Thursday, September 4, 2008

New Thing #237--Size Does Matter

Back in July when we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, we became museum members--partly for the premiums. I got a great t-shirt that I counted as my souvenir for the trip. The only problem was that the shirt was a men's XL, about two sizes too big for me. I came home and immediately washed it, hoping it would shrink a bit, but it didn't.

I've worn the shirt a few times, but I got tired of shoulder seams halfway to my elbows and floppy sleeves down to my forearms. Today I pulled out my scissors, pins, and sewing machine and I resized a tee shirt.

The first step was to grab an old shirt from the donation pile to use for a pattern. Holding the two shirts together, I noticed that the biggest differences were the size of the armholes and the length of the sleeves. I cut the sleeves off the old (red) shirt, then crossing my fingers and hoping I didn't make a mistake, I cut the sleeves off the good (black) shirt. Here's a picture of the results--the shirt body is at the top, and the sleeves are underneath.

I used the red shirt pieces to cut the black ones to size. I left the neckband intact, and I used the original hems of the sleeves. I didn't take any fabric off the bottom of the shirt, because I like to wear shirts long. I carefully cut the armholes to the correct (smaller) size, but I didn't cut into the sides of the shirt (which didn't have side seams). Instead, I carefully sewed seams in the correct place, making the shirt narrower.

The hardest part of a shirt, in my opinion, is putting in the sleeves. I sewed the underarm seams on the sleeves, then held my breath and carefully pinned the new sleeves to the new armholes, first at the top, then down both sides to the bottom seam. They fit perfectly! I sewed the sleeves in and tried the whole thing on. Unfortunately, now that it was slimmer through the torso, it was too long. I cut several inches off the bottom, turned a hem and sewed it on the machine. I didn't even have to turn in the raw edge, since t-shirt material doesn't fray.

After a quick press with the iron, here's the result. For good measure I threw the shirt in the washer and dryer to set the seams. I'm looking forward to wearing the me-sized shirt.


  1. Yeah, that was a neat trick.

    Here's where you are going to run into a problem though: Washers only shrink shirts you don't WANT to shrink. The ones you DO want to shrink are magically impervious.

    Now that you have right-sized the shirt, it's open for shrinking.

    I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you!

  2. I find that the easiest way to put in sleeves is to sew the shoulder seams, then set the sleeve, then sew the entire side seam + sleeve seam all at once. For me its much easier to set a sleeve in flat (and that's what the factories do on a lot of the shirts that I've bought). Though, it wouldn't have helped since you said that you didn't cut the side seams of the original shirt before taking them in.

    Hope you like your newly sized shirt!

  3. Ah, a girl after my own heart! I dislike re-sizing tshirts but find that I have to do it quite often. The last one I resized turned out well except that now the left chest insignia is almost in my arm pit instead of on my chest. haha.

  4. Thanks for all the comments.

    Gregg, I've had a talk with my washing machine, and it promises to behave itself and leave my shirt along; I have to sacrifice some socks to it, though.

    Kristi, you sound like you're MUCH more experienced at sewing than I am!

    KC, I don't know what it means, but it was pretty disturbing that an XL shirt only had a nominal amount of extra width for my body!