How to Restyle a T-Shirt into a Ruffly Cardigan

comments (51) February 18th, 2011     

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CalPatch cal patch, contributor
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Recycle an old T-shirt into a ruffly, fun piece to wear.
A plain old tee, ready to be transformed!
Shorten your tee to waist length; the rest will be your ruffles.
Recycle an old T-shirt into a ruffly, fun piece to wear.

Recycle an old T-shirt into a ruffly, fun piece to wear.

Photo: Cal Patch
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Vintage bed jackets are beautiful but harder and harder to find in thrift stores these days. Why not make your own bed jacket-inspired cardigan out of an old T-shirt? Restyling is so timely right now; you get a new, fun piece to wear, it doesn't cost anything, AND you're putting something to use that hasn't seen the light of day for ages. This sweet little number is the perfect cardi to throw on over a dress or tank when the weather warms up, which I'm told will happen again some day!

All you need is a T-shirt that approximately fits (a little big is OK), some scissors, thread, chalk or marking pen, and your sewing machine. Note: You may need a second tee if your shirt isn't very long to get enough fabric for the ruffles.


A plain old tee, ready to be transformed!


Here's what to do:

1. Cut your pieces. First, decide the length you want your cardigan to hit you at center back (remember that the ruffle will add a little bit of length, too). Mark a line straight across your shirt at this length. Now, before you cut, measure how much length you have left at the bottom, as this will become your ruffle. You'll need at least four equal strips of ruffle, so if you have anything less than 6 inches (which will yield four 1-1/2-inch strips) at the bottom, you might need a second shirt or some fabric scraps to make your ruffle. You can rip out the hem to give yourself a little extra length, or cut it off if you have enough. Now you can cut on the line, and cut the remainder into four even strips, anywhere from 1-1/2 inches to 3 inches wide, depending on how much you have and how wide you want your ruffle. You'll lose about 1/4 inch to seam allowance.


Shorten your tee to waist length; the rest will be your ruffles.


2. Reshape the body. Now you can refold the T-shirt so that it's creased at center front (CF, at left side in photos) and center back (CB, at right), and the shoulder seams (and side seams if you have them but many tees don't) are stacked.


Fold the shirt like this for reshaping the front edge. CF is at left and CB to the right.

Draw a curve at the bottom of CF so the bottom rounds gently into it (see photo).


This will be the bottom curve (at your waist).

Also curve CF into the neckline at the top.


This is how to curve the neckline.

The complete front curved edge.

Cut on these lines, cutting CF completely open and continuing all the way around the neckband.


Here's the reshaped edge before it is unfolded.

The reshaped edge of the T-shirt after cutting.


3. Sew the ruffle. Take three of your ruffle strips and sew them together, end to end, so you have one long loop.


Here are the short ends of two ruffle strips after seaming them together.

Designate one of the three seams as CB, and fold to find the opposite halfway point, then notch or mark it. This will also end up at CB, but one will be at the neckline and one at the bottom. Run a row of gathering stitches along one side of the ruffle loop, slightly less than 1/4 inch from the edge. With right sides together, pin the ruffle to the body, matching at CB neck and bottom. Pull the gathering threads, and evenly distribute the fullness as you pin the ruffle all the way around the circumference of the cardigan.


Begin pinning the ruffle to the edge, evenly spreading the gathering.

The ruffle is evenly distributed around the entire outer edge of the garment.

Here's a close-up of the pinned-on ruffle before sewing.

Sew at 1/4 inch. Press the seam allowance toward the body, and edgestitch from the right side close to the seam to keep the ruffle from flipping back.


Edgestitch close to the ruffle seam, catching both layers of seam allowance.


4. Add ruffles to cuffs. Trim off (or rip out) the cuff hems on your tee. Check that the length of your remaining ruffle strip is at least three times the cuff circumference (so that when you cut it in half it will be 1-1/2 times as long as each cuff). If not, you may need to salvage some more scraps or cut your ruffle's width in half. Once you have a strip to use for each cuff, seam the short ends and proceed as with the body ruffle.

That was simple, right? And look how cute!


Here's the finished cardi.

 

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posted in: fabric, vintage, top, cardigan, tee shirt

Comments (51)

biloxigirl writes: THIS IS SUCH A FABULOUS IDEA!
Posted: 1:32 pm on September 30th
wickedJypsi writes: I cannot wait to give this a try. I have been scouring the stores lately for cardigan-type sweater and they all cost more then I'm willing to spend - but I was just about to give in before I saw your awesome post - so THANK YOU. I will let you know how it goes, or check my blog and I'll post it there when it is all finished ---yahoo, I can't wait!!! (wickedjypsi.blogspot.com)

