It started out fine.

I was in the west end for a doctor’s appointment, so I’d plotted my route home via two different fabric stores: Fabrications and Darrell Thomas. I’d set my sights on making a velvet spaghetti strap tank as the first of five total sabbatical garments. This Alexander Wang number served as perfect inspiration, though I wanted it in black.

Fabrications, while a fabulous little oasis where one can rent sewing machines or sergers for eight bucks an hour, failed me on account of having no velvet, which is surprising, because their fabric selection is divine.

On to Darrell Thomas I went. With helpful advice that I didn’t follow (“Oh, you don’t need to line it!”) and a great sale on, I managed to make it in and out of the store in 20 minutes and only $67 less rich.

I got home, set the brown paper bag down on the bar, and chickened out.

I heard the call, but I was not ready.

So instead, I decided to warm up by doing a simple t-shirt resize. There are tons of resources for them on the Interwebs, but this particular video breaks it down really well. For reasons unknown, in the middle of the video the lady narrating sneaks in a mention of locating emergency exits, which I thought was quite cute.

T-Shirt Resize Step by Step


I thought I’d get a little creative with the before photo, but I seem to have succeeded mainly in taking one that is dark and impossible to actually see. You’ve seen what a men’s XL tee looks like on a ladies’ S, though, haven’t you? I meant in the video above! Naughty.

Step 1

Hack off the sleeves of the big shirt since we’re going to need to make new shoulder seams. Pro-tip: cut on the inside of the seams, such that the serged seam itself comes off with the sleeve and you’re left with clean, smooth material.

Step 2

Now, fold the remainder of the giganti-shirt in half. Do the same with your smaller, better-fitting shirt. Try to do a better job than I did – maybe iron them, even. This is probably the second most important bit of the whole endeavour, so please, don’t mess it up.

Step 3

Trace around the smaller shirt’s side hem and side seam, then, carefully lifting up the sleeve at its seam, trace that sucker too. It’s much less tricky than it sounds – I did a few small marks, then connected them altogether. Ta-da!

Step 3

This bit was fun for me, because instead of having to measure out and trace another line around the first one for seam allowance, I used a fancy gadget that Alex got for me approximately 1000 years ago. It’s a magnet, inside a ribbed plastic tube, which has a small elastic that you can adjust into any one of the notches to give you the allowance you want. You attach it to some part of the scissor blade – this part wasn’t super-obvious for me, but eventually I figured out that I needed to refrain from snapping the scissors all the way closed while cutting with the thing on – and make sure that the black elastic is aligned with your chalk outline. By the power of math, then, your cut line will be exactly the seam allowance you chose away from the original line. Look ma, no measurings!

Thing to watch out for: if you look at how close my traced line above was to the edge of the cut sleeve, you can anticipate the problem. I didn’t. You see, with seam allowance, there was not enough enormo-shirt to go around the armpit corners. This meant I had to get creative later to make sure I caught the fabric in the seams properly. I’m not sure I know what to say here, except line your shirts up better than I did, as I’d already warned you.

Step 4

Actual Step 4 is to cut out the sleeves by tracing them from your smaller shirt as you did with the body. This fake Step 4 is a step after that, and involves pinning results of real Step 4 to your super-size-shirt’s carcass. To overcompensate, fake Step 4 comes with a before photo (for anticipation-building)…

… an in-progress photo (though this is actually the easiest way to pin the sleeves in that I’ve found – wrapping it around your quadricep stretches it in just the right way to encourage proper lining-up)…

… and an after photo (mostly for self-congratulation). Repeat on the other side, and sew’em down!

Step 5

After sewing in the sleeves (which I did sans serger, with satisfactory results, using a small, tight zig-zag stitch, and trimming really close), pin the side seams making sure to line up all the corners: your sleeve ends, your armpits, and your hem ends.

Step 6

Sew! Here’s an entirely unhelpful illustration of the tiny zig-zag stitch I used, but your machine’s settings are probably different than mine, anyway.

And we’re done!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m not sure what the meaning of life is, yet, so I don’t have an answer for you. But just in case you were pondering more pedestrian questions, like “Where is the after photo?”, I don’t have an answer there for you either – stay tuned, I will 🙂

What I Learned

  1. Sewing, while definitely flow-inducing for me, is exhausting. I completed the t-shirt resize project in just over 4 hours, of which a larger than expected percentage was spent cursing, realigning and repinning. Afterward, I was pooped, and had to take a nap and rest my back. I have so much respect for people who do this all day every day.
  2. Watch that your seam allowances don’t take you off the fabric. Sew extra carefully when they do.
  3. Light cotton is a soft, lovely fabric that doesn’t stand up to seam-ripping, so try not to mess up your seams. Rip really carefully, one thread at a time, when you do, lest you want to end up with holes. Act like “they’re so hot right now” when you do.

What About You?

Ever been super-psyched to do a project, then immediately intimidated enough to back out? Tried a t-shirt resize? See something dumb I did that I could do better? Drop me a line to, or comment below. I do love to learn! 🙂

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