Turn an old tshirt into a stylish racerback tank in just 20 minutes.
As the mercury started to climb this summer, it quickly became clear that I needed more sleeveless shirts. So I set to work figuring out how to transform a tshirt into a cute, tank top as easily as possible. After cutting up a stack of tshirts, I've finally arrived on a simple design I'm proud to share. This design only requires one small seam, the rest of the work is just careful cutting and braiding. Happy summer, enjoy!
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Start with a tshirt with no side seams. Printing is okay, as long as it doesn’t make the fabric stiff or pucker. Also check how the printing looks on the inside of the fabric (the finished tank is turned inside out)– some designs show up through the fabric. Old, beat-up tshirts work great! 100% cotton will work for this pattern, but I think that a cotton/poly blend often has a nicer drape, and is more resistant to unraveling.
Select a shirt that has a width 3-6″ larger than your bust measurement. So: 30″ bust= 36″ tshirt (or 18″ across); 36″ bust = 42″ tshirt (or 21″ across). The bigger the tshirt you use in relation to your size, the more drape the tank will have. This pattern works for size 30-42″ bust. (There is no reason this technique wouldn’t work for smaller or larger sizes, but the pattern pieces will start to be out of proportion. You could also experiment with scaling up or down the pattern pieces for extra small or large sizes.)
Cut out pattern:
Rearrange the shirt so that the holes from the sleeves are lined up and in the center. Straighten fabric so that it lies flat. This is the one point that you want to be really fussy– after all, you’re hardly sewing anything , so your cut lines are even more important. Lay a ruler (or something else with a straight edge) across the tshirt horizontally. Place your pattern pieces on the tshirt aligned with the folds and move the ruler (and pattern) up or down until the pieces can completely fit on the tee. If possible, try to avoid having printed fabric run through the straps (on the front pattern piece). Printing sometimes affects the stretch of the fabric, which can show up in the braided strap.
It’s all lined up? Now cut it out! I didn’t pin my pattern down or trace the pattern onto the fabric, but you should do whatever works best for you and helps you keep your cuts neat.
Braid the Straps:
Gently pull the strands to stretch them out. As you pull, they will begin to curl over onto themselves. Snip the top strand in two, right in the middle. (The other two strands remain attached at both ends.) Begin the braid by bringing the outside piece (the one you snipped) into the center. Continue braiding normally until you reach the end of the snipped piece. Pin your braid while you work on the other side. Repeat the same process on the other side.
Sew up the back:
Turn the shirt inside out. (Any printing should now be on the inside of the shirt) Fold the top edges over to meet each other in the center. Either machine or hand sew a seam between the notches. (You are just sewing the two flaps together, not sewing them down to the fabric beneath.) If you are hand sewing, start at the bottom, and do not cut your thread, just leave your thread hanging off the top of the seam.
Fold the tip of the triangle (about an inch) over the braid to hold up the strap. Pin in place. Now try on the shirt. Adjust the fit by changing how much of the triangle you have folded down. Once you’re satisfied with the fit, sew a few stitches securing the top of the folded triangle to the lining.
There’s a number of things you can do to finish the edge. 1. Like the way it looks as is? Just leave it. 2. Want a little more length? Rip out the existing hem seam and iron flat. 3. Want less length? Just cut off the hem and leave the edge unfinished.
Personally, I like it best when the edge is left raw– I think it gels with the rest of the shirt a little better.