How To Alter a T-Shirt That’s Too Small or Big (Easy Tips)

If your t-shirt is too big, too small, too long, or too wide, don’t consign it to the charity box just yet.

Can you alter t-shirts? Altering a t-shirt at home is remarkably simple, even for those with next to no sewing skills (in fact, some adjustments can be made without you having to so much as thread a needle).

If you want to boast the best fitting t-shirt in town, you’re in the right place to find out how to do it.

How to Alter T-shirts That are Too Big

A t-shirt that’s too big is no good to anyone. But before you rip it up and turn it into dusters, why not see if you can turn that baggy nightmare into a well-fitting dream? If you’ve got the know-how (and if you don’t already, you’re about to get it), modifying the size of a t-shirt is a piece of cake. Here’s how to do it.

The Method

  • Step 1 - Gather your supplies. You’re going to need a pair of scissors, some basic sewing supplies, and a well-fitting t-shirt. Flip the t-shirt you want to alter inside out. Take a pair of scissors and lop the sleeves off at the shoulder seams (although be careful to leave them still attached to the body).
  • Step 2 - Iron the sleeves flat, before cutting away their seams. Leave the hem in place.
  • Step 3 - Turn the well-fitting t-shirt inside out, tuck the sleeves out of the way, then lay it on top of the larger one so that the collars and shoulders are aligned.
  • Step 4 - Using a fabric marker, trace the outline of the well-fitting shirt onto the larger one, allowing a ½ inch seam allowance.
  • Step 5 - Remove the smaller t-shirt. Space a series of pins just inside the marked lines of the larger t-shirt. Once pinned, cut the t-shirt along the lines. After you’ve finished cutting, remove the pins.
  • Step 6 - Open up the t-shirt and sleeves. If the sleeves are too wide, you might want to trim them slightly along the length. Pin the sleeves to the shoulders, right side in. Use a stretch stitch to sew the sleeves to the shoulders, allowing a ½ inch seam allowance. Remove the pins as you go.
  • Step 7 - Once you’ve attached the sleeves, flatten the t-shirt so the side seams on the t-shirt and sleeves are aligned. Starting at the sleeve hem, stretch stitch your way down to the bottom hem of the shirt, allowing a ½ inch seam allowance. Backstitch at the start and end of the seam for extra strength.
  • Step 8 - Try the shirt on for size. If either the sleeves or the hems are too long, mark how much you want to remove, then fold at the mark. Sew the fold in place allowing a ½ inch seam allowance before trimming any excess fabric. Trim any dangling threads, flip the shirt right side out, and there you have it – a perfectly fitting t-shirt.

Click how to cut tshirt neck to learn more.

Altering a T-shirt That's Too Small


Altering a t-shirt that’s too small isn't difficult. It does, however, require some confidence. And another t-shirt.

The Method

  • Step 1 - Flip the t-shirt inside out. Grab a pair of scissors, take a deep breath, and then cut the t-shirt straight up the side seams from the bottom to just under the arms. Take another deep breath before cutting the side seams on the sleeves (although make sure not to cut the sleeves clean away from the body).
  • Step 2 - Take a spare t-shirt that you don’t mind losing (if you want a subtle look, find one in a similar color and material to the t-shirt you’re altering. If you want a bolder aesthetic, go for a contrasting color or print). Cut out two rectangles from the t-shirt – they should be slightly tapered (6 inches wide at the bottom and 5 inches at the top is perfect) and just a little longer (1 inch will do) than the length of the t-shirt you’re altering.
  • Step 3 - Turn the rectangles and the t-shirt wrong side out. Pin the rectangles to the sides of the t-shirt.
  • Step 4 - Use a stretch stitch to sew the panels to the shirt. Work from the bottom hem up to the edge of the sleeve, using a ½ inch seam allowance. Backstitch a little both at the start and end of the seam for extra strength.
  • Step 5 - Remove the pins and cut away any excess material and hanging threads. Turn the shirt right side out and you’re done!

How to Alter T-shirt Sleeves

If a t-shirt is let down by its too-long sleeves, shortening them to a better fit is easily done.

The Method

  • Step 1 - Find a t-shirt that has the kind of sleeves you want. This will be your template. Take separate measurements of both the hems and the overall length of its sleeves. Add the length to the hem measurement, then cut the sleeves of the t-shirt you’re altering to match.
  • Step 2 - Fold the cut sleeves to create a new hem (this should match the measurement you took in the previous step). Pin, then iron in place, taking care not to iron over the pinheads.
  • Step 3 - Sew the new hem in place using a hemstitch or long zig-zag stitch, removing the pins as you go. Press the hem to finish.

How to Alter a T-shirt Neckline


Sometimes, a t-shirt neckline can gape. Other times it can droop. Occasionally, it might just be a little bit boring. If your t-shirt woes fall into the last category, why not turn a boring crew-neck into a scoop neck? These simple instructions will show you how.

The Method

  • Step 1 - On the front of the t-shirt, use a fabric pen to trace a second collar below the current neckline. It will need to be 2 inches lower on the sides and 1 inch lower on the bottom.
  • Step 2 - Turn the t-shirt around and trace a line 1 inch below the back collar. Cut along the lines. If you’re happy with how the collar looks, you can leave it here. If you’d rather a cleaner finish, hem the raw edges.

