A little bit of shirt surgery. From turtleneck to plain ole’ T.

Greetings pygmy marmosets! Egad! I just googled all ya’ll to make sure I spelled your name correctly and you sure are cute! I didn’t know you were the size of my thumb! I’ll take 12 of you. Can you help with the housecleaning and such?

So my recent dedication to daily posts is making me feel a bit like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel. I usually DO get some sewing done every day, but on days like today it’s pretty boring stuff! Are you dying of curiosity? Well here it is. Take one ill-conceived sewing adventure and try to make it into something workable. AKA: giant turtleneck to well-fitting t-shirt.


Even though it pains me to think of the disappointment on your wee monkey faces, I have to confess that I have the attention span of, well, a marmoset, and even though this transformation took about 15 minutes, I kept forgetting that I meant to take pictures. At least I got a before and after, right? And a few along the way.

I made this turtleneck earlier this year. It’s Kwik Sew 3003 and you can’t really see, but it’s a completely cute teeny polka dot print cotton interlock that we had at the shop.


I loved the dots and I loved the color and when I made the fabric into a shirt it was about a hundred degrees below zero, so I thought a turtleneck was the perfect thing to make. Even though turtlenecks in any color but black, white or grey are a bit too church basement potluck (circa 1987) for me. The giant arms and shoulders of the Kwik Sew pattern only added to the look. I don’t know if I even wore the turtleneck once. But since I loved the color I couldn’t toss it. We’re out of it at the shop and I realized when I finished the Tahitian Treat skirt that the fabric was a perfect match. So today I decided to do something about it!

I turned the turtleneck inside out (the inside is white) and laid it on the cutting table. I laid a t-shirt whose fit I like over the turtleneck and traced the well-fitting t-shirt.

I smoothed and pinned to keep the layers stable, then I cut off the arm leaving a bit extra for the seam allowance. Once the arm was off I serged along the side seam and then finished the sleeve hem with the serger. Full disclosure… I had everything in position and my foot on the gas to serge the sleeve completely shut. Nice. I did the same for the other side, but I was lazier and didn’t pin, just smoothed out and held in place.

Now to the part where I stopped taking pictures. The neckline caused me a bit of worry because I seem to have a weeny upper chest and well endowed lower chest that combine to create giant gaping necklines. To transfer the neckline shape from the T-shirt I was using as my guide I marked spots on the shoulder seam, the center front and halfway between. I made the markings by folding back the T-shirt a bit and marking with chalk. I eyeballed a decent looking curve and drew half the neckline (in pink.) To keep it symmetrical, I put a piece of paper (OK, it was a paper towel) over the turtleneck and traced along the pink line, the shoulder seam and the turtuleneck neckline. I cut out my tracing, then flipped it over (at the center front) and traced out the green line.

I cut along the lines I traced in the front (in pink below), then refolded the shirt, matching the shoulder seams and folding along the center front and center back. I cut the back neckline by just eyeballing it and then finished the neckline by serging and pressing. Surprisingly, it’s not gaping and I’ll probably leave the serged edge as the finish. It’s pretty casual, but I’m concerned any further hemming will start to make the neckline floppy.

And that, my tiny little monkeys, is how I made a el-frumpo turtleneck into a more-wearable-t.


I’ve gone the last 15 years with a near-pathological aversion to tucking in my shirts. It still strikes me as a bit of a bundley way to dress, although not so bad with skirts, but get a monkey-eyefull of the pictures below! It seems to me the picture on the right is about 300 times more flattering than the untucked picture on the left. I think it’s a mix of the skirt waistband accentuating my more narrow ribcage with the tucked shirt, along with the golden proportion rule – there’s something about the lines of the shirt cutting my body in half in the untucked version that really doesn’t work for me.


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  • gMarie
    May 12, 2011

    I am absolutely in love with that fabric. Too bad you don't have any more. I actually went out and bought that skirt pattern last week, took new measurements, sewed it up, topstitched and everything and then tried it on – tooooo big – like I need to take 2" off each side too big. So, it's hanging now, will take it in tomorrow and hopefully I'll have a darling skirt too.

