How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan

comments (35) November 2nd, 2012     

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CalPatch cal patch, contributor
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This sweet layering piece might become a new favorite!
Heres the before shirt.
Fold it in half and determine the length.
This sweet layering piece might become a new favorite!

This sweet layering piece might become a new favorite!

Photo: Cal Patch
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I love layering. Since I have lived in space-challenged apartments in New York City for the past 18 years, rotating my wardrobe seasonally just hasn't been an option as there's been nowhere to put the off-season garb. Instead, I pretty much wear the same clothes year-round; I just wear more of them when it gets colder! Hoodies, cardigans, and wraps play a huge part in my cooler months' costume, and I'm always on the lookout for new styles. And because I can't get enough of the revamping of tees, I came up with this girly outfit topper for my weekly project.

You'll need:

  • An oversized T-shirt
  • Tape measure
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Chalk
  • Buttons
  • Sock-weight yarn
  • A small crochet hook
How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Here's the "before" shirt.

1. Trim and reshape the shirt. Measure your bust, bicep, and armhole circumferences, or find a top or cardi that fits you well. Fold the tee in half lengthwise, as shown. Cut off the bottom at the length you wish your cardigan to be (I made mine 22 inches).

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Fold it in half and determine the length.

Set aside the piece you cut off as it'll become the cuff ruffles. Still folded, measure and mark a snug 1/2 bicep, 1/2 armhole, and 1/4 bust widths and connect with a chalk line to reshape the side and underarm seam. If that's too complicated, just fold your other shirt (the one that fits) the same way, lay it on top of this one, and trace the side and underarm seam. Cut on your line, through all four layers.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Then reshape the armhole area...
How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   ...and trim off the excess.

2. Cut the center front open. Using the tape measure, mark a few centered points until you have a line down the center front. Cut on this line for the cardigan placket.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Find the center front and cut on the line.

3. Now you're ready to crochet the placket, so have the buttons handy as you'll need them to determine how big to make the buttonholes.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Gather your yarn, hook, and the buttons to begin crocheting.

First, we'll do the left side, the "button side." Using a small, pointy hook, make a slip knot with your yarn and join onto the top of the left-side placket edge, about 1/4 inch down from the neck edge and 1/4 inch over from the center front, with a single crochet.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Join onto the placket edge with a single crochet (sc).

Chain one and sc again into the placket edge. (Note: If this is your first time crocheting into fabric, practice on a scrap to get your spacing and tension down.)

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Continue along the edge with sc's, alternating with chain stitches.
How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   The first row will look like this.

Continue alternating sc and chain 1 down the entire edge of the placket, chain 1, and turn.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   And now the first row is done!

For the second row, sc in each sc and in each chain. For the third and all consecutive rows, sc in every sc. After the third or fourth row, hold one of your buttons up to the placket to see if it's wide enough.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   I'll need a few more rows for the placket to fit these buttons.

I decided five rows was just right for my buttons, but you might want more or less. When yours is wide enough, finish off and weave in the ends.

4. Now comes the "buttonhole side" of the placket. Join onto the right side of the placket and crochet two rows just as you did for the other side. Next, you'll need to measure the length of the placket and divide it by the number of buttons you plan to use. Place stitch markers (or safety pins) where you want each hole.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Place markers to indicate the buttonhole placement.

Also measure one of your buttons against your stitches to determine how many stitches wide each buttonhole should be. Mine are three-stitch holes. The row you make the holes in should be the center row of your placket. Mine is five rows wide, so I put the holes into the third row. If you are using an even number of rows, put the holes in the row after the halfway point (so for six, use the fourth row). To make the buttonholes, sc up to the beginning of the hole, chain the required number of stitches (I did three)...

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Chain the required number of stitches to begin the buttonhole...

...skip the same number of stitches, and sc into the very next stitch (in my case, the fourth).

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   ...and complete it by single crocheting into the next stitch after the skipped ones.

Continue in sc to the next hole and repeat. On the following row, sc into each chain of the holes as you come to them. Complete the remaining rows in sc, finish off, and weave in the ends. Sew the buttons onto the left-side placket.

5. Make the cuff ruffles. Cut the scrap you trimmed from the bottom of the shirt in half, and, still folded, trim each half to be 1-1/2 times the cuff width as shown.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Cut the ruffle pieces 1-1/2 times the width of the cuff for a nice gathering ratio.

Seam the short ends and run a gathering stitch along the unfinished edge. Pull the gathering threads and distribute the fullness evenly. Pin the ruffle layered underneath the sleeve cuff edges as shown, and stitch over the existing hem with a wide zigzag.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   I stitched the ruffle so it's layered under the original cuff hem.


And that's it! Yet another old, unworn tee is reincarnated and becomes a staple.

