Have you ever accidentally purchased a shirt in the wrong size, found an awesome piece at a thrift store that’s just a little too small, or grown out of your favorite shirt? Those situations can be so frustrating, but did you know that there are ways to make shirts bigger so that they fit better?
If you find that a shirt is too tight, you don’t have to say goodbye to it just yet.
So, how do you make a shirt bigger? There are several ways to make a shirt bigger, including stretching it out, adding side panels, and adding extra length. However, different materials will react differently to each method, so it’s important to understand what method will work for your particular fabric.
Let’s take a look at some ways that you can make a shirt bigger below.
How To Determine If Your Shirt Can Be Made Bigger
When you have a very tight shirt, the first step to determine if you can make it fit better is to try it on to see where it feels tight. Does fit feel uncomfortable around the chest and sleeves, or is it too short?
If your shirt is too tight around the seam areas, for example, the neck or armholes, then it’s going to be very difficult to tailor or stretch out to make it bigger.
However, if you just need a little extra length, or want to make your shirt feel more comfortable around the chest or sleeves, then there are ways that you can make it fit more comfortably.
There are two main ways to make a shirt bigger: stretching it out or tailoring it.
What Materials Can Be Stretched?
Stretching out a shirt is probably the simplest step to take, but it only works for certain types of fibers. Natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or wool can expand or contract in the wash without losing their shape.
Synthetic fibers do not share the same characteristics, so, unfortunately, you will have more of a difficult time stretching out synthetic fabric. Some synthetic fabrics do have some natural stretchiness, but they act more like elastics, so they will spring back when you try to stretch them out.
The weave construction and the thread count will also determine if a fabric can be stretched.
Generally, a knitted fabric (such as jersey knit) will stretch much easier than woven fabric because the knitted construction allows more room for the fabric to expand. If you have a polyester shirt that is made from knitted fabric, it can also be stretched.
If your fabric has a tighter weave (meaning higher thread count), it will also stretch easier, mainly because it is more resilient when it meets the pressure. If you have a looser weave, the fabric will have a very difficult time stretching.
So, a cotton (or any natural fiber) T-shirt that is made from knitted fabric can easily be stretched in a few steps.
What Materials Need To Be Tailored?
As you have probably guessed, synthetic shirts made from woven fabrics won’t stretch at all, and you will risk distorting their shape if you try to stretch it out. In this case, you will need to tailor the shirt. If you know some sewing basics, you can add fabrics to make the shirt bigger.
Read on to find out how you can make your shirts bigger, either by stretching them out or sewing.
How To Stretch A Shirt
Before you stretch out a shirt, first try it on to see where it needs to be stretched. If only a certain area feels tight, for example, around the chest or the arm, then you only need to focus the stretching around that area.
When you stretch out a shirt, make sure to avoid the seams and the hems. This is because the stitches around these areas won’t be able to stretch along with the fabric, and it will likely distort the shape of the shirt.
If you have determined that your shirt can be stretched, you can use one of the following methods to stretch it out.
Method 1: Wash & Block
If you have a natural fabric such as cotton or wool, then this method is definitely for you. Washing and blocking is a technique regularly used in knitting as a final step to help your garment take shape, but it’s also super useful when you need to stretch out a shirt.
This method works because natural fabric expands when it absorbs moisture, so washing the fabric will relax the fibers. After that, you can “block” the fabric to stretch it out to the shape that you want.
- Wash your shirt following the washing instructions – machine wash or hand wash. Make sure to use cold water and a mild detergent. Avoid using warm or hot water in this step because when natural fibers are met with heat, they will actually shrink, which defeats the purpose of this entire exercise.
- After washing, make sure that all the excess water has been removed from your shirt, but don’t wring too hard, as it can distort the fibers, which is very sensitive at this stage. Lay a dry towel on a flat surface, and lay your top flat on top of the dry towel.
- Now, you can stretch the shirt by pulling around the areas that need to fit better, then use sewing pins to pin your shirt down on the towel so that it will take its shape. Make sure you approach stretching with caution and stretch a little bit at a time so that you don’t overdo it! If you don’t have sewing pins, you can use paperweights or something heavy to keep the shirt in place.
- Leave your shirt in a cool place to air dry. When your shirt is completely dry, it will take the “new” shape. You can try it on to see if it fits well, and repeat these steps if you need to add more room to the shirt!
Method 2: Use Hair Conditioner
Some fibers need a little bit more help to relax before they can be stretched out. This is true if your fabric has a woven construction or if you have a natural fiber that is a bit more stubborn, such as linen. Here, you can use a hair conditioner to relax the fibers before stretching them.
- Fill your sink with cold water, and add about ¼ cup of hair conditioner. If you don’t have a hair conditioner, you can also use fabric softener to achieve the same result. Soak your shirt in the conditioner (or fabric softener) bath for 15 minutes to relax the fibers.
