Eco Tutorial: From Shapeless to Shabby Chic

Submitted by LindaEve

This tutorial assumes a basic knowledge of sewing.

During my weekly thrift shop visits (yes I said weekly) I come across lots of colorful t-shirts in beautiful condition, usually adorned with advertising or a corporate logo. I’m always up for giving these giveaway tops a new life. The t-shirt I found last week (for under $1) is bright lime green, size large, with a small logo at the top left. Comfy to wear, but not very flattering or feminine. No problem – a quick transformation will sort it right out!

First I lay the tee out flat and cut off about 4 inches from the bottom, nice and straight.

Next I cut a straight slit up each side from the bottom, about 4-5 inches (this can vary by preference).

Then I cut off the neck band plus an inch or two extra to give it a nice scoopy neckline (variation – cut a V-neckline).

A few inches cut off the sleeves at an angle make shorter cap sleeves.

I’m not crazy about the logo, but that’s easy to fix.

I have lots of scrap fabric in my stash (who doesn’t?) so I’ll cover the logo with some quick-cut appliques (hearts are nice).

I don’t bother hemming the appliques – that misses the point of “shabby”. I straight-stitch them on to the shirt…

…then zigzag-stitch around the edges – this holds the appliques down flat and looks really sweet!

Next comes the feminization part of the transformation, something to accentuate what makes us women (yes, I’m referring to breasts). Just under the bust line I baste a couple of lines of stitching and pull to softly gather. (Another way to do this that looks super-pretty but is a little more time-intensive is to fold and stitch 3 or 4 pleats under each breast.)

I still have the 4 inch strip cut from the bottom – I hope you didn’t think I’d throw it away! The next step is to cut two 1-inch strips from this piece and stitch them together to make about two yards of “ribbon” – this will be used to form a front band and back tie.

I zigzag stitch the edges of the ribbon…

…then pin it over the under-bust gathers, and top-stitch it to the front of the tee, leaving the long ends hanging to tie in the back.

The finishing touch is the un-hemmed shabby edging. I run a line of zigzag stitch (overedge works as well) around the bottom, up the side slits, and around the neck and sleeve edges with contrasting color thread. This gives the edges a bit of ruffle and a nice finish. You can change it up many ways – for example, use an embroidery stitch around the edges, turn a small hem, or even leave it raw (my daughter’s preference).
This is a fun and fast project if you’re already a seasoned seamster and a good learning project if you’re not. There are so many variations on this theme, like starting with two contrasting color t-shirts and using the bottom edge of one to make the ribbon for the other.

Here’s Adriana modeling the finished top – really cute!

Many thanks to Mark for taking the “action” photos and to Adriana for modeling the finished project. This cute top is for sale in my etsy shop at a special “how-to” discount.

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