How to Cut a T-Shirt: Cut an Old T-Shirt into Something Trendy and New

If you’re like me, your closet is full of clothes but you only wear about 20% of them. Sound familiar?

If so, then buy yourself a pair of fabric scissors — that’s the only tool you really need to get snippy (though there are some more nice-to-have materials that we’ve listed below as well), and turn your old T-shirts into fun, flirty, modern styles.

Every single one of these projects can be done in 20 minutes or less — some even take as little as five minutes.

For all of the below projects, you’ll need pretty simple materials. Here’s a list that’ll cover you for just about any T-shirt cutting project:

Materials

Of course, you’ll also need an armload or two of old T-shirts. If you don’t have any in your closet like most of us, ask your friends to donate some, or head to your local second-hand clothing store and get a bunch for a bargain.

Just remember to wash all your shirts beforehand, if only because it’s not nice to have to handle dirty T-shirts when you’re doing your DIY projects. Plus, that way they’ll be ready to go once you finish cutting and tying, without having to wash before wear!

If you can’t get fabric scissors, you can use regular scissors. Just be warned that fabric scissors are best because they’re heavy and extra sharp, which makes them cut through fabric like a hot knife on butter (well, not quite).

Regular scissors will do the trick, but you’ll see that your cuts will not be as clean and nice as they would be if you had used fabric scissors. Invest in a pair if you’re going to be doing a lot of these T-shirt conversions.

Off-shoulder top

Some tops just have awkward neck holes. The good news is that you can very easily alter the look of your T-shirt’s neck hole with a few easy steps. Here they are.

1. Lie your shirt out flat


Try to line up the seams and smooth it out as best you can.

This is a good time to try to visualize your top in the style you want. Consider, if there’s writing or a design already on the top, how those elements will look in the new style.

2. Make your first cut


Try to make your cuts as even as possible, for aesthetic purposes.

Now get out your fabric scissors and snip inwards from the outer seam, about 1 cm from the collar area. You can vary this distance as you get more practiced, according to your style and taste.

Repeat on the other side, too.

3. Cut across the entire neckline

Cut carefully, but also remember you can go back to smooth out your cut lines later on.

Now you’ll continue cutting across the neckline until you make your deep scoop. The cut can run into the shoulders as well if your T-shirt is more structured than mine was.

4. Pull at your neckline

This final touch makes your newly cut shirt look more finished, and less DIY.

For the last step, you’re going to pick up your shirt by the outer corner of the sleeves and yank the fabric, stretching the neckline out. This has the effect of causing the new “seam” to curl, which makes the shirt look like you bought it that way!

Now your “new” off-the-shoulder T-shirt is ready to wear!

Finally, try on your newly styled shirt, and admire your handy work. Neckline not wide enough? Take it off, get those fabric scissors back out, and snip along the outside of the seam until it’s perfect for you.

Balencia cut T-shirt

Maybe you want to get really snippy with one of your tank tops, and convert it into a faux designer top. And to make it nice and easy for those who don’t sew, we have a fun DIY T-shirt hack — get yourself a mini stapler, as well as fabric scissors.

Here’s how.

1. Select a long tank top


Lay it out on your table or bed and smooth it out.

Select a tank top that is quite long at the bottom. You’ll need it to be nice and long because if it’s not lengthy enough, you won’t be able to wrap it around your back and tie it. You need long tails to be able to wrap and tie them. Read on and you’ll understand!

2. Cut the back


Cut up the side seams on either side of your top, and then straight across the back. You want to cut low enough that the fabric would still cover your bra strap.

2. Cut the front in half


It can be scary to make such bold cuts — so have courage!

Flip your shirt back over and snip up the front, cutting the front into equal halves.

3. Staple the sides of your shirt

Did you know that you can use a stapler in place of a sewing machine in some cases?

Put on your shirt, twisting and then wrapping the two front side pieces around the back, and tie them in a knot. It should be tight and snug.

You’ll probably notice that there are little sticky-outie bits at the armpits. Fold them over and staple them with your mini stapler. If you can sew, now’s the time to use those skills. If not, the stapler works just as well!

The sticky-outie bits will look something like this.

Keep folding and stapling until you’re happy with the look.


Tuck in any remaining sticky-outie bits to complete your look.

