Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!

Makeover Monday: The Tail End of a Shirt Story


For the past 2 Makeover Mondays, I’ve been experimenting to see how many things I could make from a single shirt. First, I took the collar off to wear on its own, then I tried making a sort of cowl/scarf hybrid with the body of the shirt. And today, I have a quick and easy project to make with the shirt sleeves!

I’ve had a number of ideas for using the shirt sleeves, but I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite, the concept of which is to make a scarf that, when worn, looks like you’ve draped a jacket or cardigan over your shoulders, you know, with the sleeves hanging down in front, or maybe loosely tied. That’s the idea, anyway.

Let’s start by taking a look at what’s left of my increasingly-cannibalized shirt:

What's left of my shirt

What’s left of my shirt, after taking off the collar and the body below the arms. Hmm, it does kind of look like a shrug…

Here’s the plan:

1. Cut sleeves off

2. Sew sleeves together at cut edges, forming long tube.

Sounds simple enough! I’ll start by using my tape measure and pins to mark my cutting line, as I did for last week’s cowl:

Marking cutting lines

Marking cutting lines. As shown in the close-up on the right, I’ve lined up the vertical line next to the 8 with the black woven line in the shirt, so that I’m cutting on the straight grain.

1. Cut sleeves off. Pin through both layers of each sleeve, above the tape measure, to mark your cutting line. Cut just under the pins (away from the body of the shirt). Since I’ll be sewing the cut edges of the sleeves together, it’s important that the cutting lines are as straight as possible.

To get ready for Step 2 (sewing), turn 1 sleeve inside-out. Next, slip the right-side-out sleeve inside it.

Getting ready to sew

Getting ready to sew. The top photo shows the right-side-out sleeve INSIDE the inside-out sleeve, with the sleeve seams aligned. Line up the cut edges, matching sleeve seams, and pin, as shown in the bottom photo.

You should have a tube at this point, since you have one sleeve inside the other; be sure you haven’t pinned through all 4 layers of fabric at once. And double-check that the right sides of the sleeves are facing each other. Now you’re ready to sew!

Tip: If your sewing machine has a free-arm option, this would be a great time to use it. This makes sewing a narrow tube, like a sleeve or cuff, so much easier.

2. Sew sleeves together at cut edges, forming long tube. Stitch all the way around, with about .5″ seam allowance; finish this seam, either by serging the cut edge, zig-zagging around (within the seam allowance), or using pinking shears. Turn your tube right-side out and press the seam you just sewed.

Here’s my finished tube:

My sleeve scarf!

My sleeve scarf! The seam I just sewed is in the center of the piece.

Now it’s time to figure out how to wear my sleeve scarf! (I have to think of a better name for it.) Here are some styling possibilities:

Wearing the sleeve scarf

Wearing the sleeve scarf. 1. With the ends simply hanging down in front, this looks most like jacket or sweater sleeves draped around the shoulders. 2. A single loop, ends aligned. 3. Tucked inside, cravat-style. 4. One end tossed rakishly across the shoulder.

Pros and cons: It’s not very long, is it? I should have realized that, when you sling a sweater over your shoulders, that’s the sleeves plus the width of the body, giving a lot more length for tying (at the waist, for instance).

What if… I got a shirt from a thrift shop, like a man’s size XXL? Maybe the sleeves would be long enough to allow for more versatility. (My finished sleeve scarf is 40″ long, just as a point of reference.)

And it’s possible that this particular shirt was not the best choice, with its Western-style snaps and frayed edges. On the plus side, the extra weight in the cuffs from the snaps and the multiple fabric layers help it to hang nicely, despite the lightweight material.

What if… I tried this idea with a sweater? I think it would have to be pretty lightweight to work well, but this might be a way to get some use from a sweater whose body is unwearable for some reason. Or maybe I could use another part of the shirt or sweater to extend the length, by adding a piece in the middle of the scarf; you could get an interesting color-blocking effect that way. Because I like to mix colors and textures, I might even make a 3-part scarf, starting with 3 different garments!

Well, since I now have nothing left of my shirt except the upper chest, shoulders and caps where the sleeves used to be, I believe it’s time to declare that it has given its all for Makeover Monday. And honestly, I’m not sure how much I’ll actually use any of the 3 things I made out of this shirt, but I do think the experiments have been worthwhile; at least the concepts are worth further exploration. And heck, before this Shirt Story began, that shirt was languishing somewhere in the bottom of a very large bag full of what I euphemistically think of as “clothes I plan to do something with”. Someday. Which is to say, there are lots more projects coming soon on Makeover Monday!

Author: Colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, lingerie, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

4 thoughts on “Makeover Monday: The Tail End of a Shirt Story

  1. It looks pretty snappy to me! It sort of retains it’s western look no matter what you do to it! 😀 The short, knotted scarves are quite popular now anyway. 🙂 I call it a win!

    • Thanks, Rara!! The material is really soft and light, so it does feel good around my neck. And it doesn’t look like every other scarf out there. Which I hope is a good thing. The color is a great accent too.

  2. If I saw it at Nordstrom, I wouldn’t bat an eye…cute!

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