I was browsing the racks at my local secondhand store recently, and I found this shirt:
It’s a super cute, lightweight cotton fabric and has neat little pockets. It’s not technically a “button-down” (it has snaps), but the idea is the same. Unfortunately, cute though it is, it has two problems:
- There isn’t much call for long sleeve shirts in Phoenix
- It has mega pit stains
Because of those totally unacceptable pit stains, I decided the best way to work with this shirt would be to find a way to cut out the offending fabric, which is why I restyled it into a tank top.
I cut off the sleeves using a regular ol’ pair of sewing scissors. Because I wanted to lose as little fabric as possible (above and beyond what I had to chop off to get rid of the yellow pits), I didn’t use pinking shears or anything fancy like that. I then used a rotary cutter (scissors would also work, provided you can cut a straighter line than I can freehand) to lop off the collar and yolk. I cut about 1 inch above a snap, figuring that once I folded the raw edge over twice for a nice little 1/4″ hem, the snap at the top would hold the shirt closed without a bunch of flapping fabric and without the need for a tie or anything like that.
After I took the picture above, but I cut the back about 2″ shorter than the front, just because I like my tanks to sit a little lower in back (makes them breezier!). Because the armholes on the tank were going to end up pretty big — a consequence of removing all traces of the nasty pit stains — I knew I’d need to wear a cute bandeau or another tank under this one to keep things decent, so I didn’t worry too much about how low the back dipped.
I then used the fabric from one of the sleeves to cut two nice long strips of 1 1/8″ fabric to bind the arm holes.
I could have folded the armhole edges over (probably twice, to keep hems from fraying) and stitched, but that would have made the already large armholes even bigger, so I went with binding. Plus, I have a new toy I wanted to try out: a bias tape binding foot. There’s a video here about binding feet and how they work, and after testing my new foot on this shirt, all I can say is AWESOME! I used to hate bias binding, and avoided it like the plague. Not so anymore!
Isn’t that binding pretty? There is NO WAY I could have done that good a job without a cheater foot.
After I finished the armholes, I put the shirt on (just sort of held it up) to see how tight it fit around my chest. It was too small to get over my head without unsnapping the front, so I needed to make sure that the front of the shirt opened up completely when I was done with the restyle (so, no stitching the front closed or anything like that). The shirt was too loose to be cute, though, so I decided a little bit of elastic gathering across the tops of the front and back would do nicely. I made a tube for the elastic to pass through by folding the raw edge of the back of the shirt over (toward the inside) about 1/4″, pressing it, folding over again about 1/2″, and pressing again. I then stitched close to the bottom edge, leaving myself with a closed 1/2″ channel. I left the ends of the channel open (for the time being) so that I could thread my elastic through.
I passed 3/8″ elastic through the channel using a safety pin to guide it along. So that I wouldn’t lose the other end of the elastic, I safety pinned it to the end of the channel before I started the threading. I then sewed some bar tacks straight through the end of each channel; this served the dual purposes of closing the ends of the channels and holding the elastic in place. Here’s the gathered back of the shirt:
I did the same on the front of the shirt, treating each front section independently (two channels, two lengths of elastic).
Using that leftover sleeve fabric again, I cut two nice long strips of 3″ fabric to serve as straps.
I doubled each one over the long way (right sides together) and stitched the long edges shut to make a tube that was open on both ends:
See that safety pin in the picture above? I used that to turn the tube right-side out by pushing the safety pin through the tube of fabric (very similar to the elastic-threading procedure). Once the tube was right side out, I top-stitched over both the left and right edges to make it look nice and neat. I left the ends of the tube open (for the time being).
I attached the straps to the inside back of the shirt, as close to the armhole on each side as possible. I did this with a straight stitch that I ran in a little box shape, securing the strap to the elastic channel by sewing through all thicknesses of fabric (and the elastic in the channel). The front of the straps were still free at this point, so I tried the shirt on and decided what length I wanted the straps, and pinned them in place to the front of the shirt.
I then secured the straps to the front using that same box technique that I used on the back. Here’s the finished shirt:
And here I am trying it on. My apologies for the poor quality photos in these last two pics; I was doing self-portraits with my phone balanced on the toaster…
See what I mean about those armholes? They’re on the big side. I’m wearing a regular bra in this picture, so it looks a little funny, but with a cute summery bandeau top (or even a racerback tank) underneath, it would be CUUUUTE. Another thing I liked about this restyle was that the original shirt was a little short on me, length-wise (I have a really long torso, so this is a common problem). By making the straps nice and long, I was able to give the shirt enough extra length that it no longer showed off my mommy-tummy. Woohoo!
What do you think?