Friday, May 15, 2020

DIY: Turn An Old T-Shirt Into Comfy Quarantine Shorts - With The LEAST Amount Of Sewing Humanly Possible

About a year ago I turned some of John's old t-shirts into what could loosely be called "shorts," but only if you were being generous. Really they were more stretchy skirts with the "legs" tacked together in the middle, since I couldn't figure out how to make a crotch without a bunch of sewing. And I hate sewing. Sewing is dark magic to me, steeped in impossibility and forever demanding blood sacrifices and chanted curses.

Anyway, problem was, John freaking LOVED those "shorts." He raved about how comfortable they were, and then wore them to death - which didn't take long, since the only thing holding the "crotch" together was faith, trust, and a 3-inch line of stitching.

So a few weeks ago, after many requests from John for more t-shirt shorts, we sat down together to figure out an easy, almost no-sew way to add a crotch so they'd fit better and last longer.

AND WE DID IT

The new design is vastly more durable, still just as comfy, and doesn't look like a giant diaper, which I consider a plus. (Not that I'm here to judge.) Best of all, it only requires 4 more lines of stitching, bringing the total stitch lines for this entire project up to 6. Six! That's it! And ZERO hemming, because we use the existing hems on the shirt.

We even eliminated the need for elastic by making our own drawstring from the leftover shirt top, so the ONLY thing you need to make these shorts is one old t-shirt, scissors, a sharpie, and a sewing machine. (Or needle and thread.) BOOM. It's the ultimate upcycle, and in the end you get the comfiest lounge shorts in all the land of Quarantine-opia. And let's face it: comfy lounge shorts are an essential dress code here.

OK. Ready for some entry-level sewing magic?

First, grab your grungiest old t-shirt out of the "to cut up into rags" pile:

(You'll notice I never said this was going to be a pretty DIY)

Using a long ruler or straight edge, draw 3 lines: one from armpit-to-armpit, one an inch or two ABOVE that line, and one vertical line in the bottom middle that's about 4 inches long, to make the legs.

Now cut all those lines:


The thin strip on top will be your drawstring, so set that aside.

Next we're going to harvest some crotchal pieces, so cut one of the sleeves off:



Keeping the sleeve folded, draw a rectangle like this:

My ruler isn't helping much here, but the bottom hem of the rectangle should be roughly 4 inches. From there draw a line straight up 'til you run out of sleeve, no need to measure.

Cut your rectangle out, there will be two layers.

The sleeve is still folded over, so next cut up the folded edge to turn it into 2 identical pieces:


Ta-daaaaa:

You'll note that my pieces are not identical. This is part of my curse. But don't worry, it won't matter!

Set your crotch pieces aside (while making a mental count of how many times I use the term "crotch pieces" in this post), and let's make the waist line. Fold down the cut edge of your shirt at least an inch or so:

Also decide if you want any remaining design on the shirt to be on the inside or the outside of your finished shorts. John was afraid this vinyl design would be uncomfortable inside, so he had me flip the shirt inside out before continuing:

The folded-over edge will be the channel for your drawstring - or for your elastic - so make sure it's wide enough if you're using elastic. If you're using drawstring, then a little over an inch is fine.


Pin the edge down, aaaaaand....


MAKE IT SEW

(I like how the Epbot is peeking through the machine, heh.)

By "it" I mean the dutiful Husbot, because even this simple run of stitching is basically torture for me, and I didn't want to accidentally unleash any more global catastrophes.

If you're using elastic remember to leave an open area in the waist channel to add that later, but if not, just sew 'er all the way up. We'll cut a slit later to add the drawstring.

Now that the waist is done, let's turn out attention further south, to the dreaded CROTCHAL ZONE.

This is going to be tricky to explain, so follow close:


Here are your shorts, and the square at the bottom is one of the ex-sleeve crotch pieces.

Now the tricky bit, which I have masterfully illustrated for your edification:


You're going to sew the two vertical sides of the crotch piece (let's call him Corky) to the cut sides of the left leg, essentially making a 3D box of fabric. Make sure the hemmed edge of the crotch piece is DOWN, so it lines up with the shorts hem.

