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With spring here and summer just around the corner, my family uses a LOT of T-shirts. Luckily, I came up with an incredibly simple way to make a cap sleeve T-shirt in just 10-15 minutes without even using a sewing pattern!
This project is fast and easy, even for beginner sewists or sewers who have never sewn knit T-shirt fabric. All you have to do is fold a piece of jersey fabric in half, sew two lines, and cut open a neckline. No bindings or hemming!
Despite being such a simple project, there are different ways to customize it to your tastes. For example, the shirt above is form fitting with a rounded neckline and short faux-cap sleeves. The one below is looser, with a rounded V-neck, and with longer “sleeves”.
(I’ll give more customization ideas at the end of this tutorial.)
So, are you ready to learn how to make a cap sleeve t shirt in under a quarter of an hour? Then keep on reading the tutorial or watch the video below!
- 1.5 meters/yards of jersey or interlock fabric (preferably with the wrong side the same color as the right side)
- a T-shirt that fits you correctly to use as a guide
- polyester thread matching the fabric*
- a ballpoint or stretch sewing machine needle for knits*
- safety pins*
- ballpoint pins for knits*
- tailor’s chalk* (or other temporary marking tool)
- fabric shears*
- cutting mat*, quilter’s ruler* and rotary cutter* (optional but recommended)
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How to make a cap sleeve t shirt
1. Iron the fabric and fold it in half, right sides facing. Make sure that the greatest stretch goes parallel to the fold. (top)
2. Use the cutting mat*, quilter’s ruler* and rotary cutter* (or just fabric shears*) to trim the right edge so that it’s nice and straight. (bottom)
3. Fold the T-shirt you’re using as a guide in half so that you can locate the center back of the neck opening. Mark it with a pin.
4. Position the T-shirt with the tops of the shoulders on the fold and the right edge of the shirt about 4 cm away from the trimmed side of the fabric. Then stick safety pins in both layers of fabric along the side of the shirt and up the armpit. (top)
5. Put safety pins along the other side and armpit of the shirt and trim the fabric on that side, once again, to about 4 cm. (bottom)
6. Trim off the bottom of the fabric along the bottom hem of the shirt. (It doesn’t look straight in the photo here because the camera was crooked, but I promise that it is!)
Cut the T-shirt neckline
7. Trim the fabric along the fold, following the back neckline of the T-shirt.
8. Hold the T-shirt’s front neckline in place with a finger and fold the back neckline straight down. Mark the center of the front neckline with a pin in just the top layer of fabric.
9. Use tailor’s chalk* to trace out a front neck curve from the center front to the shoulders. Then cut along the line, being very careful to cut only the front layer of fabric.
Don’t worry about cutting perfectly at this point. You’ll even out the edges after.
Sew the sides of the T-shirt
10. Your new T-shirt is ready to try on! Put it on (still inside out) and test the fit.
11. If the fit was right, draw a chalk line along the line of safety pins. My shirt was too tight, so I drew my line about 1 cm out from the safety pins.
12. Put ballpoint pins for knits* along the edges and remove the safety pins.
*Tip! Trace around a glass to get a perfect armpit curve!
13. Use polyester thread* and a stretch needle* to sew along the chalk lines. Then trim the fabric about 5 mm away from the stitching.
If this is your first time sewing jersey fabric, you might want to check out my 10 tips for sewing knits perfectly!
14. Open up the neckline and trim all around it for a nice even cut. Pay particular attention to the corners where the front meets the back.
*Tip! Don’t try to trim the neckline right at the edge of the fabric, because it’s nearly impossible to get a smooth cut line this way. Cut a little less than 1 cm away from the edge (as seen above to the left) so that you can make a clean cut all around.
Now turn your new T-shirt right side out and put it on!
Voilà! Nearly instant gratification! I love how the straight shoulder fold makes those faux-cap sleeves!
I purposely made this tee with a snug fit, but you can easily make a looser fit as shown below.
All you have to do is leave more than 4 cm of fabric to each side of the original T-shirt and move the safety pins further away from the sides of the shirt for it to be looser.
The more extra fabric you leave at the sides, the longer the sleeves will be.
I made this blue version with the same original T-shirt guide, but I purposely cut a curved V-neck instead of a classic curve.
Another option is to trim the tops of the shoulders, gradually cutting inwards from the armpits, for an easy tank top. Or make it extra long for a comfy beach tunic or dress!
Want to try out my outfits in this post? Check out these other tutorials:
- Decorate a straw hat with yarn pompoms (coming soon!)
- How to make a circle skirt with directional fabric
- 1 minute DIY jean hem bracelet
And again, if you don’t have much experience with stretch fabric, check out my 10 tips for sewing knits perfectly!
If you liked this beginner’s sewing tutorial on how to make a cap sleeve t shirt, check out my FREE Cucicucicoo Learn to Machine Sew beginner’s sewing course! And don’t forget to share pictures of your work in the Cucicucicoo Creations Facebook group, or on Instagram or other social media with the hashtags #cucicucicoo or #cucicucicoopatterns!
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9 thoughts on “How to Make a Cap Sleeve T shirt (without a pattern!)”
I love the idea of making a cute summer top so quickly and easily. Jersey is a great fabric for quick makes like this isn’t it?
Yes, totally! I love how easy it is to use jersey for some projects because you don’t have to finish off the raw edges. Perfect for quick-win projects!
This says to fold and mark and then see with wrong sides facing. I never saw that you turned it to sew on the wrong sides instead. Did I miss something?
Thank you for pointing this out, Kelly! That was actually a mistake of mine! It should’ve said at the beginning to fold the fabric RIGHT sides, facing, not wrong! I will change it immediately. Thank you again!!
Bought some jersey fabric some time back with the intention of making a long t-shirt with it, but then life interfered. Now I am ready, and I am very happy to have come across this tutorial just as I was about to start! You confirmed a couple of my thoughts on how to proceed, so much appreciated!
That’s wonderful, Nancy! These are so fast and comfortable to wear. They’re actually my favorites in the summer now! Let me know if you try it!