Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to make a fooler top

I hate this shirt because it's too short and it doesn't fit right anymore after going through the dryer one too many times:

I hate this shirt too, also because it's too short.

By chance, I washed both of these shirts before I was going to take them to the Salvation Army then I realized something: they are both the same color. Hmmm...I wonder if I could make my own  fooler top out of these two shirts? A fooler top looks like a button-up shirt and a sweater with the collar, sleeves and tails under a nice simple top but the fool is that it's only one top, not two.

So, I planned on making this the ultimate shirt: make it longer by sewing the "tails" from the button-up shirt onto the hem of the v-neck sweater to extend it, add cuffs to the ends of the sleeves and add the collar (like a dickie) to the neckline.

For this project, I used the two shirts, matching thread, scissors, a tape measure, a white dressmaker's pencil, a seam ripper, and my sewing machine. I also used a basic needle for hand-stitching.


To start, I cut off the first cuff. I went about 1 inch above the first cuff, smoothed out the fabric and cut it off.

I used the cut cuff to measure how much I needed for the second cuff (like a pattern) and then cut the second cuff.

(pardon the cat hair in some of these photos: my cat decided to sleep on both shirts last night)

Then, I looked at the hem. I measured (by sight) the approximate amount of fabric that I wanted from the button-up shirt.

Using the measuring tape, I measured 4 inches on both side seams and marked it with the dressmakers pencil. Then, I held the measuring tape horizontally between the two sides and marked a line. 

I smoothed the shirt out well as I was going to cut through the two sides and then cut.

Last, was the collar. This was more difficult. I marked on both sides of the shoulders where I wanted to cut then went straight down to the first button from both shoulders. This cut through both sides.


Once I had all of the cut pieces, I used a zigzag stitch around all of the cut edges. If I had a serger, I would have serged them.

For the actual sewing, I started with the cuffs. I pinned the cuffs to the wrong side of the sweater on the sweater band so that it would blend in with the style of the sweater. I started with the buttoned side of the cuff.

At this point, I discovered that the cuff didn't fit on my sewing machine, so I sewed both cuffs on by hand with a needle and matching thread.

Once both cuffs were sewn on by hand, I did the collar. I pinned the fabric collar to the v-neck from the outside so that I could follow the line of the knit cuff on the sweater.

Once the collar was sewn on, the hard part began - the hem. I found it rather difficult as the button-up shirt was slightly bigger than the sweater. So, the first thing that I did was I lined up the side seams from both the sweater and the button-up shirt and pinned them together with about 2 cm seam allowance.

Once both side seams were pinned, I worked my way around the back then the front. I kept the same seam allowance so that it wouldn't be uneven. 

Once it was pinned, I turned the shirt over to see how well everything lined up. I didn't want to be uneven on the sides and such. I made sure the the front was pinned so that it came out slightly, like a real shirt. 

Then I sewed it down. Once I took the pins out though, I noticed that I had some overlap on the back:

So, on these "tucks", I took out the seams with a seam ripper and repinned them, this time with some give.

Then I sewed them back down again, stretching the fabric with my fingers as I went. 

Lastly, I had to do something with the collar "dickie". It wouldn't stay in place when I put it on. 

So, using the needle and thread again, I sewed it to the sweater along the lines. I didn't do it all the way down, just in key places I added a stitch.

I pinned it and added a stitch where all of the pins are.


(now you can really see how short the sweater was on me before this project)

Estimated time for this project: 2 hours. It was actually more for me due to the fact that the cuffs were sewn on by hand. The cutting took about 20-30 minutes (measuring and all that) with the sewing a bit more than that. 


  • Next time, I will cut the collar closer to the seam so that I don't have extra fabric. 
  • A serger would be very useful to sew down the cut edges before sewing begins. 
  • When sewing the cuffs, be sure that the buttoned sides line up - either both facing out or both facing in. 
  • This could easily be done with a patterned shirt and a solid sweater, or vice versa. It can be done with old cardigans as well.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this! Thank you. Love how you integrated your mistakes into the instruction. Wonderful. I am going to try this tomorrow with a few old white shirts and too short sweaters. This was really nice.