Here I am pointing to the edge of the stacked crotch piece we're about to sew, just in case Corky the Crotch Monster wasn't clear enough:


So. Sew that. Then sew the other side of the crotch piece to the other side of the leg.

When you're done, the leg should look like this:
Still with me? Excellent.

Now repeat for the other leg.

Your shorts' crotchal zone should now look something like this:

Ahhh, but there's still one last line to sew!

Right bang in the middle, where the two crotch pieces meet. We leave this for last to make up for any wonkiness while sewing up the sides.

After you sew that inner crotch line together, you can go back and sew it again for added strength, and to sew down any inside edges that are sticking up funny.


Now all that's left is the drawstring, so grab that skinny strip you cut from the top of the shirt:

If this is in 2 pieces, then sew the edges together to make one long strip.

Now, PULLLLLLLL

More dark magic: when you pull on strips of t-shirt fabric, it turns into stretchy rope!

Cut a small slit in the front of your shorts' waist channel, and use a hanger or large safety pin to feed your new drawstring around:


And you're done! One new whisper-soft pair of t-shirt lounge shorts, ready to report for couch-lounging duty.

Since this pair doesn't look like a giant diaper, I even got John to model them for you:


That's a happy husband. I don't think I'll ever get him to buy store-made sleep shorts again! Which is fine, since I've been stockpiling his old t-shirts for a while. Heck, I may even try sewing the next pair myself!


... Naaaaaah.

:D

Since I do have so many old t-shirts, though, do any of you have any other favorite t-shirt upcycles? I already cut them up for rags, so I'm wondering if I could also start making t-shirt yarn... but then what do I do with that?

******

And if you're looking for more tutorials - or just some geeky inspiration - be sure to check out my Crafts page! I've got over 150 different projects there for you to browse, like these:


42 comments:

  1. Love this! Too bad I don't wear too many T-shirts. You can totally learn how to crochet and make a whole bunch of things with T-shirt yarn. I tried both knitting and crochet, and I found knitting to be sorcery whereas crochet is a bit easier. With crochet, you're 90% of the time working with a single stitch, so if you mess up or drop your hook it's not a catastrophe. And since T-shirt yarn is so chunky you would use a big chunky hook, which is usually easier to learn on.

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    1. I was thinking hand crochet too, ala The Art Assignment: Make a Rug... https://youtu.be/3GLmRJMTn6E

      I did this with middle schoolers in a summer arts camp and their creations we're beautiful!

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  2. Old shirts make awesome shopping bags!!
    This tutorial is for a no-sew version, but they are much stronger if you sew the bottom

    https://mommypotamus.com/no-sew-t-shirt-tote-bag-tutorial/

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    1. I was going to suggest bags as well! My daughter made one in her 5th grade class!

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  3. Corky the Crotch Monster! 🤣🤣🤣 I'm dying over here. A+ for crotch humor.

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  4. You could sew together and braid long strips of t-shirts, then curl them into a rag rug, if you're getting your pioneer self on! We used to make these in the 1970's.

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  5. Fun Fact: Those crotchal area inserts, as well as any piece of fabric inserted into a garment to enlarge it and give it freedom of movement, is called a "gusset". As a zaftig woman who loves to thrift shop, I've learned how to gusset the hell outta just about any area on a garment. Gorgeous velvet dress (velvet fetish, NGL) for $5 but it's a size 8? YOINK!

    Girl, no shade or anything, but how in the name of Bowie can you be afraid of sewing, but you use all sorts of crazy tools and cutting devices and whatnot? I'm so inept with those kinda things that I can't grok you on this. If it's the sewing machine itself that freaks you out, just learn how to hand sew a back-stitch and a French hem; I learned them from my mother as a kid, and that's how I sewed costumes for YEARS before I ever got a machine. If I'm honest, I actually still prefer to do a lot of my sewing that way, especially smaller/wonkier pieces, usually while watching TV.

    Two simple hand-stitches. Once you learn those, you'll be golden!

