ruffle t-shirt tutorial

Sorry for the tutorial delay, eager sewers. Let me start my saying that I doubt this is the best or even the right way to make your own t-shirt. This is simply how it occurred to me to do it. If you are a sewing expert and have lots of wisdom on this subject to share, please comment! Also, I do not have a fancy sewing machine or a serger. So we are talking super basic stuff here. Works for me, so I hope it works for you, too!

Ruffle T-Shirt Tutorial

First, pick your favorite t-shirt out of your closet. You are going to use it as your pattern. Fold the sleeves back inside the shirt and pin them there. You just want the shell of the shirt for your body pattern pieces. Lay it out over your fabric (mine is doubled over so I only have to cut once). You'll want to pay attention to the grain of your fabric and how it stretches - you want it to stretch side-to-side. I used a bamboo/cotton jersey knit fabric.

Cut around your t-shirt, leaving at least a 1/4 inch margin around all sides for seam allowance. Like so:

(p.s. pay attention to how the sleeves look on your store-bought shirt as they are pinned inside. This is how you will pin your fabric together later to attach the sleeves)

You should have two identical pieces. Take one of those pieces and fold it in half horizontally. It should look like this:

Cut your front neckline out of this folded piece. I like to do a scoop neck, but you can cut whatever neckline you want. If you are afraid of cutting too deep, just keep an eye on the bottom of the arm hole, which is approximately even with the middle of your bustline.

Ok, body pieces are ready for sewing. Now you need sleeves. Here is a template I use for my shirts. I have small/medium-ish sized arms. You'll have to adjust the template to fit your arms.
Please note that this template requires you to cut on a fold line - meaning you fold the fabric in half and line up the "fold line" side with the fold of the fabric. After you cut and unfold, you should have something that looks like this:

Cut two. :)

And we are ready to start sewing. Many of you expressed your fear of knits in the other post. They are not so scary. Use a ball-point jersey needle (this is absolutely necessary), and you'll be fine. A zig-zag stitch is helpful as well.

Pin your two body pieces, right sides facing together. Fold your sleeves in half, right sides together, and pin on the short side.

Using a 1/4 inch seam and a zig-zag stitch, sew
  • each side of the shirt (DON'T sew the arm hole)
  • the tops of each shoulder
  • the seam on each sleeve
Finish off the seam using another zig-zag stitch as close to the edge of the fabric as you can manage. Or, if you have a serger, you'll want to use that I'm sure. (p.s. I am jealous of you)

Here's where your seams will be:

Make sure you press all of your seams. It makes a huge difference in the finished product.

Next, hem both sleeves. With the sleeve inside out, fold the edge up 1/4 inch and press. Then fold again (about 1/4 inch, or more, if you want a wider hem) and press. Pin in place and sew in place. I still used a zig-zag stitch, so my sleeve would stretch.

Ok, this next part is the lazy measurer's guide to fit. A normal person would measure the arm hole and then cut the sleeve to fit, right? Not me. Too lazy. Instead, I make it fit by adding a little gather to the top of the sleeve.

First, sew a baste stitch (the longest straight stitch your machine will do) along the top arch of the sleeve. You don't need to sew all the way around, just across the middle will do. Leave long threads on both sides. Don't back-stitch, or it won't work! It will look like this:

Pull only the back thread, and the fabric will begin to gather. You suddenly have more feminine sleeves. :)
Now you'll need to attach the sleeves to your shirt. This was hard to photograph, so I'll do my best to explain.

Turn the body of your shirt inside out, and your sleeves right side out. Stuff the sleeve inside the shirt, lining up the raw edges of both pieces. The bottom seam of the sleeve will line up with the bottom seam of the arm hole. Start pinning where those seams align, and move up the arm hole on either side. The sleeve will be inside the shirt, just like when you were using your favorite t-shirt as a cutting pattern. Remember? ;)

When you get to the top of the arm hole, adjust the gathered top of the sleeve (either loosen or tighten the gather) so it all fits together well and finish pinning.

I sincerely hope that all made sense. Here's what it should look like:

Sew around the arm hole using a 1/4 inch seam and zig-zag stitch. Finish off the seam with another zig-zag along the edge, or using a serger.

Turn your shirt right side out, and what do you know ... it actually looks like a shirt!

This is a good time to actually try the shirt on. Do you like your neckline? If not, you can still trim it to the desired shape.

When you are satisfied, sew a little zig-zag stitch all the way around the edge.

