Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TUTORIAL: Reconstructed Men's Shirt to Button-down Tank Top! (surgery prep)

Last summer I underwent major surgery on my torso which resulted in a prolonged period of the inability to lift my arms. This, combined with the warm weather, made wardrobe prep very important! I was told I needed button-down shirts or things I didn't need to lift my arms up to put on. Alas, I found availability in stores for anything remotely cute and season concious lacking..

This led me to create a simple design which converted second hand men's button-down dress shirts into cute tanktops that could be worn in more than one way. I kept it simple in the hopes that someone going through any type of surgery on their torso or mid-section who knew sewing basics would be able to use this tutorial to create their own version :) Or someone who wants to make something sustainable and girly! Feel free to email me if you have any questions!
All Photo Credits: TM 2011 SMASHWORKS. All Rights Reserved. 
ON TO THE TUTORIAL! (Click the Link Below)


I started with a men's short sleeve button-down shirt. You should get a shirt that is substantially larger than what you would normally wear in order to compensate for bandages you might have and also you don't want it to be tight. Normally I could wear a small or medium but for the purposes of this project, I got X-Large or Large if they looked big enough. Also, make sure you get a shirt with snaps instead of buttons if you can. You don't want to have to exert yourself trying to button up things manually. 
Turn the shirt inside out and cut off the sleeves leaving the seam allowance on the piece you are cutting off. Once you do this, cut off the collar as well. Don't throw this stuff out! You'll need it for later :)
Now that you have a raw edge around the arm hole, you need to finish it so it doesn't come apart while you are you working on the rest of the shirt. In order to do this, I created a rolled hem. I measured 3/8 inch from the raw edge of the arm hole and then folded it over itself again at 3/8 inch, pinning as I went. If you find this difficult, you can do the first fold and pin it as you go and then iron it to create a crease which will make things easier when you fold it again. Once you have the rolled hem on the arm holes, you need to sew everything down. With my sewing machine I stitched 1/4 inch from the edge on both sides.
Turn the shirt inside out (with the snaps done all the way up) and lay it out on a flat surface you can cut on. In order to create a straight upper edge, cut horizontally through the front and back just enough to bypass the neck curves.
After that, you need to decide wide you want the drawstring casing (casing is a fabric tunnel that you can feed elastic or a drawstring through to pull or draw up fabric with) along the front and back neckline. 

I wanted my drawstring to be 3/8 inch wide so I gave myself a good amount of room and decided on 5/8 inch width for the casing. For this you also need to make a rolled hem by folding the front and back edges. You can make the first fold a little less than 5/8 inch if you feel confident or are worried about the length. After folding it over itself again at 5/8 inch, pin and sew it down. You want to sew it from the inside so you can make it as close as possible to the  inside edge and give yourself enough space to feed the drawstring through.
The shirt is almost ready! Now you just need to make the drawstring. This is a sustainable design using the scraps to create a drawstring but if you want to make things easier for yourself you can use a ribbon, shoelace, or some other store bought drawstring notion and it will also work :)


Remember the sleeves and collar that you saved? Pull that stuff out now. First cut off any edges that contain the seam allowance. It is too bulky to use for the drawstring and will be a huge pain in the butt to use. You can discard those or use them for another project. Now that you have some pieces of fabric you can start cutting it into strips that will be sewn together to create the drawstring. The more you have, the better because along with the neckline drawstring, there is also one that goes around the waist! I cut my strips 1.5 inches wide then sewed the ends together to make a continuous strip.
Now you should have a pretty darn long fabric chain! Before going further, I folded the ends of my fabric so that they looked pretty and finished but this isn't a big deal if you are getting tired of all the sewing. It will just keep the ends inside and stop them from fraying! 
Next iron it in half width-wise from the outside. This will give you a guide when you are folding the raw edges in so they are hidden inside when you finish. Fold each raw edge to the fold line and then fold it again along the ironed crease you made. This will create a type of double rolled hem that is a bit thicker and also has no raw edges. Pin it like this and then stitch twice, once to close the drawstring so as close as you are comfortable to the open edge side and then a second stitch line down the other side. This will keep your drawstring flat and the top-stitching just looks nice :)
Now you have a really long draw string! You need to cut it into three pieces. Two of the same length that you will feed through the front and back necklines. These will then be tied at the shoulders. The other piece needs to be longer and will tie around your waist. Once you figure out what you want to do, cut your three pieces and then sew the raw edges so they don't come undone. If you are feeling confident, you can take some of the stitching apart at the edges and fold the raw edge inside before sewing the edge closed.


The last step is optional. If you know how to make a button hole (it's pretty easy on most new machines as they have an automatic button holer) you can create one to feed the drawstring through. Where you put it is up to you, I put mine a little higher than my waist so that I wouldn't be pulling down on my bandages if it was tighter. I sewed the button hole through the front and back as close to the side seam as possible. This way you can have the drawstring entirely outside of the shirt.


And that's the end! You can tie the shirt in a bunch of different ways, my favorite is to have the drawstring tied entirely across the back, it makes a gathered kind of ruffle in the back and keeps the front a bit more fitted :)
All Photo Credits: TM 2011 SMASHWORKS. All Rights Reserved. 