Keep adjusting and playing around with your top until you’re happy with it. This top looks great with a high-waisted skirt, or under overalls.

Airy yoga top

This top was a bit tight around my chest and pinched in at the arm holes, so I decided to open up the arm holes into the airy yoga top style that’s so popular these days.

1. Select a top that’s slightly too small

Lay out your top on your desk or bed and smooth it out.

Once you’ve selected your top, flatten it out in front of you and look at the sleeves. Make sure the seams are as aligned as possible.

2. Cut along the arm hole seams

Try not to cut the curves too round or your shirt will look weird. But maybe you like that!

Get your scissors and cut from the top down or the down up, along your arm hole seams. Make the curve oblong to achieve the look.

3. Smooth out your cut lines

When it comes to cutting T-shirts, remember: practice makes perfect.

Go back over your cut lines with your scissors and a keen eye, cleaning up any jagged edges or loose threads.

Next, stretch your sleeves by pulling from the neckline and the lower left side of the shirt, followed by the right, causing the cut lines to curl.


Try on your shirt and see how it looks with a sports bra. 

Voila! You’re done.

Sporty side tie-top

If you have a shirt with a weird neckline or you generally just don’t like how it’s structured, you can completely descructure it and put it back together again — while keeping the design in tact — with this technique.

1. Analyze your shirt


Decide on the perfect style to fit your shirt’s potential

Lay your shirt out in front of you and smooth it out. Ask yourself what you like about it. Does it have a neat design on the front that you want to keep?

For this style, I hated the neckline and the arm holes, but really liked the logo on the front, so I decided to redo them in a way that still showed off the vibrant logo.

2. Cut a new neckline


Snip around the collar area to create an instant new look

Cut the neckline just as you did in the above steps. Stretch it wide so that it curls.

2. Cut down the arm holes


Open up the sides of your shirt to create a whole new look.

Next, slice the T-shirt down the arm holes, leaving the top straps in tact, but cutting all the way to the bottom, finally cutting the bottom seam as well.

Now your top should look like one of those pinnies you used to wear in gym class.

3. Tie the bottoms together


Go ahead and knot them twice so that you don’t run the risk of an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction!

For the final step, put your shirt on and tie it at the sides, so that it brings your shirt back together. This has the added effect of cinching it at the waist, which creates a lovely fitted look.

Creative neckline top

Once in a while, you’ll want to get extra creative with your neckline, and do something other than just making it wider. This is the perfect T-shirt redesign to do with a top that you really like but is perhaps too warm for the summer months, or perhaps one that just needs a bit of extra style.

1. Find the middle of your neckline


Laying your shirt out on its side rather than straight can help you envision creative redesigns.

Locate the exact center of your neckline (in the front). To do so, it can be helpful to fold your shirt in half and flatten it to create a crease (use an iron to really make the crease apparent). When you open it back up again, the crease should indicate the exact middle of your shirt.

2. Make a cut out in the middle of your neckline


Cut very carefully as this cut out will be highly visible — as will any mistakes.

Fold the very center of your neckline in half, and make a hole beneath the seam with your scissors. Next, unfold your T-shirt, and continue cutting out an upside down triangle as evenly as you can.


The upside-down triangle or half circle you cut at the neckline will look something like this — or hopefully even better!

3. Cut away the shoulders


Cut carefully, following the collar to make it look professional.

Now, pinch the material just below the collar and make a new hole there with your fabric scissors — the same way that you did for the middle hole in step 2.

Once you’ve made the cut, snip carefully inside the hole, on only one layer of the fabric while you snip along the collar towards the middle hole you made in the last step. This is for accuracy, as it will allow you to get nice and close to the collar all the way around. If you try to double up your fabric, you risk cutting into the seam or collar itself, which will make your shirt look like a total hack job. No thank you!

When you get to about an inch or so before the middle hole, make a sharp curve, and begin cutting backwards, towards the shoulder, as in the below photo.


When you finish cutting your shoulders, it’ll look something like this (remember to stretch the fabric to create that nice curled edge too!). 


Now put it on and see if you’re happy with it. If not — cut some more!

A top with a fun neckline like this looks great over layers with their own interesting straps and necklines — get creative!

Edgy slouchy T

This one is by far my favorite T-shirt redesign. With just a plain old T-shirt and a few snips, rolls and ties, you can achieve that edgy slouchy T-shirt look that’s so popular right now.

