7 Upcycled Shirts to Make by Repurposing Your Old Shirts
Shirts come in all different shapes, sizes, and types. If you love DIY projects and refashioning your old clothes, making different types of shirts is a great way to go.
Handmade shirts are statement pieces and conversation starters. They’re versatile, too, because you can wear them with skirts, jeans, shorts, etc.
The creative possibilities for making different types of shirts are endless. You can transform the blah shirts you already have in your closet into something you’ll actually wear.
Another way to make the most of DIY projects is to sell them online. You can now sell anything you make from our Goodfair merchandise on the Goodfair Marketplace.
7 types of shirts for refashioned clothes projects
A halter top is a backless shirt that stays up thanks to straps that either tie or loop around your neck. This type of shirt is easy to make because it doesn’t require a lot of fabric. You can also make the straps from other materials like ribbon, a scarf, or rope that you have lying around the house.
To make a halter top, you’ll cut out the front and back piece of your fabric to the width you’d like it to be plus a half-inch seam allowance on each side. The back piece will be the same height as the side under the armpit. The front piece will have a couple more inches of fabric at the top to cover your chest.
This upper part in front will be a few inches narrower than the sides and it will have a diagonal seam on each side coming from the sides that fall under the armpits.
Depending on your halter top you can either stitch the strap along the sides of the front panel, which works better for a low cut, or just along the top of the halter, which works better for a higher neckline.
Shirred/Smocked Tube Top
The key to creating a tube-top is elastic thread. You can use it in your sewing machine, just like regular thread. When you stitch parallel horizontal lines with elastic thread, your fabric will cinch in and create that lovely stretchy, form-fitting shape, which you can slide over your body.
This sewing technique is called “shirring” or “smocking.” It’s great for creating the bodices of tube-tops, or corset-like shirts with statement sleeves.
Hand-Painted or Screen Printed T-shirt
If you have plain t-shirts at home, this is a great way to update them with a custom design with iron-on adhesive cut-out or printed paper.
You can either cut out letters or shapes, or print an image from your computer to transform a boring plain shirt into something custom that shows your personality more.
Photo Credit: @shanna_yeh
Creating a handmade patchwork shirt is a fun project for old scraps from used flannels, graphic tees, or other garments you don’t want to wear anymore. It’s basically creating a quilt panel out of random shapes of fabric and then creating a t-shirt or tank-top from this fabric. Create your shirt pattern by copying the shape of a shirt you already have in your closet and adding seam allowances.
It’s important to use fabric pieces that are all a similar type of fabric, so they retain the right shape over time. Otherwise the different pieces might stretch or shrink at different rates, and the piece won’t hang well.
Cropped polo shirt
Polo shirts have those cute knit collars with a couple of buttons coming down from the collar. They’re usually made out of thicker woven knits that are super durable.
Add an elastic waistband to the bottom of your shirt, to create a cute, puffy crop top that you can wear with your high-waisted skirts or shorts this summer.
- Measure how far down you want your crop top to go, then add the width of your elastic band, and add about an inch and cut your shirt with a straight line.
- Next, create your elastic band tunnel by sewing a small (¼ inch hem). Then fold your hem over again to the width of your elastic plus ½ inch. This tunnel part should be showing on the inside of your shirt. Then sew along the edge of the folded edge, but leave about 1 inch open.
- Measure your elastic waistband. Make it fit around your waist when slightly stretched. Push your elastic band through the tunnel with a safety-pin attached to the end. Don’t let the other end of the elastic slip into the tunnel. Then stitch the ends of the elastic together with a zig-zag stitch 2-3 times back and forth. Then sew the opening of your tunnel shut.
Now, your polo shirt should have a cinched, cropped edge that fits tight around your waist. Once you master the elastic band method, you can use it on a variety of tops!
Cut off the sleeves of your shirt, if you need more shirts for the hot weather. You can turn almost any shirt into a cute tank top. Use one of your favorite tank tops as a guide for the pattern and just trace around it when it is folded in half plus about a half inch seam allowance.
The easiest way to finish a shirt sleeve is with a rolled hem. Simply fold the edge about a quarter inch two times. Do this as you stitch along the edge until you have a neat rolled edge to your sleeve. You can use the same technique on necklines as well. But don't stop with just cutting the sleeves—add in some additional DIY techniques for a truly unique piece!
Tropical or Hawaiian Shirt
Tropical patterned shirts are usually loose and flowy with a great pattern and a button-up design. Because they come with so many great details to begin with, they’re perfect for DIY projects. You can turn one into an off-the-shoulder shirt or even a no-sew dress. If you want to make your own, here’s a great pattern.
These aren’t the only types of shirts though!!
Photo Credit: @shanna_yeh
There are literally endless options for making shirts, but we have to stop somewhere. It’s great to learn how to sew different types of shirts so you become comfortable making custom clothes. It’s a skill that will help you not only save money on your wardrobe, but it will help you understand how clothes are constructed so you can repair, build, and refashion your entire wardrobe.
Can you think of more types of shirts to make? Let us know your favorite designs to create from used clothing. And if you want to learn how to create even more upcycled wardrobe staples, check out our post 7 Ways to Upcycle Your Clothes.