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How to Cut a T-Shirt into a Racerback Tank Top (No Sew)

Updated on April 09, 2016
Racer back tank top
Racer back tank top | Source

No-sew T-Shirt Projects

I already shared how to make t-shirt yarn from totally worn-out, unwanted t-shirts, but what about those shirts you bought a size too big because it was the only choice and you really, really liked the design? I know I'm very guilty of buying a shirt I like if it's on sale, even if it isn't quite the correct size. And how many over-sized freebie t-shirts do you have sitting in drawers because you just can't bear to get rid of a perfectly good shirt?

In high school, my friends and I used to cut the sides of t-shirts in ribbons and re-tie them smaller, but if that seems a little young for your current tastes, trying turning your liked, but too large, t-shirt into a racer-back workout tank top. Doing this removes some of the extra, bulky fabric and too-long sleeves, but allows you to keep the design intact.

Turning a t-shirt into a tank top only requires a pair of scissors sharp enough to cut cloth and a t-shirt. It takes about 15 minutes and does not even require needle and thread!

How to Make a T-Shirt Tank Top

To get started, make sure your t-shirt is clean and as wrinkle-free as possible. Wrinkles in the fabric make it more difficult to cut accurately and evenly, which can detract from the appearance of your new tank top. All of the steps are illustrated in the photographs below!

To make the tank top:

  1. Place your t-shirt on your cutting surface. This can be a table, a cutting board, a counter top, or even the floor, if you have no other large, flat space. Try to smooth it out and make it as flat and even as possible.
  2. Cut away the t-shirt's collar and throw it out. Most t-shirts are cut lower in the front than in the back, but you may want to make the neck's front even deeper. However, if this is your first time creating a t-shirt tank top, I recommend only cutting off the stitched collar at this time. You can always go back after completing the tank top and make modifications, such as deepening the neck.
  3. Cut the bottom hem off the t-shirt, but do not throw it away. Cut it so it forms a long strip, instead of a loop, pull on it to stretch it as much as possible. Retain the strip for use in step #5. Alternatively, you can toss this strip and use a piece of t-shirt yarn in a different color for some added fun. If you don't know how to make t-shirt yarn, learn here.
  4. Cut the sleeves off, but do not simply follow the stitching line. Instead, decide how wide you want the finished tank top straps to be and make a cut straight down the side of the shirt, as shown. After cutting until you are just above the bottom edge of the sleeve, then make a wide curve over to the t-shirts edge. If this sounds confusing, just look at the picture. If you start the curve immediately instead of going straight, your tank top will look really goofy! It is very easy to make the arm holes too big and create a tank top that is somewhat revealing. I recommend starting by cutting small, trying the shirt on, and cutting down, if necessary.
  5. Flip the shirt over and find where you want the bottom edge of the racer back to begin. Tie your t-shirt yarn or stretched hem strip to this spot, pulling in the slack to make a tight knot around the bunched up shirt. Once again, just see the picture to see how it's done. I recommend tying a square knot, but any type of knot will do. If you love sewing, you can can attach this piece with a few quick stitches, but it is not necessary.
  6. Wrap the t-shirt yarn up the shirt, as shown, until you reach where you want the back neck hole to start.This is up to personal preference, but I left about *** inches between the top seam of the shirt and the top of the racer back. You can always try the shirt on to see where you would like the racer back to end. Once you have found your ending point, simply tie the yarn to the shirt, again, and cut away any excess.
  7. The last step is customizing your shirt. Try it on and see how you like the length and front neck and trim away until you reach your desired shirt silhouette. When you are cutting, remember that cut t-shirt edges tend to roll up a little, so you may "loose" an inch or more of length to rolling. I have cut off many shirts and ruined several by cutting exactly where I wanted the shirt to end without taking this rolling in to consideration. I recommend wearing it as-is, and maybe even washing it, before cutting any length.

How to Make a Tank Top from a T-Shirt

Click thumbnail to view full-size
T-shirt - fun but too largeCut the neckCut the bottom hemStretch the cut-off hemCut away the sleeves Gather the material to form the racer backWrapping the stretched hemI used a couple of half-hitch knots to secure the top of the wrapThe dreaded rolling-up hem!
T-shirt - fun but too large
T-shirt - fun but too large | Source
Cut the neck
Cut the neck | Source
Cut the bottom hem
Cut the bottom hem | Source
Stretch the cut-off hem
Stretch the cut-off hem | Source
Cut away the sleeves
Cut away the sleeves | Source
Source
Gather the material to form the racer back
Gather the material to form the racer back | Source
Wrapping the stretched hem
Wrapping the stretched hem | Source
I used a couple of half-hitch knots to secure the top of the wrap
I used a couple of half-hitch knots to secure the top of the wrap | Source
The dreaded rolling-up hem!
The dreaded rolling-up hem! | Source

What's your favorite tee reconstruction project?

