Tuesday, July 20, 2010

fix that T-shirt already.

BEFORE: too roomy under the arms and in the body

AFTER: more tailored and just right.

This is a reprint of a guest post I did for Pickup Some Creativity's Sewing 101. Enjoy! 

We all have them. Shirts we fell in love with but leave hanging in our closet because there is something wrong with the fit. I have a long, sad history with T-shirts in particular.

I love a well-fitting T-shirt, but actually finding a nice tailored one that fits me right off the rack is nigh unto impossible because of my wide shoulders and average trunk. If it fits my shoulders, it is too loose in the arm holes and body. If it fits my body, it is too tight in the shoulders.

Here is an easy fix for that kind of 'too loose' (now you say Lautrec) fit problem, or for any T-shirt that you would like to make more tailored. It doesn't require a lot of sewing experience or a serger. Just a regular machine with a *zig zag stitch. I don't even switch my needle to a ball point for this.

*Why does it have to be a zig zag and not a straight stitch? Because knits stretch, and so will a zig zag stitch. Straight stitches, not so much.

The Problem:
T-shirt that is too roomy.

The Fix: A simple zig zag seam up both sides and arms. So easy you'll be tailoring all your T-shirts in record time.

The Tutorial: Try your T-shirt on. Pinch the excess under your arms with your fingers and determine how much you need to take it in to make it fit better. Knit is forgiving, don't sweat this too much. If it is still too loose or too tight after sewing, just add a new line of stitching and then remove the old one if needed. I usually end up sewing a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam.

Turn the shirt inside out and lay it flat. Smooth it down with your fingers, but don't stretch it. Pin the sleeve and side together at the seam so that the hems are aligned.

Using a small zig zag stitch (small stitch length as well as width), start at the arm and sew your way down. Be sure to back stitch at both ends to lock your stitches. Important: don't stretch the fabric or pull it as you are sewing. Let it go through at its own pace.

If the fit problem is just in the chest, you can taper off your seam, as shown above.
If the fit problem is in the entire body of the shirt, you can run your seam all the way down the side, as shown above.

Now repeat the same thing on the other side of the T-shirt. I find that most times I do not even need to cut off the old seam. Knit is very forgiving and the new seams lay flat and feel comfortable. If you do cut off the old seam, be sure to overlock the raw edges to strengthen the new seam.

See? That was easy. Done!


  1. ok. so i have some frumpy shirts that totally need a re-do. thanks for the heads up on how!

  2. awesome, can't wait to check it out! :)

  3. You are amazing. I can't believe the way you fix things up. Me, I just live with the extra fabric under my pits! ha ha.

  4. Hi, Larissa
    Just wanted to say that your altering tip was very useful. I had bought two shirts and they both were little big. I went home the very night I read your tutorial and literally had it finished within about 10 minutes.. Thanks so much.

  5. Y'all, you are too kind, as usual.
    I've done this to just about every t-shirt in my closet. Major improvement.

    Debilou, yours is the most awesomest form of comment possible. I love hearing stuff just like that. Makes blogging so worthwhile. I'm so glad you were able to use it!

  6. I would love to do this, but can't find the link! Do you have it, or can you repost the tutorial? thanks!

  7. Awesome! I'm definitely going to be trying this with a few shirts in my closet. Ordering witty tshirts online has left me several that don't fit "quite right".

  8. Love this tutorial. I recently went through breast surgery and needless to say, all of my shirts do not fit anymore. Now I can customize them to fit without having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

  9. Down Roads Less Traveled, that's made my day. Love to hear how it goes.


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