altered entirely and turn inside out. T shirt material tends to roll, so pin close to the edge along the side seams.

11) Sew in a half inch seam. I like to use a longer stitch because t shirts like to stretch. I zig zagged the edges to prevent ravelling.

12) If you aren't altering the length, you can skip the next few steps. Otherwise, fold up half an inch on the bottom.

13) Fold up again along the fold line. Sew close to the top fold with the same long stitch. You can sew along the bottom fold too, if you want.

14) If you aren't altering the sleeves, skip this step. Otherwise, fold up half an inch (as in length altering step), and then fold up again. To sew, turn the shirt right-side out and and sew close to the top fold. You can sew the bottom fold too, if you want.

15) You're done!

T shirts are harder to alter if you have to move the sleeves or you don't have a pattern shirt. I'll cover those in future lessons.

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