How to Make a T-shirt Smaller

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing


Ever get excited about getting a free t-shirt only to be let down because it was a size or two too big? Boy have I!  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve cut t-shirts into rags or passed them on to Jeff or my dad because I was swimming in all the extra cloth.

I was in an all-too-familiar situation when I received my VBS shirt this year.  Luckily it was just one size too big and I knew I could manage wearing it the entire week.  I was bummed though because I knew I wouldn’t wear it after that week and it would just go to waste.  So, I decided to do some research and see how I might fix my t-shirt dilemma.

Turns out, making a t-shirt smaller is not a difficult thing at all.  This project only took me 5-10 minutes.  I’m beating myself up for not trying this earlier…to think of all the t-shirts I’ve let go.

The next time you find yourself in a similar situation with a t-shirt that’s too big, try these simple steps to make it fit just right!

  • chalk
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
Game Plan:

1. Flatten out the t-shirt that’s too big on a smooth surface with the front facing up.  Make sure there are no wrinkles and the front and back are on top of each other as much as possible.

2.  Lay a t-shirt you like the fit of on top of the t-shirt you want to re-size.  Make sure they match up at the neckline and top of the shoulders and all the wrinkles are smoothed out.

3.  Using chalk, draw a line on the large shirt that is about 1/2 inch out from the small shirt.  The lines need to go up the sides of the shirt and out under the arms.

I just eyeballed this, but you can use a ruler if you don’t feel comfortable with that.

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

Draw a chalk line 1/2 inch out from smaller shirt

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

Use a ruler or eyeball your chalk line

4.  If you want the shirt and sleeves to be shorter too, continue drawing a line 1/2 inch out from the t-shirt along the bottom and sleeve.

I decided to keep the length of my t-shirt, but I shortened the sleeves up.

5.  Remove the small shirt and cut along the chalk lines.  Make sure to cut through both the front and back of the shirt at the same time.

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

Cut along the chalk lines. Notice I chose NOT to cut my bottom edge because I wanted my shirt to be long

6. Turn the shirt inside out.

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

Fold the shirt inside out and match the front and backs together

7. Match up the front and back of the shirt and sew along the side and under the arms.

You can pin the two together if you want.  I just moved my hands along to make sure it was matched up.

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

Sew along sides and underneath arms

how to make a shirt smaller by sewinghow to make a shirt smaller by sewing

8. If you cut off the bottom or sleeves to make them shorter, fold up 1/2 inch and sew a seam along to finish it.

Most shirts do two lines of stitching close together on the sleeves and shirt bottom to give a finished look.  I was planning on doing that but I ran out of thread so I settled for one line of stitching.

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

To finish sleeves, fold up 1/2 inch and sew a seam

I was very happy with the results, especially since it only took me a little over five minutes from start to finish.  The only thing I wish I would’ve had was more thread and matching thread.  The closest thread color I had was light pink.

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

This is my best frown face. Good thing I never have desired to be an actress because believe it or not this is the best out of about 8 shots!

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

BEFORE: a bit large

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

how to make a shirt smaller by sewing

AFTER: Perfect fit!

What other tips do you have for making a t-shirt smaller?

7 comments to How to Make a T-shirt Smaller

  • Annie

    Nice idea! I have several I could do this one!

  • Becky

    It might even inspire me to do that! Oh, my gosh! Who Knew!!

  • Erica

    Thanks so much for posting this!!!!! I have let to many shirts go that I would have loved to keep but was just to big!!! Now thanks to you I don’t have to worry any more!!!


    Sweet I cant wait to try this. I have over 400 brand new shirts in a Large, from when I liked the baggy style. Now i wear Small, didnt know what to do with them. I hope this turns out good, thanksss

  • nona

    Thank you very much for this!! But sadly I do not have a sewing machine so I think I’d do this by hand. Well good luck to me!

  • Verandy

    Hey dear. Your method of alter lower size need to be refine by remove the arm sleeves, then measure your shoulder broad from neck to shoulder. Trim the shirt and shape the sleeves at the match measurement of the circle of the shoulders.

  • Thank you for this post! I was looking for a way to fix a bunch of too-large-for-moi tshirts and this is exactly what I’ll do yay!!

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