Thanks again!
Posted: 3:44 am on March 27th
Jay_B writes: I love the little cardi I have made thanks to your inspired idea. Thank you Cal.
Posted: 6:27 pm on March 11th
amberstudios writes: That's beautiful!
This way I make recycled COATS:
Amberstudios.Etsy.com
Posted: 9:55 am on March 5th
Jadechrist writes: thats cool and creative!
Posted: 4:29 pm on March 1st
PinkSparkleAndLace writes: This is such a great idea. I will have to try this. I know my little nieces would love this!! Thank you! I would like to re-post in my blog for other readers, if that's okay. I will give you full credit!
Tammy
Posted: 10:14 pm on February 27th
carolrv writes: This is a great idea! I am thinking that you could use bias strips of woven fabric for the ruffles, for a different look. (perhaps from a thrift store garment) Often I see garments at Goodwill, for example,that are not appealing except for the fabric.
Another idea for those who aren't the "ruffly" type is to use those strips cut from the bottom as a binding for the edges. Since they are stretchy, they would conform easily to the curves.
Thanks, and I CAN'T WAIT to try it.
Posted: 10:34 am on February 23rd
thomy writes: If anyone made this, I would love to see a pic of the finished product!
Posted: 2:20 pm on February 20th
thomy writes: So inventive. Going to try it right away! :0) Thank you.
Posted: 2:17 pm on February 20th
biancamargherita writes: I love it!!!
Posted: 6:55 pm on February 19th
art2wear writes: Is there any reason why you could not use the design on the front of the shirt as the back of the jacket simply by turning the cut seam to be from the Center Back? The neckine has been cut out anyway. I have some pretty floral tees that would be nice to use. Has anyone tried this? - And - how does the uncut ruffle wash up? Does it curl badly?
Posted: 1:48 pm on February 19th
MsConstrue writes: This is adorable! Question from an inexperienced seamstress; how does one run a "gather" stitch? Just set the stitches to a larger size?
Posted: 11:02 pm on February 18th
sews4fun writes: I've seen the restyled sweatshirts and have always admired them but, it never even occured to me to restyle a tee shirt! If the article had never mentioned this jacket began life as a tee shirt, I would never have known!
There are many angles to this idea and it's simply an inspiration in my opinion and one heck a great job!
Well Done!
Posted: 8:49 pm on February 18th
msal3104 writes: I was looking for a cardigan pattern and found this!! I will make this!!
thank you
Posted: 10:31 pm on January 23rd
Stile writes: might work..definitely fun idea for the younger women in our familly.
Posted: 1:28 pm on January 17th
CalPatch writes: added to previous comment: i just noticed i did say to only use one row of gathering stitches. that's because the ruffle strip is so narrow. either way works; two rows are just stronger when you're sliding the gathers around to distribute evenly!
Posted: 3:03 pm on August 4th
CalPatch writes: sokkertenngrl: well, the length of each ruffle strip is exactly the width of the shirt, so it will vary depending on the shirt. and you mentioned that the shirt is long, but fitted, which means you might need more ruffle since your strips will be short but you have a long distance to go around. so it may be a situation where you need to use fabric from another T or some jersey to make the ruffle...
and i always to two rows of gathering stitches, though i don't necessarily know that it'll keep your stitches from sliding after the seam is sewn; that sounds like your tension may be off. i would edgestitch the seam to secure it. the two rows of gathering is mainly to prevent the thread from breaking as you gather.
good luck!
Posted: 2:59 pm on August 4th
sokkertenngrl writes: ahh tried this today with a fitted t-shirt, with a slightly low neckline, but longer. Everything was fine, up until the pinning and gathering. It came out too short, so I sewed the 4th on, and it still was too short. Especially when it was gathered.
My question is, what is the normal length of one piece of ruffle strip? Also another question is, did you do two gathering basting lines or just one? I did one, and I gathered, and I sewed the ruffle, but the ruffle wasn't set, and I could still spread it.
Posted: 10:20 pm on August 1st
Flippincool writes: Hi!

Just wanted to let you know I featured this tutorial in a post all about upcycle crafting. Thanks!

Emily
The Handmade Experiment
http://emilyflippinmaruna.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/must-make-monday-upcycled/
Posted: 4:51 am on July 13th
Magicgreen53 writes: I like this!!
Thank-you!
Posted: 11:42 pm on April 22nd
Sweet_Dee writes: Lovely! Will try!
Posted: 2:10 am on April 1st
debthereb writes: I can't wait to try this, I work in a business office and in summer I love sundresses with tank type tops, BUT not appropriate. I think this will make a really nice cover-up and allow me to wear some of my summer wardrobe to work! THANKS for the inspiration!!!!!
Posted: 3:26 pm on March 24th
mollygolightly writes: I just made this bed jacket from a deep V neck T shirt that I had with a stain on the bottom. I loved the color of the shirt and thought I would never be able to wear it again! I however did not use the fabric from the bottom of the shirt (because of the stain) but instead used some coordinating sheer fabric it came out WONDERFUL! I'm so excited about it. I also didn't ruffle the sleeves because I felt like it might be a little too much pattern.

