Monday, April 30, 2012

Modifying a Garage Sale Find

Last Fall, I picked up a cute tank-top at a garage sale for less than $1.00. I liked the light gray color, and LOVED the details of the top...but didn't like the XXL size. However, since I can sew (a little) I thought I might be able to make it wearable. Well, I finally got to it this week...and I just happened to take a few pictures along the way.

I began by taking in the side seams. I marked a straight line in from the existing side seam, pinned it like crazy, then straight stitched down the line. My new side seam is approximately 2.5" in from the old side seam (taking roughly 5" out of each side of the tank-top).
After taking in the sides, I needed to shorten the straps a bit. I wanted to straps to fit comfortable against my body, not too tight and not loose enough to fall off my shoulders. I tried on the shirt, made a visual note of how much needed to be taken off the straps. I then (while the shirt was off my body) pinned the straps down-to the inside of the shirt.
I needed to take about 2" off each strap, so I made a template so both straps would be shortened the same amount.
I cut a strip of heavy paper (back of a package of pens) measuring 1" wide.
Place strip onto tank-top (wrong side of body, right side of strap) lined up with the hem at the top of the fabric.
Since I used a 1" template, when the fabric was folded over I ended up taking about 2" off the strap...just what I wanted! Re-pin the strap in place, so fabric lays flat.
I kept the strap pinned until I started sewing (reason for no pin in the picture below). I top stitched so I could follow the original, seam on the outside of the garment, as much as possible. It's not perfect, but looks much nicer than if I tried to sew the straps down blind (from the underside of the garment).
I tried the shirt back on, and decided the space between the straps in the back of the shirt was still a little too wide for my figure. Easy fix: grab some elastic and gather the top edge of the back of the shirt-same technique I used on this shirt to make it into a dress-up for my little girl.
I decided to try the clear elastic, but I was worried that my presser foot might 'stick' a little the rubbery texture. So I taped the bottom of the presser foot-being extremely careful to not to get tape near the needle space (my technical term for where the needle passes through the presser foot to catch the bobbin thread).
I measured the elastic about 1" smaller than the width of the shirt (between the straps-I did not sew elastic over the straps because I wanted them to lay flat). I started sewing on one end of the elastic then, using both hands, stretched the elastic as I sewed it to the fabric-one hand guided the garment under the foot, the other will stretched the elastic over the garment. Because the shirt is knit, I only stretched the elastic slightly so as not to bunch up the garment more than needed. *update: I actually decided I didn't like the clear elastic on this shirt, so I removed it and used a 1/8" woven elastic (in white) instead. It was much easier to work with, and I didn't need to tape the presser foot again.

Because the shirt started out as a XXL, it was a few inches too long. I didn't want the shirt to feel/look like a maternity shirt, so I decided to shorten it. While the shirt was on my body, I pinned a side seam where I wanted the shirt to hit my hip. I then measured the difference between the pin and the existing hem (after shirt was off my body), then marked the difference around the entire bottom hem. I cut approximately 1.5" off the bottom, including the existing hem, then made a guide stitch around the entire shirt to make my new hem.
Actually, I made two guide stitches along the bottom of the shirt: one 1/2" from the cut edge, and one a little over 1" from the cut edge (I used the edge of the metal plate on my sewing machine as a guide, so roughly 1"-1 1/4"). Use these guide stitches to iron the edge of your fabric up, creating a new hem and encasing the raw edges.
If the entire shirt was knit, I would have just stuck with one guide stitch and sewed it down, but the front panel has a satin poly insert which frays like I needed to encase the raw edges to keep it from coming apart in the wash. Also, make sure to pin the fabric in place, especially if working with knit, so your hem doesn't shift while being fed under your presser foot. Pinning also helped immensely because the hem was rounded, which is more difficult to sew straight.
My brain must have ran out of batteries, because I forgot to take a picture of the finished hem-but I used a double needle (size 3mm) and sewed around the shirt twice (creating 4 lines). I thought it would be a fun detail to match the pleating on the front bodice. I'll take a picture of me wearing my 'NEW-to-me' shirt, and post it this week.

Thanks for stopping by!

Let Birds Fly


  1. That's a great tutorial--it's easy to follow. What a useful and creative idea. Nnnnice.

    1. Thanks Teresa! I appreciate you stopping by my blog :)


Thanks peeps for reading Apples By Ashley!
I love hearing from my lovely blog Stalkers, so please do not be afraid to leave a comment, make a suggestion or ask me a question below.