Tee Reconstruction Project - No-Sew Ladder Back T-Shirt Tutorial
My love of reconstructing t-shirts began out of necessity. As a small person, many t-shirts from concerts, conferences, events, etc. simply do not fit me. Giving up on finding shirts that fit, I dedicated myself to transforming shirts into ones that fit. I have shared how to make a racer back tank top and a cut side tank in other tutorials, so here I share how to modify a shirt that already mostly fits to make it more 'cool.' This style is inspired by popular Zumba dance wear fashions and is perfect for the beach, dance practice, or some fun on the town with friends. The results are impressive, but the laddering technique is easy to master and modify to meet your personal tastes.
Picking a T-Shirt for Reconstruction
Most tee reconstruction projects use shirts that are too large. In contrast, this project works best with a shirt that isn't overly big. It also works well when you use a shirt with a bit of an elastic content, but a straight cotton t-shirt will work, too. If this is your first shirt remake, you might want to start on a thrift store shirt or something plain and inexpensive to get a feel for the techniques.
Weaving a Ladder Back T-Shirt
Before you begin marking and cutting, you have to make a couple decisions.
- Do you want to ladder the entire back, or just part of it?
- Do you want all the ladder's rungs to be the same width, or do you want the design to decrease in width as it moves down your back?
In the example, I started the laddering right below the arms and kept it the same width all the way down, but you can ladder as much (or little) or the shirt as you'd like, and you can vary the width, too.
Materials Needed for No-Sew Tee Reconstruction
This project is so simple! The only mandatory supplies are:
- A t-shirt
- Sharp scissors
You may also want to use:
- A cutting board, piece of cardboard, or piece of rigid plastic
- A ruler or yardstick
- A marker or pen
I used a cutting board, but I honestly don't think the ruler and marker are necessary. If it is your first time cutting up a shirt, you may find them helpful. The only really important thing is using a good pair of sharp scissors. If they've ever been used to cut paper, chances are good cutting through a t-shirt will be torturous.
Laddering a t-shirt produces impresive results, but I think it's actually far easier than other reconstruction techniques!
1. Place your shirt face down on your work surface.
2. If using, slide your cutting board, cardboard, etc. into the shirt. This is not mandatory, but it helps ensure you only cut the shirt back and do not accidentally cut the front, too.
3. Either mark your intended line positions with the ruler and marker or just get cutting! I started my cuts just below the arms. You can make these cuts as long or short as you'd like. In the example, I opted for cuts that went most of the way across the back and maintained their length all the way down. You can make the cuts as wide or narrow as you'd like, but I prefer to make cuts that are about 1" thick.
4. Keep making strips, tapering them if you'd like, until you reach the bottom. Then, cut the bottom hem off and discard it.
5. Once you've made all your cuts, begin stretching each string out by grasping it with both your hands and pulling them apart. You can also use one hand to hold the shirt down while stretching the string between your other hand's fingers. Continue stretching until all the strings are stretched!
6. It's time to get laddering!
- Move all but the top two strings as far out of the way as possible.
- Pull the top string down and behind the second, as shown.
- Reach under this loop to grab the second string and pull it down and behind the first.
7. Repeat this process down the shirt. Pull the third string through the loop you just created and so on until you reach the bottom. Look at the picture below for some explanatory arrows!
8. Once you reach the bottom, cut the last loop in half, as shown below.
9. Secure the end by folding them towards the shirt's sides and tying them to themselves, as shown.
10. Make sure the knots are secure and trim away excess string, if desired.
11. Wear and enjoy!
Do you Zumba?
I have to confess - this shirt was inspired by one I saw on the Zumba website. In case you don't know, Zumba is a type of fusion dance fitness that combines elements of salsa, tango, meringue, reggaeton, hip hop, and more. I've even had instructors throw in a shag step and the hand jive! It is super fun and you don't need to know how to dance to get started. There are popular DVDs, Wii games, and in-person classes held all around the world.
Regular exercise gear is totally acceptable, but people enjoy wearing cargo pants with tassels, cut up shirts, and other hip hop-style gear to Zumba sessions. If you want to spruce up your dance wardrobe without shelling out for name-brand gear, this ladder back t-shirt is a great place to start!
I know I'm planning to wear mine to Zumba class - what will you do with yours?
If you have trouble with any of the instructions, please just leave a comment and I'll try to help!
More of my T-Shirt Projects
- T-Shirt Tank Top | Ways to Cut a T-Shirt into a DIY Tank
Discover how to spruce up a too-big tshirt and turn it into a tank top by cutting the sides and retying them! This project is fun, sassy, and easy.
- How to Cut a T-Shirt into a Racerback Tank Top (No Sew)
We all have t-shirts that were just too good to pass up, even though they are a size too big. Why not turn these wanted, but large, t-shirts into racer back tank tops? Follow this tutorial and get ready to hit the beach or gym in unique style.