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

Updated on April 9, 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?

See results

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.

Questions & Answers

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      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        3 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.

      • peachpurple profile image

        peachy 

        3 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        4 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • Suzanne Day profile image

        Suzanne Day 

        4 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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

      • prasetio30 profile image

        prasetio30 

        5 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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • Anamika S profile image

        Anamika S Jain 

        5 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

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

      • torrilynn profile image

        torrilynn 

        5 years ago

        You're welcome

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • truthfornow profile image

        truthfornow 

        5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

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

      • torrilynn profile image

        torrilynn 

        5 years ago

        Hi natashalh,

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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • erorantes profile image

        Ana Maria Orantes 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • Grace-Wolf-30 profile image

        Grace-Wolf-30 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • Toytasting profile image

        Toy Tasting 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • Nicole S profile image

        Nicole S Hanson 

        5 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!

      • Ayu Bi profile image

        Ayu 

        5 years ago from Sorajima

        This is cool! Voted up! :D

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • idigwebsites profile image

        idigwebsites 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • Crystals-view profile image

        Crystal Lobato 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 years ago from Hawaii

        Thanks!

      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        5 years ago from Philippines

        I love this!

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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.

      • shai77 profile image

        Chen 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • vibesites profile image

        vibesites 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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!

      • LetitiaFT profile image

        LetitiaFT 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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!

      • Amberjewell profile image

        Amberjewell 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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!

      • vespawoolf profile image

        vespawoolf 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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!

      • profile image

        Mary 

        6 years ago

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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

        Thanks! I liked the colors, too.

      • RunningDeer profile image

        RunningDeer 

        6 years ago from Iowa

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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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.

      • barbergirl28 profile image

        Stacy Harris 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • tirelesstraveler profile image

        Judy Specht 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

        Excellent. Thank you for stopping by!

      • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

        Vinaya Ghimire 

        6 years ago from Nepal

        Wonderful idea, women in my family will love this.

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • chrissieklinger profile image

        chrissieklinger 

        6 years ago from Pennsylvania

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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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.

      • randomcreative profile image

        Rose Clearfield 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • denisemai profile image

        Denise Mai 

        6 years ago from Idaho

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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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.

      • Marylol profile image

        Marylol 

        6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

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

      • geetbhim profile image

        sangeeta verma 

        6 years ago from Ludhiana India

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

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        6 years ago

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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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!

      • twinstimes2 profile image

        Karen Lackey 

        6 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 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!

      • Virtual Treasures profile image

        Kacie Turner 

        6 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.

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