Monday, June 7, 2010

It's a shirr thing

I’ve wanted to add some nautical style to my wardrobe for awhile now, so I decided it was time for a little clothing refashion to create some seafaring fun.

That’s how this men’s shirt:

Became this strappy tank

To be honest, I only had a vague plan when I started making this top. I pretty much made it up as I went along, and thankfully it turned out really well. Which is good, because I lost my seam ripper about ten minutes into this project. Usually my seam ripper and I are BFFs, because I am lazy and sloppy about my sewing. This time I actually sewed straight lines the first time – maybe it’s the antioxidants from all the blueberries I’ve been eating. But I digress.

To make your own strappy tank you’ll need a men’s shirt in your size (if you wear a ladies small, you’ll want a men’s small) or larger. Some 3/8 inch elastic and some elastic shirring thread.

To get started, grab a tank that fits well.

Lay the tank over the shirt and use it as a guide to cut a rectangle about an inch larger all the way around.

If your shirt has a pocket,

Use a seam ripper to remove it. I promptly lost mine after this step.

Your rectangle should look something like this. Pin the right sides together and sew up the sides.

Unless you want your tank to be all gappy in the front, go ahead and sew the shirt closed from the bottom button down.

To give your shirt a little more room in the hip area (and if you’re like me you WANT all the hip room you can get!) cut some side vents.



Now it’s time to make this sucker start looking like a shirt! Keeping the fabric inside out, fold over the top of the tube twice and pin.

Sew all the way around. Next, rip a small hole in your new hem. Cut your 3/8 elastic to a length that fits about 2/3 of the way around you, right under the arm pits. Use a safety pin to thread this elastic through your top hem and sew the two ends together.

At this point, it’s a good idea to try the top on to decided where you want to start your shirring. The shirring will give your top a waist. I decided on three rows of shirring about ½ an inch apart, starting about an inch below the bust.

Here’s the thing about shirring – if you have a machine with a removable bobbin casing this will be a piece of cake, and I hate you. Well not really, but…

If, like me, you have a machine with a drop in bobbin - I am very sorry. I spent over an hour, almost a whole spool of elastic thread, five scraps of material, thirty minutes pouring over my manual, and about ten blog tutorials to figure out how to get the elastic to shirr instead to ripple, pucker, twist, or break. It was not fun.

I’ll spare you all the gory details and get to the jist. Thread your machine with the top thread as normal. Take your elastic thread and hand wind it around your bobbin, stretching it slightly as you go. I found that I could insert the bobbin as normal, but needed to very carefully watch it as it drew up. The first few times it didn’t catch correctly and nothing much happened when I started to sew. To get the elastic to shirr just right, I set the tension to 4 and the stitch length to 3.5. It took a lot of trial and error for me to find the magic combo and I suspect every machine is different so practice on scraps until you find the sweet spot.

Once your machine is set up correctly, shirring is a super easy! With the right side of the fabric facing up, sew all the way around the middle of the shirt. I did this three times to create three rows. You can do more, but I wouldn’t do less.

If you like your tops strapless, you can stop now. I’m a not a fan of strapless bras, so I’m a big fan of straps on tops like this. I made strips of fabric about three inches side, folded them in half, pinned, sewed, and turned them right side out.

Then I just pinned them to the shirt and sewed them on.

I Love how this came out!

I paired it with some ivory crop pants and a woven navy belt.

I think it says beachy and nautical without saying, “I’d like to visit Gilligan’s Island” or worse, “I just came back from Gilligan’s Island.”

See the back?

I think this is my new favorite top and I’m going to make a bunch more now that I’ve got this shirring thing figured out!

Make a bunch of your own! If you do, I’d love to see pics of your versions!

Happy sewing :-)


P.S. I'm linking this to the Before and After Party! Lots of fun projects to see over there!


And to a brand new DIY Linky Party at Fine Craft Guild - Go check it out!

Fine Craft Guild


Charlotte said...

Sew cute! It looks great on you and I love that belt. I may have to steal a few of my husbands shirts. :)

Selina said...

totally LOVE this! i DIE over a mens shirt re-fashion... my husband is very tall so almost as soon as i wash a shirt its too short and goes right in my stash... its a total conspiracy and i think he knows it :) can't wait to try this!

Tracy said...

This print is fabulous and that color looks great on you! Great job.

Wendy said...

Beyond cute! I'm going to give this a try for my daughters...

Carole Ann said...

LOVE it! What a great idea. Thanks for sharing - I can't wait to make one!

Beverly @ said...

This is great! I just came home yesterday with a Liberty of London men's shirt from Target to do this same thing! Now I don't have to figure it out for myself. ;) Thanks!

Geek+Nerd said...

So cute! I especially love how you belted it at the waist, it looks great!

Rose :: said...

Thank you for contributing this to's DIY Tutorial Linky Party.

It's beautiful and well presented.

If you have a new & equally wonderful tutorial you wish to share with us this week, come on over. We just opened a new linky party for this week's greatest talented artisans out there! (and you are one of them ;-0)

Andrea said...

Loving this! Off to raid hubby closet now! Thanks for a great tutorial!