Make a Cardigan From a T-shirt!

Cardigans are total wardrobe workhorses. Need to ward off chill in an office that’s set to “Hoth” on the thermostat? Grab a cardigan. Want to cover up less-than-buff arms in an otherwise darling tank top? Grab a cardigan.

I’ll admit, my wardrobe has more track jackets than cardigans at the moment. But lately, I’ve been wanting more retro and girly ensembles, and a track jacket just won’t do over a floufy, froufy dress.

But, to keep up with the number of cover-ups I need to match all. the. things., I’d need a king’s ransom to buy cardigans or even fabric to make them. But then, as I was pondering this problem of never having enough cold hard cash to finance my fashion fantasies, an idea occurred to me.


I mean, I am no stranger to the T-shirt makeover game. But I realized that I could find long-sleeve T-shirts for SUPER cheap at thrift stores and discount stores, and with just a little finagling, kablam! Cardigans galore!

So far, I’ve only made two, so it’s a little shy of that “galore” claim, but rest assured, there are several more in the near future. Here’s how I made mine:

First, I had to cut a little off the bottom of my shirt. It was a super-soft ladies' cut that I got two sizes up so I'd have room for seam allowances and the like, but as a consequence it was too long for me. But I kept that cut off section at the bottom!

Next, I carefully cut open the shirt along the front center fold.

Here you can see the center cut open:

Remember that piece I cut off the bottom? I cut a strip about 2 inches wide, and I used that as a facing for my front edges. I folded it in half lengthwise, and then folded in one end to have a clean finish at the top (neck) of the seam. I stitched the folded fabric to the front openings, matching up all raw edges, using a 1/4-inch seam allowance.

Then I folded the seam allowance toward the facing and understitched it.

For my bottom hem edge, I did the same thing that I did with the center front edges, except I used the hemmed edge from the original shirt, so I didn't fold it. I also understitched it.

To finish the shirt all the way around, I folded under my facing and stitched it into place. From the inside, you can see that particularly along the center front edges, you have a nice set of double stitching on the inside.

Then I marked the placement for my buttons and buttonholes. I just used a water-soluble marker and measured out the distance between the buttons based on the number I had and the length of the cardigan. You can kiiiiiinda see my blue marks in the photo below.

Then I just used my machines buttonhole setting to stitch those in place, and sewed my buttons on by hand. Ta-daaaa! Super soft and shockingly lady-like cardigan. Including buttons, it cost about $11 in materials.

I also made one using a men's XL T-shirt. For this one, I literally laid out the gray one on top of the black and cut it down to a ladies' cut, leaving the neck binding intact. (That meant I had to close up the side seams from where I cut the shirt narrower.) Then I finished it exactly as this one, though I had to hem the sleeves because I wanted them 3/4 length. To add a little nerdery, I used Heat'n Bond to make a BB-8 applique using a scrap from some licensed Star Wars fabric I had on hand. I fused it to the finished cardigan and ran a satin stitch around my applique. The shirt on this was about $5 -- I bought it for another project and never used it. And the buttons were in my button box, given to me about a decade ago by a former coworker. So it's practically a free garment, in terms of materials! (I wore this to the opening of "The Force Awakens.")




And that's that! I see many more of these in my future, with more nerdy appliques and maaaaybe even some color blocking.