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How to cut T-shirts to neat ‘bro-tank’ tank tops

T-shirts can be cut to bro-tanks, cut to look like a real tank top and not just a sleeveless shirt. Making tank tops from T-shirts is more challenging, so most people just cut off the sleeves and err on the side of caution rather than risk ruining their shirt. This guide will explain how to make a T-shirt into a tank top. Here is my youtube tutorial, for a visual guide to go alongside this guide.

What you will need:

To make a T-shirt into a tank top, you will need a T-shirt of a size that fits well, scissors, chalk, and a mirror. T-shirts that are too large will not make good tank tops unless they are given modifications.

What you have to watch out for:

T-shirt cloth curls over, so you need to leave an inch of extra cloth to allow for curling. Curling occurs anywhere where the cloth is cut straight, but mostly occurs on the arm holes and the straps and middle of the neck hole. The T-shirt shoulder seam does not curl as much and will need to be trimmed back. The seam will start to unravel to about half an inch, but can be prevented from doing so with a simple fix. The T-shirt itself will end up being wider and deeper than it looks before it is cut so cut as little as possible and trim as necessary. We will look at all these areas of concern as we discuss how to cut the T-shirt.

Preparing the T-shirt for being cut to a tank top:

Put on the T-shirt in front of a mirror and mark where you want it to be cut with the chalk. You will want to mark on the shoulder seam area where you want the tank top to end. Also mark how far back you want the shirt to go back on the arm holes.

Cut the sleeves off of the shirt, making a hole in the cloth as an entry point and cutting around the sleeve at the seam. Cut the seam off with the sleeve, cutting through one side at a time rather than both sides at once. Do not cut deeper than the end of the sleeve; this can be done later after the cloth has expanded. Cut the collar off the shirt, making a hole in the shirt right outside the collar seam and cutting around the collar one side at a time. Do not ever cut both sides of the collar at once as you will cut too much off the back. Tease the cloth by tugging it gently but firmly to get it to curl, and try on the tank top.

The neck will have expanded as the collar that held the cloth back has released it and allowed it to expand. You usually don’t have to cut the neck hole much wider or deeper. It may be perfect as it is, or may need to be cut a shade deeper or wider. Cut about half the desired distance, as any cutting expands the entire neck hole and expanding the entire neck hole stacks the modifications, overdoing their effect.

The shoulders will usually be too wide and need to be trimmed. Smaller shirts may need some simple trimming, while large shirts need to be cut back. Removing the sleeves allows the armholes to drop, especially on larger shirts, as the sleeves held the cloth up. Cutting from the shoulders further expands the arm holes, as they are now cut at an angle and stretch more, in addition to falling further unless the shirt is skin-tight. Start by trimming the shoulder seam to the desired length. Once you have cut the seam, do not cut the nearby cloth to the same length but angle so as to quickly round off the cloth. You should remove a triangle of cloth that cuts no further than an inch in either direction of the seam. It will be uneven but will curl over to look good. Cutting even will result in an uneven curling, and it’s better to have too much cloth and have to tease it after each wash than a tank top that is too narrow on the straps after wearing. You can make the shoulders as narrow as an inch or as wide as three inches, depending on how you want your tank top to look.

Try on the shirt again. At this point, it usually is good on the shoulders, but the lower parts of the sides often stick out too far due to your erring on the side of caution and can be trimmed back. Because the cloth will curl, uncurl the cloth and cut; if the cloth is a half inch too long, cut a half inch off and let it curl again. Continue making small modifications until the tank top looks good. Remember, it is better to cut too little and have to go back than to cut too much. After these modifications are complete, cut the armholes deeper if they are still too shallow. This is uncommon as the cloth usually expands. Cut a crescent shape out of the bottom part of the armhole, cutting about half the desired depth to allow for expansion and rolling of material.

Once your tank top is cut to the desired dimensions, take the sewing kit and sew a few stitches in the cut ends of the shoulder seams to keep them together. Gently teasing the cloth will show you where the seam likes to unravel a bit, and a few fast stitches will seal the seam shut. You now have a cut-off T-shirt tank top that is more comfortable and often more neat than the bro-tanks from the store.

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