Men’s T-shirt to Ruffle Tank Top tutorial.

I do love recycling men’s T-shirts.  I can go to the Goodwill and get an extra large tee for $1.25, come home with it, and make it into a lap tee for Luke, a pair of pants for Levi, or in this case, a ruffle tank for me!

Materials needed:
a tank that you like that you already have (for making a pattern)
tracing paper or sewing paper to trace your pattern onto
L/XL T-shirt of your choice
1/4″ elastic (enough to fit snuggly around your waist, and then a little bit.
sewing machine
stretch needle for your machine

1.  Take your tank top and fold it in half lengthwise.  Trace around the tank top.

2.  Lay out your XL t-shirt and cut off the sleeves, then cut up the sides and at the shoulders so that you have a front piece and a back piece.

3.  Fold the front piece in half and lay your pattern piece on the fold, with the inside edge of the pattern on the fold.  Make sure to line up the bottom of your pattern with the bottom of the t-shirt, you want to use the original bottom of the t-shirt later as a casing for elastic.  Pin into place and cut around the pattern.

4.  Repeat step #3 with the back piece.

5.  With your leftover t-shirt scraps, cut about 4 long strips of t-shirt, about 1″ wide.  Set those aside.  These will serve as the neck and arm hole trim.

6.  Right sides together, sew the front and back pieces together at the shoulders and finish the seam with a serger or zig zag stitch.

7.  Now take two of those strips of t-shirt material that you made in step #5.  Open up the shirt and lay it flat so that your neck line looks like a circle.  Start sandwiching the neck line into the strip of material, pinning as you go.  Go all the way around the neck line, overlapping the strips of fabric if you run out before you make it all the way around the neck line

8.  Stitch around the neckline at the raw edge of the trim.

9.  Grab your elastic and pin a safety pin to one end.  Thread it through the bottom band of the front panel of the tank top.  You are using the casing that was created when you cut the original t-shirt apart, easy-peasy, huh?  When you get your pin and elastic all the way through, secure the elastic by sewing across the band.  Back stitch to make it nice and secure.

10.  Bunch the material a little bit so that the bottom of the front of the tank top is gathered, then secure the elastic on that end just as you did on the other.  Repeat steps 9 and 10 for the back of the shirt.

11.  Right sides together, pin the side seams together and sew with about 1/4″-1/2″ inseam.  Finish with a serger or zig zag stitch. 

12.  Now you have a choice.  You can finish the arm holes with the leftover strips of fabric that you cut, of you can leave them raw.  It’s totally up to you.  If you choose to finish them off, just do it the exact same way as you did the neck line.

You can stop right here, or you can embellish a little bit!  

I decided to add a little ruffle to the neck line of my tank top.  I cut a strip from the scraps of the t-shirt, about 10″-12″ long and 1 1/2″ wide.  I sewed a line of basting stitches (set your stitch length to its longest length) right down the middle.  Pulling on end of the bobbin thread, I gathered the material into a ruffle that looked good to me.  I pinned it along the neck line of my top and stitched right down the middle to attach it (Don’t forget to set your stitch length back to normal).  Voila!
You can add more ruffles anywhere you want, I just like a more simple look, but I didn’t want it completely plain.

What do you think?  
Not a bad improvement from a big old men’s t-shirt, right?
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Sewing On A Budget: Fabric

We have this fabric store in town that carries all of my favorite fabric designers.  It is one of my favorite places to go, and I would shop there more often… if I had an unlimited fabric budget.  I don’t, and I’m guessing that you don’t either.  Am I right?

So what do you do?  One thing that you can do is shop the local Goodwill stores, or whatever is in your area.  If you’re sewing for your little ones, an XL or XXL men’s shirt works great for making shirts or pants.

All but my skirt were made out of men’s shirts!  You can find the cape tutorial here.  

What can you do if you’re not sewing for a small child?  Sheets!  Quite often I will find second hand sheets in great condition for under $5.  Do you know how much fabric a queen sheet gives you?  Quite a bit.  Second hand stores will sometimes have yardage too, at super cheapo prices.  Just be careful to inspect for stains and holes.  Even if there is a small hole, it’s worth buying.  Just cut around it.  I’ve even used old slipcovers that were too stained up for the couch.  A neutral colored slipcover makes a great bag.  

If you don’t have a second hand store nearby there are plenty of online fabric stores that have sales and clearance sections as well. always has a deal of the  day in addition to a clearance section.  Quilt Home has a great selection of my favorite fabrics with daily specials too.  If you sign up for their newsletter they will send a weekly email with additional discounts on certain designers, and every time you log in you are entered to win a weekly drawing for a $50 gift certificate to their shop!  Sew Mama Sew also has a great sale section for you to browse.  

Whipstitch Fabrics is a great little fabric shop in Atlanta that I visited last June for a workshop with Dana from MADE.  You can visit Whipstitch’s online store where you’ll find a sale section with fabrics under $6.99/yard.  That’s a pretty good deal!

There are so many ways to sew without breaking the bank… these are just a few. 

 Do you have any other tips for sewing on a budget?