Monday, June 17, 2013

Turn an XXL t-shirt into a ruched maternity top!

My name is Becca, and I'm a cheapskate when it comes to buying clothes.  My favorite place to acquire new clothing is DI (a Utah based thrift store), free clothes swaps, or the $1 and $3 dollar sections of walmart. I'll admit it's at places like these where the selection of clothes that fit are horrible.  But I've found that the more I branch out with my sewing, the more these clothes that 'don't fit' have lots of potential.  I've been able to transform quite a few pieces into skirts, shirts, and nightgowns for my four year old.  It's sort of like really cheap fabric.  Regular fabric can cost quite a bit, but if you find a really cute print on an unsold XL Uber-sale item, why not buy it and use it for the fabric?
You know that point during the year where you have so many months left during the season and you're so tired of going through the same shirt rotation, you just wish you had something different to wear?  That's where I'm at with this pregnancy right now.  I don't have much longer to go, but I'm not looking forward to the same old shirts.  They're the ones I used during my last pregnancy, and the one before that.  Don't get me wrong, I love them all and they're cute, it's just that sometimes it's exciting to wear something new.
So anyway, last week I was visiting family and I found myself at the Target they had in town.  Ahh Target, it's probably good I don't live closer to you.  I really think Target is a great store, and it's easy to find a lot of nice quality items there.  But the prices astounded me.  Maternity shirts are so short term, why would I want to spend over $20 on each one?!  The more something costs, the less you can buy.  So I found myself straying from the maternity section to the 50-70% off racks.  Here I found three t-shirts for $5 each.  Not so bad.  I bought three new XL t-shirts for five dollars less than one fancy one in the maternity section.  A shirt is a shirt is a shirt.  If I can make one fit, why pay more? 
While looking through the maternity clothes I notices quite a few tops that were ruched along the side.  Sort of like this.  Cute huh?  I figured I'd give this a try.  I'm sure I'm not the first person to take a clearance item and alter it this way to fit a pregnant lady, but I figured since I'd be trying it out anyway, I'd show you how I did it.  It's super easy!

So here's the before:

Nice and loose.  It doesn't flatter the pregnant belly, was too baggy along the sides and in the sleeves, and the collar was just too large.  Before I ruched the sides I wanted to make it fit more around the top, so I made the following alterations.  

When sewing with knits, try to use a ball point needle.  This will help it slip through the knit fabric without catching and cutting the threads.  These needles can be found at most fabric stores.  I found mine at Joanns for pretty cheap.  

You also need to keep in mind that knit fabric is so great because it stretches so easily.  Because of this you want to avoid a regular straight stitch, as they do not support elasticity.  Ideally I would have used a serger, but since I don't foresee myself owning one of those anywhere in the near future, I used a plain old zig-zag stitch with my plain old sewing machine.  A zig-zag stitch is more forgiving than a straight stitch.  The one thing I wish I had done differently was use a tighter zig-zag.  I didn't notice this while sewing, but using too large of a stitch resulted in it being a bit more visible from the outside, as seen below.
Anyway, I turned the shirt inside out and sewed up the sides and right through the sleeves about 1 1/2" in on both sides.  I also made the collar smaller by stitching at an angle along the shoulders.  Once I had taken in the sides and the shoulders, the results made such a difference in how the shirt fit.  It still wasn't hugging my tummy as much as I wanted, so I went ahead and added elastic to the sides.

First you want to measure how high you want your shirt to ruch along the sides.  How high do you want the sides to sit?  I put the shirt on and looked in a mirror as I sort of pulled the fabric up to where I wanted it to sit when finished, then measured how much elastic I thought I'd need.  It turned out to be about 4".  I also marked on the shirt where the elastic would need to start.

The above picture sort of gives you the idea of how much the elastic can take in.  It all gets ruched down to the four inches, hugging your tummy nicely.

Begin by securing with a few tiny stitches at the top of the elastic to where you marked your shirt.  Once the elastic is secured, make sure your needle is in the down position and stretch your elastic to the hem of your shirt and pin.  This helps you to sort of keep in mind how far you're going to need your elastic to go.  Then increase your stitch size (still using a zig-zag stitch) and sew about an inch at a time, stretching the elastic as you go.  

And that's it!  Finish by securing with a few tiny backward stitches at the end and snip your threads.  This is what it should look like when you're done.

And this is what it looks like from the outside!  It only takes a few minutes to sew elastic up the sides.  It would even be cute on a non-maternity shirt.  Another perk with working with a shirt that was once too large, is that it actually has length in the sleeves.  I have a thing against capped sleeves, or sleeves that are so short they curve up around the arm.  It automatically makes your arm look rounder.

So what about you?  Any tips for making shirts fit the preggo belly?  I'm all ears!  I'd like more options!


  1. That fit is cuter than about 80% of my (mostly hand-me-down) maternity clothes. Next time I'm pregnant, I'm just buying a bunch of XL shirts and bringing myself and my sewing machine to you, sensei.

  2. I have been wanting to do some shirts like this, I even bought some from DI that I wanted to practice on, but never got around to it. Your's turned out so darn cute!

  3. Okay, I'm going to do this next time I'm pregnant. I love it.

  4. I love this! Totally pinning it for future reference! Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Great Shirts, please feel free to check this funny baby pregnant T-shirt This is one bestseller!

  6. I have about 10 of my husbands tshirts I'm going to do this weekend. Love it!!

  7. Order your favourite shirt from, the fasion shopping you need!



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