Tutorial: Big Man Shirt becomes Little Man Shirt

Do you ever realize that there are not that many posts for upcycling stuff for the guys in your life? Me too. I am always making things for my girls, but the guys just keep being left out. Not only left out, but I always have to fork out the money for the guys. That just seems wrong somehow. (More money should ALWAYS be spend on girls. Let’s just set that one straight :D)

So…getting my kids ready for school, going through the boys holy (he he) shirts and trying to figure out first, how do they get so holy? and second, why do I keep buying them new shirts just so they can make them this holy? Oh, and third, why do they keep wearing the holy ones? One of my sons told me it was the cut. He liked the way it felt when he wore it.

No more! My husband (Remember the shirt hoarder? But a very OCD shirt hoarder by the way.) found me stacks of shirts that I can use to get my two girls ready for school. But what about the boys? I thought, why can’t I take this mound of shirts (I am not lying… MOUND) and turn them into shirts for the boys as well. I had them each pick out five shirts (I am not  a miracle worker. Ten is enough.) and I started to think of ways I could remake them into things my boys would wear. While doing that I thought: What a great tutorial! A tutorial to make big guys shirts into small guys shirts. So here goes…

First start with a big guy shirt:

Then grab that dirty, smelly, holy shirt that your little guy never lets you wash but just keeps wearing and wearing off his body. Cut the sleeves off, the neckband off, and then cut the front from the back. Iron it all even though you don’t want to because it is dirty but you can’t wait to wash it. You need to use it now.

Next, take the ironed pieces and make a pattern on brown paper. Mine is the post office kind that you can buy in the envelope section of Target or Walmart, but when my kids were younger I would just buy my groceries in paper bags and use those. My kids are too big for paper bags now. (Little sigh.) Hang on to the neck piece and use it as is. It will help you remember the length so you can cut the neck piece the right length on your new t-shirt.

Remember to add about 1/2 inch all the way around for seams, except the neck area. Cut it flush. It doesn’t have to be perfect. T-shirt material is very forgiving. If the brown paper tries rolling up on you, just iron it flat.

When I am done cutting out all the pieces I write on them so that a month from now when I have to make a couple more new shirts I will remember what pattern this was, and if it will still fit my boys. 🙂

Next, cut up that big guys shirt. Do it the same way you cut up the smelly shirt.

Make sure to be careful with the neck piece because you are going to want to be able to reuse that. If something happens you can always use excess t-shirt material but then it won’t look store bought. If you are making these for middle and high schoolers they won’t like that very much. 

You are going to need to unpick that reinforced piece that you cut around while taking off the neckband. I know, it’s my most unfavorite job as well, but you are going to want to remove that bulk so that it is easier to put it back on later. Unpick while you watch a rerun of your favorite show. It makes it less painful.

Iron all the pieces to make sure there are no wrinkles from being stored in the garage in a box, or in the back of the closet. Now you can cut out the pieces using the front, back, sleeves, and collar of the new shirt you just cut up. Be careful that you are paying attention to any logos that might be printed on the shirt. You want the logo to end up in a place that looks natural on the new shirt. (Remember: Middle Schoolers) Also make sure and take advantage of that sleeve hem. You don’t want to have to hem again (unless the hem is coming apart, and then don’t use it).

Use the neckband from the first shirt to help you measure and cut the neckband from the big shirt.

Now you are ready to sew. Sew the shoulder seams together using a serger or sewing machine. If you use a sewing machine I suggest sewing a straight seam while gently stretching the material and then going back over it with a zig zag. Some of my kids prefer all their clothes sewn on the sewing machine. This particular boy likes his on the serger.

When I serge I only change the thread for the two needles that are going to show on the outside of the clothing. The other two I usually leave white. Unless the serge is going to show and then I might change them. (I did admit I was a lazy seamstress. Plus, have you ever threaded a serger? I hate going through that!) Don’t worry about those strings. Either you will sew over them, or in the end you can pull them through will a darning needle or tiny crochet hook.

Shoulders done? Now it is time to sew in those sleeves. I suggest finding the center of sleeve and pinning that to the shoulder seam and then pin the outside edges. Next find the center of each side and pin. Keep finding the center until you have pins equally distanced all the way across.

It should look something like this.

Here is another angle:

After you are done sewing you should get something like this:

Now it is time to sew up the sides. You want to start at the sleeve and serge down because they may not line up exactly on the bottom and we can fix that by trimming. If they don’t line up at the sleeves that is a bigger problem that I don’t even know how to tell you to fix. When you are done you should have this.

Now the neckband. Ugh. I know, this is not my favorite part either. And on this shirt I had to be very careful because I only had so much wiggle room because of the GI Joe graphic.

Serge the center seam in the neckband. Leave the strings.

Mark the sides and center front on the neckband with pins. I just find the sides by folding the neckband in half with the serged edge in the center. I guess you could also measure… (remember: lazy seamstress). Then once you have those pinned figure out the center front and center back of the shirt. Use whichever method you choose (measure or lazy folding way). Then pin the neckpiece in place.

Now serge that puppy but be really careful on this one. Because you usually have no wiggle room there is no going back.

Now turn it right side out and press. Did I mention you need to press all your seams? It just makes it look more professional. If you are having trouble getting that neckpiece to lay flat you can always topstitch the seam down on the outside. I usually do.

Last the hem. You are on the home stretch. If you need to trim the bottom edges to match, go ahead and do that. Serge along the bottom edge. Only take off the parts that seem jagged or uneven when you serge.

Then hem up 1/2 inch on the sewing machine. You can try to press before you hem, but I always have trouble pressing t-shirt material in a straight line. I just use the serged edge and my sewing machine guide as a help to keep the hem straight.

Now, flip the shirt over and sew again one more time between the edge and the hem. This gives it that t-shirt hem look. Press.

Pull through all the loose strings.

And you are done!!

The big man shirt is now 3 sizes smaller.

And the boy has a new shirt for school. Zero dollars… just some time and some thread that I already had.

Enjoy the Dance!

Rebecca Rèe


3 thoughts on “Tutorial: Big Man Shirt becomes Little Man Shirt

  1. Pingback: UPDATE: Big Man Shirt becomes Little Man Shirt Continues… « 2ofum

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