    Your Pal,

    Storm the Klingon

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    1. Oh, and I forgot to say-- Happy Birthday, fellow crazy Taurus lady! Mine was on the 3rd, our Trek wedding anniversary was on the 1st, and we couldn't go anywhere to celebrate, much less have a party. So yeah, even though I didn't have awesome party plans like you did (A Hitch Hiker's Guide 42nd birthday is bloody genius, BTW) that was kinda lame. BUT! Like you, I still got to spend them with my favourite person/best friend, so it wasn't too bad. :)

      ROCK!

      Storm the Klingon

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  6. If you want a gentle entry into sewing I recommend Made By Jack's Mum patterns - they come with step by step instructions (with photos!), are all super comfy and wearable, and there's a v supportive help/showing-off-your-stuff facebook group. If you want to make for yourself I recommend the four seasons joggers as an easy starter pattern. And there's a world of gorgeous jersey fabric prints out there for you...

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  7. True story; about 15 years ago my nephew was in a musical review for school. His parents were organizing it & his mother decided she (with my help) would make all the costumes (30-40) from scratch with no patterns. I get dragged in to help; I had a sewing machine and basic sewing skills. One night after many long hours we finish a pair of pants for the nephew; we are so proud of it; it looks great. We call nephew in to try them on and realize that we have basically failed to create any sort of crotchal area whatsoever. Basically sewed from ankle hem waistband as if the crotch area would just magically appear on it's own.

    Nephew is scandalized; we are laughing hysterically (manic exhaustion) and have to rip it all apart and go back to square one.

    Moral of the story; never let your oldest friend talk you into helping make 30 costumes with no patterns and minimal sewing skills. :0)

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  8. I have more T-shirts than anyone should own... I still wear all of them, even the ones that that are more than 30 years old, so I haven't used a lot of repurposing ideas, but here goes:

    I *was* logging in to say I had a friend who makes old shirts into tote bags, but other people have covered that, so I'll just add that in a pinch, you can use a T-shirt as a pillowcase, or a towel, or pull it over the top of a gift basket as a make-shift gift wrap.

    Actually - turning old T-shirts into reusable fabric gift wrap would be an easy eco-friendly craft - just cut them into convenient shapes, pin around a gift, unpin to open, and repeat. Bonus if the fun designs are visible when you wrap!

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  9. There's always T-shirt quilts for any that you like the design on, although it is rather a lot of sewing (no-sew vesrion here https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-No-Sew-T-Shirt-Blanket/ ). Also, I think these should be called T-shorts...

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  10. I’ve turned old t-shits into project bags. You just cut the arms off, and kind of cut the neckline out, the shoulders for straps. Sew along the bottom, you have a bag

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  11. Remember latch hook? Cut your shirts into 'yarn' pieces. Decide on a pattern, lay it under the grid fabric and transfer the design. Then use your shirt yarn 'as is' or dye them the colors needed. Happy hooking! Happy Birthday!

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    1. I love this idea! Especially since latch hook yarn is usually the scratchiest stuff on earth. I can only imagine how comfy a t-shirt latch-hook rug or pillow would be, mmmm.

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    2. I was going to suggest this too! I've been using my t-shirt yarn for mask ties lately, but I really want a fringy bathroom rug. Wouldn't it be so soft?

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  12. Wow, you just solved some of my short construction problems, my pants deficiency problem AND my tshirt hoarding problem at the same time!!! Brb, gonna sew myself like 10 pairs <3

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  13. If you don't need the extra four inches of circumference in the leg you might try cutting the gusset football shaped. It would reduce the number of seams needed as you would only need one for each side of the gusset.

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    1. OooOOOoooh! I'm a fan of anything that reduces the amount of sewing, so I may have to try this. Thanks!

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  14. You always have such great ideas. They definitely look comfy, but as far as I'm concerned, even sleepwear needs at least one pocket. So I'm thinking about how to make that work without too much extra work: maybe the other sleeve?

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    1. You could absolutely add pockets, yes! It's funny: I agree with you and want ALL the pockets in my sleep shorts, but John hates pockets. He says the extra material bunches up too much, which is why he likes this streamlined version for sleeping.

