Library Blog

No Sew T-Shirt Upgrades

If you’re anything like me, you probably have more than a few extra t-shirts clogging up your closet. Some of them might be favorites that are out of style. Others might not fit right or may have faded over time. Consider getting them out of your closet and back into your wardrobe rotation by using some simple no-sew strategies to update their looks.

Here are three ways you can transform the look or fit of your t-shirts with no sewing required:

The Hack and Slash

Put a piece of cardboard or a cutting mat inside your shirt; this will make sure you only cut one layer of your shirt. If you’d like, you can draw or trace a design with a fabric pencil or a bit of chalk. If you’re feeling confident or are keeping it simple, you can freehand a design. Then, when ready, use a pair of scissors, an X-Acto knife, or a razor to cut your design into your shirt.

Start with small cuts – you can always go back and make them bigger. If you go too big, consider adding safety pins to keep some cuts closed.

You can do this to the front or back of your shirt – or both! For more variation, slash into your shirt sleeves as well, or cut the hem of your shirt into fringe.

It’s a Cinch

For this method, you will need to once again use a cutting mat or cardboard flap inside the shirt to ensure that you cut through only one layer at a time. Around the bottom hem or neckline of the shirt, use a pair of scissors, an X-Acto knife, or a razor to cut small holes at equal intervals. Next, get your drawstring – a shoelace or a ribbon would work, but I like to use scrap fabric that I’ve cut from another t-shirt when possible! Thread your drawstring through the holes that you’ve cut, and adjust the fit as needed. Tie the drawstring ends in a decorative knot or a bow.

For more variation, use this method on the shirt sleeves, or cut off the sleeves entirely and add cinches and drawstrings to the arm holes. You can also vary where the knot or bow appears – it doesn’t have to be centered.

Tie It All Together

If you like the look of a corset but also enjoy the sensation of breathing too much to actually wear one, this is the method for you! Place your t-shirt on the cutting mat or cardboard flap, with the t-shirt lying flat and the side hem centered – this time, you need to use scissors, X-Acto knife, or razor to cut through both the front and back of the shirt at once, to make sure the holes you make line up with one another.

Starting immediately under the sleeve, create your holes about 1-3 inches from the side edge of the shirt, and continue making holes at even intervals all the way down to the bottom edge. It may be helpful to use a measuring tape and mark your hole placement with a fabric pencil or chalk before you begin cutting. Let the amount of space between the side of the shirt and the holes be determined by the size and fit of the shirt. If you are starting with a larger size than you normally wear and you want a tighter fit, for example, you should make your holes further from the side edge (3 inches) than if you’re starting with a shirt that already fits you well (1 inch).

Once you’ve made all your holes, thread a drawstring (a shoelace, ribbon, or a scrap of fabric cut from another shirt) through them, starting at the holes immediately beneath the sleeves and lacing through the other holes in a pattern you like, much like you would lace a shoe.

If you like the look of this, try adding a drawstring tie up and down the front of the t-shirt, or down the middle of the back!

Try them all – or come up with your own!

There is endless space for variation when updating or transforming the look of an old t-shirt. The worst possible outcome is that you end up with a few extra scraps that you can recycle into another DIY project, and the best possible outcome is that you end up with a new article of clothing that’s unique and personalized, but still easy and comfy to wash and wear.

For more arts and crafts ideas, check out these PLYMC resources, available digitally:

New Dress a Day by Marisa Lynch — The Ultimate DIY for Creating Fashion Do’s from Thrift Store Don’ts

Make and Mend by Jessica Marquez – Sashiko-Inspired Embroidery Projects to Customize and Repair Textiles and Decorate Your Home

Duct Tape Discovery Workshop by Tonia Jenny – Easy and Stylish Duct Tape Designs

And, of course, browse our online resource Lifestyle & Hobbies collection for great informational resources, like Discover a Hobby and the Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center.