UPCYCLING: Turn a Simple Tee into a Stylish Dress

February 27, 2017By Angela WolfSerger, Sewing, Upcycling 5 Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

Somehow, T-shirts seem to multiply. What to do with the extras that find there way home? How about turning them into a stylish dress with some of that extra knit fabric you’ve got in your stash? Utilizing your serger, my 5234PRW comes with a Blind stitch foot and I also use an Elastic foot, I’ll show you how to put together this simple dress.
Let’s get to it!

Supplies needed:


  • Serger (I am using the Project Runway™ Limited Edition 5234PRW)
  • Blind stitch foot
  • SA212 Elastic foot for Serger
  • Three or 4 spools of serger thread
  • Quilters ruler
  • Tailors chalk or fabric marking tool
  • Scissors
  • Seam ripper
  • Narrow ribbon
  • Yarn needle
  • T-shirt
  • ¼ to ½ yard of cotton fabric (depending on how long you want the skirt)
  • ½” wide elastic

Tee photo 4

Restyling – Cutting up the Tee

  1. Try on the Tee and determine where you want the skirt fabric to start: high for an empire waist, on the natural waist line, or lower for a drop-waist style. Draw a line (parallel to the hem) at this location.

Tee 12

  1. Cut along line.

Tee 13

  1. Use a seam ripper to open one of the side seams 2 to 3 inches.

Tee 18 and 20

  1. Cut the skirt pattern:
    a. Width = Measure the width around the tee and add at least 5”
    b. Length = Desired length of skirt plus 3” (2” for the hem allowance and 1” for seam allowance for the waistband)

Setting Up the Serger for Inserting Elastic

  • 3 or 4-thread overlock stitch (Note: the 4-thread overlock is a sturdier stitch)
  • Stitch length: 4”
  • Stitch width: 5”
  • Elastic foot for Serger
  1. Flip open the guide, slide the elastic through the opening as shown, and slide the plastic lever closed so it sits close to the edge of the elastic.
  2. Adjust the dial on the elastic foot: choose a higher number and the elastic will stretch as its serged in place. Be sure to test the stitch and elastic on a scrap piece of fabric.

Tee 39

Attaching the Skirt

  1. Starting at the opened side seam, with right sides of the fabric and T-shirt facing each other, serge. Continue serging all the way around the base of the T-shirt.

Upcycle Tee 41 57

  1. Cut off the excess fabric for the skirt.

upcycle tee 54 59

  1. Pin the side seam closed. Change back to a standard foot and set the serger up for a 3 or 4-thread overlock stitch. Serge the side seam closed.

Upcycle Tee 63
Upcycle Tee 109

Creating a Fashionable Ladder Stitch

upcycle tee 116

Set up the serger for a blind hem stitch:
Upcycle Tee 70

  • Stitch Width: 5 mm
  • Stitch Length: 3 to 4 mm
  • Left Needle: decrease tension 0
  • Upper Looper: increase tension 6 – 7
  • Lower Looper: decrease tension 3
  1. Press up the hem allowance 2”.

Upcycle Tee 66

  1. Insert the blind hem foot, turn the knob to adjust the plastic lever to the left for a wider stitch. The idea is to have a wide stitch that shows up on the right side of the fabric, test the stitch on a scrap of fabric first.
  2. Turn up the hem along the pressed edge. Then fold the pressed edge back toward the right side fabric.
  3. Line up the fold of fabric with the plastic edge of the foot. The raw edge of the hem allowance will be further to the right of the knife, as shown.

Upcycle Tee 81

  1. Serge all the way around the hem. Press the hem.

Upcycle tee 96
Upcycle Tee 85

Ladder Stitch on the Sleeve Hem

  1. The sleeve on the T-shirt is already hemmed with a coverhem stitch – leave this hem. Turn the sleeve edge up toward the right side of the fabric. Stitch the same ladder stitch along the folded edge as shown.

Upcycle tee 83

  1. Press the hem back down.

upcycle tee 90

Add a Touch of Ribbon to the Ladder Stitches

upcycle tee 91

  1. On the right side of the fabric, insert the needle every three or four stitches.

Upcycle tee 92

  1. Pull the ribbon in and out of the ladder stitches.

Upcycle teee 94 95
Upcycle Tee 97-100
Upcycle Tee 110

That’s it! This new dress turned out Adorable!
Upcycle Tee 99

As you can see, a serger has lots of stitching and embellishing capabilities. Be sure to share photos of your Upcycled Dress by tagging us @Brothersew and #StitchingSewcial on Facebook and Instagram.


Have you seen the Two Shirts Upcycled into a Denim Shirtdress? Click on over to see this project!
Denim Shirtdress

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    • Hi Janice,

      This series shows another way for folks to sew with items they have around the house. It’s perfect for those who want to practice their sewing skills as well as experienced sewers who are looking for something new to try. Thank you for the comment!
      Happy Sewing!


    • Hi Dew,
      For the skirt, gather the fabric at the waistline with basting stitches. Then attach to the t-shirt with a zigzag stitch with stitch length 2.5 and width 1.0.
      The trim on the hem – why not use a decorative stitch that you have in your machine 🙂

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