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When to Wear a Racer Back Shirt

A racer back tank top is perfect for exercising, the beach, or relaxing around the house. Wherever you decide to wear it, when someone admires your unique piece of clothing, you can proudly announce "I made it!"

If you'd prefer a non-racer back tank top, you can create one by cutting and re-tying the sides. Interested in learning how? Check out my side knotted tank top tutorial! If you're looking for something without gaps or holes, I also have a tutorial on how to create a herringbone side laced tank top from an old tee.

No matter which method you choose, upcycling too big t-shirts into something cute and wearable is a fun way to spruce up your wardrobe for free.

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    • Virtual Treasures profile image

      Virtual Treasures 4 years ago from Michigan

      This is great and my girls are going to love this! I'm going to have to buy them some old t-shirts so they can try it. I'm not going to let them cut up and practice on all of their new stuff! :-) Thank you for sharing! What a simple, unique idea and a fabulous way to recycle.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you so much, virtualtreasures! Yes, it took me about three tries to get it right. Sadly, I ruined a shirt I really wanted to wear as a tank top because I didn't pay enough attention. Practicing on something else first is a great idea. I hope your girls have fun!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 4 years ago from Ohio

      Cute idea! My daughter would love these! Now you need to figure out how to make a tank top out of her shirts she has outgrown! :)

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Now that would be a trick! Hmmm...if she has enough outgrown t-shirts, there are other things you could make with them.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      This is a cute idea. I can see this really going big with teens who want to look casual but put together.

    • geetbhim profile image

      sangeeta verma 4 years ago from Ludhiana India

      Cool.......... nice idea keep sharing.

    • Marylol profile image

      Marylol 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      This is such a nice idea. I can image my nieces having a go at making these tank tops :)

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      It was awesome to log on this morning and find three new comments on this hub!

      Thank you, teaches, getbhim, and Marylol, for taking the time to read and comment. I think it's really neat to look at where these comments are from - the US, India, and Ireland. It amazes me that we can share ideas across the world so quickly and easily.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 4 years ago from Idaho

      Great idea. This would be useful for my daughter's many volleyball t-shirts.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks - hope you can out this idea to good use!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Nicely done! There are so many neat repurposing t-shirt ideas out there these days. I'm going to have to try one sometime.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! If you decide to try a t-shirt craft and you've never done one before, you might want to start with a totally unwanted T. The fabric is very different from other materials and it can take some getting used to, even if you're a crafty person or sewer.

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Neat idea. Especially to use it as a workout shirt instead of getting rid of it!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! I'm glad you like it. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Wonderful idea, women in my family will love this.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Excellent. Thank you for stopping by!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Love to go thrift shopping. Just last week saw a tee shirt that was really soft and way too big. This would make it into a nice shirt. Need to go see if its still there.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Excellent! I hope it is amd you can transform it into something new =)

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I absolutely love this idea!!! What a great craft... now if only this made the shirts bigger because I would love to do this with some of my kids clothes that they have outgrown! But - on the other hand... I just outgrow several of my shirts because I lost a bunch of weight therefore this might be just what I needed to get some new shirts!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Congrats on losing the weight! This could be a great way to get some 'new' clothes, like you said.

      You can use an adult shirt as a child's casual dress. You just might want to throw a belt on it, depending on how baggy it is. It's totslly doable, though!

      Thanks for stopping by, barbergirl28 and naimishika. I appreciate it.

    • RunningDeer profile image

      RunningDeer 4 years ago from Iowa

      This is super cute! And I love tie-dye! Great hub!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! I liked the colors, too.