Thanks cal patch, you saved my favorite T. ")
Posted: 5:43 pm on February 15th
CalPatch writes: hi thread123, don't worry, you didn't do anything wrong! a lot of T's don't have enough length to get all the ruffle fabric you need, so just find a matching or contrast T for the ruffles, or use some knit fabric.
Posted: 10:39 am on February 11th
thread123 writes: I tried to make this but when I cut the bottom strips, the directions say to use all 3 but only two ended up being even and so there's not enough to go all around the border. What did I do wrong?
Thanks
Posted: 7:12 am on February 7th
Hausmaus writes: Thank you for this tutorial! I made one for my mother and one for myself yesterday, and thanks ro my serger I finished them in about one hour!
Posted: 2:30 am on February 2nd
cjlong writes: I'm going to try this with the sweatshirt. Would be great with jeans and look feminine; and I'll make one for my little granddaughter! Perfect for those not so warm Spring days! Thanks!
Posted: 6:40 pm on February 1st
WendyQM writes: Thanks, Cal!

Another awesome creation!

I can't wait to make one. I bet I can make it in around one hour. LOVE it! I will try to upload a picture if I can.


Posted: 5:14 pm on January 30th
MagpieSkinnies writes: What an adorable idea! And it looks simple enough that I could actually do it. Thanks for sharing. :)
Posted: 12:19 pm on January 30th
CalPatch writes: yes, mibren, i left the ruffle edges raw. you could hem them or make them out of a folded strip too, but you'll probably need to use a second T or scrap fabric to have enough for these options.
Posted: 11:06 am on January 28th
CalPatch writes: thread123: what's your question? ask it here and i'll respond ;n)
Posted: 10:29 am on January 28th
Toffy writes: Very Clever. I think this would make a great cover-up over a tank top and jeans. Cute,cute,cute.
Posted: 8:54 am on January 28th
RevSue writes: Wow, this is cool.
Posted: 3:40 am on January 27th
StylishO writes: Great Idea! And since it was a T-shirt it is probably a lot easier to care for. Smart
Posted: 11:54 am on January 26th
BoDyanDSouL writes: Adorable cardigan.
Posted: 3:28 am on January 26th
Secretsugar writes: Excellent idea! I've always hated the way t-shirts look on me, but this would be a great way to refashion a piece of clothing ubiquitous in my local thrift shop. I could use a little practice playing around with inexpensive knits, too....
Posted: 8:47 pm on January 25th
zolay writes: You could do a longer version using a cardigan and felted ruffle (from another sweater) along the opeing of the cardi. great to use until it is warm enough for the cropped style.
Posted: 4:12 pm on January 25th
thread123 writes: Has anyone made this yet because I have a question?
Posted: 7:32 am on January 25th
Nosewworthatoot writes: Could this be done in a longer version? I look aweful in cropped things. I was also dreaming of a long sleeve version made from a loose long sleeved T and then maybe add a tie in the front made out of ribbon. Could this work?
Posted: 11:39 pm on January 24th
SteelyVan writes: What a great idea! This would be a great use for the cropped T's that were popular a few years ago-- use one for the main body of the jacket, then use another one in the same color (or a complementary color) for the ruffle. Embellishing this with crocheted flowers or vintage buttons would be cute too!
Posted: 1:16 pm on January 24th
create writes: What a great idea...I must try this one in the near future. Thanks
Posted: 12:00 pm on January 24th
mibren writes: This looks like fun! I was just wondering if you just left the outer edge raw on the ruffle?
Posted: 11:49 am on January 24th
sigridsoto writes: U made my night I have 2 little girls so money for my clothing is out the window. So teeshirts is what i wear a good $of the time and with this design of yours i will at least have a new look that you for sharing
Posted: 4:33 am on January 24th
ansleybluu writes: Love it!
Posted: 3:04 am on January 24th
CalPatch writes: CayleMandy, you absolutely could! I used this same idea on a hooded sweatshirt and crocheted a 3" ruffle all around it. It's one of my favorite pieces of clothing!
Posted: 8:30 pm on January 22nd
TheArtfulDogger writes: I LOVE this idea! The best part is that it's using one of those clunky unisex t-shirts that often don't look good on women's curvy shapes and transforming it into something very feminine. Creativity + recycling = AWESOME!
Posted: 12:39 am on January 22nd
CayleMandy writes: This cute!!!! I don't sew but was thinking... Could you crochet a ruffle on it or knit one?
Posted: 10:23 pm on January 21st
bosco_ette writes: Very very unique! I think I will try it. I am 6ft tall though so It will probably take 2 t shirts to make the appropriate ruffles. tiny thin ruffles will not look the best BUT I think it just might be fabulous. thanks
Posted: 1:24 pm on January 21st
kaytet writes: this is totally great! i am going to make this!
Posted: 9:34 pm on January 20th
MissTaraTara writes: Had I not seen the title, I would have never guessed this was formerly a t-shirt! Just gotta try it...thanks!
Posted: 8:16 pm on January 20th
JenniferStern writes: That's really cute!!!
Posted: 1:40 pm on January 20th
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