Learn How to Do 5 Epic T-shirt Upcycles

The DIY Designer
by The DIY Designer
10 Materials
1 Hour

I absolutely love refashioning clothes to make amazing, professional-looking pieces. I took 5 different T-shirts and transformed them into edgy, trendy, and incredible looks. The best part of this upcycle is that you can use old T-shirts you have sitting at home or just head on over to the thrift store to pick up a few Ts. If you want to learn how to recreate these unbelievable upcycles, this tutorial is definitely for you! Follow my easy, step-by-step guide and add these fashion-forward pieces to your wardrobe!

Tools and materials

Tools and materials:

  • T-shirts
  • Shoulder pads
  • Tie/lace 
  • 3-5 yards of fringe
  • 3-4 yards of grommet tape
  • Pant legs
  • Fabric scissors
  • Fabric glue
  • Pins 
  • Sewing machine 
Cut the underarm seam
Make a padded shoulder T

The first shirt I’ll be refashioning is a super cute and trendy, padded shoulder T. I thrifted a fun X-men T-shirt and got started by cutting open the underarm seam.

Add shoulder pads


I turned the T inside out and laid a little glue down for the shoulder pad. I made sure that the rounded edge would be lying out by my arm and that the straight edge would be on the inside by my neck. A great tip is to try and line up the curved side with the shoulder seam of the T-shirt.

Glue the extra fabric

Next, I turned the T right side out and put some glue on the shoulder pad. I then tucked the sleeve inside so that the fabric would stick to the shoulder pad. I used my hand to check that the material was lying nice and flat. If the sleeves are a little too long, you can always cut off the ends of them. 

Upcycle old T-shirts

I am absolutely head over heels for this shoulder pad T! 

Find two T-shirts
Make a split T

For the next T-shirt trend, I decided to make a split T. I didn’t want to use a graphic T-shirt but I absolutely loved the idea of using tie-dye. 

Cut the shirts

First, I needed to decide which side of each top I would use. Once I had decided I placed down my ruler leaving a small amount of seam allowance and used a rotary cutter to cut the fabric. 

Pin the two sides

Next, I made sure the two sides were right sides together before I pinned the front pieces in place. I then turned the T-shirts over and pinned the backs together in the same way.  

Sew together

The first stitch that I did was a wide, straight stitch just to make sure that the new T-shirt worked. 

Cut excess material

I tried on the T and it was perfect! I then set my sewing machine to overlock and once that was finished, I cut off any excess material. 

Add a topstitch

The last thing I did was fold over the seam allowance and topstitch it down. This left me with a clean, crisp front, making this new T look really professional. 

How to upcycle a T-shirt

This split tie-dye T is totally amazing! It’s such a fun look! 

Pin where you will cut
Make a peek-a-boo dress

For this new, peek-a-boo long sleeve dress, I first decided where exactly I wanted to crop this long sleeve T. 

Cut at your marking

Once I had pinned the top, I used my handy rotary cutter to cut it exactly where I wanted it.

Pin tape

In order to attach my gorgeous, red grommet tape, I placed it on the shirt, right sides together, and pinned it down. 

Sew on the tape

I then sewed right along the edge and once the tape was sewed on, I folded the tape down and pressed it so that the material would hold in the right position. 

Add lace

I then got started on lacing the two pieces together. If you prefer to, you can always just wear this as an awesome two-piece or even just use the top half as a crop top. 

Put in darts

I tried on the dress and realized it was a bit too big for me. I knew it would be an easy fix. I made two darts in the skirt and on the top to take this piece in a little. I also decided to add one big dart in the back, by the neck, making this piece more fitted. 

Ways to upcycle a T-shirt

This long sleeve dress is so edgy and amazing! I just love how it turned out! 

Cut the T-shirt sleeves off
Create fun puff sleeves

For the fourth look, I used this red T-shirt and the legs of a pair of red sweatpants that I had already cropped into shorts. To get started, I cut off the sleeves of the T, making sure to cut off the seam allowance as well. 

Use the sleeves as a pattern

Next, I had to make sure that the legs of the pants would fit into the armholes of the T. I placed the sleeves I had cut off onto the pants and used them as a pattern to cut the pants to size. 

Gather the fabric

I decided to create a bit of a puff sleeve by gathering some of the fabric before I sewed it. 

Line up the shoulder seams

In order to attach this awesome sleeve to my new T, I turned the top inside out and put the sleeve in. I lined up the shoulder seam on my T-shirt and pinned it to the shoulder seam of my cute new sleeve. Once the two seams were lined up, I did the same with the underarm seams. I then added lots of pins all the way around. 

Sew on the new sleeves

I hopped on over to my sewing machine to sew on the sleeves.

Cut the extra sleeve off

I tried on my new top and realized it just didn’t work with the drop shoulder. I seam ripped the sleeves, folded the T in half, and cut the original sleeves of the T-shirt. I repeated the process of attaching the new sleeves and made sure to press the fabric once the sleeves were on. 

How to upcycle old T-shirts

I am totally in love with these puff sleeves! 

Glue on the fringe
Make a fringed dress

For this last look, I wanted to make an oversized T into a gorgeous fringed dress. I made a huge mistake when attaching the fringe because I glued it onto the outside of the T-shirt. If you plan on recreating this style, make sure to glue or sew it to the inside of the shirt. 

Add fringe to the sleeves

I then cut off the sleeves of the T and used my fabric glue to stick some fringe on the armhole. 

T-shirt upcycle ideas

I am so obsessed with this fringed T! Tell me which look you liked best in the comments below! 

Suggested materials:
  • T-shirts
  • Shoulder pads
  • Tie/lace
See all materials

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Join the conversation
2 of 6 comments
  • Sandy Sandy on Oct 27, 2021

    Love them all!!!! Have a question on the puff sleeve T. Do the sleeves , you pre-made, still fit after you trimmed the armhole back? Thanks

  • Lailasultani Lailasultani on Oct 28, 2021

    I really love all of them. I don’t have sewing machine, any other recommendations?