I always think (and write!) that a man’s shirt is the absolute easiest item to pick up in a charity shop. For a few pounds you can usually find a shirt with a jazzy pattern or colour you love. Being cotton they are also so easy to work with when sewing so that’s why I am always drawn to them when looking to do a little upcycling.
I spotted this stripe number in Barnardo’s for a few pounds and thought it would be perfect for a little summer top upcycling.
- A Charity Shop Man’s Shirt (I picked this one up from Barnardo’s)
- Tape Measure
- Fabric Marker
- Sewing Machine
1. Cut the top of the shirt off (from below the arms).
From the new straight top measure how long you want your top (without the frill). Add 3cm to this measurement to allow for a 2cm seam allowance at the top of the tube of fabric and a 1cm seam allowance at the bottom.
2. Once cut into a tube of fabric, cut the sides apart so you have the old back of the shirt and the old front of the shirt (with the buttons down the centre front front) in two separate panels.
3. Measure round your widest point. For some, this will be a bust measurement, for others it might be below the bust. Add a few centimetres for ease.
Stitch the front and back panels back together at the side seam so the circumference of the new tube of fabric measures the same as your widest point plus that few centimetres extra for ease.
4. Measure the circumference just under you armpit over the top of your busy and around the back. This is the measurement you’ll need the top of the upcycled top to be (adding 2cm again for ease).
Also, take your waist measurement. This is the measurement you’ll need for the bottom of your upcycled shirt, also adding 2cm for ease (if you have decided you would like the hem of the shirt before adding then frill to sit on your waist as mine does).
Undo the buttons of the shirt tube so you’re left with the strip.
Mark the centre of this long strip. This will be the centre front of the new top. The buttons (when fastened) will now mark the centre back of the top.
5. Either side of the centre front (at both the top of the shirt and bottom) measure half way between the centre front mark and the side seams. This will be the centre of the darts needed to shape the top and bottom of the tube of fabric.
6. Mark out the four darts (2 either side of centre front at the top and bottom of the tube) and stitch.
Width of Darts at Top of Tube = (Widest Top Measurement – Overbust Measurement)/2
Width of Darts at Bottom of Shirt = (Widest Top Measurement – Waist Measurement)/2
Graduate each of the four darts into a point.
7. Press 1cm under along the top of the tube, then fold under and press again to conceal raw edges. Hem.
8. With your turn top on, mark the position of where you would like the straps to go and how long they will need to be.
9. Unpick the sleeves from the top of the shirt that was cut off in step one.
10. Lie the sleeves out and cut two strips of fabric so they are the length of the measurement just taken plus the 2cm for seam allowance.
I did the width of these strips to be 6cm
Because these strips are folded over and hemmed, by doing the width of the strips 6cm the eventual width of the strap would be 2cm. If you would like the width of the straps slightly narrower/wider, adjust the 6cm accordingly.
11. Fold the 6cm strip in half lengthways with the right side of the fabric together. Hem one width with a 1cm seam allowance and the long length with a 1cm seam allowance.
12. Push the strap through the unhemmed width, turning the strap the correct way round.
13. Press the strap.
14. Press and fold under 1cm of the unhemmed width both sides.
Hand stitch the concealed edge closed using a slip stitch.
15. Position the straps where you would like them. I tried my top on to determine be best place to put them and marked where.
With the tube top and the strap edge to edge, hand stitch the straps to the top, again using a slip stitch.
16. Using the fabric cut off the hem of the shirt in step one, cut strips of fabric to make up the frill.
The depth of the frill depends on how much fabric you have left over from step one. I cut my strips with a depth of 7cm . An eventual 5cm frill with 1cm seam allowance either side.
Measure the circumference of the hem of your tube. Multiply this measurement by 2. This is the length of fabric you’ll need for your frill.
If you want more of a gathered frill you can multiply the hem circumference by 2.5 but you maybe not have enough fabric left over to make this. Alternatively, if you don’t quite have enough fabric for twice the hem circumference, you can use as much as you have spare. The frill might not be quite as gathered but if the length is at least 1.5 times the hem circumference then it should be fine.
17. Sew the strips of fabric together so you have one long strip.
18. Hem the bottom and sides of the strip with a 1cm seams allowance.
19. Put a few running stitches on a wide stitch setting along the top of the strip leaving the ends loose. Pull the loose ends of your thread to evenly gather the top of the strip. Gather so the strip is now the same length as your hem circumference.
20. Mark the centre front of the gathered frill. With right sides together, pin the centre front of the frill to the centre front of the hem of the tube.
21. With right sides still together, pin then stitch the frill to the hem of the shirt.
And that’s it. Upcycling a man’s shirt into something a little more suitable for this weird but a little bit wonderful heatwave we seem to be having.
Please feel free to comment or email or Instagram or tweet or send a pigeon carrier if there is any part of this upcycling tutorial you want me to explain further. And if you make it let me know a I would LOVE to see it.