I wanted to refashion a men’s shirt into an off-the-shoulders blouse. Another goal was to use most of the shirt by including different parts of the shirt in the blouse design. I drew a quick sketch to help me plan how I would cut the shirt.
See how I transformed this men’s shirt into a cute summer top in about 4 hours.
I carefully detached the front pocket from the shirt with a seam ripper and pulled all of the cut threads from the shirt. I ironed the emplacement were the pocket was sewn on with lots of steam to remove the little stitching holes.
I cut off the collar from the shirt by cutting 3/8 of an inch (1 cm) under the collar band.
In passing, I purchased a large shirt to get a nice gathering around the shoulders.
I wanted to use the bottom part of the sleeves to make pockets and I wanted to keep the original buttoned plackets as part of the pockets. I therefore cut the sleeves 1 inch (2.5 cm) higher than the end of the placket. That will leave the shirt with elbow sleeves length, perfect.
The shirt was ready to be cut into different parts;
With a square-up ruler I marked a line at the top of the shirt (it was easy I followed one of the shirt stripe) and cut along my marks. You see that my marks are about 5 inches below the shoulder seams – Remember that I purchased a large size relaxed fit shirt. I wanted the shirt length to arrive below my hips and keep the original curved bottom hem. This length also raises the armholes to the desired position against my form.
A little advice before you cut off the top of the shirt;
It is important to square-up the line you are going to cut. Do not cut on a curved angle (see first image above). As you can see in the second image, you will end up with a “V” dip in the middle of the sleeves, as you won’t be able to fold and sew an even width elastic casing. You could obviously correct the line to make it straight, but it won’t be an easy task.
I then assembled the pieces to create my blouse;
To prevent the fabric from fraying, I finished the neckline and the sleeves bottom edges with a serger.
Preparing the elastic casing;
The width of the casing will be only 1/8 of an inch ( 0.3 mm) wider that the 3/4 of an inch (1.3 mm) braided elastic I will use. I cut the elastic 2 inches shorter than my shoulders width to ensure the blouse will stay on my shoulders. Allow an extra 1 inch (2.5 cm) to sew the elastic ends together. (Note: Do not cut the elastic more than 2 inches as an increased tension will cause the blouse to run up above your shoulders).
Before sewing the elastic casing I decided to sew some lace around the top neckline. I always have that need to improve… I thought it would add a charming touch to this blouse.
I have to sew the lace around the neckline BEFORE I fold and sew the elastic casing.
I measured the lace width and decided the placement of the lace on the neckline. To be certain of the lace placement, I folded the casing to visualize what part of the lace will show over the neckline casing (see second image). Yes, this will look good.
This is how I joined my lace ends (I also use that method for all trimmings);
I started by folding one end of the lace onto itself and pinned it on the starting point on the neckline. I then pinned the lace around the complete neckline circumference.
Before reaching the end point of the neckline circumference, I cut the lace about 1.5 inches (2.5 cm) longer that the length needed to close the circumference. I then folded that extra 1.5 inches (3.80 cm) of lace onto itself and I pinned the lace end close to the starting point . (See the image No 1 above where I pushed open at the sleeve for you to see that the lace ends are touching but at this point not sewn together).
(Image No 2) shows how your lace ends should touch each other at the junction point.
When I will sew the lace onto the neckline and before I arrive at my starting point. I will then unfold that extra 1.5 inches (3.80 cm) of length and use whatever I need to sew the junction close.
(Image No 3) I will then join the lace ends with a few hand stitches making a nice invisible seamless junction.
(I prefer this method because I dislike arriving at the end of a circumference and not having enough length to close the junction of the trimming).
I am now ready to machine stitch the lace over the neckline.
I machine stitched the lace at two places, (see the red lines in the above picture).
Now to make the elastic casing/tunnel;
Fold the top of the neckline inwards to create the gathered neckline. Pin in place around the neckline. “Neckline” (ie the shoulder line for this blouse). Sew along the bottom of the folded section to create a fabric tunnel in which the elastic will be inserted. To respect the measure I needed to machine stitch right over the finished edge.
(Tip; Do not sew all the way over your starting point, leave a gap at the start/finish junction, you will need that space to insert the elastic into the tunnel).
Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and work the elastic through the tunnel. Make sure your elastic remains flat inside the tunnel as you go.
I always attach the other end of the elastic to the casing with a safety pin. This way I cannot loose my elastic inside the tunnel.
I threaded the elastic all of the way through, until it appeared at the other end of the tunnel.
I sew the elastic ends together with lots of hand stitches but you could machine stitch the elastic ends together.
Machine stitch the casing close. Now distribute the fabric gatherings evenly over the neckline circumference.
