Side Gathered Shirt – Tutorial – men’s shirt refashion

Do you remember this shirt?? It’s from a What-I-Wore-Wednesday,HERE, but it went CRAZY on Pinterest because people thought it was a tutorial.

Well, for all you that have been waiting and waiting on this, NOW it’s a tutorial – wahoo!!  (awesome pose I have going, I know – but in the other picture my eyes were close, so you get this one)
So, let’s delve on in….
First you need a big tshirt.  The original shirt was a pretty thin tshirt – you know, how some tshirts are regular feeling, and some are thin.  So I knew I wanted a thin one so it would drape nicely.  I scoured the mens section of the thrift store and hit the jackpot – one that was plain (no decals) and thin (see how the light comes through it) – perfect.  I’m sure people were thinking “why is that crazy lady and all her kids feeling each shirt in the men’s section??”

Anyways, once you have your shirt of choice, you’ll also need elastic thread.  Don’t be scared of it – it may be your new best friend!  I love sewing with elastic thread – it just makes things more fun.   For posts about using elastic thread in your bobbin:
what the elastic thread package looks like
–Shirring (sewing with elastic bobbin thread) hints HERE and HERE
 So, handwind your elastic thread on your bobbin.  Also, you can change your needle to one for knits if you want.

Now, I made the side gathering first, and then altered the shirt to fit me.  In hindsight, I wonder if I should have altered the shirt first and then gathered the side.

To gather the side, you are going to sew rainbows of loops.  I drew a picture so you could see what I mean – there’s a couple loops in the center, then 4 archs of loops surrounding it.  I made it one continuous line of sewing:

It’s several half-circles, all looped.  I used a fabric marker to draw on my shirt the first row, but just eyeballed it after that.  I’m not going to say this was easy – it’s a bit tricky.  It does get better as you work your way out from the middle, so stick with it.  Try to hold your shirt flat as best you can and that will help.

Phew, done!  Here is what my front looks like – not exactly like the original shirt, but pretty close.  If my loops were uniform, it would have come out better, but loops are so hard to sew!  Making tight turns is tough – a hint, you can’t tell they’re precise loops in the end, so I made a lot of mine triangles – sewed a little, put the needle down, pivoted, sewed a little, put the needle down, pivoted again.

 Here is what the underneath side looks like – you can kind of see the loops if you look close:

 Now, as mentioned in the this post with the shrinking shirring video, – you need to steam the elastic thread so it’ll shrink and pull in on itself – – use your iron to squirt steam on it:

Now, time to alter the shirt to fit – – here’s the size difference:

 I started by turning it inside out and sewing on that dotted line, taking in several inches.  After that I kept trying it on and taking in different spots – shoulders, more on the sides, etc.  It was tricky and it’s still not quite right.  Kudos to all you who refashion giant tshirts – it’s tricky!

Here’s a side view of the shirring and refashion.  The shirring looks pretty good – you can kind of see where I tweaked it to fit better by pulling it tighter across the chest and tacking it down – that’s why there’s a weird spot near the armpit:

For the neck and arms I ended up just cutting off the ribbing and leaving it as-it.  I tried to hem it in a spot but it was really puckery, so I unpicked it and thought leaving it looked okay and just went with it.

It was also really big across the shoulder area in the back and it’s pretty obvious where I took it in.  I think next time I’ll grab a shirt that’s only a size or two bigger, instead of extremely big like this one (I wear a small and it was an XL):

But overall, I’m pretty happy with my first attempt – you’ll have to let me know if you give this a try!!

Thanks for checking out this post from – – click on over to read it in its entirety – you’ll love it!

Thanks for Reading


  1. says

    That is so awesome! I wonder if I used a Maternity Top if I could save a step of altering the shirt. That is the part that would scare me the most. The elastic thread seems straight forward enough. I love this shirt and will definitely be putting it on my to do list.

  2. says

    I have to try this. I get several free t-shirts when I do volunteer work and I’m always looking for a new way to “doctor” them.

  3. says

    It looks great and I love the idea of using a maternity shirt; that way it would fit in shoulders; that part scares me too. Never used elastic thread, but you make it sound easy! Great job!

  4. says

    I am curious if a maternity style shirt would work better then men’s. Since it would still be smaller through the top and arms, but have room in the stomach area. Maybe you could do the shirring without so much resizing?! IDK? Very cute, the original and the repurposed version!

