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Improving a Girls’ Basic Tee: Puff Sleeves and Scoop Neck

August 24, 2011

I’m excited (and a little nervous) to present my first sewing tutorial! This is a fairly simple project that anyone with intermediate sewing skills can do. Even if you are a beginner at sewing, I think you can do this, you will probably need a little patience.

I love the little girls tees that have puff sleeves and scoop necks- they just seem so much more girlie and look like a better product. But they always cost more than basic, plain tees. This is a great way to give your little girl a better t-shirt from an okay one and it will save you some serious money- just in time for back to school. I snagged several plain tees from Hobby Lobby when they were 50% off- no one can argue with $1.75 for a shirt, right!? Now if you compare that to some of the cute tees at Target or GAP, the savings is substantial. I really believe this is worth the little bit of time and patience you will put in to this!

So without further digression, let’s get started!

Select your victim t-shirt. You will be working on the sleeves and neck for this project, and you will need a sewing machine, coordinating thread, scissors and sewing pins.

First, cut the sleeves at a slight angle to shorten them. Make it longer at the top of the sleeve and shorter at the seam, but leaving about 3/4 inch space- you need enough room to work and the seams are tricky to work around if they overlap (they become too thick to sew over). Keep your cut straight and smooth so that the edges are easier to work with. DO NOT discard the bit that you cut off! You need this for the next step!







Carefully trim the sleeve scrap along the stitches, without cutting the thread.







Cut on both sides of the seam, removing about a one inch section from your bias tape piece. You will make a new seam in the next step.







Power up that sewing machine, Honey! Assuming that you are familiar with your machine and know the appropriate steps to changing your thread, tension settings and stitch length for knit fabric, you are ready to start sewing. Make a new, approximately 1/2 inch seam in your bias tape piece you cut in the previous step. I don’t worry about the raw edges- this fabric doesn’t seem to fray hardly at all and it’s not noticeable.







Next, using a fairly long stitch length, straight stitch very close to the raw edge of the sleeve, starting and stopping about 1 & 1/4  inch from the seam. Pull the top thread and slide the fabric to gather it. This creates the “puff”  and functions to fit it in the bias tape binding that you made earlier.














This step is the one that requires a little patience (for me at least) because you are working with small pieces. Place your bias tape piece and the new gathered sleeve together with seams matching. you will fold the tape over the raw edge of the sleeve, with the finished edge facing outward. The existing stitches that you were careful to not cut will face the inside of the sleeve and function to prevent any possible fraying. Using your sewing pins, pin the folded tape to the sleeve. Use the gathering thread to ease the sleeve in.








Slowly stitch the tape to the sleeve, removing the pins as you go. When you have stitched completely around the sleeve, do a little back-stitch to finish it off. Trim off any excess threads.













Voila! A puff sleeve! Now, repeat the above steps with the other sleeve.

The scoop neck is super easy- just fold the neck edge over to the existing row of stitches. Beginning at one of the shoulder seams, stitch the edge down. I don’t even bother with pins, I just fold it over as I sew. I made my row of stitches about 1/4 of and inch from the edge.








I recommend pairing these instructions with the tutorials at Make It and Love It. The ideas she has for re-purposing girls tees are fantastic and amazingly simple. With a little creativity, you can rework your little one’s wardrobe this fall for little to no money. That’s something I can certainly live with!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2011 5:02 pm

    OMG. That’s so precious!

  2. August 26, 2011 5:03 am

    Wow! LOOOOOVE IT! Thanks for sharing. Gonna try it tomorrow! 🙂

  3. August 27, 2011 1:32 am

    Great job! What a fun change to a regular shirt! Thanks for sharing at Show & Share! I appreciate it!

  4. Nikki permalink
    August 30, 2011 7:05 pm

    love it! Great job!

    I would love it if you would share this and/or any other projects you have been up to at Tuesday Talent Show at Chef In Training Tomorrow! Plus there is going to be a fun giveaway too! Thanks so much and I hope to see you there!

  5. darciemg permalink
    August 20, 2012 5:33 am

    Just dropping a line that I used your sleeve technique today on a plain baggy boys tee (like the kind that are 7 to a bag) to make a cuter one for my daughter. She thought I was brilliant! Thanks for sharing!

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