Friday, June 20, 2008


It's hard to resist a twenty-five cent t-shirt, at least for me. I didn't resist this one, in spite of the fact that it was a maternity top. I wanted to see how hard it would be to turn it into an empire-waisted top. It was pretty easy, so I'm sharing the process.

Start with:

A Maternity T-shirt

You'll also need a fabric belt. I've used one that loops through chrome rings, but a buckle style would work as well, or even ribbon, tied in a bow.
Split the sides. Don't worry about picking the stitching out to do that. Just cut the seam, but make the cut on the front side of the seam, because the next thing you're going to do is get rid of the extra width in the back of the shirt, which will cut the old seam off at the same time.

Cut away the extra back width

Now measure your own back width, at the point just under your breasts. You want the back of the shirt to be the same width you are, so you'll do a little shaping now. Fold the back of the tee in half lengthwise, and the tape with your own back width in half also, and put the folds together. That will center your back width on the back width of the shirt. Mark where the end of the tape falls, adding some for seam allowance, and cut a gentle curve in to that point.

There's a good reason for shaping the back: When you gather the front of the shirt, it will pull the extra fabric from the back forward, and the side seams, too.

Match center backs of tape and tee, and mark

Cut a curve in to the mark

Next step is to figure out how much belt you need, and whether you want the buckle to fall at center front, or to one side. If you want the buckle at the center, remember that you'll need less length for that end than for the other, because of the part that will loop through the buckle. Play with it. If, when you're done, you don't feel like it's "right" you can change it. I did!

Once you've cut your belt lengths, measure down from the armhole to the point just under your bust. On me, that was five inches. Lay your inside-out tee flat, front up, but lifted out of the way. Pin the ends of the belt to the back edge of the tee, with the top edge of the belt on the mark of the under-bust point. The right side of the buckle end should be face down on the shirt back, but the loop-through end should be face up, because when you thread it through the buckle, it will reverse itself.

Placing the belt

You're almost finished! Sew up the side seams, being careful not to stretch them out of shape.

Note: When you cut the extra fabric away at the back, the side seams became slightly different lengths, but shaping the back will have equalized them somewhat, and any additional difference can be eased as you pin and sew.

I'm a big fan of short cuts. One of those is what to do when you reach the hem. The long cut is to pick out the hem for an inch or so on front and back, sew the side seam, and then re-hem. I don't like to take the time, but I don't want raw edges showing either, so I turn the seam allowance back to the seam itself, in a triangle, and sew right down to the point. It looks like this:

Fold and sew to the point

From the outside, you see this:

No raw edges!

The last step is to tack the buckle of the belt in place, to keep it from drooping.

The neckline of the shirt I used was too high for me, and I had extra belting, so I cut the neck down and added this:

A triangle of trim

Here's the finished shirt!


Debbie said...

Well that tured out nice. Thanks for sharing

SisterDG said...

OMG, that's so cute! You are one of those scary-genius people, to be sure. :-)

Stephanie said...

that is cute! And now I know what to do with my 2 fav maternity tops that I cannot bear to part with, even tho I don't want to have any more babes!! thx!

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