Tutorial: Convert an ill-fitting men’s t-shirt into a ladie’s raglan t-shirt

I love Target. Who doesn’t? And every once in a while I wander over to the men’s graphic tees and think to myself, “Self, you love those tees, it’s too bad they are made for 5 year old boys.” The sizes do go all the way up to men’s XXL, which is great, but those fit me everywhere but my hips, and even worse, they’re “athletic fit” which in men’s clothes means just slightly too small everywhere and too big around my boobs. I don’t like tugging at my t-shirt all day. So I bought a couple of shirts and decided to experiment. My actual long-term goal was to figure out how to do this before I chop up my t-shirt from Patchwork Threads.

Warning – do not touch the ink of the Target shirts with your iron. It will melt and ruin everything.

OK, so here’s the thing. As I was saying, the XXL, which is as big as they go, doesn’t fit me around the hips, so basically I can’t just buy a really big one and cut out my raglan pattern. So this tutorial is specifically for those of you that have a t-shirt that is too small. After all, if it’s too big you can just cut out your pattern and be on your way. It’s also applicable if you have a favorite t-shirt you’ve grown out of, for example.


      • Usual sewing supplies like thread, sewing machine, needles, scissors, etc.
      • A serger would be SUPER good to have, but not necessary. Ditto with a coverstitch.
      • A too-small t-shirt that does not have side seams. See photo below. I mean, I guess you could do it with a shirt with side seams, but it won’t look as good. Maybe if you feel like you need to practice first?


  • You also need a raglan t-shirt pattern that fits you. I custom made mine, but I hear the Trifecta Top’s not too shabby.


Step 1: Cut the T-shirt all the way up the center of the back.


Step 2: Cut the front panel away from the arm and shoulder seams.


You can see in the photo where my raglan pattern will lay in reference to the available fabric. See a problem??

Step 4: Cut out front pattern piece as normal, ignoring arm holes for now.


Step 5: Replace missing arm-hole fabric.


For this step, I laid 2 pieces of spare fabric from the back of the shirt underneath the front panel, wrong sides together. I then rotary cut them to match the edge of the panel where fabric is missing. I also slightly cut the bottom edge of the sleeve seam on the front panel (the right edge of my stitch markings in the photo above) because it comes back up in a curve where the arm hole is (refer to the photo in step 2) and that would just be annoying to deal with. Do not trim any excess fabric at this time.

Sew the newly cut spare armpit pieces into place using a stretch stitch on your sewing machine or your serger. Don’t worry, they don’t have to be anywhere near perfect.

Step 6: Re-cut the armpit part of the front panel using your pattern.


At this point you should press those seams one way or the other.

Step 7: Sew your raglan pattern as usual. Use contrast fabrics to minimize the fact that you can’t find the same fabric that was used for the Target t-shirt for the back of the shirt.


And here’s what the armpits look like. Don’t worry, I showered and I’m wearing deodorant, I won’t smell through the monitor. Yes I totally made this shirt with a lighter grey back. I kinda like it. I also refuse to rethread my serger for one silly t-shirt. All white, all the time.


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3 Responses to Tutorial: Convert an ill-fitting men’s t-shirt into a ladie’s raglan t-shirt

  1. Ginger April 25, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    I adore you !!! This is awesome. Thank you so much !

    • Sue December 20, 2019 at 10:42 am #

      Thank you for this. I love raglan sleeves and it never occurred to me to replace them!


  1. How to Upsize a too small Men's T-shirt v. 2 - Sew What, Sherlock? - May 22, 2015

    […] you remember my too small t-shirt to plus-size raglan tutorial over here? Well I’m showing you version 2 today. The raglan is good if your t-shirt is WAAAY too small, […]

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