Another safety trick;
Because I used a narrow elastic, I decided to machine stitch all of the fabric layers together including the elastic to prevent the elastic from twisting.
And… this is how the lace look on the neckline border.
Now the sleeves;
I sewed the lace along the sleeve edges. I aligned the lace the same way I did for the “neckline”. (You will note that I want regular sleeve ends with no elastic). And I machine stitched the lace at two places (see the red lines over the lace in the above image).
I next wanted to sew the front shirt pocket on the side of one sleeve.
I found and marked the middle of one sleeve to center the pocket.
I took the front pocket that I previously removed from the shirt and placed it on the sleeve side, aligning the middle of the pocket with the middle of the sleeve. It was very easy to do with the stripes.
I sewed the pocket in place. You can see that the stripes aren’t matching perfectly (albeit better than the original shirt producer, LOL) and I am okay with that.
Now, let’s make front patch pockets with the lower parts of the sleeves.
I marked the middle of the sleeve wrist cuffs and cut on my marks.
I measured the pocket width to allow for my hands to slip easily inside. For the pocket depth, I already knew that I wanted to keep the buttoned plackets and that determined my pocket depth.
Except for the top of the wrist cuffs, they will be the top of our pockets.
When placing the pockets on the shirt, I decided that it would be fun to have the pockets following the bottom curved hem. I folded the bottom of the pockets to follow the shirt hem, I marked and cut the new shape on the pocket fabric.
I pinned the pleats closed at the bottom of the pockets (see red arrows above) to allow the pocket to expand. I finished the cut edge with a serger.
My hem needed to be narrow 1/4 of an inch (0.3mm ), because I wanted to keep the entire length of the buttoned plackets.
I machine stitched close to the edges of the pocket.
I sewed a few extra stitches to reinforce the pocket corners.
You can see on the right pocket that the seam is a bit curvy near the wrist cuff even though both pockets had the same measurements. This one didn’t want to behave and remain straight which is okay.
I tried the blouse to verify the fit;
Youtch! This is baggy! Maybe buying a 2XL wasn’t such a good idea after all. (It was at this point my editor suggested this design could be use for pregnant mothers’ to be, this resulted in a 20 minute delay in the editorial process!!). So, I thought about using the shirt collar as a half-belt to help control the bagginess.
Let’s prepare the “martingale”. (I couldn’t find the English word for it; a half-belt is is not the proper name).
I carefully seam ripped the collar band off. I might find a use for it on my blouse later on.
I pinned along the collar while turning in both edges.
This way the collar is sewn closed on all sides. I then pressed the collar.
Let’s attach the half-belt to the shirt;
The best placement for the half-belt for my body shape was on the shirt side seams, 2 1/5 inches (6.3 cm) below the armhole. This way the half-belt held the gathering in the middle of my back. (When I tried the half-belt at the waist level the shirt gatherings were at my behind level. Not the emphasis I was looking for). I simply sewed a button on each side to hold the half-belt in place.
Here is the half-belt; it looks good.
Now, to stay with my goal of reusing most of the shirt for this project, I will use the shirt yoke and attached it to the neckline.
I didn’t finish the shoulder edges, as I will cut and adjust them later.
I removed the button to prevent sewing over it and break the sewing machine needle.
I cut the away the sleeve shoulders and a part of the front and back yoke.
I tried on the yoke to verify the fit.
The yoke fitted nicely on me, and the neckline didn’t need any adjustment. I simply folded a narrow 1/4 inch edge all around the neckline.
I prepared the blouse for another fitting;
I needed to attach the yoke to the bodice to try on the blouse to adjust the yoke to my form. For the front, I aligned the buttoned plackets with each other. For the back, I aligned the middle of the back yoke to the middle of the back bodice (see the red arrows in the above picture). Then pinned the two pieces together.
I made a few quick slip-baste stitches to hold the front and back yoke to the bodice.
In the above image, you see in red the excess that I need to remove from both the front and the back of the yoke. I ensured that the shoulder were wide enough to cover bra straps.
A piece always looks better after a good pressing!
Now, let’s attached the finished yoke to the bodice;
I pinned the yoke to the bodice in the same way I did for the fitting, by first matching the center back and center front, and then pin the sides.
I decided that it was best to hand stitch the yoke and the bodice together. I did not want to have another row of machine stitches showing around the neckline.
Hum, I like the look of the yoke against the contrasting white lace! do you?
And this is all that is left from the initial shirt. I wanted to make bows on the shoulders to use the left over collar band, but then I though enough, and decided I had achieved my goal!
A final pressing on the blouse, and Tada!
Go ahead and try, you can do it!