Hand Stitched Baby Tee From Old T-shirts

Shirt on binder Stretch stitch binding

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love, love, love hand sewing with knits!
I try to alternate projects – a hand sewing project with a machine sewing project. (By alternate I mean juggle and scramble between the two in a very haphazard manner.)
There is something so artistic about working with the fabric by hand. The downside? It takes, like, mucho time! So my brilliant idea for balancing out the lengthy time with the fun and artistry of this type of work was to make a baby T-shirt. Now, a shirt for a cute, teensy-weensy newborn baby can’t possibly take very long, can it? That was my thought, and it turns out, my thought was wrong. This method of sewing, no matter the physical size if the project, is simply time consuming. Is it worth the time? My answer is a resounding yes! Does that mean I plan on turning to needle wok and embroidery full steam? Heavens no! I have kids and a cat to take care of- I don’t have time for that! But I will keep pumping out projects stitched by hand here and there. Once you’ve made one, it’s hard to forget. It’s like coffee in that respect. Try as I may, I could never let it go completely!
   Now to the details of what I did and how to construct one yourself.
I bought a newborn baby shirt at Goodwill. (I made sure to get the kind that separates at the neckline instead of snaps. I avoid inserting snaps like action stars avoid grenades!) I also got two blue T-shirts in different shades. I used the darker one for the trim and to stitch the baby’s name on the front.
Next, I made the pattern. This just involves tracing the pieces onto paper and adding seam allowance with a quilter’s ruler.


Cutting comes next. Make sure the fabric is on grain. You can’t just use the side of the T-shirt as a guide…they are often cut off grain to begin with. (Ever have a T that you wash once and the side seams twist on you? That’s the reason.) I prefer to use my handy-dandy pattern weights instead of pins for cutting. (Although my set of 6 is down to 3. Thank you, daughters of mine!)

All Pieces
Okay, here’s the fun part…sewing. Again, you’ll be a while doing this, so you can turn on a good flick or even take the project with you and sew somewhere else or in the car. (Only if you are riding, you maniac. :)) One of the benefits to this kind of sewing is the portability. You can take it anywhere you could take crochet or knitting.
It was much easier to sew the letters of the baby’s name on the shirt front before it was sewn together, especially since it was so small. I’d recommend doing any decorating or embroidery at this stage, unless something is going to cross over a seam.

For any of these projects with binding of trim, I stitch that on first. I use a running stitch. You have to sew the binding on first, right sides together, then flip it, tuck it under, pin, and top stitch. You can then use a running stitch to top stitch. Just make sure you pull the fabric before you tie it off so the thread is loose enough to have stretch. Or, like I did on this shirt, you can use a stretch stitch. The one I used is the only one I’ve actually mastered that I found in a book by Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin.

Binding pinning

Stitch binding on

Iron Binding

Binding ready to topstitch

Binding flip close up

Stretch stitch binding

After the binding is sewn on, it’s time to sew the garment together. I prefer the set-in sleeve method, so I did the side seams first then the sleeves.
I use French seams when I do projects by hand. They give them such a high quality finished look! If you aren’t familiar, a French seam is where you sew a seam, grade it (cut one of the edges of the seam shorter than the other) then fold the longer side over the shorter one, tuck it under and sew so there are no raw edges. It also doubles as top stitching, which is so beautiful on these. I have found that it works best for me to put one seam (including the French seam part) totally together before moving on, but I guess that’s a matter of preference.

Once the shirt was together, I hemmed it with the same stretch stitch I used on the binding, only I made it bigger for the hem.
This is such a fun and simple technique that anyone can do. You don’t have to have a sewing machine to make clothes! It works for all sorts of garments. My kids and I have tons of hand-stitched knit clothes I’ve made…even pants…and they hold up really well in the wash and are durable to wear.
            The moral of the story is this:
Don’t let anything hold you back, including not having a sewing machine.
And although babies are tiny, everything related to them is hard work!



6 thoughts on “Hand Stitched Baby Tee From Old T-shirts

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  5. Pingback: Baby’s First Birthday | Sew LaLove

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