How to Upcycle a Store-bought Tee

How to Upcycle a Store-bought Tee

There are lots of ways to upcycle a store-bought tee, and lots of different reasons why you would want to do it.  For today's tutorial I'm going to show how to take a tee that is too large for a child and make it into a hoodie that is just the right size for him/her. Fun! The same process works with any other top pattern you want to use. 

My tween son was excited when he saw this Minecraft shirt at the store but they didn't have it in his size. We bought the largest size available instead, with the promise that I could turn it into a Toby's hoodie for him. We took this t-shirt from an adult Medium size to a tween 11/12.  You could do the same thing with child sizes too. 

Before doing any cutting, you will want to lay the shirt out on a flat surface to make sure it is large enough for your project. 

Lay the printed pattern piece on the shirt, paying attention to where the picture and the seams fall. Because this pattern is on the fold, it needs to fit on the shirt twice.  It looks like we're safe to use this size! 

 If you want, you could print two copies of the pattern piece and flip one of them over and tape them together, so you have one full, not-on-the-fold piece.  I like using the fold though and haven't had a problem with it. Most t-shirts like this already have their picture exactly in the middle. 

Now it's time to separate the front of the shirt from the back, if you're planning to use both layers. Cut through the top layer close to the seams, as shown in yellow above. This will remove the front panel of the shirt. 

 Your front piece will look something like this.  Set it aside for now. 

The back of the shirt will look like this. You can remove the sleeves if you want, but its not really necessary. 

Fold the back of the shirt in half, trying to make the center of it as exact as possible. Line up the sides and seams, and smooth out any wrinkles.  

Lay the back pattern piece on the fold. You can put it up high or down low -- wherever it fits best.  Just be sure that both layers are fully under the pattern piece.  

Cut around the pattern piece. You should now have a back shirt piece that looks something like this!  

Depending on the pattern you're making, you may be able to use the remaining sleeve scraps. I usually don't.  

Now you're ready to do the same with the front of the shirt!  Carefully fold it in half with the picture on the outside. Make sure you have it centered, and smooth out any wrinkles. 

Place the pattern piece on the fold. Again, you may want to move the pattern piece up or down, according to where you want the picture to land.  On this one, I didn't have a lot of room by the armholes so I had to move it down a bit. 

When you're done, your front shirt panel will look something like this.  It's okay if you had to cut off bits of the picture. I have seen some really cool upcycles that cut off quite a bit. As long as you're aware of your placement, it should turn out great. 

Go ahead and cut the remaining pattern pieces out of your knit fabric, or other t-shirts if you have them. For most patterns it's good to have your neckbands etc made out of a knit with 50% stretch. In this case, my t-shirt wasn't super stretchy but the bands are, so it will still be comfy. 

Sew your pattern according to its instructions and you're good to go!  My son got home from school just a few minutes after I finished this and he was SO excited!  

Now it's your turn!  You can use tees out of your closet, your man's closet, a secondhand store, or even brand new ones. 

If you want to see some of our other upcycling tutorials, simply type "upcycle" into the search box here on the blog -- we have a bunch that we know you'll love. 

Let's Create! ~ Kristen