    • profile image

      Mary 4 years ago

      This is really lovely, what type of tie dye folding did you use to get that effect

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      You can make shirts like this by rolling the shirt into a lengthways cylinder, banding it, and using a direct dye application. Instead of mixing up huge vats of color, you basically just apply the dye to the fabric. Do you see how there is more dye on the right side of the shirt? (Look at the first picture of the whole t-shirt) That's where the direct dye application was made. The pattern/colors are less distinct on the left because the dye had to soak through the shirt's other layers. Of course, don't forget to pre-soak the shirt - wet textiles always tye dye better!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wow, I had no idea it would be so easy to convert a regular t-shirt into a cool and more practical one. I'm going to give it a try! I can always use another workout top. Voted up and shared!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      You know what's funny? I was in a department store last week and I saw a shirt that looked almost exactly for sale! I guess these shirts are becoming popular - if you start wearing one, maybe you'll become a local trendsetter!

    • Amberjewell profile image

      Amberjewell 4 years ago

      I love doing things at home like this. I get tired of the same old thing and like to switch it up once in a while.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Excellent! I love making things, too, and I love that HubPages gives me such a fantastic place to share my projects with others. Thanks for stopping by!

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

      What a terrific idea! I love it. Think I'll go cut up a few T-shirts.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Excellent! Thank you. Like most projects, it's best not to start on your favorite shirt - it may take a couple of tries to find out exactly how deep to make the cuts and how you want it. I hope you have fun!

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 4 years ago from United States

      What a wonderful, awesome idea to give your old t-shirt another life instead of throwing it away. Nice hub :)

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! The colors were just too cool to get rid of the shirt. Thank you for stopping by.

    • shai77 profile image

      Chen 4 years ago

      This is cool! What a great project, it looks beautiful. Never would have guessed you could create that from a regular t-shirt when I saw the first photo, I thought you had used a tank. Ingenious. That would be so great for the summer, love the colors.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you very much! I hope you give the project a try, even if you do decide to wait until next summer.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 4 years ago from Philippines

      I love this!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks!

    • Crystals-view profile image

      Crystals-view 3 years ago from Colorado, USA

      This is an awesome idea! Since I have lost weight most of my shirts are too big! Thanks for the-how-to!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Congrats on the lost weight and have fun remaking your tees! I'm very glad you liked the hub =)

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 3 years ago from United States

      I will make this on all of my my old t-shirts! It's a fun beach top too, underneath the bikini. Thanks for posting this very exciting idea! :)

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      I am glad you enjoyed the tutorial and hope you have fun with the project!

    • Ayu Bi profile image

      Ayu Bi 3 years ago from Sorajima

      This is cool! Voted up! :D

    • Nicole S profile image

      Nicole S Hanson 3 years ago from Minnesota

      Great tutorial. I tried doing this a while ago with one of my shirts and it didn't turn out as well as yours did. Nice hub!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Just keep trying! It took me a couple of times to get it the way I wanted to, so don't despair!

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 3 years ago from Mumbai

      Wow, this is a great idea. My little girl loves DIY projects and am sure the fashionista in her is going to love this super cute idea. We are going to try this over the weekend. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Awesome! I'm so glad! I hope y'all enjoy it!

    • Grace-Wolf-30 profile image

      Grace-Wolf-30 3 years ago from England

      This is a really exciting hub. The pictures demonstrate how you've transformed the t-shirt. Thanks for the tips : )

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you!! Last night I got a couple more t-shirt ideas. My man has so many t-shirts he never uses and I'm trying to convince him to hand them over to me!

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 3 years ago from Miami Florida

      Dear Natashalh; I like your great idea of how to create a new style on a T shirt. I love it. Thank you

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! I'm so glad you like it and thanks for takin the time to tell me so.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      Hi natashalh,

      Thanks for this hub. It seems fun and creative. Voted up, pinned, and shared !

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Neat idea. Very stylish too. I have some shirts that would be perfect for this makeover.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, torrilynn! I really appreciate the sharing and pinning.

      I hope you have fun, truthfornow. Please let me know if you have any questions!

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      You're welcome

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S 3 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      Wow! This is something I would not mind wearing too! Thanks for sharing...

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! I love that HP gives me a place to share my projects.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. I'll show this hub to my mom and my sister. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up :-)

      Prasetio

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Good project - makes me want to upcycle some tshirts in the back of my wardrobe!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! It's a fun way to get 'new' clothes for free!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      you sure the dye wouldn't worn out? I can't put into the washing machine, right?

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 2 years ago from Hawaii

      I already had this shirt and it is pretty colorfast. I've always put my cut up shirts in the washing machine with no problem, too.

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