These upcycled girls t shirt skirts are so easy to make and they look so cute on! I can make a t shirt skirt in about 30 minutes, maybe just a little longer if Little A picks out a more intricate applique she wants sewed on the front. All of Little A’s skirts are made with a solid color or tie dye t shirt with a t shirt scrap applique sewn on the front to add more style and charm. What makes these upcycled t shirt skirts so quick and easy to make is the fact that you’re using the already sewed in hem and side seam from the t shirt. All you really have to do is cut the t shirt, sew in an elastic wasitband casing with elastic, and add an applique if you want. So easy and they cost nothing to make!
I’ve been making some of Little A’s clothes for her since she was a baby. I don’t make all her clothes (like my mom did for me!) since it is hard to justify all the time and energy when I can buy cute second hand kids clothes at yard sales for pretty cheap. One of my favorite things to make for Little A this last year are upcycled t-shirt skirts. Little A loves to wear skirts instead of shorts in the summer and in the winter she wears her t-shirt skirts with tights underneath since she refuses to wear pants.
Little A is at the age where she is quite particular about what she wears and wants to be able to choose her clothes each day (which sometimes results in some very interesting outfits!) I’ve bought her several skirts and dresses thinking she would love them, and she always comes up with some reason she doesn’t like them and won’t wear them. So I decided that if she helps me make her upcycled t shirt skirts by picking out the colors and designs then she’ll be more apt to wear them. And it is working! Plus she ends up with some super cute, one of a kind skirts that cost us nothing to make since they’re made from t shirts in the upcycle pile in my sewing room!
When selecting a tshirt to turn into an upcycled skirt make sure it is washable and already washed and preshrunk. We found a lovely lavender t shirt in our upcycle pile but when I checked the tag to see what it was made of I noticed it was part silk and required hand washing and laying flat to dry. That’s definitely not a good option for an active little girl’s skirt on the homestead!
I try to use kid’s size large or women’s size small t shirts to make skirts for Little A when she was age 3 and 4. When she was a baby and up to age 2, I used small size kids shirts. Little A loves to dance and twirl her skirt around so she loves when her upcycled t shirt skirts are made from women’s small sizes since there is more fabric gathered at her waist to create more twirl when she spins around.
When sewing on knit, it is best to use a light weight ball point needle on the sewing machine (you can find them here). I’ve used a standard needle before but it seems to pucker the knit and the stitching doesn’t lay as flat or look as good. Since knit doesn’t really fray there is no need to finish the edges once it is cut. That’s another reason this skirt is so quick and easy to make!
How to make an upcycled t shirt skirt
All the t shirts in a our upcycling pile in my sewing room are clean and washed but unforunately they get a bit wrinkled from being in our upcycling pile. I didn’t take the time to iron the wrinkles out of the t shirt below when I took pictures so just be forewarned it is a bit wrinkly! After we finished making Little A’s upcycled t shirt skirts we threw them in the wash to get the wrinkles out.
- Lay the t shirt out flat, matching the bottom front and back hem. Smooth out any wrinkles. Use another finished skirt as a pattern for size. Lay the other skirt on top of the tshirt and match up the bottom hems.
- Cut the tshirt across 1″ above the waistband of the pattern skirt if using 1/4″ elastic. If you are using a wider elastic, you will need to cut a larger width above the pattern skirt’s waistband.
- Pick up the bottom half of the tshirt that will become the skirt and turn it inside out. Fold the cut edge down 1/2″ on the inside and pin in place. This will become the casing for the elastic.
- Once the casing is pinned the whole way around, sew the casing in place with a straight stitch about 1/8 inch from the cut edge of the knit. Be sure to not sew the whole casing closed but backstitch and leave 1/2″ open to feed the elastic through.
- Once the casing is sewed, clip a safety pin to one end of the elastic and thread it through the casing of the skirt. When finished threading the elastic, compare the skirt to the pattern skirt to adjust for the proper waist size. Then sew the elastic ends together, one over top the other, with a zig zag stich and back stitching to ensure they are sewed tightly together.
- Smooth out the fabric at the waistband and on the inside of the skirt finish sewing closed the last 1/2″ of the casing that was left open to thread the elastic.
- At this point your skirt is done if you don’t want to add an applique! To add a cute applique to the skirt, figure out what design you want and try to not make it too complicated to sew on. I have a bag of cardboard patterns we use for a variety of craft projects that Little A can pick her appliques from. Once you have a design or applique pattern picked out, find some scrap knit fabric for the applique. Trace the pattern onto the back side of the scrap knit fabric. Cut out the design. Pin the applique to the skirt where you want it to be placed. I find it is helpful to put a book in between the front and back of the skirt at this step so I don’t accidentally pin the applique to the back of the skirt too! Once the applique is pinned in place, carefully sew it in place with a straight stitch, making sure you sew only onto the front of the skirt and not the back of the skirt too! I sew my appliques about 1/8 inch from the edge of the design. Once the applique is sewed on, the skirt is done and your little skirt wearer can now enjoy a cute new one of a kind skirt for no cost!
Once you get the hang of making skirts from t shirts, you can start experimenting with other fun upcycling projects. I made Little A a cute tank dress from a slim fitting women’s tank top that no longer fit me. All I had to do was sew in a new shoulder seem to shorten it to fit her and add a flower applique and it as all done!
You can also start experimenting with making different styles of upcycled t shirt skirts and even one for yourself! Little A and I sorted our bag of t shirt scraps into rainbow colors then cut swatches of the colors and laid them out in order of how I was going to sew them. I have a serger sewing machine and quickly sewed all the fabric swatches together. For my skirt, I simply folded down the waistband and sewed in a casing to thread in elastic for my rainbow skirt. Little A’s rainbow skirt turned out rather long so I ended up sewing up a little upcycled t shirt bodice to attach it to and turned it into a super cute rainbow jumper dress!
If you love to upcycle like we do, check out these other fun upcycling projects from our old blog:
- How to upcycle a wool sweater into a pan handle cover (these work great especially for cast iron pans!)
- DIY upcycled t shirt baby and toddler pants
- Upcycled milk carton storage box
- Upcycled canning jar into a soap/lotion dispenser
- Upcycled sweatshirt to baby sleep sack tutorial
- DIY cloth napkins from fabric scraps and old kitchen towels
What do you like to upcycle old t shirts into?