Do you have old t shirts that need some DIY love? Are you tired of the same ol’ boring t shirt and want to express your creativity? With today’s upcycling movement, crafters everywhere are discovering there’s no need to throw out old shirts when you can resurrect them into an amazing new creation!
No matter your sewing skill level, you’ll find something here you can do. Some patterns only require a pair of scissors and even the ones that suggest using a sewing machine involve easy straight stitches or can be done by hand sewing with a needle and thread.
Some items you may need before getting started:
- Sewing machine or a needle and thread
- T-shirts that need new life
A few of these ideas require other items, such as dye or trims, but a large percentage of them can be accomplished with just a pair of scissors and some imagination.
There are so many ideas out there. Luckily, we’ve assembled the top 41 for you here in a handy dandy, one-stop ultimate list so you can get inspired and show off your unique self. Now, all you have to do is decide which style you want to try!
Puruse these ideas, grab some shirts, and get creative!
Cutting up a t shirt is a concept as old as the t shirt itself. You can go with the basic cutting off of the sleeves or cropping it short, or you can venture into the wide and endless world of cutting slits into various patterns (think: the infamous spider web).
The ideas featured here are easily executed and result in some fun and cool shirts. Just use a pair of scissors and start snipping! You can play around with the size and placement of these patterns too.
Helpful Tip # 1: Draw out your pattern on your shirt before cutting. Though you’re excited to dive right in, plotting it out first will save you the heartache of that weird crooked cut that you can’t fix.
Helpful Tip # 2: Find a piece of thick cardboard or other material that you can slide inside your shirt when cutting to avoid slicing through both layers of your shirt.
Let’s take a look at some the of top t shirt cutting ideas.
This idea by All Day Chic takes the basic idea of cutting slits in a shirt and adds a twist (literally) by weaving the strings to make an awesome design that will take your shirt from plain tee to look at me in a just a few simple steps.
Yeah, that’s right. Not only are we going to show you how to make a perfect festival fringe tank top, we’re gonna kick it up a notch with some dyed fringy ends. This is a great way to add a little something a basic fringe top and will make a great addition to your summer wardrobe.
Speaking of summer festival wear, this vest by DIY Make It is tailor made for some warm weather out-doorsy goodness. Instead of tossing that oversized band t shirt, transform it into a chic statement piece that will look great over shorts, a dress, or your favorite summer outfit.
While we’re on the subject of fringe, try your hand at this fun macramé top from Closet Freak. Macramé seems like a complicated art form applied only to 1970’s wall hangings and belts, but it’s easier than you think and makes even the simplest top look like a work of art.
5. Heart Cut Out
Let’s get down to some real cutting business and give your scissors – and your skills – a chance to shine. This heart cut out shirt is a sweet example of the traditional slit-cut shirt. You can experiment with different shapes, but Macted is going to get right to the heart of this shirt (pun intended!).
This wing shirt has been popping up on crafting and DIY sites everywhere. The intricate cutting looks amazing, and Grosgrain is going to break it down with some easy cutting instructions so you can finally have the wings you’ve always wanted.
This top by Sorelle in Style is both stylish and easy to make. Once you have the pattern drawn out, start snipping out shapes and you’re left with this awesome hand-made piece, or should we say, peace?
So you want to express your edgy side? Bust out your summer goth and make this cool skull cut out shirt. It has all the sweetness of a hand-made top while still allowing your inner rebel to represent. This pattern also looks great on t shirts in a variety of colors.
Master of the t shirt refashion, WobiSobi, shows us how to make this fabulous no-sew shirt that incorporates metal studs and a side knot to take this basic v neck into new style territory.
Show some skin without going overboard with this look inspired by the runway. This simple cut outs make a regular shirt look fashion forward without breaking the bank. To achieve this look, all you need is a shirt and some scissors!
One of the best ways to transform and customize a shirt is by adding some color. And, each piece will be one-of-a-kind because you can add your own touch to each of these hand made ideas.
Helpful Tip # 3: When using paint, make sure you lay down a protective surface to work on so you don’t wind up “customizing” parts of your house or workspace.
Helpful Tip # 4: If your project calls for fabric to be submerged in dye and warm water, don’t use a pot or bowl that you’ll use for cooking. It’s always a good idea to keep dye containers and food containers separate. Consider picking up a pot from a second hand store to use for dyeing, and clearly label it so it won’t be used for cooking.
The dip dye is pretty fool proof way to create an ombré effect. All you really need is some fabric dye and patience. Wit & Whistle will show you a step-by-step to make a dip dyed shirt of your very own.
