I’ve grown out of all my late-pregnancy shirts from my last pregnancy. I have a few shirts that I’ve been wearing and generally I run out of clothes a day or 2 before laundry day. A few weeks ago there was a freaking awesome shirt on shirt.woot.com that I wanted to be able to wear during my current pregnancy. Only problem is I don’t really like the sizing options they have available. It was the perfect opportunity to attempt my first ever shirt reconstruction! It turned out awesomely! I’m going to try to give a little pseudo-tutorial of how I did it.
To start with, I used this video on YouTube to get a general idea of how to resize a shirt: T-Shirt Reconstruction: How to Resize Your Shirt and How to Give it a Braiding Effect. From there I improvised a little bit since my goal was to create a maternity shirt from a very big t-shirt. The internet is strangely lacking in tutorials for converting a large t-shirt into a fitted maternity shirt.
So I started with a t-shirt, size 3X, the biggest I could order it. I ordered it so big because when I read the size information I saw that the artwork was the same size no matter what shirt size you order. I wanted to have plenty of extra fabric to work with, so I ordered as big as I could without having to pay extra. Genius that I am, I did not take a picture of me in that huge shirt for a “before” photo. However I did have different one in the same size (3X) that I ordered from Woot and I took a picture of myself in that one to give you an idea of what I started out with…
*Don’t forget that you can right-click and open these pictures are full-size in a new window.
Next I began following the YouTube video…
I chose one of my favorite maternity shirts that still fits to model the new shirt after.
At this point, its important to point out that most fitted maternity shirts are not the same shape in the front as they are in the back. Usually the back is a pretty standard shape but the front has extra fabric and sometimes dips lower at the hem to cover the belly. Knowing that, I did the first step using the front (bigger side) of my pattern shirt and then I improvised the directions a little bit. Next I unfolded the freshly cut t-shirt and folded it lengthwise so I could line up the center back and refine the shape of the back of the recon shirt to match the back of my pattern shirt.
At this point I could go back to the YouTube tutorial and finish everything following the video’s directions…
- Pin the side seams, right sides facing together.
- I used a stretch stitch and jersey ballpoint needle to sew the side seams.
- I wasn’t about to go out and buy new thread for this project, let alone thread a new bobbin. So I just used the variegated pink thread that was in my machine.
Further down there are some close-ups of the consequences of using the pink thread. The shirt came out slightly more snug than I really wanted. I attribute that to the fact that my pattern shirt was a very thin, stretchy knit and the t-shirt I was reconstructing was a thicker, less stretchy knit. So with it being snug, all of the seams were pulling a bit and the pink stitches showed through everywhere I sewed. James thought it looked cool and I agreed, so I just left it that way and pulled on the seams even more to really bring out the effect. Check out the results at the end of the pseudo-tutorial.
Next Secretlifeofanerd has us cut the sleeves out. I used my model shirt to estimate the length of sleeve, rather than eyeball it like she seems to do in the video. I also stacked the sleeves and cut both at once rather than one at a time like she does in the video.
Next you sew the bottom seam of the sleeves...I used a simple straight stitch here because I didn't see a need for it to stretch along that seam.
Now its time to attach the sleeves to the shirt. This was the hardest part for me. I used a stretch stitch again because I anticipated this as a seam that would be better if it was able to stretch around my arms, which get every so slightly more plump every week. My sleeve did not match perfectly with the shirt hole so I pinned at the bottom seam, the top and then filled in pins at half-intervals. So after I pinned the top and bottom, then I pinned halfway between those pins on either side. Then at the halfway mark between all those pins and so on, until I had enough pins to make me feel like it wasn’t going to shift too much during sewing. I’d say I left about an inch between pins. Then I sewed that evil seam into a damned fine product considering my level of expertise, or lack thereof. In order to avoid any inadvertent pleating, I stretched the fabric slightly as I sewed. Luckily this didn’t result in any puckering either. If there is a slight puckering it may smooth out when the shirt goes on if the shirt is snug enough.
Here's what it looked like inside-out with my side seam and sleeve seam completed.
At this point the YouTube video moves on to the braiding effect, which I’m not interested in for this shirt. So at this point I’m done with the video. She leaves the hem unfinished like a tunic which looks good. Depending on the type of knit you may want quite a bit of extra length if you intend to leave the hem unfinished. Some knits curl up a LOT and some barely curl up at all. Surely this is related to the specific blend of fabric you end up with, but I don’t know enough about textiles to tell you what causes the extra curliness. I just test it out by observing what happens to the scraps after you cut and manhandle them a bit.
All set up and ready to sew the hem.
I decided to finish my hem. I didn’t want to have to change out my needle to a double needle to make it look more “professional” and I didn’t want to use up any more fabric than I had to. I also figured with my goof on the thread color it wasn’t going to look “professional” by any stretch of the imagination anyway, so I used one of the more decorative stretch stitch options and just sewed simple hem. I may take out the hem and leave it unfinished if I don’t like the way it looks the next few times I wear it. We’ll see, but for now I left it hemmed and it looks pretty good, I think.
Here's the freshly finished shirt.
Here you can see what I mean about the pink thread showing through at the seams.
Close-up of hem stitching
OK and finally, what you’ve all been waiting for…I model the reconstructed shirt on my hot body.
I think it turned out great! We tried to get the back reflected in the mirror. I would have liked a bit more growing room, but it'll do. After all, how much bigger can I really get in 8 weeks? UNIVERSE! DO NOT ANSWER THAT!
- This picture is supposed to show you how the pink thread showing through affected the final product. I think it looks cool after all, but if you don’t like it, be sure to get matching thread for your own shirt reconstruction. Open this picture at full-size (right-click) to get a better view.
- I wanted to include a picture of me wearing the pattern shirt too so you could see how this fits me compared to the shirt I made from it.
Well, there you have it! I turned a size 3X woot shirt into a fitted maternity shirt with pretty good results. I hope this helps some people who, like me, found scarce info on the internet about how to DIY something like this. If you have any questions, please let me know!
I also wanted to include a link to a fashion blogger I found while searching for maternity clothing construction. She has a whole bunch of posts about DIY maternity fashion from when she was pregnant and some great patterns for sale. Normally I’m not a big “fashion person” but I just LOVE her stuff and maybe you will too: Megan Nielsen. She has a search box at the top right and you can type in “maternity” to pull up some great posts. My favorites are on the second page of search results and later. In particular I love her wrap shirt and her favorite maternity looks post. Enjoy!