1. Lay your T-shirt out flat in front of you and make a plan


This is the time for letting your creativity run wild. 

It’s always a good idea to check out your T-shirt before you start cutting. As in the other projects, lay it out in front of you on a flat surface, and smooth it out, lining up the seams on all sides.

2. Cut one shoulder


Carefully snip away at your edgy triangle cut-out.

For extra edge, we’re only cutting out one shoulder on this T-shirt. Don’t worry — we’ll be balancing out the look on the other side in a later step.

Pinch your fabric right below the collar and make the first cut to create a hole. Then, cutting only one layer of your fabric (I chose the front one but the back could work too), snip as close to the top seam as you can, all the way to the arm hole seam, and then start coming back on yourself, towards the collar, cutting out a sharp, elongated triangle.

Stretch out your triangle to curl the fabric.

It should look something like this:


Once you’ve cut your triangle, go back over it with your fabric scissors to even out the cut and snip away any stray threads.

3. Snip and tie the other side


Cutting the side seams is a great way to tighten and shorten any oversized shirt — doing so on one side only gives the look extra edge.

Now, to balance out the look, we’re going to snip up the other side seam from the bottom of the shirt to about halfway up. The higher you snip, the more you can gather the fabric and tighten the top.

If you don’t want any stomach showing, don’t snip too high.

One it’s cut, stretch the fabric to give it a curl, and then put on your shirt. The best way to tie the two ends together is to do so with it on, so you can decide exactly how much you want to tighten and hike up your T-shirt.

Take the two ends and tie them together according to your preferred style.


If you come across a tag during this process like I did, cut it off, and try as best you can to hide it in the knot. There is nothing edgy about a stray tag!

Looks cool, right? Hang on, there’s one step left to complete this look.

4. Create a rolled sleeve look


To finish off your edgy slouchy T-shirt, you’re going to roll up the sleeves and secure them with your choice of a quick sewing job (don’t worry, I’m going to walk you through it!) or safety pins.

Start by putting your T-shirt back on and rolling up the sleeves while you’re wearing it, so you can determine exactly how many times you want them rolled, and how wide. Don’t make the mistake I did of eyeballing the sleeve roll and sewing it without trying it on first, or you could end up doubling the work for yourself (like I did when I realized that I really wanted them rolled up one more time).

Once you’ve determined your perfect sleeve roll on both sides, carefully take off your top (you may want to secure it first with safety pins to ensure the sleeves don’t unroll in the process), and lay it out in front of you.

If you choose to sew, grab a simple travel sewing kit — all you’re going to need is a piece of thread a few feet long, in a bright color that contrasts your T-shirt, and a needle.

Thread your needle and decide which side you’re going to start on. Ensure your seams are aligned on the sleeve, and start at the bottom. Stick the needle in from the inside, so that it’s going to the outside of the armpit area.


Making sure that your seams are aligned helps this edgy T maintain a professionally distressed look.

Pull the thread until it has a tail about as long as your thumb on the underside. Then, push the needle back through the fabric and tie a double knot on the under side.


Tie these pieces together in a double knot to help your sewing job last as long as possible.

Push the needle back and forth (without tying any more knots) three or four more times — the more times you do this, the more secure your sleeve roll will be. Finally, push it back through to the underside, where the original tail remains, and do one more double knot.

Cut the thread so it’s barely visible.

Repeat on the top of the sleeve, and then repeat the entire process on the other side.

If you don’t want to sew, simply pin the underside of the rolled sleeves — on the top and bottom on the inside of the sleeve — with safety pins. Safety pins actually add a bit of extra edge to the look, if you like that style.

Looks pretty decent for an old T-shirt, right?

Perfect — you’re all done now. Try on your top and make sure you’re happy with it. If not, of course, figure out what is remaining that you aren’t satisfied with, and go back to it.

Fitted halter top

This project converts a tank top and not a T-shirt, but hey, close enough. If you’re wanting to create a cute, fitted halter top, it’s the perfect way to do so in an eco-friendly, cost-effective way.

1. Lay your top in front of you and plan


There are a few different ways to cut a halter top, so use your best judgement to choose according to the shape and design of your original top.