Turn the shirt inside out again. Fold over approximately 1/4 inch around the entire neckline and press. Pin in place. Then sew it in place (I am still using a small zig-zag stitch here).

Now hem the bottom of the shirt the exact same way. You could also do a double fold hem, but this is faster, and I think looks just as good.

Your shirt is officially done, but stick with me if you want to add a ruffle.

Cut a long 1 1/2 inch strip of fabric to make the ruffle. It needs to be approximately 1 1/2 to 2 times longer than the circumference of your shirt's neckline, but I just eyeball it. Better too long than too short, because you can always trim it later.

Sew a zig-zag stitch all the way down each side, as close to the edge as possible. Then sew a basting stitch all the way down the center of the strip, leaving long threads on each end. Remember, no back-stitching on the baste stitch!

Pulling gently on the back thread only, carefully gather the strip of fabric into a ruffle.

Starting from the middle of the neckline on the back of the shirt, pin the ruffle to the neckline, right over where you hemmed it. You can adjust the tightness of the ruffle as you go, making sure it is consistently ruffly.

When you get back to the starting point, cut off any excess ruffle length, leaving just a little bit to fold under. Sew the ruffle in place using a straight stitch, following the baste stitch as a guide.

And that's it! See, sewing on knits is not so bad, right?

Sorry for the less-than-great finished shot (it actually does lay flat in front - oops). Maybe when the shirt reaches its intended recipient she will take a photo of how fabulous she looks in it. :)

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bsalgado34 said...

What kind of material did you use to make the shirt?

Jill said...

I used a bamboo/cotton jersey knit.

Amber said...

Ack - I'm feeling overwhelmed, even with such a good tutorial. I think my current level of sewing bravery is going to have me sticking to the spring tote as my next project, if I ever in my life finish my quiet books. I do love your sewing adventure - thanks!

Meg said...

Hello, kindred spirit. Thank you much for just using another shirt as a pattern. Tis cute. AND - how are your 100 push ups coming?

Jill said...

re: 100 pusups - gah. I faithfully did all my workouts through the end of week 4. In my last workout I did a total of 160 push ups. 160! I felt like I was going to die, and the whole thing ceased being fun. So I quit. And Jared reminds me daily that I am a quitter.

I think it is a great training program, but I just don't feel the need to get to 100. I think I'll try the sit up and squat program next.

casserole said...

This is such a great shirt!! I posted a link to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:

mammafelice said...

Thanks for sharing... it's perfect!

arzu said...

I lıke t-shırt=)

Ashley said...

Thank you for sharing! I have avoided buying jersey/knit like the plague but your tutorial makes it seem do-able! said...

Oooh pretty! I agree with the pp, you make this look so easy and do-able! Very encouraging and inspiring. I'll be linking.

Simply Delightful said...

I have followed your blog for awhile and haven't commented yet, so I just wanted to tell you that your ideas are fabulous. I had a baby a little while ago and it was so nice to use your tutorials for cute baby projects.

Kari @ Ucreate said...

I have to make one, and of course I have to feature this!

K. Tacher said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! :)

jillbert said...

I'm thinking about buying two t-shirts and using the 2nd one to cut the strip for the ruffle. That way maybe I could just re-fashion the neckline and avoid sewing a whole shirt. Or I could just get over my fear and sew the whole shirt. You do make it look easy!

Kathy - mom of many said...

Thanks for this tutorial...I love to see a photo of the person wearing it, maybe you can encourage a photo when she gets it.
I would love to do this on a t-shirt making contrasting colored ruffles.

linda said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial! can't wait to make one!

Deanna said...

you are SO awesome! I actually took pattern design along with fitting and alteration classes as part of my major, and teach HS classes for sewing, amongst other stuff...I would like to say that I'm uber impressed, and for somebody that doesn't sew a lot, these instructions work. Don't tell my professors or co-workers. :) Keep up the good work and AWESOME tutorials!

Jaclyn said...

I think I might just try this tomorrow! I've never actually made "clothes", but this looks like it is fairly easy, and with your great tutorial, it should be a breaze! Hopefully it won't end up like the Cosby Show episode when Denise tries to make a shirt for Theo...haha!

Colleen said...

I love this Jill. I really want to try to make my own. Thanks.

Relaby said...

thanks for the tutorial...really nice...I have to read/understand it well...i'm always having problems with those sleeves thing... c",)

stephanie said...

So cute, Jill! I wish you would model it for us. :)