Turn an old shirt into a girl’s tunic

frontTo celebrate our ‘Simple Life’ theme week I have put together a tutorial on how to make a girl’s tunic out of an old shirt.

Here is the thing: shirts fray first at the collar and at the cuffs though the rest of the shirt is still in perfect condition. The material shirts are made out of is perfect for a little girl’s tunic, so why not try and recycle the shirt and give it a new lease of life? The best part is that the buttons and button holes are already made, saving you a huge amount of work.

I got together with my friend Purvika, the owner of bebe bunting and a really talented, creative girl and away we went, making a tunic for my 18-month-old, Violette.

I have to say, I am quite pleased with our result! It is very simple, but I think it works well and is an easy pattern to start off with. If you want, you can add on appliqués, trimmings, ribbons, etc. after finishing off the tunic (I added on a little bit of smocking on the front). You can even make it longer and make it into a dress. The sky is the limit.

Here is the tutorial:

Print out the pattern part 1 and part 2, and cut it out. Start by cutting out the front, back and the sleeves. We used the same pattern for the front and back as we wanted to keep the pattern as simple as possible and it worked well.

To make the front and back panels of the tunic:

Lay out the shirt flat with the buttons facing down. Fold the shirt lengthwise in half, with the button exactly on the fold. Now place the pattern on the shirt, placing it even with the folded edge of the shirt. The pattern should be placed on the shirt so that you have a 1 cm allowance over the first button at the top of the panel.  Cut out the panels.  After the pieces are cut out and unfolded, they will become full size panels.

To make the sleeves:

Align the sleeve pattern with the fold on the sleeve and cut out, repeat with the other sleeve. cutting sleeve

To make the bias for the neck:

Use some of the remaining fabric to make some bias binding. Cutting on bias simply means cutting a 3 cm wide by 20 cm long strip of fabric on a diagonal. Fold it in half widthwise and now you have a perfect strip of bias to finish the neck opening later on. bias

To sew the front and the back panels:

Pin together the front and the back panels right sides together and sew together on the sides and on the shoulders. pin two sides

To sew the sleeves:

Fold  the raw edge of the end of the sleeves twice  out 0.5 cm towards the wrong side and press to make a neat hem. Top stitch the hem of the sleeves. Now pin together the sides of the sleeves right side on right side and sew.

Sew the bodice and sleeves together:

Turn the tunic top inside out with the seams facing outwards and insert the sleeves, with the right side facing out, into the sleeve openings. insert sleeve Make sure you align the seam on the sleeve with the seam on the bodice.

Finish off the neck:

Pin the bias around right side of the neck opening . Sew around it, leaving an extra cm allowance on each end.  bias2

Trim off the excess fabric on the seam, fold the bias to the inside of the tunic and iron it down flat so that it makes a neat finish. Tuck in the excess bias at the end. P9200288Topstitch all around the neck opening.

Voila, the tunic is finished!


– Emilie


Comments (6)

October 8, 2009

Supercute! I should try this!

October 8, 2009

any advice for scaling it up to larger sizes (i.e., 3/4).

October 8, 2009

Now I really have to buy a sewing machine! This is too cute.

October 8, 2009

Good question Angela. The top is pretty lose so I think you would be able to get away with adding a centimetre to the sleeves and to the length if you wanted to make a small size 3. I’ll try to make a bigger one and will post the results!

October 9, 2009

Brilliant! Though with 2 boys I’ll have to put my mind to what I could do for them from an old shirt.

As a quilter, I have been collecting shirt fabric for some time – you can make gorgeous quilts (often suitable for babies, if you use the paler shades) from them. I also swap shirts with a couple of other quilters who do the same, as it turns out our husbands have quite different tastes in shirts!

I will also tell you that my husband is very suspicious of me going near his wardrobe now, and I have even been accused of transferring shirts to my fabric collection before they’ve really worn out ! I couldn’t possibly comment, of course…

January 24, 2011

[…] tunic. Shown here with no pants, ahem, but ordinarily, I’d suggest something more. I used a great free pattern from, although it’s super hard to find on their website. I think this would […]

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