How to Turn a T-Shirt Into a Tank Top

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Make a T-Shirt into a Tank Top: What You'll Need

hether it's because your t-shirt has become stained and pitted-out (it happens to us all) or you're simply looking for a new look, this is a no-fail way to transform your old t-shirt into an ultra-cute tank top. 

What You'll Need:

  • T-Shirt
  • Scissors 
  • Chalk
  • (Optional) Shoe Laces or Ribbon—You can use shoelaces or ribbon to lace up the sides of your shirt. Shoelaces will last longer in the wash because the ends won’t fray. Ribbon comes in more colors and patterns, though, so make your choice.
  • (Optional) Grommet Punch—You could use scissors to make your lacing holes, but a grommet punch is three times faster.
  • Large floor space to work on

Now, let's get started.

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Sleeve Amputation

How to Make a T-Shirt into a Tank Top
Cut off the sleeves. Rain Blanken

Turn your t-shirt inside out. You will need to see the seams on the sleeves. Cut off both sleeves on the inside edge of the seam. Be sure to hold the shirt in both hands and rotate the sleeve as you cut around. Do not lay your shirt flat and cut the sleeves off, because then you can’t see where you’re cutting on the back.

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Second Cut

How to Make a T-Shirt into a Tank Top
Cut the bottom of the shirt, leaving a two inch margin. Rain Blanken

Cut off the bottom of the shirt, two inches from the edge. You should end up with a fabric loop. Cut this loop at one of the seams to create a long strip. Now, cut the strip lengthwise into two long 1”-wide strips. You can use these strips to lace up the sides of your new shirt. Alternately, you could use ribbon or shoelaces.

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Yet Another Easy Cut

How to Make a T-Shirt into a Tank Top
Cut the sides of the shirt. Rain Blanken

Lay your shirt down flat on the floor in front of you. With your finger, estimate about an inch from the left side. An inch is about the distance from your fingertip to your first knuckle. No measuring tape required! Cut from the bottom of the shirt all the way up to the bottom of the sleeve hole, staying an inch from the edge. Repeat with the right side. You should be left with an apron that has an elastic neck hole.

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Making Holes

Make a T-Shirt into a Tank Top
Make holes down the side. Rain Blanken

First, put your funny apron creation on and dance around the room. When you’re done, look in a mirror and estimate how large you want the arm holes. If you start lacing right where the bottom of the sleeves used to be, then you will end up with really large arm holes. This is great for hot summer days, but if you have shy armpits, you may want to start lacing an inch or two higher. Pinch the sides of the shirt together under your arm and decide if you should start lacing a bit higher. When you find the right spot, mark it with chalk. Don’t go higher than a couple inches from the bottom of the sleeve or it will be too tight!

Take off the t-shirt and lay it on the floor once more, lining up the front and back edges where you cut. Fold it in half armhole-to-armhole and make sure that your chalk marks are even. If one is off a half inch or so, don’t sweat it, just adjust it to match the other one. Unfold the shirt again so that it is laying flat on the floor.

If you are using a pair of scissors for this step, you’ll need to be careful that you don’t poke yourself. When you make holes, don’t stab through the fabric, instead cut little 1/8” slits through both sides of the fabric. Start your first cut on your chalk line and finish up at the bottom, making your slits one to two inches apart.

(Optional) Grommet Punch: If you chose to use a grommet punch, then this step is going to take a matter of seconds. Grommet punches are cheap and can be found at the craft store or your local Wal-Mart. Start at your chalk mark and use your grommet punch to make holes either an inch or two inches apart all the way to the bottom. Make sure you are punching through both the front and back of the shirt.

Once your holes are in place, you can start to lace up the sides.

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Lace Up Your New Tank Top

Step 5
Lace up the sides.

You can use the strips from the bottom of the t-shirt to lace up the sides. These strips are soft on your skin and are guaranteed to match the shirt. You may, however, want to use ribbon or shoelaces to add more punk creativity to your shirt. For instance, our black Beatles t-shirt has a white logo. Using white shoestrings or ribbon would be a great choice here.

Take your strip and thread it through the two top holes where you marked with your chalk. Touch the ends of the strip together and pull up until you’ve found the middle of your strip. Continue to crisscross the thread through the holes, all the way down to the bottom. Tie the ends in a knot. If you don’t have enough strips to reach the bottom, don’t worry. These shirts look good if they have a few holes not laced at the bottom. Lace the other side in the same way and try on your new, fitted shirt.

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T-Shirt Tank Top Tips

How to Make a T-Shirt into a Tank Top
Variation: Use Ribbon or Shoestring. Rain Blanken

As with all great DIY projects, you can add your own variations to this shirt to get the best fit and style. 

  • Use some extra ribbon or t-shirt cuttings to make two 4” long, 1” wide strips. Tie these around the shoulders of the tank to create smaller shoulder straps.
  • If your shirt is still too loose after lacing it up, never fear; simply unlace the sides and try again. Set your strips aside and cut another inch off of each side. Make new holes down each side and lace it up again.
  • If you’ve made your shirt too small, don’t worry. Loosen the strips on each side to create a loosely-laced look that shows some skin on each side. If you’re not comfortable with showing that much skin, then this is the perfect opportunity to flaunt your layering skills. Wear a long-sleeved or baby doll shirt underneath that compliments your new t-shirt tank. Try to match the shirt underneath to the logo on your t-shirt.