- After 15 minutes, drain the water and rinse your shirt thoroughly to remove all of the conditioner. When you remove the excess water, don’t wring out your shirt. Since the fibers are very sensitive at this stage, the twisting motion can distort the shape of your garment. Instead, press on the shirt gently to remove the excess water. Repeat these steps until all of the conditioners have been removed.
- With a dry towel, roll up your shirt to remove any excess moisture. Then, repeat the same steps above to “block” your shirt: stretch the shirt where you need to make it bigger, and pin or hold it in place to help the shirt take its shape.
- Lay the shirt out to air dry. After the shirt is completely dry, then it should have a new shape.
How To Stretch A Polyester Shirt
Not every type of polyester shirt can be stretched. As we have mentioned, polyester is a synthetic fiber that doesn’t have the same properties as natural fibers, so it won’t expand or contract in the wash.
However, that doesn’t mean a polyester shirt cannot be stretched. If you have a stretchy knit fabric, then you can still stretch it a bit to make it fit. Here, you will be stretching the knit construction of the fabric rather than the fibers.
If you want to stretch a polyester knit shirt, you don’t have to wet the garment first. You can stretch it by hand when the shirt is dry. If the fabric is a bit more stubborn, you can lay it on a flat surface, then use paperweights to hold it down in place.
After about 24 hours, the fabric should get used to the stretched shape, and your shirt will feel a bit more comfortable than before. You can also use the hair conditioner method mentioned above to help the fabric relax, which will make it easier to help the fabric take a new shape.
However, generally with synthetic fabrics, you can’t expect the same degree of a stretch compared to natural fibers. In that case, we recommend sewing options to add more materials to the shirt.
How To Add Fabric To Make A Shirt Bigger
If you have a fabric that absolutely cannot be stretched, for example, a woven synthetic fabric, then the only way to make the shirt bigger is by adding more fabric.
Don’t worry that it’s too difficult. Although “tailoring” can sound very intimidating, the methods below only require very basic sewing skills. Let’s take a look.
Method 1: Add Side Panels
This method will help you enlarge a t-shirt if you need to make the bust, waist, and sleeves bigger by adding a long panel in between the side seams underneath the sleeves and on the side of the shirt.
You will need:
- Tape measurer
- A long piece of fabric. You can use a fabric that matches your shirt or add a design element with a contrasting color or even a lace fabric.
- Matching cotton threads
- A sewing machine (optional)
- Fabric scissors
Here’s how to add side panels to make your shirt bigger:
- Measure the largest part of your torso and the corresponding part in the shirt. This step is key to helping you determine how much fabric you need to add. Since there are two side seams, you will need to divide the fabric by two. For example, if your chest measures 36 inches, but the shirt only measures 33 inches, you will need three additional inches of fabric, which means each side panel needs to be 1.5 inches, plus seam allowance. The length of the panel will need to be the length of the seam underneath the sleeve and on the side of the shirt, plus seam allowance.
- With some fabric scissors, cut away the seam on the side of the shirt, all the way to the sleeve. Repeat on the other side.
- Pin the side panel to the side of the shirt (right side together). Repeat on the other side.
- You can try the shirt on (inside out – don’t poke yourself with sewing pins) at this stage to see if the additional material is enough to make the shirt fit. If not, you can adjust the seam to make it a bit more comfortable and try again.
- Sew the side panel in place, removing the sewing pins as you go, and repeat on the other side. If you are sewing with a sewing machine, you can use a zig-zag stitch to prevent the fabric from fraying. If you are hand-sewing, you can use a buttonhole stitch to achieve the same effect, although it will take a lot longer.
- Roll up the hem of the side panel on the bottom of the shirt and the hem of the side panel at the sleeve opening. Secure with sewing pins. Then, sew the hem in place with a straight stitch, and repeat on the other side.
And voila, you have successfully tailored a shirt to make it fit you!
How To Add Length To A Shirt
If your shirt is too short, then there are some simple steps that you can take to add some length to the shirt as well!
Adding length is also a great way to add a little twist to the shirt design. For example, you can add some ruffles or lace at the bottom for a feminine touch or a tie-waist detail at the bottom of the shirt. You can really make it your own!
With similar tools and materials as before, here are the steps to add length to your shirt:
- Measure the length you would like to add to your shirt, and mark that on a strip of fabric. The length of the strip of fabric should match the circumference around your shirt. If you want to add ruffles or a tie-waist detail to your shirt, then the length of the strip of fabric should be much longer.
- If you want to add ruffles to your shirt, then sew two parallel lines along the side of the new strip of fabric using the longest stitch length available. Then, tie the ends of the straight stitches together on one side of the strip, and pull on the other end to create ruffles. Make sure that the length of the ruffled side ends up being the same as the circumference around your shirt.
- Sew the two ends of the strip of fabric, right side together, using the zig-zag stitch to create a continuous loop. If you want to create a tie-waist detail, you can skip this step.
- Place the loop of fabric on the hem of your T-shirt, right side together, and pin the loop in place.
- Sew the loop of fabric in place, removing the pins as you go.
- Sew the new hem of your shirt.
And there you go, you have successfully added some length to your shirt!
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