Cutout t-shirt refashions: summer trio

Summer still lingers here so I’m catching up on writing up the last of my summer projects before I move on into my fall makes.  Earlier in the summer, I picked up a few t-shirts at the thrift store for refashions.  One of them, you already saw me re-make in my Split Flutter Sleeve hack video.  The other 3 I decided to remake with some cutout features.  I often use t-shirt refashions as a way to test out ideas and think creatively about knits.  So here are 3 Cutout t-shirt refashions for you.


cutout t-shirt refashions

Blue print before

Before I show you each one, I have to show where they started.  The blue shirt is a cotton Calvin Klein tee that has a low v in the front that’s trimmed with twill tape.  There’s also some smocking on the front shoulders.  The blue is one of my blues in my color palette, and I really liked the print.  It’s not often that I find prints that are perfectly in my palette, so when I find them, I grab them.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Peach stripe before

The varying stripes on this white/peach cotton tee were really intriguing to me.  I’m a big fan of Pauline and her amazing stripe creations, so I thought I’d try my hand at doing something to utilize the stripes in a way that she might.

cutout t-shirt refashions

J Crew green tee of doom before

Spoiler alert on this green J Crew tee.  It did not turn out as I wanted.  It’s one of those evil cotton knits that expand when you blink at them.  As such it did not do what I wanted it to do.  I should have passed by it, but the green was so pretty, and it was J Crew so I figured (erroneously) that it was quality.  Dear J Crew, you really should do better.

Chop, chop, chippity chop

Inspiration at the baseball game

cutout t-shirt refashions

My older two boys play baseball, and there was one night we were leaving practice and I saw another Mom with the cutest tee.  It had a back low v-neck with an X made from strips of the fabric across the upper back.  I liked it so much, I scrawled a rough sketch on a scrap of paper in the car.  Do you do this when you see a cool detail on someone on the street?

The blue tee was easy to turn into a version of this.  I cut the back from the front since it already had the v-neck detail.  I also scooped out a little bit more of the neck.  The bottom of the twill tape was too low for a back (and really for a front too), so I stitched it up the now center back to a better height.

I cut a couple of 3″ strips to make into turned tubes for the X back.  Because the corners of the twill tape were a little floppy on the back, I attached one end of each of the X strips to the corners.  The other ends I attached under the new neckline after it was bound.  I pinned each of the other ends under the neckline after it was bound to the point where the X and the corners of the v-neck sat taut across the back.

The front is a simple neckline somewhere between a scoop and a crew, and I gave this one cap sleeves which have been perfect for summer.

Peach in a blender

My inspiration for this tee came from this Anthropologie tee I pinned on my t-shirt hacking board.

Tie-Back Tunic - $58. This color only :-(

I didn’t really like the gathered portion of the back, and the ties seemed overly fussy.  Instead, I opted for a plain yoke with the peekaboo center back beneath it.  My kids really got a kick out of the peekaboo when I was in the process of making it.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Stripe play

I was really lucky that I had not only a lot of extra width to deal with in this tee but a lot of extra length too.  I was able to cut the lower back with offset stripes.  They match the front on one side and are offset on the other side seam.

cutout t-shirt refashions

The upper back I cut from one of the sleeves, though I had to cut in in 2 pieces which I overlapped and stitched down with my coverstitch.  From the rest of that sleeve, I cut a bias tiny pocket for the front.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Can you believe that I could cut both of the cap sleeves from the other sleeve?  It’s not too often that I can do exactly what I have in my head in a refashion, but this was one of those times.

Cutout tank (*Not all your ideas are golden, Ponyboy.*)

So for the green tee, I wanted to do a cutout on the shoulder a bit like this Express tee.

Express Tops - Express Cut Out Shoulder Tank*NEW* size L

I knew that I wanted to make a bit of lattice work under the cutout, and that’s where things went south.  This green knit could not handle the extra manipulation.  It did not have the extra recovery it needed to stretch across the gap and hold well without overstretching.  You can see that the back neck is bagging out too.  This fabric had humble aspirations of being a plain basic tee and that’s it.

At first, my lattice ended up all stretched out and horrible.

cutout t-shirt refashions

I was able to unpick it and redo the intersections so that everything sat flat.  If only I had made the left front with the cutout from the beginning too instead of binding the armhole THEN cutting it out.  I think that would have been a cleaner look.  Still, given the recovery issues with the knit, I’m not sure I would have gotten a better result.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Ultimately, the tee is wearable, but it’s just not my best work.  I’d really like to try this idea out again this time from yardage in a more appropriate knit.

What the worst knit that you’ve ever sewn?  Could you salvage your project?  What did you learn in the process?


25 thoughts on “Cutout t-shirt refashions: summer trio”

  1. The back of that blue tee is really fun! I think the worst knit I ever played with was this royal blue slinky maxi skirt that I picked up thrifting. I loved the color and the sheen, and attempted to rework it into some kind of top. It did NOT work. Ripples everywhere. I’m pretty sure this was in my pre-serger days, so that didn’t help. I’m fairly certain that it’s buried somewhere in the early depths of my blog, as I’m all about keeping it real and documenting both my failures and my successes. (Good thing, given how my sewing has generally gone this year.)

    1. Slinky without a serger? Wow, that sounds like a hard day! It’s good I think to go through those bad fabrics because now you have an opinion about it! But that would’ve been a cool top if it had turned out. Maxi skirts are so awesome for refashioning because of all of the undisturbed yardage!

  2. The peach striped tee is my favorite. I’m such a fan of cut-out backs and yours is so perfect I would wear that in a hear beat. You’ve inspired me to rework a few of my makes that aren’t my favorites any more into garments that work! Your lattice work project reminds me of a few knit projects I’ve had that went ‘bad’ because of recovery issues….you’re not alone:)

    1. Do it–I’d love to see what you come up with! I hope cut out backs keep being in for a while because there’s so many cool variations out there. Recovery in knits is one of those level 2 knit work lessons after you’ve gotten some of the construction and working with knits down. Some days I think I have a really good handle on it, and others, getting the fabric to play nicely is rather elusive. I try to pass on low recovery knits though sometimes (like this one) I get sucked into getting them because of the print or the color. To quote the song: You can’t always get what you want!

  3. Great shirts! That peach one is especially nice.
    You mention wanting a dress form, the lady who blogs over at twoontwooff recently made one using a custom downloadable form pattern.

    1. Oh cool! I love reading Dawn’s stuff. I’ll go check it out. I know that Andrea of Sew To Fit was doing a sew along with making custom forms using Bootstrap Fashion’s custom pattern. I wonder if it was the same one…

  4. Well my biggest issue is hemming, I’ve tried stabilizer, steam, double needles, I just don’t get a professional finish. I love the idea of sustainable sewing and repurposing, I never thought to make a center back seam on my current t shirts for shaping. Great info!

    1. We as women get the shaft on center backs. Our backs are not straight up and down, but so many patterns have you cut center back on the fold. In menswear you see center back on the fold practically never. I guess the tailoring tradition is firmly entrenched on their side, and no doubt that shaping looks better even if you have to have an extra seam. I’m with you. As much as I’ve gotten more comfortable/adept at dealing with knits, I never liked the finish on the hems until I got my coverstitch. That’s my one regret–not buying that puppy sooner!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *