How to Make a Color-Block Shirt Using Your Grandad's Old Clothes

Inspired By Myah
by Inspired By Myah
11 Materials
3 Hours

Today, I'm upcycling one of my grandfather’s old shirts and transforming it into a color-block shirt. I'll be spicing it up a little and slimming it down. If you want to see how to make a color-block shirt, then keep reading.

Tools and materials:

  • Oversized shirt
  • Bodice and sleeve patterns (optional)
  • Fitted shirt (optional)
  • Sewing machine
  • Matching thread
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Iron
Color-block shirt inspiration

Detaching the sleeves

1. Unpick the sleeves

Detach the sleeves with a seam ripper.

Tracing a bodice pattern

2. Slim down the shirt

There are two ways to tailor the bodice. The first is to use a pattern.

Tracing a shirt for the armhole

Or, use an existing shirt. Align the shoulder where it drops and trace.

Adding seam allowance to the armhole

Add seam allowance to the armholes.

Marking the new side seam

Line up the shirt with the collar. Mark the side seam.

Straightening the lines with a ruler

Straighten with a ruler and add seam allowance.

Cutting the shirt

3. Cut the shirt

Cut along the traced lines.

Tracing the pattern on the back

Do the same on the back. Remember the armhole is different from the front. 

Tracing the sleeves

4. Shape the sleeves

Trace the sleeves. Line up the top of the sleeve with the edge of the shoulder. Mark the armhole line.

Tracing the armhole

Now, do the same for the front, including seam allowance.

Attaching the sleeves

5. Attach the sleeves

Align the center of the armhole and sleeve, right sides facing, then pin all around. 

Stretching while sewing

Stretch the pinned layers as you sew to straighten out the ripples. 

How to attach the sleeves

Alternatively, fold the side seams of your bodice and sew down the side, right sides facing. Give it a good press after. Repeat for the second sleeve.

Finishing seams with a bias band

I finished my seams with a bias band.

Sewing the down the side of the sleeves

Next, sew down the side of the sleeves.

DIY color-block shirt tutorial

Try on the shirt and make any adjustments.

Marking where to crop the shirt

6. Crop the shirt

Make a mark where you’d like the shirt cropped.

Measuring where to crop the shirt

In the reference image, the red fabric gets introduced seamlessly. To do the same, mark the line you want (with added seam allowance) and ensure it continues to the sleeves.

Red fabric for the DIY color-block shirt

7. Cut the fabric

I doubled up the red fabric because I want it to be thicker. Fold it in half and mark how long you want the bottom piece to be on the folded edge. Mine is 15cm (5.90”). Extend these lines.

How to sew a color-block shirt

Fold the back of your shirt and match it to your measurements by putting it along the folded edge. Then, mark where the seams end.

Squaring off the line

Square off the line, as shown. 

Using a curved ruler

I’d like my back piece to be curved, so I’m using a curved ruler. You can also use a pattern or shirt with a rounded bottom. 

Cutting out the pieces

Add seam allowance and cut out this piece. Do the same to the front, too.

Front and back color block pieces

Here are my back and front pieces.

Lining up the sides and connecting them

Line up the sides and connect them. I want a slit in the side of my

shirt. I’ll stop sewing around where my finger is pointed.

Aligning the pieces

Before sewing, double-check that all pieces match up. The front piece was just a little bit longer in my case.

Sewing a zigzag stitch

Finish the raw edges with a zigzag stitch and sew until the slit, then backstitch.

Finishing the edges

To finish these edges, fold them back and press the folds. 

Sewing the side slit

Once ironed, sew the slit from the bottom up, then pivot back down.  

Attaching the color block piece

8. Assemble the DIY color block shirt

With right sides facing, line up the seam (where the split is) to the center seam of the shirt and pin that in place. Repeat for the back piece. Once complete, do a straight stitch all around. 

Making a color-block shirt

Iron the seam allowance and topstitch. 

Finishing the sleeves

9. Finish the sleeves

Measure the circumference of the sleeves; mine was 15.5cm (6.10”). 

Measuring the sleeve color block

Measure 15.5cm (6.10 “) from the fold of the fabric. Add seam allowance to the bottom, top, and sides. Sew around the lines with a straight stitch. 

Measuring the cuffs

For the cuff, measure your wrist. Mine is 20.5cm (8.07”). Put the fabric on the fold, mark your measurement and add 1cm (0.39”). 

Sewing the side seams

Sew the side seam of your sleeve and attach it to the armhole.

Neatening edges with a zigzag stitch

A zigzag stitch will neaten the edge and prevent it from fraying.

Folding the cuff ready to sew

Fold the cuff piece right sides facing. Sew down the side.

Folding the cuff upwards

Fold the piece upward and iron.

Pulling on the basting stitch to gather

Sew a basting stitch along the raw edge of the sleeve. Pull the thread to gather until it fits the cuff.

Inserting the cuff

Place the sleeve into the cuff, right sides touching. Align the side seams and secure with a straight stitch.

Hemming the bottom of the shirt

10. Hem

Hem the bottom.   

How to make a color-block shirt

How to make a color-block shirt 

What do you think of this trendy color-block shirt? I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to sew a color-block shirt. Thanks for joining me. 

Suggested materials:
  • Oversized shirt
  • Bodice and sleeve patterns (optional)
  • Fitted shirt (optional)
See all materials

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Join the conversation
2 of 5 comments
  • Diceprincess Diceprincess on Sep 05, 2022

    I love your design even better than your inspiration piece. Well done!

  • Connie Connie on Oct 10, 2022

    i admire anyone that has sewing skills. However, why not just dye the bottom of the shirt and shirt sleeves to get the same results without deconstructing the shirt and/or sleeves of it? Just my two cents.

    Again, major props to you and everyone else out there who knows how to and likes to sew.