These shirts are completely customizable and look like pieces of wearable art. If you can draw with a marker (or even if you can’t, really) you can create this shirt that looks like you know your way around a watercolor palette.
We all know about traditional tie-dyeing, which produces bright spirals of color. Reverse tie-dyeing employs the same method of twisting and tying up a shirt, but instead of adding color, you remove it by using bleach instead of dye. The result is a cool look that can be applied to any non-white shirt.
You’ve got reverse tie-dyeing down, now it’s time to take that business into space. The ladies at I Love to Create show us how to make this galaxy-inspired shirt that combines reverse dying with actual dyeing by adding color back into the bleached areas. Much like an actual galaxy, the result is beautiful and unique.
The final stop on our bleach tour utilizes the bleach pen. This handy tool produces a thick bleach gel that allows you to make more detailed designs than standard bleach. This tutorial will show you how to bleach words into a colored top, but the design possibilities are limitless!
With this tutorial, you can create a shirt with a custom design and color. This project is also great if you’re not particularly artistically-inclined since it only requires you to use tape and spray paint. Make fun graphic or geometric designs with straight tape, or experiment with different stickers or adhesive shapes that can be removed to reveal unpainted space.
Did you know you can stamp a shirt? Let a stamp do the design work for you by using a premade stamp and some paint to create a custom print. Or, if you want to design your own stamp, Dehuismuts shows you how anything from styrofoam to a potato can be cut into your own stamper.
These ideas will show you how to use everything from lace trim to zippers to add some flair to your standard tee. Whether you’re rescuing a shirt from the giveaway pile, or just updating an old standby, these DIY’s will help you give your tops a makeover.
Helpful Tip # 5: If you’re using a glue or fusible tape in place of sewing, read the package and make sure it’s one that can stand up to multiple washes so you don’t spend all that time lovingly creating a one-time-wear shirt.
Helpful Tip # 6: When adding embellishments to your shirt such as fabric or trims, use either straight or safety pins to hold them in place. This will make your job much easier and keep them from sliding around or ending up crooked while you sew or glue them on.
18. Printed Pocket
One of the biggest trends right now is the t shirt with a contrasting or printed pocket. This look is easier to achieve than you think, and you can get it for a fraction of the cost. Plus, this way you get to customize your own pockets. This tutorial makes it easy by showing you how to make a printed pocket shirt without a sewing machine!
Add a touch of elegance to your plain ol’ tee by sewing on some lace trim to create a stylish collar. You can find lace trim at your local fabric or craft store. Then sit back and accept the praise of onlookers at your skills to transform a simple t shirt. Oh, you fancy!
Speaking of fancy, Do Do Do shows us that lace isn’t just for collars. Grab a tank top, or cut those sleeves off a tee and replace them with some lace cap sleeves to make a top that’s classy enough to wear to afternoon tea.
As long as you’re buying lace, why not try Mr. Kate’s idea of the cutout with a lace insert? She demonstrates this idea with a moon, but you could use any shape of your choosing. As an added bonus, this is another sewing machine-free project!
This idea is a great way to add some texture and edge to a shirt. The metallic zipper is an extra fun detail on an otherwise plain shirt. It does require some sewing, but just a straight line, so you can put those junior high home ec skills to use. You could also hand sew this zipper on if you’re sans machine. Make sure you use pins to keep the shirt in place on the zipper as you sew.
Express yourself with this project from I Spy DIY. In a 2-fer, this tutorial shows you how to make a no-sew cropped tee with the addition of word graphic. If you’ve got an iron, you can make this look in no time. The biggest problem will be deciding what you want it to say!
Sometimes a shirt just needs to be completely transformed from its former traditional self into a totally new creation. We’re here to help you navigate the endless catalogue of ideas. We’ve chosen our favorite ways to refashion a shirt so no one will know it was that XL shirt that didn’t fit but was too soft to throw away.
Let’s start with basics. Have you ever had a shirt that was super awesome, but just too big? Gone are the days of, “Well, I guess this will be another night shirt.” This tutorial will show you how to turn that loose tee into a fitted shirt with just a few simple steps.
We’ve all had that sad experience of buying a great shirt only to find that it’s uncomfortable and stiff. You could spend years breaking it in, or you could follow these easy instructions from Free People that will get your shirt vintage soft in no time. They’ll even show you how to rough it up a little to give it that distressed, lived-in look.