35 comments:

  1. I love this shirt, but what are some other options you have on how to wear this? Curious if you have any pics. I'm going to make this for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm planning on taking some "action shots" soon with the ways that I like to wear it! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love it!! I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:
    http://sewing.craftgossip.com/tutorial-pretty-summer-top-from-a-mans-button-down-shirt/2011/06/12/

    --Anne

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, thanks! I'm honored :D

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great refashion and very useful given your situation. Your post brings home that necessity is the mother of invention - I recall I had to refashion some nightgowns for my daughter when she was hospitalized for a month to accomodate a 24/7 iv drip!

    I hope you recovered with no complications.
    Found you via Craft Gossip.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @ KJ@letsgoflyakite Thank you! I really do agree, necessity is the mother of invention :) It's been a timely healing process but I luckily only had minor complications.

    I hope your daughter is doing better as well :) Thanks for visiting!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is just too cute for words. Love it. Thinking you could use older brothers shirts for little sisters top. Great way to use hand me downs. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Smashworks, I like the way you reconstructed the men's shirt. I've done something similar, using Women's t-shirt which I bought on sale. I turned it into a t-shrug (t-shirt shrug) to wear over a haltered top or dress :).

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Sandy: Thanks! You could definitely use an older boys outgrown shirt for a younger sister :)

    @zoe: I checked out your post for the shrug and it is extremely cute! I love your illustrations :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. @smashworks, thank you for your kind words and for stopping by my blog. Your post also reminds me of the time I had to undergo therapy for my left knee after arthroscopy. I made pants that overlaps on the front legs and the therapist can work on my knees without my removing my pants. I didn't like to wear shorts back then. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love this. I will be making one of these for sure. I also shared this tutorial link on my blog @FancieStrands.

    http://www.fanciestrands.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. love it
    Maybe I'll try to make it
    KAT

    ReplyDelete
  13. @zoe: You are very welcome! I hope your knee healed up without any problems. The pants sound really interesting! It would be great to have a series of surgery friendly clothing tutorials :)

    @FancieStrands: Thank you for sharing this on your blog! Honored you liked it that much :)

    @KAT: Thanks for the comment! If you have any questions, feel free to ask away.

    ReplyDelete
  14. LOVE this tutorial! I made one for myself with wider straps and a little sewed down pleat in the back to reduce some of the volume. I am going to make more! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  15. @dana: I'm glad you enjoyed the tute! I'd love to see a picture of your version and glad you made it your own with the modifications. :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. This reminds me of a "pillowcase dress". I've been making them for little girls and I love the buttonholes on the sides for a belt. I may have to add that in the future.
    I had breast reduction surgery many years ago and I had to wake up early & get dressed before my husband left for work so he could help me. I could have dressed myself with a top like this! Great idea and tutorial!
    Jan

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great tutorial, thank you for posting it!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Just a thought: pick a long sleeve man's shirt. the long sleeves give you long lengths of fabric for making the drawstrings without as many pieces. Love this idea and plan to try one right away. Thanks! You can also use the pleat already on most men's long sleeve shirts in the back and put a little loose tab lower on the shirt to kind of bring in both sides of the pleat. Just put a permanent button on each side to attach- very cute.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is a great idea! I have a few shirts from my grandpa that I've saved and am thinking of making them into these so I can wear them. Will try it on a Goodwill shirt first, though. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  20. My daughter and I just totally squeeed at this top! we both agree that it is the cuteness!

    ReplyDelete
  21. This shirt would be great for breastfeeding moms, too!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I linked to this post, too! I had this same tutorial in my head to do when I saw your shirt pinned...then I realized you had already done a tutorial when I actually clicked to be taken to your site! It's awesome! I linked my tutorial to yours, too! :) Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Una gran idea! Fantástica. Una buena manera de vengarse del marido, jaja

    ReplyDelete
  24. I love it!!! http://priszkaboltja.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/ferfi-ingbol-noi-bluz/

    ReplyDelete
  25. I love this! My husband had a box of clothes he was going to donate. There were a couple in there I wanted because I loved the fabric, but didn't want to wear as is. This pattern is perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I love this! My husband had a box of clothes he was going to donate. There were a couple in there I wanted because I loved the fabric, but didn't want to wear as is. This pattern is perfect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! I'm so glad that you can upcycle some of his shirts using this pattern, especially since you like the fabric on them :) I'd love to see pictures!

      Delete
  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  28. oooooo I really like this.... there are several men's shirts in my reconstruct piles... I am looking forward to turning at least one into this shirt... thanks for posting!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Amazing post...I like your blog.^^
    Maybe follow each other on bloglovin???
    Let me know follow you then back.
    Lovely greets Nessa

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi Nessa,

    That would be great :) Just followed you!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thank you sooo much for the follow.^^
    Follow you back on bloglovin.
    Lovely greets

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hello! I just want to know if you can do this with a shirt that's a little too tight. Maybe add side panels?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, if the shirt is too narrow around the body you can add panels to the sides or even a panel to the center back. If you are using a long sleeved shirt, you could use the sleeves fabric for the panels as well.

      Delete
  33. love this! Off to find some gorgeous mens shirts =)

    ReplyDelete