Refashion a Long Sleeve T-Shirt into a 50s Halterneck top

Monday, 30 June 2014

Before & after of t-shirt upcycle

Whenever I want to refashion something I often consider what can be done with my old t-shirts because there is always so much potential for upcycling. There is something about the stretchiness of the fabric gives you a lot of room to work with. I've only worn this t-shirt a few times, and I felt that it was in need of some serious jazzing up if I was going to wear it anymore as it was a bit plain. I knew I wanted to make a halterneck top, but I wanted more of a 50s edge to it so after some trial and error I came up with this refashioning tutorial.

Get hold of a long sleeved t-shirt; it's crucial that the sleeves are long as they create the halterneck! This will work best if the t-shirt is a little bit larger than you want it to be as you will need to sew in the side seams.

Here is my t-shirt on the mannequin in it's original form before I started chopping it up. It's just a simple long-sleeved, high neck t-shirt.

Chop off the top of the t-shirt, straight across from shoulder to shoulder. Keep hold of the scraps as you'll need those later.

Hem this raw edge you've just created with a zig-zag stitch to keep everything neat. Roll it over twice so the raw edge is tucked neatly inside and pin it in place before stitching.

Try the top on, so that it sits like a tube top, with the sleeves under your armpit creating a crazy kind of 'extra pair of arms' effect. Establish how much you need to bring the hems in on each side to give you a good fit around the waist and bust. As the fabric is stretchy you have room for error, so I made a rough estimate by seeing how much fabric I could pinch on either side. Not very exact I know, but that is joy of working with t-shirts! I brought it in by about 1 inch on each side.

The next part is the trickiest bit of the tutorial as you need to fold the sleeves so that they lie flat inside the t-shirt. Firstly, turn the top inside out, but not the sleeves. Keep them turned the 'right way'- this should mean that they are still inside the body of the top, as illustrated with my very technical drawing on the right! Make the sleeves as flat against the top as possible, and make sure that the long top edge of the sleeves is running parallel with the top edge of the shirt in the upper left and right corners. Pay attention to the position of the sleeves in connection to the sewing lines!

Here is a close up of what the arm holes look like from the side. It is a bit of trial and error to pin them in place in a tidy, flat position but it can be done.
When the sleeves are pinned into position you will need to run a zig-zag stitch straight up the side seams (where I have illustrated with black lines in the above photo). The placement of your seams depends on the rough measurements you took when trying on the top earlier.

Once you've sewn the seams, trim away the excess.
You should have a neat, tube top with the 2 sleeve flaps on the inside

Flip it the right way out and you'll see that the sleeves are coming out of the side of the seam. Position them as I have angled them in the photo on the left, pin them down in this position to the top layer of the t-shirt (not both layers!!) and sew them down with a zig-zag stitch.

Here is a close up so you can see where I have stitched it down.

To create the tie bit that gives it that great gather at the front, collect all the pieces of scrap t-shirt that you have chopped off. Cut 2 rectangle strips of fabric that are at least 5 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fold each one in half long ways, and sew along the longest edge with a zig-zag stitch. When you get to the end, taper your stitch inwards to seal off the end and give it a pointed tip. The opposite end should be left open so you can flip it through the right way after trimming off the excess fabric at the tapered end. I didn't have much excess to work with for this upcycle so one of my ties is a bit short!!

Pin one of the ties on to the centre front of the shirt, about 3 inches below the neckline. Stitch it on at the base with a zig-zag stitch. Flip the top inside out and sew the other tie in the exact same position but on the opposite side of the top. Trim away any excess fabric from the tie so that you have a nice, clean edge.

As you can see in this photo on the left, when both ties are pulled up and tied into a knot, they are going to create a pretty gathered effect!

The last step to complete the refashion is to sew the ends of the sleeves together to create the halterneck effect. Pin the sleeves right side together and stitch them closed with a tight zig-zag stitch.

And you're done!

Hopefully your finished product should look something like this below, I teamed it with some pearls and I think this top would look great worn under a circle skirt, a pencil skirt or with denim shorts. The deep neck line and the thick halterneck straps give it a kind of 50s look that will work well with lots of different outfits.

Let me know if you try this out!


  1. SO awesome!! I've got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for tomorrow morning that links to your tutorial:

    1. Thank you, that's great I'll be sure to check it out when it's published :)

  2. congratulations, nice idea, I'll try to do it!
    I added you as a reader fixed, if you'd like to reciprocate leave you my link

    1. Thank you for stopping by, i'll check out your blog!

  3. Hi Lola, I've featured your awesome refashion today...

    1. Thank you so much Pam, I really appreciate that :)

  4. How cute! I've done quite a few T makeovers, but nothing as cool as this! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    1. Aww thanks, i'm always chopping up t-shirts and this idea just came to me one day!

  5. this is so pretty! thanks for sharing

  6. You are the refashion queen!! That top refashion is amazing! I can't wait to see what else you come up with! - Shannon @

    1. Why thank you, that's quite the compliment! The pressures on to top this now then, lol :D

  7. This is the best upcycling idea for t-shirt I've ever seen! I'll have to give it a go :-) So glad I discovered your blog via Pinterest.

    1. Thank you :D If you do, i'd love to see the results!

  8. I tried this tonight, but I encountered some problems when sewing the sleeves down to the front of the top. I ended up with a sorta... triangular pouch on either side of my armpits. Any suggestions on rectifying?

  9. Hi, Oh no! Well, to get the sleeves to sit flush to the bodice, you could sew a dart seam to the base of the sleeve to make it taper in and get rid of any odd pockets. I hope that makes sense... if you want a clearer explanation I can draw diagram that may help!

    1. Oooh please do! That would be really helpful with attempt #2. Attempt #1 was a little weird (had to cut those triangular pouches out after sewing them down... somewhere), but I've gotten loads of compliments on it :)





About Me

My Photo
Hello and welcome to my blog! I'm a seamstress with a passion for refashioning clothing, and I've decided to document my creations and share my upcycling tutorials. My aim is to inspire people to re-use and re-love the clothes that they already own.

Find Me

Follow by Email

Most Read


09 10