  5. says

    Looks great! I bet it´s supersoft.
    Although, I believe the original shirring is actually shibori with elastic thread.¿What do you think?.
    Congrats once again!

  6. says

    Awesome! I guess I really need to get familiar with elastic threading… this is not the first thing I’ve wanted to make with the stuff.

    When I refashion t-shirts, I’m working with oversized, already owned shirts. I cut off the sleeves and then reattach them after I cut it to fit the kind of sleeve I want. That would take care of that weird underarm thing you have going on.

  7. says

    Seriously adorable!! I love this idea of using an old shirt to make NEW!! You are so cute!! Thanks so much for linking up to Sassy Sites for our Friday ffa party! Have a fabulous weekend!


  8. says

    I saw a sewing craft in the past week or so from a girl who quilts a lot. she was making something to wear I believe, but the design required turning a lot too. she suggested and used a freeform needle used for quilting so she didn’t have to keep turning, starting and stopping. maybe it would work with this project? Just a thought. purely an amateur sewer, but though it would help anyone who might want to give it a shot.

  9. says

    Ya know what, this would be super cute with a yellow shirt, and painting the little poofs with brown fabric paint – like a sunflower. I guess you could do that with any type of flower that looks similar, like a daisy, a white shirt with yellow poofs. Anyways, just an idea :)

  10. says

    Ooh… just had a thought. What about using a MATERNITY shirt? It’s meant to fit the upper half, but has a lot of extra fabric in the front for gathering/shirring. I’m totally going shopping for some elastic thread! THANKS!

  11. says

    Hey Mandy,
    Fell in love with the shirt went to the thrift store yesterday and found the just shirt that I think worked great had to play with the elastic swirls a bit but I faked it and think it worked out well ended up doing it to the sleeves as well to make them a little more snug…had a blast cant wait to play more with the elastic shirring. Also took up the sides had bought a 2x large womans it still looks great for my first remodel. Thanks for a great Tutorial

  12. says

    So glad you put this together!! I read one comment about a quilting needle, but wondered if you’ve ever looked at a walking foot for your machine? It’s great!! You drop your feed-dogs and more or less just “draw” your seams. No twisting your fabric to follow the seams. Putting your project in a hoop and spraying it with a starch can also help to keep it flat so to achieve a consistent loop (or what-ever). With knits they will stretch in when put in a hoop but a wash-out fusible stabilizer can also help with that. I look forward to reading more from your blog!!
    ~Alice Nielson

  13. says

    i dont know if anyone has already said this, but if the loops are bigger then the little things that pop will be bigger like they are in the original.

  14. says

    I’m glad you said “Don’t be afraid of elastic thread.” Frankly, I think it’s scary!! This top is so cute though, it might be enough to get me over the fear! Thanks for a great tutorial! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  15. says

    This may be a bit more work, but, I think if you sewed an xl front to a s back, you would have the fabric for the gathers and not have the shoulder puckers. Just an idea that I will try when I get some elastic thread. :)

  16. says

    For someone that can’t sew a stich and isn’t an ounce of crafty.. I would love to know where you got the original shirt. It’s fantastic. Great job recreating it!

  17. says

    This is great- unfortunatly my eyes aren’t as sharp + have let my sewing skills go. Love this shirt, awesome what you have done with it. Hmmmm let me figure out a plan…. lol

  18. says

    I’m planning to make a swim outfit (short leggings with a skirt and attached tank) and I’d love to try this with swimsuit material. Very cute!

  19. Cathleen Dennison says

    I love this!! I agree with the earlier persons post that yours is better. I like your sleeves. I put it on my pintrest in a file called easy sewing. Now that I have read it I might have to change it. Not sure it would be as easy as I originally thought. I am taking a sewing class in a couple of weeks I may try this after.

  20. says

    Hi, I haven’t read all the comments so someone may have already thought of this, but I wonder if sewing the loops in free machine embroidery mode (ie with the teeth down) would make sewing the loops any easier?

  21. Ashley Nicole says

    Honestly, I like the part that you thought was awkward, if you had done that a few times around and made it into a flower shape, and it probably would have compensated for the oversized shirt a little more? But it’d probably be more work that way, so nevermind.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge