Creative articles about sewing

Spring T-shirt update

Spring is approaching in my part of the world (South Africa) and that means it’s time for a Spring Clean!

I’m sure when you clean out your wardrobe you’ll come across some garments that you haven’t worn in a while because you have tired of them. Instead of chucking out a perfectly good garment I recommend giving it a fun update!

In this blog post I am going to share a simple way to update a basic tshirt with frilly sleeves.

You may remember that in my 1st blog post I updated a sleeveless top with frilly sleeves: Flirty Frill Cap Sleeve
However, this garment update differs as the fabric is gathered and added to a top with existing sleeves while the other was a shaped sleeve attached to a sleeveless garment.

In keeping with “out with the old, in with the new”, this will be the last blog post with my Virtuosa 160 sewing machine. I am very excited that from next month I will be using an incredible new sewing machine from Bernina!
My Virtuosa 160 may be retiring from the blog but it is in no way going anywhere. It is still in amazing condition and will be used in my sewing lessons for my students who want to give sewing a try.


  • Tshirt
  • 0.5m Lightweight Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • 3 or 4 matching threads
  • Overlocker
  • Sewing Machine



Frill Sleeves

  1. Measure the sleeve opening. Mulitply this number by 3.
    Eg. My sleeve opening is 30cm so, 30cm x 3 = 90cm


  1. Cut out 2 rectangles for the frill.
    Use the number from the previous step for the length and choose a suitable width.
    Eg. The length of my frill is 90cm (30cm x 3) and I chose 15cm for the width


  1. Shape both ends of each rectangle.
    This will eliminate bulk under your arm once attached to the tshirt.


  1. Set up your overlocker for the 3 thread rolled hem stitch.
    These are the settings that work best for me. Adjust the Thread Tension for the needle (I used Right needle) and Lower Looper, set the Stitch Length to R and bring the Stitch Finger Lever towards you.


  1. Overlock the curved edge of each rectangle and then the straight edge.


  1. Prepare your sewing machine for gathering. I set mine to the biggest stitch length.


  1. Gently guide the fabric while the machine stitches. Let the fabric gather if it wants to.
    Remember to not secure the stitches at the beginning and end.


  1. Find the midpoint of each sleeve and frill.


  1. Gently pull the bottom thread at each end and gather the fabric. Be careful to not pull out the thread.


  1. Place the frill on top of the tshirt sleeve.
    Match the midpoint of the frill to the midpoint of the sleeve and pin the frill in place along the existing stitch line.
    Fold the frill’s points back at the under arm seam.


  1. Place the sleeve over the sewing machine’s free arm (remove the extension table) and set your machine to a medium zig zag stitch.


  1. Sew the frill to sleeve with the zigzag stitch.
    The reason I used the zig zag stitch is so that the fabric can still stretch with the garment.


  1. If possible, remove the gathering stitch.
    I chose to have the gathers on to of the sleeve as not only does it look interesting but it is more comfortable.


  1. If you haven’t already, repeat the above steps for the other sleeve.


  1. Cut out 2 rectangles: 10cm x 16cm and the other 6cm x 30cm


  1. Fold the smaller rectangle lengthwise and pin in place.
    Using a straight stich, sew along the length with a 1cm seam allowance.
    Turn right side out and stitch the open ends together.


  1. Fold the bigger rectangle lengthwise and pin in place. Cut the ends at an angle.
    Using a straight stich, sew along the open edges with a 1cm seam allowance, leaving an opening in the middle.
    Turn right side out and stitch the opening closed.


  1. Using a hand sewing needle, thread through all the layers at the top edge at the middle of the small rectangle.
    Fold the rectangle lengthwise and thread through the fold.
    Thread through the other edge at the middle.
    Pull the thread taught so that the fabric creates a concertina effect. Secure the thread.


  1. Fold the centre of the long rectangle lengthwise.
    Place it around the centre of the bow and secure in place.


  1. Hand stitch the bow at the centre back, just below the neckband.


  • Unpick the side seams of the tshirt & sleeve to make it easier to attach the frill to the sleeve.
  • This technique can be used on kiddies clothing too.
  • You could add a frill in the same way to the hem of the shirt.

I would love to see your updated a tshirts, please feel free to share them with me!


Free sewing instructions: Spring T-Shirt

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