How to Upcycle an Old Plaid Shirt Into a Cute Ruffle Top

5 Materials
1 Hour

For this awesome thrift flip project, all you need is a plaid shirt and your sewing gear.

Follow along with my step-by-step tutorial to learn how to create your own plaid ruffle top. Let's get started.

Tools and materials:

  • Plaid shirt to be upcycled
  • Patches and iron (optional)
  • Straight pins
  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine
Patch covering logo

1. Logo coverup

Consider covering any logos or imperfections with patches.

2. Find and create the desired length

Try on your plaid shirt and mark the desired length with a pin. We are going for a slightly cropped look.

Save the excess fabric to be used on the sleeves later. Cut across at the new length.

Creating desired length

Then, use a relatively tight zigzag stitch to finish the raw edge.

Zigzag stitch

3. Plan your sleeves

Try the shirt on again and mark with a pin where you want the bell-like sleeve to start.

Planning the sleeves

Then fold the shirt evenly in half and cut off both sleeves.

Cutting off the sleeves

We will be using the original sleeve cuffs on our upcycled top, so chop those off from the sleeves as well.

Be sure to allow enough extra fabric beyond the cuff to be able to stitch it back on to the shirt.

Cutting fabric

4. Prepare the first sleeve tier

Start by cutting open the sleeve piece, cutting out the bulky seams as well.

Cutting fabric

Next, cut right above the button on the sleeve.

Where to cut

Cutting fabric

Now, cut the flat fabric piece in half, leaving you with two long, flat pieces.

Then, sew them together to make a longer strip. This will become the first piece of the sleeve tiers.

Two fabric pieces

5. Prepare strip for the second sleeve tier

The second piece of the sleeve tier needs to be longer than the first to create that bellowing shape.

Take the excess piece that was chopped from the bottom of the original shirt and fold it in half horizontally, including as much fabric as possible.

Preparing strip

Cut off the curved edge.

Cutting curved edge

Then, cut the resulting piece in half lengthwise to create two, extra long strips.

Cutting fabric

6. Create loops with tier 1 and tier 2 pieces

Sew the pieces from step 4 together, then sew the pieces from step 5 together, creating a small loop and a large loop of fabric.

Fabric piece

Here is the result:

Small and large loop

7. Join the loops together

Put the small loop with the right side facing out. The longer loop should have the wrong side out. Place the small loop inside the large loop.

Joining the loops together

Line up a side seam and pin it in place.

Pinning side seam

8. Place the pin tucks and sew

Then tuck and pin the fabric all around to create the sleeve detail.

Note: You can just use your machine or hand stitching to make the gathered edge on the longer piece. I prefer the crisper look of pin tucks.

Pin tucks

Then sew it together, removing the pins as you go. Here’s the view from the inside, then right side out:

Inside view

Right side out view

9. Attach the new sleeves

Sew the new sleeve ruffle piece onto the remaining sleeve stub, using the same pin tuck method.

Attaching new sleeves

Start by flipping the new sleeve fabric so that the right sides are facing each other. Then apply the pin tucks all around and sew. See video 8:12 - 8:36.

Attaching new sleeves

Attaching new sleeves

Here’s the result:

Attached sleeve

Now repeat the whole process with the other sleeve.

10. Finish the sleeves

Now that both sleeves are attached, I’m not sure yet if I want to add the cuffs back on, since these floaty, floppy sleeves look pretty amazing.

In the meantime, sew a zigzag stitch on the raw edges to prevent fraying. 

Finishing the sleeves

Here’s the look of the plaid ruffle top without the cuffs:

DIY plaid ruffle top

You’d never know that not that long ago, this thrift flip was a masculine, plaid shirt! It looks and feels amazing, and I can’t get over the gorgeous sleeves.

If you liked this upcycled plaid shirt tutorial, I hope you will make one of your own and show us your results in the comments below.

Feel free to add the cuffs back on as well for a slightly different plaid ruffle top. 

Find all of my 30 Days of Refashions tutorials  here

Suggested materials:
  • Plaid shirt to be upcycled
  • Patches and iron (optional)
  • Straight pins
See all materials

The author may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

Join the conversation
  • Sheila Sheila on Jan 06, 2023

    I will try the project one day but I have a comment about the person that was complaining about you laughing too much. For one laughing is good medicine for your soul and makes you feel good. Second if they don’t like you laughing so much they don’t have to watch your video. It’s just my thought about it. By the way, this is first time I have watched your video and highly enjoyed it, laughing and all!! Especially learning how to change a shirt to a different style!!

  • Ashley Meyer Ashley Meyer on Jan 24, 2023

    You are so fun, thank you!!