T-shirt Makeovers

Ellen March

Dress up your favorite wardrobe staple by adding fabric trim and a button. This project takes less than one hour to complete, and costs next to nothing to make!


  • Ready-made T-shirt
  • Fat quarter of cotton fabric
  • 1 flat or shank buttons (1/2”-diameter or smaller)
  • All-purpose thread
  • Removable fabric marker
  • Seam sealant
  • Seam ripper
  • Rotary cutting system (optional)

Cut It

Separate the shirt front and back by positioning it around an ironing board with the shirtfront facing up. Using a removable fabric marker, draw a vertical line down the shirt center front.

If the shirt is too long, try it on and mark the desired hemline along both side seams. Take off the shirt and draw a horizontal line across the shirtfront to connect the marks. Cut along the line; reserve the excess fabric to make optional knit fabric flowers.

If the shirt length is satisfactory, cut off the hem just above the stitching. With wrong sides together, fold the fat quarter at a 45º angle (1); press to set the foldline.


1. Fold at 45º angle

Cut along the foldline, and then cut several 2 3/4”-wide bias strips from the fat quarter (2).

2. Cut 2 3/4”-wide bias strips

Sew It

Align two strip ends with right sides together, leaving approximately 1/4” extending beyond each corner to account for the seam allowance. Stitch the strip ends. Press open the seam.

TIP: Reference "Binding for Glory" on page 26 of Sew it All Volume 2 for more information on making bias binding.

Continue to piece together approximately 4 strips, leaving two small triangles of leftover fabric from opposite fat quarter corners. Reserve the fabric triangles to make optional bias flowers.

Cut one strip end straight across; press the end 1/4” to the wrong side. Press the strip in half lengthwise with wrong sides together; unfold. Fold one long edge 1/4” to the wrong side; press.

Position the strip along one shirt center-front opening, aligning the strip folded end with the shirt upper edge and the strip long edge with the shirt cut edge; pin generously. Begin stitching the strip to the shirt from one upper-edge opening, ending the stitches 1/4” from the center-front corner.

At the corner, raise the needle and presser foot, fold the strip at a 45º angle to the wrong side, and then fold the strip back over itself to align the strip long edge with the shirt lower edge (3). Pivot the shirt and continue sewing the strip to the shirt lower edge.


3. Align strip long edge with shirt lower edge.

Repeat to miter the opposite corner, aligning the strip with the opposite shirt center-front opening. End the stitching 2” from the shirt upper edge.

Trim the strip 1/2” beyond the shirt neckline. Fold the strip end 1/2” to the wrong side; press. Continue stitching the strip to the shirt, backstitching at the shirt upper edge.

Wrap the strip around the shirt cut edge along the previous foldline, concealing the stitching on the shirt wrong side; pin. From the shirt right side, stitch in the ditch, slipstitch or topstitch to secure the binding fold along the shirt wrong side.

Position the shirtfront left side on a flat work surface with the right side facing up. Position one button along the binding upper edge. Mark a dot above and below the button to denote the buttonhole placement; remove the button, and then draw a vertical line to connect the dots.

Install a buttonhole foot on the machine. Stitch an automatic buttonhole along the mark, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply seam sealant to the buttonhole; let dry. Cut open the buttonhole using a seam ripper, being careful to not slice through the stitching.

Position the shirtfront left binding over the shirtfront right binding. Position the removable marker through each buttonhole center, marking the button placement on the right binding. Hand sew the button at the mark.

Slipstitch each binding strip upper and lower edge along the fold (4).

4. Slipstitch binding

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What a Great Idea!
This would also work with the long sleeve T-Shirts that I got on sale early this summer. What a fast and simple project.
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