One of my favorite items to thrift are button down shirts. The variety of prints and patterns is never ending, and I’m finding there are equally endless ways to repurpose them. So far I’ve made a sleeveless top, a skirt, an off the shoulder top, and in the works is a kimono….the jury is still out on how that last one is coming together.
With summer just around the corner, I have been on the hunt for button downs in colors and patterns that transition easily into a sleeveless style. I can never pass up Southwestern, desert style stripes, and I immediately dialed in on this one hanging on the rack at Goodwill. I think we can all agree that clearly I didn’t buy it for those puffy sleeves and too tight cuffs.
I added it to my thrift haul for the day, and when I got home I pulled out the scissors and started chopping. Six cuts and one hemmed neckline later, this was my end result. Makes you want to run out and buy your own button down to chop up, am I right?
This is an excellent project for those just starting to play around with repurposed and upcycled apparel. With only one seam to sew, it is a great beginner project for newbie sewers as well!
Two important steps before breaking down this process step by step.
- Be sure the shirt you choose fits well through the body. Taking in a shirt that is too large will add a lot of time and several steps to this otherwise simple process.
- Wash and press your garment before starting to alter it. It is so much easier to work with a garment that is wrinkle free!
The first step is to very carefully trim the sleeves off, cutting on the sleeve side, as close to the seam as possible. By keeping the welt seam in tact, there will be no need to hem the armhole. *Disclaimer* After a wash or two you may see a bit of fraying at this armhole seam, which I like the look of. If you prefer a more clean finish, turn the armhole seam under once and press, then stitch 1/8″ from the cut edge to finish.
I recommend keeping the sleeves in your scrap fabric stash. I plan to use these for patches on jeans, or possible a patchwork purse of some sort. If you have any suggestions for ideas on how to use cut off sleeves or pant legs please share them in the comments below, as my pile of them is starting to get a little out of control…
Now it is time to decide how to shape the neckline. Lucky for you, I have found a super easy way to complete this step. Go into your closet and find a top with a neckline you already like. Unbutton the garment and lay it directly on top of your project piece. Remember that you will need to turn and hem the neckline, so you will need to mark your cut line 1/2″ – 3/4″ in from the finished edge of the garment laid on top. With your neckline drawn, it is time to cut. Be sure you ONLY CUT THROUGH THE TOP LAYER!
Use your marker to free hand the back neck cut line. I wanted this top to be more of a sleeveless style rather than a tank style, so I cut a very minimal amount off the back neck. However, this decision is totally up to you!
Cut along your marked line, starting at the shoulder seam and stopping at the center back.
Now that you have one side cut, its time to mirror that shape on the other side. Take the non-cut side of your garment and lay it flat, smoothing out any folds or wrinkles. Lay the cut side on top and be sure your armhole and shoulder seams are lined up, then align the center front. Now you can simply follow the exact cut made on the first side.
Follow the same direction from above for the back neck. This one is a bit trickier to get things all smoothed out, but try to focus on aligning the shoulder seams and smoothing out the upper portion of the garment from there.
With the neckline now cut to shape, it is time to hem.
Starting at the center back neck, fold the raw edge of the neckline in 1/4″ and press.
Fold in and press 1/4″ along the entire neckline.
Now fold in the neckline once again, enclosing that raw edge. Press and pin in place.
Stitch along the outer edge of the folded hem. This will ensure all of the raw edges are caught in the stitch and prevent any fraying when the garment is washed.
At this point your garment is finished and ready to wear! I love the finished look of this sleeveless top, but I decided I want to add a little extra embellishment to it.
In my vintage stash I found these very cool, very old lotus flower patches. This one in particular really brought out the purple stripe in the top, so I decided to add it at the center back yoke seam. I pinned in place then sewed on by hand. I chose to hand sew, as it is much cleaner, and my stitches are much less noticeable. This garment did go through the wash after this post, and all hand stitching held up just fine.
Here is a better look at the patch detail when the garment is on.
Here is another look side by side of the before and after; quite a difference don’t you think?
I hope this tutorial gives you the confidence to try this project on your own! Below is a full list of supplies I used on the project to get you started.
This shoppable list is an easy way to source the supplies I used to complete this project. By purchasing through the affiliate links I may receive a small commission, but please know there is no extra charge or fee to you for shopping these affiliate links.
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