2. Cut just beneath the back neckline


Don’t worry if the cut isn’t great — you can sew it up later

Leaving the straps in tact, snip just under the collar seam at the back of the shirt so that the straps detach from this part. Once you’ve done this, your shirt should look something like the above.

3. Flip your shirt and fold it in half

Now you’re going to put your shirt front-facing down, and fold it in half, like this:

Fold your shirt in half and press along the folded line to create a crease.

You want to fold it to make a crease where you’re going to cut, so determine where to fold it accordingly. Make a crease (use an iron to do so for more accuracy), and then unfold it.

Now, one of your back straps is going to be slightly higher than the other, but that’s ok because when it’s tied, you won’t even notice.

Cut a long tail from right to left, leaving enough room to cut another one from left to right. Like this:

Once you get the hang of cutting up shirts, you’ll find that after a few snips, you can just tear the fabric the rest of the way. This has the added effect of curling the fabric for you and cutting it in one step!

4. Cut off any excess at the bottom

Try your shirt on and tie it at the back. Check in the mirror and trim off the extra material at the bottom, underneath where it’s tied. It’s best to eyeball it in the mirror and then take the shirt off and cut it in front of you, rather than trying to cut it while you’re wearing it, which is much more difficult.

Having kept the seams in place, your new halter top will actually look like it was made that way from the start!

Try your new halter top on once again, tie the back, and tuck any stray bits in. You can mark these with chalk and either sew them yourself or have them sewn by a friend if you’re not into sewing, to really finish off the look.

Eco shopping bag

Since plastic is the new evil, it’s super handy to know how to make your own eco-friendly cloth shopping bag from an old T-shirt. Here’s how.

1. Measure and mark your T-shirt


Pay attention to the design of the shirt when you lay it out in front of you, and work with it, rather than against it.

Lay your T-shirt flat on the ground and smooth it out, ensuring the seams are aligned.

2. Mark and cut your sleeves off

Chop off your T-shirt’s sleeves — these new, larger holes will act as the handles for your eco bag. 

Using your ruler and chalk, draw a line from the armpit to just inside the collar, being sure to leave the collar in tact — the neck hole is really important for this DIY project to work!

Repeat on the other side, and cut along your lines.

3. Tie the bottom together


This works just as easily with a hair tie, if you have one handy. 

Flip your T-shirt inside out and gather the bottom together. Tie it with your elastic band, making it nice and tight.

Now you can unflip your shirt so it’s right-side out, and you’ll see that the arm holes are now straps, and your bag is ready to use for your next shopping trip!

It’s the perfect sized bag for when you’re running errands.

There you are — your new eco shopping bag is ready to go in just a few easy steps.

Dog toy

For this project, you don’t even need a whole T-shirt! That’s right — if you’ve been doing all these DIY T-shirt projects along with me, then you probably have a lot of scrap material left over, right? Great! So let’s put it to good use by creating a fun toy for our furry friends.

1. Gather your scraps together

Look through your scraps and find one big enough to fit around your tennis ball, with some extra fabric left over to wrap it up.

2. Wrap the scrap around your tennis ball

Once it’s wrapped, gather the ends together and twist them slightly. Tie them with a meter-long piece of string, doing a double knot.

3. Cut off the excess fabric

Use your fabric scissors to snip the fabric coming out of the knot so that it’s nice and neat, and there isn’t too much excess.

4. Make a handle with your string

At the other end of your piece of string, loop it around and tie another double knot here.

And there you have it — your recycled dog toy is ready to be chased and nipped by your pup!

Neck pillow

If you’re like, well, pretty much anyone, you have some old socks that you don’t wear anymore. Grab them for this easy, handy project that’s perfect for anyone who’s caught the travel bug.

1. Gather 4 old T-shirts and an old (but clean) pair of socks

Try to find T-shirts around the same size, and if the socks can be fuzzy and extra stretchy, all the better.

2. Roll your T-shirts

Place one folded T-shirt on top of another and roll them up nice and tight light a burrito. Stuff the two rolled T-shirts inside one sock.

Repeat with the remaining two T-shirts, stuffing them into the remaining sock.

3. Put your travel pillow together

Now bring the two socks together and pull one sock end completely over the other, so that you’re left with a boomerang (or travel pillow)-shaped contraption.

Soft and cushy, it’s the perfect DIY project for the avid traveler!

Leave a Comment