You know those people who somehow have the ability to turn their ratty old T-shirts into a cool new top with just a pair of scissors? You’re about to become one of those people.
Learning how to cut a tee that’s seen better days into a top with fresh life isn’t just a fun party trick, either—it’s a greener alternative to trashing the shirt.
“Upcycling a perfectly good tee instead of getting rid of it is something to feel good about,” says Jaynee Singer, who co-founded LA Collective, a company that makes and sells clothing manufactured in Los Angeles. “By redesigning it into a different style, you’re playing a small part in reducing the amount of waste that gets dumped in landfills.”
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While you can cut up pretty much any type of fabric, your best bet is to stick with cotton tees. You’ll need a few materials for the job.
Freeman honed her T-shirt cutting skills at summer camp as a tween but says she used to DIY her own workout tops as an adult too. Below, she and Singer share their favorite DYI tips and tricks for how to cut a T-shirt into a workout top. No sweat!
Start by turning the tee inside out and then putting it on.
Measure where your natural waist is by placing two fingers above your belly button and marking the spot with a disappearing ink pen.
Take the shirt off, place it on a flat surface, and use a ruler to drawa horizontal line across the width of the tee, level with that mark. Use your ruler to measure from the hem up to the crop line in a few different places to ensure the they’re the same length and that line is level.
Use your fabric scissors to cut across the line.
’80s Slash Tee
Put your shirt on and place your non-dominate hand on your chest so that your pointer finger is touching the bottom of the collar. Then, make a mark with your disappearing ink pen just below your pinky finger. (It should be right above the indent where your cleavage starts.)
Take the shirt off, lay it on a flat surface, and use a ruler to draw a straight line horizontally across the front of your T-shirt through that mark, stopping two inches before the armpits on either side. This is your starting line for making slits.
Make a second line that runs parallel to the first but is about one inch below the collar of your shirt.
Use the ruler to draw vertical lines between the two parallel lines. Make them about the width of the ruler apart from each other.
Cut along the vertical lines. (The raw edges will curl to create slashes in the shirt.)
Cut just the back of the shirt using the cropped-tee steps above.
Lay the shirt on a flat surface, front-side up.
Use a ruler to find the middle of the bottom seam and mark it with your disappearing ink pen.
Draw a line from that dot to where the front of the shirt meets the crop line on the left-hand side of the shirt. Repeat the process with the right-hand side of the shirt.
Divide the front of the shirt in half by drawing a line from the dot on the bottom seam to the point on the front side of the shirt that’s in line with the crop line on the back. Then cut along that line to split the front of the shirt into two rectangles.
Cut off the fabric along the angled lines you’ve drawn to make the front of the shirt look like an inverted triangle with a slit down the middle.
Turn the shirt right-side out, and tie the two loose ends to form a knot.
Put a T-shirt on over a bra to determine where you want your straps to be. Using a disposable disappearing ink pen, mark where your bra straps rest under the shirt along the top seam.
Make a mark in the middle of the shirt as low as you’d like the scoop neck of the tank to go.
Take your shirt off, and lay it down on a flat surface. Then grab a coffee can or other circular object that’s slightly bigger than the arm hole of your shirt, and use it to trace a curved line that starts half an inch outside of your pen mark on the top seam of the left side of the shirt and that ends at the outer seam of the tee, below the sleeve. Repeat on the other side.
Use the same object to trace a semicircle that starts half an inch inside of the bra-strap mark on the left side of your shirt and ends at the same spot on the right side. At the lowest point, it should pass through the mark you made on the middle of the shirt.
Cut along the curved lines you made on the sides of the shirt. Then, remove the collar by cutting through both layers of the tee along the semicircle you traced in the middle.
High-Low Scoop Back Tee
Put the shirt on and make a mark on the front of the shirt two-fingers-width-distance below the belly button.
Take the shirt off, and instead of laying it flat with the front side up, lay it down so that the left sleeve of the shirt is centered and facing up (the right sleeve of the shirt will be directly beneath it, lying on the work surface). The bottom edges of the shirt should also be flush with each other.
Draw an elongated “S” shape into the side of the tee. The top of the S should be level with the mark in the middle of the shirt, and the base of the S should be in line with the bottom seam of the tee.
Cut along your line, making sure to trim just above the the bottom seam of the shirt to remove the back hem.