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Upcycling Old Clothes - How I Repurposed My Band Shirts

This seems to be the year of adding crochet to my clothes and I am very okay with this.

I have a tonne of shirts that aren't fitting right after putting on weight. Many of them are not replaceable so I've been mulling ideas on resizing them. I had a spark of inspiration on Friday and decided to run with it.

Spoiler of the finished product, but look how great it turned out!

(7 minute read)
Woman wearing a bandshirt with crochet panel on shoulder and sides, standing in front of a mirror to capture the back too.
Enhance Band Shirt

Let's go on the journey together!

Really actually a journey, you'll notice some of the photos have varied backgrounds. I was making this while on the way to a friend's place and while visiting. So we have some train seat & Ikea rug backgrounds.

Materials: 

  • Band shirt (or any t-shirt you have)
  • sewing pins
  • scissors
  • Sewing machine (or hand sew the seams)
  • recommend rotary cutter with skip blade, else a hobby knife and ruler will work in a pinch
  • cutting mat
  • 4 mm hook 
  • 4 - 8ply yarn, preferably cotton or no-pill of your choice
  • yarn needle
  • yarn scissors

Terminology:

None of my sewing terms will be correct, please bare with me as I wing most of my sewing escapades

Crochet (US Terminology)

  • CH - chain
  • SC - Single Crochet
  • DC - Double Crochet
  • DC2Tog - Double Crochet 2 together 
  • DC3Tog - Double Crochet 3 together 
  • SC, CH (as DC) - starting stitch where you SC then CH1 in place of a DC. I find it works better than CH2 / CH3. 
  • V Stitch - DC, CH2, DC in the same space. I will refer to it in paragraph, but write it out long hand in the pattern

Step 1: Preparing the Shirt

The shirt I stated with was a little tricky because the body is a tube, not two pieces sewn together. To help keep my cut straight, I laid the shirt flat on the table and used pins to make a straight line along the outside (around the outside).

Black t-shirt laying flat on green cut board, with all edges pinned flat with sewing pins
Pins used to keep the shirt in place and help keep cuts straight

Then use scissors or rotary blade to cut the shirt into two pieces, a front and back.

In my next project I'm going to try cutting the back piece down so there is more crochet / opening along the shoulders. I would also remove the sleeves at this point on future projects. Learn from my mistakes / trials!

Remove the pins.

Now to re-seam the edges we just cut. I recommend overlocking or at least using zigzag on the edges before folding over, but I was in a rush to see my masterpiece unfold.

Using pins, I folded the hems over, keeping roughly 1cm of space. This doubled fabric also helps reinforce the fabric when crocheted on.

One side of a black tshirt with freshly cut edge pinned, ready to be machine sewn
Getting ready to machine sew

T-shirts tend to be made with stretchy fabric, so be careful of bunching. There are likely tricky curves, so take your time and be ready to snip the folded hem if needed to allow the curve to lay flat.

Sew down the seam, keeping the line away from the edge.

The front and back of the shirt laying atop each other, with the seam sewn.
Ready to start crocheting!

The shirt has successfully been separated into a 'front piece' and 'back piece'. It's a little tricky to tell the difference, but the front for mind has a deeper curve for the neck.

Step 2: Crochet as needed!

However I wanted to make the body of the shirt a looser fit and bring the neckline lower. If I wasn't wanting to change the neckline, I may have left the shoulders joined.

I used my skip stitch blade on my rotary cutter to add holes where I planned on crocheting: along the shoulder and down the sides. Be sure to go all the way through on the seams & collar if you're going to crochet along them. It's easy to only partially cut in.

Black fabric laying on green cut board with blue rotary cutter with skip blade cutting holes along the seam
Rotary cutter with skip blade getting a work out

Yes, I tried to take photos of the invisible holes.

... No, it didn't really work.


Closeup of black fabric with a seam, small holes cut along the edge barely visible.
The holes are there, I swear

Next to choose the right yarn for the job.

The yarn I used was millends, aka unlabelled yarn from craft store. I would love to know what it is, because it is lovely to work with.

It's roughly an 8ply so I used my 4mm hook. You may need to go up or down a hook size depending on the yarn you choose. Any will do, but I'd recommend something from a 4ply to 8ply otherwise it will be very slow to make or too chunky with t-shirt material.

ball of light purple yarn on a green cut board next to a 4mm tulip etimo hook
Mystery purple cotton blend yarn with 4mm hook

I decided to start down the side of the shirt first, to get the fit right.

Granny stitch is my go-to when I'm not confident on the shape, it also works well on the shirt because it isn't too holey / leave too much skin showing.

Leave the arm hole for now.

Row 1 SC along the edge, from the armpit down to bottom, or vice versa. CH1 and turn at the end of the row.

Closeup of front of shirt where single crochet has been completed part way down the seam
Closeup of the start of row 1 of side panel, laying flat

Check your tension to make sure the fabric isn't bunching, on previous projects I found I had to do a CH between each stitch to lay flat.

Closeup of row 1
Closeup of row 1 of side panel

Row 2 SC, CH1 in the first stitch (as DC), DC2Tog into the same space, Skip 2 spaces, DC3Tog in next stitch. Repeat until end. You may need to do a single DC in the last space to keep your rows even. Ch1 and turn at the end of the row.

