Easy T-Shirt Refashion – Make a kids T-shirt from an adult T-shirt

Today I’m going to teach you how to refashion an XL men’s t-shirt into one that your kid can wear. It’s a great little project that will not only save you money, but it’s a fun way to make cool clothing for your kids too.

tshirt refashion - mypoppet.com.au

I was clearing out my sewing room last weekend and found a large bag of thrift store t-shirts that I’ve been using to make t-shirt yarn with. As I was going through the pile, Emma spotted this red one with a super cool print on it and wanted it for herself.

Unfortunately it was way too big for her, a men’s XL, but that was easily fixed with an easy t-shirt refashion.

Emma has a pretty eclectic style and has a hard time finding girls clothes that she likes. I don’t blame her, if you’ve been to a kids clothing department lately you’ll probably notice that the girls clothes is covered in unicorns, pink sequins and ruffles. Most are quite skimpy and the fabrics aren’t very robust.

tshirt refashion - how to make a tshirt smaller - mypoppet.com.au

All well and good if you are into pink bows and rainbow sparkles, but there really are very limited options for girls that want to wear non-pastel colours in more unisex styles that you can actually play in.

Sometimes we get lucky and find something cool in either the girls or boys department, but lately I’ve been sewing for her a lot more.

I’ve been making clothes for Emma from unwanted adult garments since she was a baby. I enjoy refashioning clothing to give it a new lease of life, and Emma loves having unique clothes to wear that suits her style.

The Thrifty Kid – Adult to Kids Clothing Refashion

I ran a blog series about 4 years ago called The Thrift Kid. It was all about teaching you how to refashion your unwanted clothing into cute and practical garments for your kids, with minimal effort and sewing skills.

Read more about this kids clothing refashion project here. It has links to 5 easy kids clothing refashion ideas for babies and small kids.

Now that Emma is older, I may have to add some tween and teen sewing projects to the list.

T-shirt refashion - Adult to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

Easy t-shirt refashion – from XL to kids size

If you’ve always wanted to make clothes for your kids this is the perfect project to start with. You won’t need to go out and buy expensive t-shirt fabric, or know how to trace and use a pattern. You can use an unwanted large t-shirt from your wardrobe or the thrift store.

You will need a sewing machine, just a basic one that can sew straight and zig zag stitch will work fine. I’ve been sewing with stretch fabrics for a long time and have my own serger/overlocker, but I’ve often sewn similar garments with my normal sewing machine.

When you sew stretchy fabric on a normal sewing machine, the best stitch setting is a very narrow zig zag. This allows the fabric to stretch without pulling on and breaking the thread. If you find that your machine is skipping stitches, you may want to invest in a stretch fabric needle.

I’ve included a more complicated technique for finishing off the neckline. It takes a little more practice than just a folded over hemmed finish, but I think you’ll agree it looks much more professional.

If you aren’t confident sewing with stretch fabric, have a practice on some fabric scraps first.

Got questions about sewing this t-shirt refashion project? Go ahead and leave me a comment. I’ll try to respond as soon as I can.

This t-shirt only took me about half an hour to make, but that’s because I’ve been sewing similar items for a while. Your first t-shirt refashion may take a little longer, but I guarantee you’ll get much faster the more you make.

Have fun sewing!

T-shirt refashion - Adult to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

You will need:

  • XL t-shirt or t-shirt larger than your child’s size
  • Child size t-shirt that fits well to use as a pattern template
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Serger/Overlocker (optional)
  • Twin Sewing machine needles (optional)
  • Iron
  • General Sewing supplies


How to choose a garment for this t-shirt refashion project:

How to sew a kids t-shirt from an adult size - mypoppet.com.au

Style – Men’s Cotton Jersey t-shirt with interesting print
Fabric – Jersey knit – try to choose 100% cotton, as anything with spandex can be tricky to sew
Sizing – Large or XL
Garment features to keep – Front print design

How to make a kids t-shirt from an men’s size t-shirt:

CUTTING AND BASIC ASSEMBLY

1. Lay the large t-shirt out nice and flat and place the child size t-shirt on top of it. If you are keeping the design, try to center the kid’s t-shirt to make the most of the design.