    As for the turtleneck – try making it with the same shaping you give your tee shirt – you might like it better. g

  • Sigrid
    May 11, 2011

    I agree this fabric is much better as a T than a turtleneck. But my favorite kernel of wisdom was the trick with the paper towel. Thanks for the full disclosure !

  • Katie W
    May 11, 2011

    Hi Patty! I just found your blog a week or so ago and just love it — thanks for all of the details instructions and cute clothes! I have similar proportions to you (wider hips than shoulders, etc.) and I'm passionate about tucking everything in. I agree that it just looks better. Also, I adore that turquoise polka-dot!

  • Alessa
    May 11, 2011

    That fabric looks very awesome and your finished tee is really cute.
    Have you tried finishing the neckline of knit tees with a folded-over self-fabric strip about 3/4 the length of the neckline (like a crew neck finishing)? It might take care of the gaping neckline…

  • Sarah
    May 11, 2011

    I've been the same way with never tucking! I am starting to realize that tucking can be more flattering but its hard to change old habits. Your outfit looks very cute both ways, but I give the edge to the tucked in shirt – it makes your waist look great.

  • Corrine
    May 11, 2011

    I have way too many turtlenecks that I never wear. In winter I am unbearably cold and use them as a layering piece. However, lately, I absolutely hate anything snug around my neck, I feel like I am choking. Now you have given me permission to cut them down. Thanks.

  • montanachic
    May 11, 2011

    I feel the same way about tucking. The other day I needed to tuck in a shirt so the length would look right under the jacket I was wearing. Even though you couldn't see the shirt because the jacket was covering it I felt like I was doing something VERY WRONG. I do like yours tucked with that skirt though, maybe because the skirt has a little of the high waisted look to it.

  • Eugenia
    May 11, 2011

    Great job on refashioning your unwanted turtleneck into this fabulous t-shirt. It looks great with that skirt and, if I may offer an opinion, I think that I'm with Carolyn on the tucked v. untucked question – I slightly prefer the untucked look. But, hey, it's your outfit and whichever way you wear it, you look wonderful!

  • [patty the snug bug]
    May 11, 2011

    Amy and Debi! Yay! Since we can sew, there's no reason to have stuff that we don't love, right?

    Casey! Your comment made me realize that another reason that I didn't like the t-neck was the color didn't work with ANYTHING that I wore during the winter! The skirt was super perfect!!

    Carolyn – I half agree with you! I don't mind the look of the tshirt untucked, I just don't like it with that particular skirt untucked – I think if the skirt were a bit longer or shorter I'd like it more, but paired as is I'm not a fan of the hem of the shirt cutting me RIGHT in half at my widest point!!

    Laura! Ha ha – I thought the foot shot was awesome!

  • LAP
    May 11, 2011

    I especially love that you now have an outfit with two dueling polkadot sizes, that is somehow totally subtle.

    I blame the doofus in the clown shoes for not being smart enough to realize her project on the cutting table was infringing on your photo ability.

    Keep empowering us with these quick and dirty posts!

  • Carolyn (cmarie12)
    May 11, 2011

    First – what a fantastic job you did on transforming this from something you wouldn't wear to a must wear in your closet.

    Second – I have to respectfully disagree with you. The t-shirt on the outside of the skirt looks so much better to me because I like the longer bodice proportion over the skirt. When you wear the t-shirt tucked in, you shorten the top of you and lengthen the bottom and it doesn't flow as well.

    I'm sure that however you choose to wear it…at least the t-shirt will be worn now instead of stored away when it was the unloved turtleneck.

  • Casey
    May 11, 2011

    Great idea for transforming that turtleneck! I especially love the polka dots (I do have a particular adoration of polka dots ;)–and with that skirt it's gorgeous! :)

  • Debi
    May 11, 2011

    Great job! You are inspiring me with all the refashions!!

  • Amy
    May 11, 2011

    Patty, you did a great job with this t-shirt transformation. I think I need to take another look at one of my own "oopsie" tops and see if I can fix it like this. I'm just like you when it comes to tucking in shirts. It's interesting how photos can help us see things differently, isn't it?

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