Altering a Too Deep V-neck T-shirt

Sometimes, a V-neck t-shirt can reveal just a little bit too much for comfort. If the entire t-shirt is too big, try shrinking it by washing and drying it on a high heat. If it’s just the V-neck that’s causing you bother, try one of the following methods instead:

Method 1 - Sew a button to the bottom of the V-neck. Try it on for size. If it’s still gaping, add another button close to the first. Keep adding buttons until you have the perfect fit.

Method 2 - Pin a piece of ribbon to either side of the neckline. Check if it’s placed in the right position, adjust if necessary, then sew in place. Simply tie the ribbon into a bow to bring the deep v closer together and avoid the dreaded gape.

Alter a Neckline Without Sewing


Altering a t-shirt neckline with sewing might be simple enough, but if you’re needle-phobic or looking for a quick fix, there’s an easy way to create a brand new neckline with nothing more than a cutting mat, a medium-size plate, a rotary cutter, and just a dash of imagination. If you want to turn a tight crew neck into a sultry scoop neck, just try this simple method.

The Method

  • Step 1 - Press and flatten your t-shirt as much as possible, paying particular attention to the seams.
  • Step 2 - Position the plate so its edge falls about an inch below the existing neckline (if you want a deeper neckline, go a little lower). Make sure the plate is centered perfectly between the two shoulders so you don’t end up with an uneven scoop.
  • Step 3 - Weigh the plate down (just use your hand if you haven’t a weight handy) then carefully but firmly run the rotary circle around the plate. The finish will be precise thanks to the rotary cutter and will roll enough that you don’t need to worry about hemming the edges.

Alter T-shirt Length

Whether you want to turn your t-shirt into a crop top or just make it into a manageable length, adjusting the length is a simple enough process.

The Method

  • Step 1 - Try the t-shirt on and measure how much needs to be removed. Take it off, then mark the measurement with a fabric pen, adding ½ inch for the hem. Cut along the line carefully.
  • Step 2 - Finish the raw edge by pinking it with pinking shears (pinking will create less bulk than standard hemming methods). Fold the hem and pin in place.
  • Step 3 - Feed the shirt through your sewing machine, sewing just below the pinked edge on a long zigzag stitch. Press the new hem to finish.

How to Take in Shoulders On a T-shirt


For many women, finding a t-shirt that fits across the shoulders can be a big challenge. If this sounds like you, learning how to narrow shoulders could make a world of difference to how comfortable you feel in a shirt. Best of all, it doesn’t need major surgery to do it.

The Method

  • Step 1 - Flip the t-shirt inside out. Rip out the shoulder seams from the shoulder to the area where the armpit falls.
  • Step 2 - Pinch the fabric on the outside of the sleeve by as much as you want to take in– unless the t-shirt is particularly badly fitting, an inch should do. Pin the fold in place and try the t-shirt on. If it’s still too large, unpin, pinch in another inch, then try it on again. Keep adjusting until you’re 100% happy with the fit.
  • Step 3 - Sew your new shoulder seams in place from the inside of the t-shirt. To finish, cut away excess fabric and trim any dangling threads.

Alter T-shirts Without Sewing


If you don’t want to sew, don’t worry – you don’t have to. Plenty of adjustments can be made simply and easily without ever breaking out the sewing supplies.

Shortening: This method works as well for a t-shirt’s sleeves as it does for its body. Measure how much of the t-shirt needs to be removed. Mark out the area with a fabric pen, adding on an extra 1 inch for the seam allowance. Cut the lines carefully with scissors (if you want a less bulky finish to the edge, reduce the seam allowance be ½ inch, and cut the edge with pinking shears instead of regular scissors). Fold at the mark and tuck hem tape into the fold. To finish, simply press the new hem in place.

Fix a gaping neck: Stop a too big neckline from slipping down your shoulders or revealing a little more than you intended with some double-sided clothing tape. Bear in mind this is a temporary fix and you’ll need to remove the tape before washing the garment.

Alter T-shirts With Scissors

We’ve looked at a few ways you can alter a t-shirt without sewing, but the one method we haven’t mentioned yet is how to alter a shirt with scissors. Granted, this isn't necessarily going to give you an haute couture look, but who needs haute couture when you can have a funky crop tank instead?

The Method

  • Step 1 - Cut the sleeves off as close to the seams as you can get without actually cutting into them.
  • Step 2 - Cut a scoop shape from the neck, starting by the seam and scoping deeper towards the center. If you want a cleaner finish, use a bowl as a template. Center it so that it touches each shoulder in the same place, then use a fabric marker to trace the outline. Cut as close to the line as possible.
  • Step 3 - Once you’ve cut the neckline, pinch each side and pull it out slightly to give a cleaner finish to the edges. And there you have it – from boring t-shirt to statement tank in less than 5 minutes!

Do Tailors Alter T-shirts?

Do tailors alter t-shirts? To put it bluntly, tailors will alter just about anything you pay them to. Altering a t-shirt is typically an easy enough job to do at home, but if you’d really rather leave things to the professionals, you won’t have any trouble finding one to help. As t-shirts don’t require major surgery to alter, you shouldn’t need to pay more than around $10-$20 for a quick fix.

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