DIY: T-shirt alteration challenge

T-shirt DIY

DIY: T-shirt alteration

I remember now how those GBSB alteration challenges felt…I remember because Gemma set me a t-shirt alteration challenge of my own the other night. I was given a simple black t-shirt to upcycle and 60 mins, I tried to talk the judge to up the time, but she wasn’t budging!!

So what to do? Well I’ve seen some tops recently where the back portion has been replaced with a sheer fabric and it gives it a whole new dimension, I thought to myself “that could work”, plus I have just the right sheer fabric to do it.

t-shirt alteration: all the ingredients of a t-shirt upcycle

1) I begin by chalking out a shape in the back portion that I’d like to replace, for this I chose an elongated triangle coming up from the hem at the back up to the neck line. The key thing here was symmetry.

2) I take a pair of scissors and chop-chop-chop, out it comes.

3) Next up I take that cut out section and lay it flat on top of my chosen replacement fabric, this gives me a nice guide for cutting out and is way easier than measuring. Lets not forget Gems is a fearsome timekeeper. 😉 I leave an extra 5/8ths as a seam allowance for the join. I’m not to precious about the length for now as I’ll hem it at the end, so for the time being I leave plenty and just cut it straight across.

4) Now for the fun bit….pinning sheer fabric to jersey. These two fabrics have very different ideas, one wants to roll inwards, the other wants to float away or slip out from your grasp. None the less with a bit of perseverance I get them held together evenly.

Right side to right side, I begin by stitching from as high up the point as I can, working downwards to the hem. I then repeat this for the other side. Finishing with a small section of topstitching on the tip of the point, above where I began my long stitching runs, this holds it nice and securely in place.

Luckily at this point Gems took my hint about being supplied copious sweets during the Bee challenges.

Lastly I get to do the hemline. I’ve decided to emulate the curved hem that Claire-Louise Hardie did on the Shell top in the GBSB3 book, so I cut the t-shirt front in a smooth curve and then mirror this on the newly inserted rear section.

I turn these to the inside and press then topstitch in place.

There you go!

Ok so I didn’t manage the t-shirt alteration inside the 60 mins, but I did manage it inside 90, which I’m pretty sure never happened on the Sewing Bee.

With the #ShwopandSew Lab at M&S Broadmead as part of Bristol Big Green Week, I hope this might help inspire some of you to give an alteration a go. Come on, what have you got to lose?!

Matt ChappleMatt x

The stitcher. A magnet for foolery & prankster at heart. Loves being creative, whether with some wood and a saw or with a needle and thread. Attempts to disguise his past time activities as manly pursuits, but is actually pretty handy at sewing!


  1. Jo 4 years ago

    Great tutorial, Matt! We would love you feature on our “Monthly Make from Bloggers you Love” Let me know what you think. We all miss the Sewing Bee posy!
    Jo x

  2. Chris 4 years ago

    This is great. I have never been lucky with alterations because I just have zero imagination in that field, but this I could totally do. I’m already taking stock of which tops I don’t really wear anymore to try this!

    • Author
      Matt 4 years ago

      Hi Chris, Alterations can be tricky but also good fun as if you are not wearing an item of clothing any more then you might as well try and get some use out of it. Give this one a go, let me know how you get on…Matt

  3. lorna 4 years ago

    Love this Matt. I love the idea of changing what could be quite a boring plain t-shirt into a completely unique and funky top. And in a really straight forward quick way! I really like that you decided to add the fabric to the back aswell. Must try this one!

    • Author
      Matt 4 years ago

      Thanks Lorna, it’s great to have a result so quickly and like you say brilliant to refashion something plain into something completely individual. Let me know how you get on when you give it a go…Matt

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