Closeup of the start of row 2
Closeup of the start of row 2 of side panel

Closeup of row 2 of side panel
Closeup of row 2 completed of side panel, laying flat 

Row 3 + Repeat back and forth, keeping the row count the same on each. I completed 9 rows of granny stitches.

Continue until it is wide enough (keeping in mind you will add equal rows to the other side.)

Tie off, leave tail long enough to sew in.

Side panel completed with 9 rows of granny stitch
Side panel completed while still at home

Repeat on the opposite side, try to keep the counts the same. I found it easier starting from the bottom of the shirt and working back up.

Now both sides are wider, we will add SC to the back panel, for easy attachment.

Front shirt piece with two purple crochet panel complete, folded over so it can fit on the seat of a train
Attempting to show the completed matching panels while on the train

Looking at how the ends tightened, I will potentially go up a hook size for the pattern section.

On the back panel, SC along the edge. Repeat on both sides, leave long tail two or three times the length of the SC row.

Use this to sew the front panel to the back. Be careful of bunching.

Closeup of back shirt piece with 1 row SC laying atop the front shirt piece crochet panel about to be sewn together.
Closeup of back shirt piece with 1 row SC laying atop the front shirt piece crochet panel, about to be sewn together

Make sure to double check you have the sides facing the right way; no upside down or inside/outside mix-ups.

The two pieces of shirt are now joined with purple crochet panel between.
One side panel completed, joining front and back together again

Sew in your ends and try on the piece to make sure it is the size you want.

It will sit a little funny until the shoulders are re-attached.

Step 3: Crochet Some More!

Next is adding the shoulder joins. I wanted this to be lighter and more decorative so I used V stitch.

Row 1 SC along the top, Ch1, turn (13)

Row 2 In the first stitch, SC, CH1 (as DC), Ch1, skip 1 stitch, DC, CH2, DC into the same space, skip 2 spaces, DC, CH2, DC into the same space, continue to end. Due to the odd count, I Ch1 & DC into the last space. Ch1, turn

Closeup of Row 2 of purple crochet on black fabric, laying on blue carpet.
Closeup of row 2 of shoulder strap, at friend's house

Row 3 In the first stitch, SC, CH1 (as DC), Ch1, DC into CH2 space, CH2, DC into the same space, DC into next CH2 space, CH2 then DC into same space, continue to end (making v shape into each v shape below). Due to odd count, I CH2/1 & DC into last space, CH1, turn.

Closeup of the third row completed
Closeup of row 3 of shoulder strap, at friend's house

Row 4 - 6 Repeat row 3, taking to 5 rows of V

Row 7 I did increases at this point because the back piece of the shirt had a wider band across the shoulder.

To increase, in the first stitch, SC, CH1 (as DC), DC2, DC into the same space, DC into next Ch2 space, DC into same space, DC into next CH2 space, CH2, DC into same space, repeat to end. In the last space, DC into it, CH2, then DC into same space. CH1, turn.

Row 8 In the first stitch, SC, CH1 (as DC), CH1, DC into CH2 space below, CH2, DC into same space, DC into next Ch2 space, DC into same space, repeat to end. Ch1 and DC into last stitch. CH1, turn.

Row 9 Repeat Row 8

Tie off

Closeup of purple crochet attached to black fabric on blue carpet
Closeup of finished shoulder strap, at friend's house

Repeat on other shoulder.

On the back piece, SC along and tie off.

Sew the SC to the last row, depending on your count you may need to skip or re-sew a couple stitches to even out.

Shirt in progress with sleeves folded inside the shirt
Getting close to finished, on the train home

Try it on and start getting excited at how close to finished you are.

Step 4: Panic About Sleeves Only To Remove Them

The last bit I had left was to cut off the sleeves and complete a seam. This would have been done at Step 1, but I originally planned on keeping the sleeves some how.

For this one, it made it a little too obvious that I was trying to make the shirt larger rather than just customising.

Closeup of the armhole showing the fabric freshly cut
Arm Hole not seamed

The arm hole is much tidier now, and though I'd like to add a cap sleeve it will have to do for this particular shirt.

Closeup of arm hole with seam.
Arm Hole Seamed

Guess what time it is? Dorky model time!

Step 5: Rejoice

Take some 'traditional' selfies! Got a mirror? Go for gold and enjoy checking out your handiwork.

It was really hard to show the shirt fully, especially with poor apartment lighting, but I love the final result.

Woman wearing a bandshirt with crochet panel on shoulder and sides, standing in front of a mirror to capture the back too.
The Offspring Bandshirt, comfortable at last

Definitely think next time the back panel will be cut lower and add a few rows of crochet to reduce the resemblance of a t-shirt.

back of the shirt showing the tour dates from 2013.
Back view of the finished shirt, from 2013 tour

 You didn't think I'd do a photoshoot in a band shirt without mandatory from above shot? Only regret not hunting down my eyeliner for added effect.

Photo of woman with camera above her head, she's facing away in a very standard pose from emo kid photos.
Emo-kid is still inside all of us, waiting for photo opportunities

If you give this type of project a go, please give me a tag on social media! I'm floating around as ShinyCrochet on most things, generally active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Any questions or sticking points, please feel free to drop a comment below!

Happy crafting!

Update 25/2/21 - I'm 2 days late for this blog anniversary, but I've just launched a video tutorial for this if you'd like to check it out: https://youtu.be/719Bc2YEXwo 


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