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

2. Cut out the t-shirt shape remembering to leave a seam allowance of about 1cm (1/2″) for side and shoulder seams, and 2cm (1″) for bottom hem and sleeve hem. Don’t discard the leftover fabric just yet. We’ll be using the bottom band to make the neckline on our new t-shirt.

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

3. Turn the back and front over so the right sides are facing. The t-shirt should be inside out. With a serger or a regular sewing machine (set onto a very narrow zig zag stitch), sew shoulder and side seams as indicated by the dotted lines on the image below.

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

HEMMING THE SLEEVES AND BOTTOM

4. Prepare to hem the sleeves and bottom hem by pressing fabric over to the inside of the t-shirt. The thickness of the hem should be whatever hem allowance you allowed when cutting. Mine was about 2cm (1″).

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

5. Fit your twin needle onto your sewing machine and thread machine accordingly. If you don’t have a twin needle you can just use a single needle with a zig zag stitch to sew the hem.

Twin stretch sewing machine needle

6. Sew hems with twin needle. You may need to practice on a few pieces of scrap fabric beforehand to get the tension right. The twin needle gives the hems a really professional finish.

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

SEWING THE COLLAR

The collar is the hardest part to get right and may take a little bit of practice. Don’t get too disheartened if you don’t get a perfect result the first time around. It’s taken me a long time and some trial and error to master this technique.

If you are new to sewing with knit fabric, these instructions for sewing a knit rib neckband are very useful.

7. Cut the front and back neckline shape using your original child size t-shirt as a guide. The neckline on this t-shirt just happened to coincide with my desired neckline so I’ve had to cut some of the original ribbing away.

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

8. Cut a 4cm wide band of t-shirt fabric from the fabric leftover from the bottom of the original t-shirt. Fold it in half long-ways and iron so it’s doubled over. Measure around your neckline and approximate how much length of the fabric band you will need then cut to length (make it slightly smaller so it doesn’t gape when finished). Pin ends (wrong sides facing) and sew to make a large loop. (Sorry I forgot to photograph this step).

T-shirt refashion - from men's to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

9. Pin band around the outside of the neckline making sure it’s evenly stretched all the way around. Sew with a serger or a stretchy sewing machine stitch.

How to sew an t-shirt neckband - mypoppete.com.au

10. Flip over and press.

How toa sew an t-shirt neckband - mypoppete.com.au

11. Either with a single or double needle, top-stitch the seam flat.

This step is optional but I think it gives the garment neckline a really neat finish and makes the trim sit nice and flat.

How toa sew an t-shirt neckband - mypoppete.com.au

T-shirt refashion all done and ready to play in!

It looks like a lot of work just for a kids t-shirt, but I promise once you get the hang of it, you can refashion a t-shirt from start to finish in less than an hour.  If you make a few at a time it’s even quicker.

T-shirt refashion - Adult to kids size - mypoppet.com.au

The Thrifty Kid: List of tutorials

3 Comments

  • (Smacks palm against forehead.) Why didn’t I think of this when my daughter was young? Oh well!

    Your hem stitches are so straight! Impressive.

    Great project!

  • I do the same exact thing quite often, not only for my kids, but for myself, too! However I just keep the original neck hole and arm hems. As I showed in this tutorial on how to “Girlify” a men’s T-shirt, I just keep the original neck and shoulder seams, and cut separate sleeves to attach back on. Then I just have to hem the bottom. It’s pretty quick that way!

    Incidentally, my daughter has the same exact problem as Emma. The few times we buy new clothing, she only want to look in the boy’s section because she hates all the shiny, sparkly clothes with thinner fabric! Same goes for shoes. I love seeing girls that embrace a less traditional look. My girl also loves wearing skirts with funky t-shirts! 🙂 Lisa

    • Yes I too try to keep the original neck hole where possible as the neckline is the trickiest part. In this case the neck hole was quite large, and a bit stretched out with some wear. Also I wanted to center the design on the front.
      Yes girls clothes is so flimsy and I feel it’s like about 30% skimpier.

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