Clothing DIY: How to turn 1 shirt into 2 shirts, 1 headband

Clothes
Elysa Dombro/Staff

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Now that we’re mostly through July, I’ve been feeling the urge to repurpose some of my long sleeves and sweaters that aren’t in any way suited for warm weather. Because I’ve been avoiding clothing stores (thanks, COVID-19) and am not a huge online shopper (this is maybe just a me problem), I’ve turned to DIYing and crafting to make fun, warm weather clothing out of things I already own. Even though I know how to sew, I often end up without access to a sewing machine or any sewing materials, which means I end up cutting up, gluing and pinning clothing to make new outfits. If you’ve been feeling tired of your current summer clothing and are feeling the need to cut something (not your hair!), follow this guide on how I turned a long sleeve cardigan into a cropped long sleeve, a tube top and a headband!

Choosing your shirt

First, choose the right shirt or sweater. The perfect item will be one that you don’t care about that much (so if you mess up, it’s OK), one that has material that won’t fray (avoid thicker knits or anything with holes — cotton is always a good option) and one that’s relatively oversized or long on your body (at least for this specific project).

Shirt 1: Cropped sweater

The first thing to do is make your initial cut! Before actually bringing out the scissors, try on your shirt (I’m using a cardigan) and find a spot you’d be comfortable cutting it to. If you’re intending to use the part you cut off as a bandeau or headband, keep in mind that you want to cut off enough fabric to make that happen. I usually try to cut just above my belly button so I can wear the top half with high-waisted pants. When you’ve found a comfortable spot, make a couple marks or place pins along where you plan to cut, and then use sharp scissors to cut off the bottom of the shirt.

At this point, the top part of the shirt is done! Cropping an old cardigan or T-shirt is a great way to make an old article of clothing wearable in public again.

Shirt 2: Bandeau

Now that you’re left with the fabric that you cut off the bottom of your shirt, you can make it into another shirt — this time a tube top or bandeau. If you ended up with not enough fabric, you can always make it into a fun headband or even a belt. First, try on the leftover fabric. It should be a loop of fabric, so see how it fits over your chest. If the bottom of your shirt was loose, or if the shirt was oversized, you’ll likely have to cut the fabric to fit across your ribcage and chest lengthwise. To do this, just pinch the extra fabric on the side of your fabric loop, and mark off where you need to cut in order to make a bandeau that fits tightly around your chest. 

Cut off the excess fabric, and then figure out how you’re going to attach the sides together again. For me, even without a sewing machine, my favorite option is to just sew the sides back together by hand. But, if you’re not much of a sewer, you can purchase some fabric glue and glue the sides together. Either way, you’re going to want to fold the strip of fabric in half, making sure it’s facing inside out. Then, attach the sides with your chosen method to make it a loop again, this time with a smaller circumference (if you used glue, give it plenty of time to dry). 

Turn the fabric loop right side out again, and try it on like you’d try on any bandeau or tube top. If it fits, you’re done! If it still feels a little loose, sew a new line of stitches or glue a new line to make it a little tighter. The excess fabric will be on the inside of the shirt, so no one will see uneven stitches or messy glue. You’re done with your second shirt!

Bonus item: Headband

If your strip of fabric that turned into a tube top was too small to be a proper shirt, you can make it into a headband! Either loop it twice and put it around your head, or use the same method that you did with the tube top to make it fit the circumference of your head. If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can make all three items by using the excess cut off your tube top to make a headband. It won’t be a neat loop of fabric, but you can cut and sew together different parts of the excess fabric to make a loop big enough for your head.

Congrats! You’ve updated your wardrobe without even buying anything. This is just one simple way to cut your clothing — you can get creative and tie the front of your bandeau, or you could cut a sweater instead of just a shirt. 

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].