Repurpose old T-shirts for cool, summer chore comfort!

Garden T Finí

I’m not one for spending money on special gardening clothes—old jeans, shorts and shirts are fine for working in the dirt. I have plenty of T-shirts with stains or small holes, but the unseasonal heat this year calls for sleeveless shirts. I knew it would be easy to make some from my excess.

Garden T ToolsThe procedure requires a few simple tools: good scissors, a ruler and/or measuring tape, tailor’s chalk or markers, and straight pins. I use a cardboard cutting board to protect my dining table since I don’t have a craft table.

Creating the armhole

The steps are fairly simple, though the measuring, cutting and pinning take more time than the stitching!

  1. Measure ½-inch from the armhole seam into the sleeve and mark for cutting. You can do this on the right side of the fabric, as any marks will get folded in.

    measuring the sleeve

    Step 1.

  2. Cut along your marks—one layer of sleeve at a time for accuracy.

    Cut edge for folding

    Step 2.

  3. Fold in ¼-inch to meet the armhole seam, then again to create a smooth inside seam. Be sure to pin perpendicular to the outside, with points out for machine stitching.

    Ready for stitching

    Step 3.

  4. Stitch ¼-inch along the edge on the folded side, using the presser foot as a guide. I always start at the underarm since it tends to be bulkier and any uneven stitching is hidden. Clip the threads and you’re done!

    stitch the facing

    Step 4.

Adding an open neckline

I prefer an open neckline when it’s hot. If the T doesn’t already have one, it’s easy to make a v-shaped slit.

  1. Find the center of the neckline and mark, then measure 3–5 inches down and mark, depending on your preference and carriage. Connect the points to create your cutting guide. Tailor’s chalk washes right out, so you can mark on the right side again.
    fin d the center of the neck

    Step 1a.

    Find the center 3–4" below

    Step 1b.

    Connecting the points

    Step 1c.

  2. At the top, measure ½-inch on each side of your center mark, then draw a line to the center point below, to create a narrow V.
    measure from the center point

    Step 2a.

    Mark the fold lines

    Step 2b.

  3. Cut your centerline and fold the edge back to the wrong side of the fabric, starting at ¼-inch at the top. The fold will narrow to nothing as you reach the lower center point.

    ready for stitching

    Step 3.

  4. Stitch along the edge following the fold in one fluid motion, from top, to center point, to top.

Tips and tricks

  • If staying cool is your goal, be sure to use only 100% cotton Ts. Polyester and blends don’t cut it for me!
  • Match your thread to the stitching at the neckline/hem on the garment.
  • Rather than bother with a serger or stretch-stitch, I use a wider straight stitch—3.5–4. It accommodates the stretch in the fabric.
  • Always double-back a couple of times at the beginning and end of a row of stitches to anchor them.
  • Don’t worry about perfection when guiding your stitches. It’s more important to catch the edge of the fold. Remember, you’re creating something to wear while gardening, not attending a dinner party.
  • Save the cut-off sleeves to use as dust cloths, or to clean eyeglasses. Soft cotton is great for polishing mirrors too!