How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   The finished item.
How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   Here's a close-up of the placket.
How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan   I think this cardi will get lots of wear!
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posted in: yarn, tshirt, cardigan

Comments (35)

HempPatch writes: To embellish this great upcycle, I'm thinking of crocheting little granny squares and roundels to cluster here and there. Pockets of bigger granny squares would be kind of cool too.
Posted: 11:29 am on June 28th
MadhaviBurra writes: toooooooooooooo good

Posted: 2:03 am on December 27th
Hampton300 writes: I did something similar several years ago with a turtleneck top when I moved to Fl and didn't need it any more. I basically just split it completely down the middle and finished the edges for a cardigan. (It works best if you make sure you split it down the front not the back.) It makes a nice collar and I machine-stitched the edges. Your finish is a much better look. I wear it all the time when it's chilly.
Posted: 1:16 am on November 3rd
LindaLW666 writes: very pretty top, and it looks like I could do it! Thank you, this is a great idea!
Posted: 9:03 pm on March 10th
Leonieanne writes: Lovely idea. Now we're in the cold of Autumn, it works great with a jumper (sweater) too. Just done one with blanket stitch edges, but the crochet is much better, letting you put the buttons on. Also found that little crochet flowers can hide a multitude of sins on corners. Cheers!
Posted: 6:09 am on October 20th
Esye writes: I am so happy i found your explanation. Thank you very much.
Posted: 9:24 am on August 12th
Beaw writes: OMG! I try it and I love it.. I will be making so many different colors. Thank you!

Posted: 4:37 pm on August 7th
HotFuzz writes: Very easy to make for an amateur seamstress like me.
Posted: 5:32 pm on August 2nd
Orcaskat writes: Well done, you look great in it!
Posted: 10:13 pm on March 24th
Jay_B writes: I've only just gotten back into crochet and this will be a perfect project to use my refounds skills. Cheers.
Posted: 6:30 pm on March 11th
biancamargherita writes: Absolutely adorable!!!!!!!!
Posted: 7:00 pm on February 19th
gailg633 writes: I have wanted to crochet on t-shirts ever since I bought a tank down in Jamaica for my daughter that was crochet trimmed. This is a great project to get me started.
Posted: 9:35 pm on February 18th
Posted: 8:19 am on February 3rd
SabrinaStyle writes: What clever crochet on the button overlap!
Posted: 5:06 pm on September 29th
BzeGirl writes: love it... awesome idea!
Posted: 2:02 pm on July 16th
21centurydressmaker writes: you're genial! We all have so many oversized dumb t's and with so much charm, and sewing fun you have re-invented, re-cycled and stamped it with your signature! I love it and am off to try my hand at one.
drop by my blog, it's full of ways to cut and sew new from old -
or you may like my book - Denim Revolution - a scource for high fashion ways to remake jeans, i filled it with goodies, all my favorites.
Posted: 4:31 am on June 4th
ojosdelaluna writes: this is too cute...i'm going to be trying this one out!
Posted: 6:09 pm on May 30th
chips48 writes: What an absolutely fabulous idea. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Have a great day!

Posted: 12:29 am on May 23rd
carolwiebe writes: Fabulous! I am definitely going to use this!
Posted: 9:13 am on May 9th
beaderonboard writes: What a very clever idea, I will definetley give it a try.
Thanks for sharing

Posted: 5:21 pm on May 6th
multicrafty writes: Oh I love this! I've got a few tshirts set aside that I've been wondering what to do with them. Thanks!
Posted: 7:19 am on May 5th
Shylata3 writes: LOL! I was kicked out of sewing class in the 7th grade ...I sewed my finger 2 times! But I think even I can make this cute sweater! Thanks for the great photos and instructions!
Posted: 7:46 pm on April 17th
KayakChickee writes: Noa, I did crochet around the edges of the sleeves since I had cut off the edge already from using the same t-shirt for another craft project. Abandoned that one to make the t-shirt into this cardi. Way too cute!
Posted: 4:10 pm on April 13th
Isra95 writes:
Very nice
Posted: 12:34 pm on April 12th
Sweet_Dee writes: Perfect for summer nights!
Posted: 7:08 pm on April 10th
KnitPurlGurl writes: I think it'd also be great for summer without the added sleeve on the bottom for ruffle. Basically, just using the sleeve that's there already. I cute and cool (cotton) layering piece.
Posted: 11:13 am on April 9th
KnitPurlGurl writes: Noa - I like that idea!

I will definitely have to give this a try! I also think making two at a time with two different colors and swapping (each cardi would have different colored sleeves than the rest of the body) would be interesting in a child's version - especially if in primary colors.
Posted: 11:10 am on April 9th
jkundhi writes: very creative!
Posted: 5:35 pm on April 7th
Sister_Diane writes: Oh, my goodness - I love this so much! Thank you for the clear, easy to follow instructions.
Posted: 4:52 pm on April 7th
domenicogifts writes: Really great idea!
Posted: 2:54 pm on April 7th
CalPatch writes: maureclaire: yes! i turned it inside out because i didn't like the graphic, though i often do it anyway because i like the raw seams ;n)

and noa: yes, you could really go all-out and crochet all the edges! i'd love to see yours if you do it...
Posted: 2:46 pm on April 7th
Maureclaire writes: Did you turn it inside- out because there was an unwanted graphic on it ?
Posted: 1:11 pm on April 7th
noa writes: Wow! I think crocheting around the neckline, bottom and sleeves would look great too.
Posted: 1:09 pm on April 7th
Maureclaire writes:
Adorable !!!
Posted: 1:09 pm on April 7th
theemptynest writes: Love it!!!
Posted: 12:47 pm on April 7th
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