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    2. I am holding you responsible for these halter tops: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hyphen8/49912263967/in/album-72157659292770070/

      I used the shirt hem as the casing for one of the drawstrings. T-shirt knit doesn't unravel, it just curls a little (says this child of the 80's - Flashdance, anyone?) so if John doesn't mind a slight roll at the bottom and the shirt design doesn't look too strange upside-down, you might be able to do that with the shorts and do even less sewing. :)

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    3. You have a sleeve left over, yes? First cut the sleeve off the shirt along the seam line. You can now either 1) cut open the sleeve's underarm seam and pin/stitch the sleeve on as a patch pocket (top edge already finished off), or 2) use the seam where the sleeve had attached to the shirt as the attachment line to fit the sleeve into a side seam of the shorts as an internal pocket -- stitch the sleeve end shut once you've attached it.

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    4. Those are awesome, hyphen8, I'll gladly take credit for that!

      And good call, LynnT, I'd like to try adding a pocket if/when I make a pair of these for myself - and a patch pocket is about my level of doable. :D

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  15. I found this way more entertaining than it probably should have been. I was already amused before getting to Corky, where I had to cover my mouth to chuckle. Thank you for entertaining me on a Saturday night!

    Signs you may have read the word "crotch" one too many times in a story: You get to the term "couch-lounging" and have to re-read it because...you did not see it right the first time.

    --Yet Another Jen

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  16. I've been making dog toys out of mine - cut vertical strips down the length of the t-shirt and braid together. I've been practicing fancy 4 and 5 strand braids with them (quarantine boredom ftw?) but normal braids work fine. My pup is obsessed with them!

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    1. Ohhh, that's a great idea! Perfect tug-o-war rope material.

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  17. 16, I believe, is the number of times "crotch" or "crotchal" is used in your post. :)

    If you didn't sew the two crotch rectangles together in the center, it could be some sexy, easy-access lingerie... (Apologies! It had to be said.)

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    1. Bahahah! Plus didn't the Victorians have undies like this, for easy peeing in their enormous dresses? :p

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  18. About upcycling old t-shirts: I recently came across a British website, Gin's Running Stitch. She takes old race t-shirts and makes them into running skirts and even ponchos (and all kinds of other things). Check it out for inspiration: https://www.ginsrunningstitch.co.uk/gallery

    Runners who participate in races tend to accumulate a lot of race t-shirts, more than they can possibly use, and the problem with race t-shirts is that not a lot of people want to wear them if they haven't participated in the race in question. So I think Gin's ideas are fantastic. Too bad the race t-shirts in our closet all belong to my husband - I don't think he'd appreciate a running skirt, not his style. :) (And I don't run.)

    Those shorts that you made, Jen, they are nice, but would they be as comfortable if made with those running t-shirts (made of some kind of technical material, not cotton)?

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    1. Wow, Gin's stuff is amazing! Not that I have any racing shirts. :P

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  19. Already mentioned, but latch hook was my first idea too. Rugs or pillow covers. Or you could weave strips into a pillow cover. Stuff it with tshirt material for maximum tshirt usage.

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  20. Cat cave from Cole and Marmalade: https://coleandmarmalade.com/2016/02/12/5-life-hacks-fur-cat-owners/ (scroll down to number 3). We did this and it worked quite well. No sewing required!

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  21. "Harvest the crotchal pieces!!!" (it is TOO a word, spell check!!) a new EPBOT battle cry!

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  22. My husband likes a pocket in his lounge/pajama shorts so that his steps from laundry room to couch to bedroom all count. A patch pocket would not get bunchy like an inset pocket, and could easily be made from the other sleeve.

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  23. i've been following this site for ages and rarely comment but i have to say: john looks great! he looks like a man who feels amazing.

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  24. Jen,

    Learn to crochet! And I wanted to say that John looks great! How much weight has he lost now?

    Maureen

    P.S. It was great to see you in Pittsburgh!

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    1. Thanks, Maureen! John's still working out every other night, and most importantly FEELS great. He's lost just over 30 lbs, and is holding there for now. He was just telling me this afternoon how he's not nearly as tired working outside, and feels like he can keep going all day. I only wish he could share some of that excess energy with me!

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  25. Finger crochet is super easy and doesn't require any tools but the t-shirt yarn and scissors. It's a good way to learn basic stitches and super easy. Arm knitting is also fun but you can't put it down. Literally.

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