26. Perfect Off-The-Shoulder
This seems like common sense stuff that doesn’t require instructions, but anyone who has ruined a shirt will tell you, it’s good to know the correct way to cut an off-the-shoulder shirt because once you cut, there’s no going back. Luckily, Julia from Boundless Beauty is here to walk you through it so you can achieve that perfect off-the-shoulder goodness.
This super cute pattern turns any tee into an adorable knotted tank that’s perfect for summer. No sewing required. Just get a pair of scissors and cut. The raw edges actually add to the look of this tank, and the knot can be worn in the front or the back depending on the look you want.
This design is a great beginner’s sewing project. All you need are scissors and a needle and thread. You can experiment with wrapping different trims or ribbons around the center sections or use bits of fabric you cut from the shirt itself. Either way, you’ll add a fun touch to an otherwise regular shirt.
Got a large tee that’s cute, but makes it look like you’re wearing a sack? This short video will show you how to take a big t shirt from boxy to flirty by turning it into a girly tank with an adorable peplum.
Similar to the bow back shirt, this top turns a shirt into a tank and features one large bow in the back. Try using a contrasting fabric or trim for the bow’s center for a fun and interesting touch.
This braided back tank turns a tee into the ideal summer piece. Whether you’re wearing it as a summer tank or a beach cover up, this top is a must for warm weather.
In our final visit to Wobi Sobi, we learn this genius method for turning an XL t shirt into an elegant drape vest. And the best part? It only takes five minutes and there’s no sewing involved! Just cut and wear. It couldn’t be easier, and it makes a great addition to any wardrobe.
Crafterhours breaks this tee-to-tank design down into easy-to-follow instructions. Playing off the classic pillowcase dress pattern, it uses a drawstring to gather the neck and back and functions as the straps. This pattern requires minimal sewing, and allows you to play with using contrasting fabric or ribbon for the straps!
Take any oversized shirt and turn it into a comfy tank with these directions from Love Maegan. Perfect for both workouts and warm weather, this top can be worn as a vest or a tank.
This tutorial from Trash to Couture is great and shows you how use an oversized shirt to create a comfy and chic off-the-shoulder dolman tee. There’s minimal sewing involved, and the transformation takes about fifteen minutes!
Not every DIY t shirt project has to result in a wearable top. If you have a tee that needs to be brought back in a different form, these ideas are for you. From headbands to scarves to tote bags, these tutorials will take your tired tees and repurpose them into upcycled items that are both crafty and stylish.
As an added bonus, using t shirts for these ideas produces soft, comfortable headbands and cozy, non-itchy scarves. Give those old shirts new life with these great designs.
36. Celtic Knot Headband
This headband looks complicated, but is easy to create with this tutorial. Learn how to make an intricate Celtic knot out of strips cut from a t shirt. These headbands are great for children and adults alike, so get knotting and share!
Also made from cut t shirt strips, this headband will keep your hair securely out of your face as well as being soft and stretchy, making it the ideal workout companion. It’s also a cute accessory outside of the gym, so make a few and stash them in your gym bag and purse to grab and use anytime.
Turban headbands are everywhere. Not only are they super comfortable, they’re an excellent way to camouflage your I-woke-up-late updo. Honeybee Vintage shows us how to make one from an old shirt. If you don’t have a sewing machine, this headband can be easily made by hand stitching the seams and the ends shut..
Dress up a pair of basic flip flops with this idea from Make It & Love It. Not only will it add a unique look to your flip flops, it will provide a softer alternative to the regular plastic, blister-inducing strap on your sandals. Plus, you can customize your own flip flop color combinations!
All Day Chic will teach you how to make a soft and cozy scarf from two t shirts. The contrasting colors and braided detail make it a totally cute accessory. Since it’s made out of t shirt material, it’s light enough to transition into spring or to throw on during those chilly evenings. These scarves also make great gifts if you want to give something personal and handmade, but don’t have the time to devote to learning how to knit.
I can make a tote bag out of a t shirt?! Yes, dear friend, you can. And you can do it without a stitch of sewing. Just some trusty scissors, cutting and knotting, and you’ll have a soft, durable tote bag for carting around books, groceries, or even other t shirts. Mommypotomus gives you the directions to make your own tee tote.
So there you have it. The ultimate DIY t shirt list.
After seeing all these great ideas, there’s simply no reason to get rid of old t shirts. Upcycle those bad boys into a refashioned statement piece. Why live in a regular ol’ tee when you could customize it and make it your very own? With a few basic sewing tools, you can free your tee shirts from the shackles of simplicity and turn them into a new creation!
How will you give your tees a makeover?