Thursday, June 21, 2012

Women's Chiffon-Trim Tank (upcycled)

I was inspired while window-shopping with my mom to make a summer top for myself!  I have tried and tried to find a picture of my inspiration shirt, but to no avail.  I do have a terrible photo on my phone, with awful reflections through the window, so I've chosen not to share it.  Instead, I'll just show you what I made!

I know, I know, I already showed you above, but this one shows the overall proportions better.
I started with this baggy, unflattering shirt that I only haven't donated because I was planning to make something out of it for Little Sister.  But she has plenty of stuff!  So this one's for me!  

I love the color, but it has always been too big, and too low-cut, with oddly baggy sleeves, so I never wore it.  Well, maybe to yoga a couple of times.

The inspiration shirt was a tank with slight gathering in front, just like this one.  It was striped, but it had a contrast floral chiffon hem as well as straps, which is really what inspired me.  The inspiration shirt was also more of a tunic length, but I was working with what I had, and I actually love the way the mid-hip length looks.

I had this floral polyester chiffon leftover from another repurposing project--this had been part of a tunic that I made into a dress for Little Sister that I still love.  It was one of my earliest repurposings, and man, it was a lot of work!  I try to keep things simpler now.

The magenta flowers were exactly the right color, and I had plenty left for this project!  Great, more encouragement to hang on to random scraps--just what I needed.  If only I had unlimited craft storage space!

I started by cutting off the sleeves and the waistband of the shirt.  I held on to the waistband because I had a feeling I could use it for something else (stay tuned!), and I would need the sleeve fabric to make bias tape for the armholes.

Then, using a shirt with a fit that I like, I determined where to take in the body of the shirt.

After getting an approximate width using the template shirt, I measured to make sure I was taking the same amount off of each side of the shirt:

Then I sewed a straight seam and a zig-zag for stability (hello, need to learn how to use my serger!), and trimmed off the extra.  If you have a serger (and know how to use it), this would be where to use it.

I measured the width at the base of my shirt, and cut a length of chiffon that was just a little wider than it (about two extra inches altogether).  The t-shirt is obviously stretchier than the chiffon, so you want some room to stretch the t-shirt as you attach the chiffon so that it's not too tight on your hips.  So, my t-shirt was 18.25 inches across the front (36.5 inches all the way around), so I made two chiffon strips each 19.5 inches long, including seam allowances (I didn't have enough chiffon for one continuous strip, so I had to sew two pieces together to make my continuous loop).  I wanted my band at the bottom to be around 3 inches wide, so my strips were each 19.5 inches long and 6 inches wide.
 With right sides facing (actually my fabric was the same on both sides so this didn't matter, but in case yours does), I sewed the two pieces together making one loop.  Then I turned it right side out and folded it in half as shown:

I then laid it around the outside of my shirt (right-side out), raw edges together, and pinned all around, starting with the seams and stretching the t-shirt slightly to line it up all the way around.  Then I just sewed a straight seam.  Later (once I was done with the white thread) I topstitched, but I'll get back to that.  Man, I really was wishing I had taken the time to figure out how to use my serger before starting this project, but someday soon I promise that will be a priority!

While I still had the white thread in my machine, I moved on to the straps.  I wanted a little point in front, like the inspiration shirt had, so I measured the width of the t-shirt at the place that the straps would join in front and back, then doubled that and added seam allowance to figure out how to make my straps.  The strap needed to be wider in front than in back, and I wanted it to come in a bit before widening back out in the back.  So this is the shape that I cut--I pretty much just had to wing it.

I turned a tiny hem under at the top and bottom--this would be hidden when attached to the shirt so I wasn't too worried about making it perfect.

Then, I folded the strap in half lengthwise, right-sides together, and sewed from top to bottom, then turned it right-side out.  Sorry, no picture of that step!

I pinned the straps to the shirt to see how they would attach, then measured the raw edge of the armhole so I could make strips to finish the armhole edges.  Make them longer than they need to be--it's much easier to cut off excess than to start over because they came out too short!  I made mine out of the excess fabric from the sleeves, and they are not actually cut on the bias but function like double-fold bias tape--I made it by pressing the strip in half lengthwise, then folding the edges into the middle and pressing again.

I attached them around the armhole like you would attach double-fold bias tape--pretty easy to do, I think, but not so easy for me to explain...I just did a little hunting around online, and the explanation for attaching knit binding (called "full binding") on page two of this document here seems to be a pretty clear explanation of what I did.

After the armholes were finished, I sewed the straps on in the back first, just by tucking the t-shirt inside the tube and topstitching the straps down.

Yuck!  Sorry for this terrible picture!
In the front, it was a little trickier, since the tube has a point in the front, but not on the inside of the  shirt.  So I turned it inside out and pinned down only the back side of the tube, made sure that the pointed front was out of the way, and topstitched the back side down...

Then flipped it back right-side out and topstitched the pointed front of the strap down.

Once I was done attaching the straps, I used a double-needle to topstitch around the chiffon band at the bottom of the shirt, mostly because I like the look of it but also to reinforce where the chiffon was attached and sew down some loose edges of the chiffon on the inside.  On that note, make sure your raw edges are turned UP so that you catch them in your topstitch if you do this step.

I wore it on Father's Day, and when I was showing it off to my mom we pulled out Little Sister's old dress made from the same fabric.  She immediately wanted to put it on, so I happily obliged.

Our first matching mother-daughter outfits.
Hers is getting a little short, but it amazingly still fits!

She had fun trying to get me to expose myself in the pictures.

What a goofball.


  1. Sometimes reading your blog is like reading a foreign language (a comment on my lack of ability and understanding!), but I ALWAYS love the pictures. xo

    1. Thanks for sticking with it past the tutorial--I try to always put a few good "after" shots at the bottom! If you ever get the bug to try one of my projects and STILL can't understand what I'm talking about, let me know--writing tutorials is definitely a challenge for me!


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