Tuesday, December 7, 2010

T-shirt to Choli Conversion How-To

Don't ask me what the motivation was, I honestly don't know what planted the idea in my mind! I have a long torso and a growing collection of shirts that are just barely too short plus some that are just silly lounge arounds that I barely wear. I got it into my head to sort of re-build these into cropped tops for dance class because I always seem to have a shortage of good tops to wear at practice. It's relatively simple to do. Minimal supplies, not a lot of patterning or sewing know-how needed.

1 T-shirt
matching/coordinating thread

Rotary cutter and cutting mat (preferred)
sewing scissors
sewing machine
soap sliver or chalk

1.Put your shirt on and use a sliver of soap to mark how far under the bust you want to cut the shirt.

2. After marking, lay out your shirt on the ground as flat as possible. Try to match up seams and keep the sides from rippling because of twisted fabric.
3. Go ahead and even up your lines. Make sure the line is not lopsided. One side may be lower than the other because YOU are slightly asymmetrical. If that is the case, use the lowest line and draw across from there.

4. Use scissors/shears to cut along this newly smoothed out line. The line you drew on the front of the shirt should extend around the sides just enough that when you flip the shirt over, you can see the tail ends on each side. This will allow you to connect the tails with a straight line so you know where to cut along the back of your shirt.

**If your shirt is a blousey t-shirt, then you must remove some of the material from the sides and back to make it more fitted. If you don't, it will wrap around to the back and sort of bunch when you tie your rib cage straps. If you like that look, go for it. If not, then:
5. Cut little triangles of fabric off each side under the armhole. Wide bottom of the triangle down, point towards sleeve. If in doubt on amount to remove, slip your half-shirt on and pinch the fabric on either side of your ribs. It doesn't need to be super tight, but evenly distributed between the sides is good. Note how much fabric is pinched. For me this is usually about 2" to the fold on each side.

6. Here's where you have an opportunity to get creative. Simplest option: Make a 4" vertical slit along the center back of your t-shirt. This can be varied by making different types of keyholes instead. Keyholes are especially helpful if you need to remove a little more fabric from the width of your shirt to make it fit snugly. Your keyhole can be a triangle shape with a base and point aimed towards the neck of the shirt or it can be a circle or upside down tear drop shape. Fancier shapes like stars and hearts should be possible but they'll hang funny if they're not reinforced which I won't go into here- you want it fancy, you figure it out ;) If you're not good at free-handing shapes, use a round dish or print a shape from your computer (Microsoft Office software and some of the really basic art programs have shape art).

At this point, you may set aside the top portion of your shirt.

Making the rib cage strap from the bottom half of the shirt:
7. Make sure you have no wrinkles or folds in your lower t-shirt before marking and cutting.
8. Use a ruler or other straight edge and your rotary cutter to cut a perfectly straight line where your original chalk/soap line was drawn. (The idea is to cut off any jagged edges or curves)
9. Measure 4 inches down from your new straight edge and cut with the rotary cutter. You should have a tube of t-shirt material that is 4 inches high and the width of the shirt. Repeat this process one more time.

10. Cut the 2 circles of material to separate each into one long strip. Cut one of them in half to make 2 shorter strips. You now have 3 strips of fabric.

**Note, I also cut the sleeves on the white and blue tops pictured. This is another 'creative opportunity' :D

Sewing your new choli:
**Sew using a stretch stitch (looks like a lightening bolt) or a straight stitch set with a very slight zig zag (just barely moves side to side). This will prevent broken stitches when/if the shirt stretches while you wear it.
11. Sew a short strip on either end of your long strip to make your complete rib cage strap.
12. Sew the sides of your shirt if you cut off triangular pieces of material. If your shirt was fitted to begin with, you should have no side seam sewing to do.
13. Match up center front of the shirt with the middle of your rib cage strap that has been folded in half- it's still as long but now it's 2 inches tall instead of 4 inches. Pin at center front with right sides together and raw edges to the bottom.
**Here you get to decide how fussy you want to be about finishing. I'm not that fussy for this type of project- just an FYI. Knit fabrics don't fray so I'm not bothered by raw edges. There will be some.
14. Starting at center front, stitch rib cage strap to shirt around one side. Sew all the way to the edge of your keyhole opening. Repeat for the other side.

Viola! You now have a brand new dance top made from your favorite band t-shirt or funny slogan shirt :D If you try this out and share pictures somewhere, I'd love for you to leave a link to the pictures or your blog post on the experience in the comments!


  1. Hello,
    Thanks for your experience sharing . this is nice blog and i like this blog , If you are looking for YIn Yang t shirt and pace t shirt swat t shirt you can find more information from www.greenturtle.com/

  2. This is great! I followed a how-to once that had you cut the slit in the front, but sadly I cut the whole thing too short and when my arms came up, UP went the top. Ooops. Will try your method!

  3. I follow your blessed blog :) and i LOVE that naturally unique t shirt <3

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