Turn a Old T-Shirt into an Embellished Tank


Original Shirt


Finished TankHearts close up



My daughter isn’t fond of change. She loves what she loves and can’t bear to part with it, even if what she loves is ruined. When she gets a stain  that I can’t get out, I covertly sneak it into the trash can in our laundry room, invariably covering it over with mounds of lint and old fabric softener boxes! Out of the 3 hundred thousand shirts in her closet (it feels like,) she only wears about 6 of them. Over and Over. And no amount of “mommy persuasion” can get her to turn to the fancier shirts I would love to see her wear. So when her favorite pink shirt came up stained and I couldn’t Shout it out, my little heart broke. It broke partly because the pink shirt was a duplicate-triplicate, is, I guess, the more appropriate word. We had at least three in various colors. The yellow one was ruined and turned into a doll dress a few months ago, so she’s been down to two. And the green one is on its last leg with a pinhole forming in it. The other reason for my dismay is that I believe the stain was my fault. It’s a long story that’s neither here nor there and we’ll just keep this little secret between us, shall we? : ) SHHHH!


stain on back

Well, when I was doing laundry and came across one of her stained under shirts, it came to me. I could turn her beloved top into a tank to go under her clothes. You can never have enough of them, and it doesn’t matter how stained they are, unless they’re under something transparent. I knew it would be a quick transformation and hopefully alleviate the pain of losing yet another tee shirt. (She hates growing out of clothes, as well.) In the end, I used leftover fabric from the sleeves to cut hearts that I sewed onto the shirt- some over the stain so she can just wear it as a tank top. Here are the few steps to make this cutesy little tank.

Find a well- fitting tank top to make a pattern from.

Tank top to copy



Lay the tank on top of the old t shirt and cut around it, leaving about an extra half inch for seam allowance.

Tank to Tee

*IMPORTANT* If the tank top you’re using for a pattern is a rib knit and the shirt you’re cutting is a jersey knit, add quite a bit of extra width. Rib knit stretches 2-3 times more than jersey. I though I gave myself plenty extra, but the shirt ended up snug on my daughter. (It fits her, but not for long, so we’ll probably have to go through one more remake on it before we’re through. I’m thinking I could add a triangle godet panel to the back of it. I think those are adorable and they’re so popular right now.)

When cutting the neckline, do each piece separately, since the front and back may be slightly different.

cut around tank


  *TIP* You can use the original hem for your hem, which is what I did. My serger doesn’t have the cover stitch, (the one used at the bottom of t-shirts that allow the hem to stretch) but has two rows of straight top stitching, so I used what was already there and avoided a zigzag stitch hem.


Cut strips for straps.

I had enough fabric from near the neckline in the back of the old shirt. One strip even had the tagless label stamped on it, but it doesn’t show up once the strap was finished, since it’s on the inside.



Serge or Zigzag stitch the side seams. I used my serger.

(If you don’t have a sewing machine, this would be a great project to do by hand. Just use a running stitch and stretch as you go.)

Side seam


Turn the neckline and armholes in twice, forming a narrow hem, and cover stitch or zigzag stitch.



Sew the straps using a serger or zigzag.

(I’m assuming you know how to sew a strap and turn it out. If not, leave it in the comment section and I’ll do a post on it. Here’s the rundown: fold the strap in half lengthwise with right sides together. Sew down the side with the raw edges. Put a safety pin through the fabric on one of the ends and push it though the strap until it comes out the other side. Now your strap is made and turned out!) Iron your straps once they are turned and sew them onto the shirt. I used two rows of zigzag stitching to attach them.

*TIP* Use this opportunity to try it on your child (or yourself.) I would sew the straps to the back and leave the front undone. You can try it on like that and find out exactly how long you need the straps to be. Put a pin in the straps to use as a marker and cut some off it they’re too long. I didn’t do this and ended up having to take the strap fronts off to shorten.

Cut out hearts



Okay, so you’re shirt is made! Add a label if you want and you can embellish now to your heart’s content. I just cut out several hearts of various sizes, placing a couple strategically over stained areas. I put some on the front and on the back. I have 8 total, but it didn’t take very long. Plus, to me, the hand sewing is always the most fun, and the embellishment was an added surprise when I showed my daughter the finished product. She’s still not happy that it’s not her trusty t shirt anymore and said she would have preferred to just wear it with the stain, but she does like the new design. A win’s a win, right?

Where the stain used to be:

Big heart close up- where stain used to be

If anyone makes one of these, I’d love to see the pics! Post them in the comment section. I think the possibilities for applique shapes are endless- a car, puppy, or guitar for a little boy, stars, flowers, rainbows for little girls. A fleur-de-lis, paisly, or initials for a woman, a tribal print for a guy. I’d like to see what you guys come up with!

I also think this would be a great way to embelish a t-shirt quilt. Maybe one day.


The moral of the story?

Don’t stain your kids clothes-they do it enough themselves.

And when something awful happens, cover it up with love. Or a heart-shaped patch! Whichever’s easier. 🙂














2 thoughts on “Turn a Old T-Shirt into an Embellished Tank

  1. Pingback: Captain America T-Shirt Remake | Sew LaLove

  2. Pingback: Turn a T-Shirt into Leggings! | Sew LaLove

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