If you’re like me, you probably have a stash of old or oversized t-shirts piling up in the back of a closet or dresser drawer. Instead of tossing all these comfy shirts, why not restyle the tees into a trendy muscle top or cute fitted t-shirt? You can learn how to cut sleeves off a shirt in just a few simple steps and refashion your wardrobe in no time!
The most popular way to cut sleeves off a shirt is to remove the sleeve and neck facing at the seams to create a muscle-style tank top. Other popular t-shirt refashions include cutting fringed sleeves and creating a fitted t-shirt tank top for girls. Oversize t-shirts can also make great metal tank tops.
In this article, you’ll learn eight easy ways to cut sleeves off a shirt. You’ll also find tips on how to restyle a shirt without cutting. Finally, you’ll discover how to hem a too-long shirt.
8 Ways to Cut the Sleeves Off a Shirt
T-shirts say a lot about your personal style, and you can customize your tees even more by learning how to cut the sleeves off in several cool ways!
Some of the styles described here work better for guys, and some work better for girls. All of them take just a few minutes to complete, but for best results, you may need a few extra supplies to complete some of these styles, as well.
Check out these eight easy ways to cut sleeves off a shirt!
1. Muscle ShirtIf you want to turn a cool t-shirt into a sleeveless muscle tee for the gym, you should follow these steps instead of just going at the tee with your scissors! This process takes just a minute longer but ends up looking like a store-bought tank, not a DIY product. If you eyeball everything, you will end up with armholes that don’t match and ragged edges.
Muscles shirts typically have large armholes and a fairly close fit. These make them comfortable for working out of going on a run. Both guys and girls can easily turn an old t-shirt into a muscle shirt!
Please note that your DIY muscle tee will look much cooler if you start with a fitted t-shirt rather than a baggy tee.
- Iron your t-shirt on the steam setting to remove any bunches or wrinkles.
- Gather a ruler or tape measure, some chalk, and a pair of sharp scissors.
- Spread the tee out on a flat surface like a kitchen table or a clean floor.
- For guys, slice just inside the armhole seam all the way around until the sleeve is removed.
- For girls, measure one inch inside the armhole sleeve down the side of the seam and then two inches inside at the armpit. Use your chalk to draw a smooth line that curves in at the armhole. Then cut along your neat chalk line.
- If you like the folded-over, rugged look of the cut edge, you can leave it like this!
- If you want a more permanent muscle tank, you can hem the edge by folding it over, ironing the fold, and using a sewing machine to stitch around the armhole.
2. For a GirlYou can cut the sleeves off a girl’s t-shirt in many different ways. Ladies have way more options for t-shirt restyles than men, at least based on current fashion trends!
If you like the muscle tee look, go for it! Just remember that for girls, the goal is to have a sleeve hole big enough to show the top of your sports bra, but not the skin of your waist below the bra.
If you want a more decorative look, check out the section on “cute sleeves” below. You can find all sorts of decorative ways to cut and style the sleeves on a ladies’ t-shirt! You can snip diamond cut-outs, braid strips of t-shirt for a fitted look, and even slice the whole sleeve into a fringe!
3. Metal Shirt
If you’re a metalhead, you probably have a growing collection of band t-shirts from all the concerts you attend! One cool way to keep those tees in rotation is to cut off the sleeves and create a rugged-looking sleeveless tee. You can wear it the next time you go to see your favorite heavy metal band.
If you’re worried about damaging the shirt, you may want to try practicing on a cheap dollar-store tee first. That said, this process is super simple!
- Iron your shirt quickly to get all the wrinkles out. Wrinkles could catch your scissors and create a jagged edge as you cut off the sleeve.
- Locate the armhole seam. On the outside of the shirt, this looks like a smooth ridge of fabric with a stitching line on either side.
- You want to cut on the outside, or sleeve side, of this ridge. You want to leave the seam attached to the shirt but cut close to it on the outside.
- Follow the seam line and cut in smooth, small snips around the curved edge of the armhole.
Leaving the armhole seam in place is slightly less comfortable than slicing it off as you would when making a muscle tee. The benefit of leaving the seam is that it prevents any fraying. Your sleeveless metal shirt will last for years to come when you follow this method!
4. Oversized Shirt
Retrofitting a baggy shirt to look stylish takes a little more work than restyling a fitted tee, but you can still achieve great results! You can find many different ideas online for how to make a baggy tee fit you better, from sewing new side seams to complicated knotting and braiding design.
These methods give you a simple alternative to cut the sleeves off an oversized shirt and make it look cool at the same time! While you should, of course, choose whichever method you like best, you will find one option more popular with guys and one more commonly used for girls here.
Stylize your too-big tee by cutting off the sleeves, collar, and hem!
- As always, you should iron the tee before you begin. This makes all the cutting go more smoothly. (If you don’t have an iron, you can throw the tee in the dryer with a damp washcloth for a few minutes, and then shake it out well and hang it up to cool down).
- Lay the shirt on a flat surface, making sure to smooth out any bumps or wrinkles.
- Use sharp scissors to snip just inside the collar and armhole seams. You will cut on the shirt side, removing the entire seam along with the collar and sleeve.
- Alternatively, if you want a dropped armhole look (like a tank top with a giant armhole that goes almost to your waist), you can use chalk to draw a swooping line from the shoulder to the new bottom of the armpit. Then slice along your chalk line for a neat, even cut on both sides of the shirt.
- Finally, use a ruler and a piece of chalk to mark several inches above the hem of the tee. You may want to try it on and mark the new length while wearing it to get the best fit. All you have to do to create your shorter tee is cut along the chalk markings!
T-shirts are made out of a knit fabric that does not fray easily, so you can leave the edges unfinished or rub them a bit between your fingers so that the cut edges roll over on themselves naturally.
This method lets you turn a big, baggy t-shirt into a fitted tee with knotted sides that show your shape!
- As always, you should begin by ironing the shirt so you can work on nice flat fabric.
- Slice off the collar of the shirt. You can slice through the front and back at the same time. Simply follow the inside edge of the collar seam with your scissors, using small, neat snips.
- Make the tee shorter by trying it on and marking the new length with a piece of chalk. Take it off, lay the shirt flat, and measure this length across the bottom of the shirt. Use your scissors to cut a neat line along your markings.
- This step gets a little tricky, but you can do it! Use a tape measure to measure your waist. Divide that measurement by two, and then add three inches. So if you have a 30-inch waist, divide by two to get fifteen inches, and then add three inches for a final measurement of eighteen inches.
- Now mark that eighteen inches on your shirt. Center your tape measure so that the nine-inch mark sits in the middle of the waist. Mark both sides of the shirt, creating a chalk line from the bottom of the armhole down to the hem.
- Use your scissors to cut straight up the chalk line. Don’t stop when you get to the sleeve–cut just inside the armhole sleeve. You will cut the whole side off the tee, from hem to shoulder!
- Finally, you need to snip one-inch slits up the sides of the shirt, stopping where you want the armhole to begin.
- Then just tie each front slit to the back slit behind it, creating a knotted side seam!
5. Cute Shirt
Adding decorative touches can refashion an old t-shirt into a trendy style piece.
If you have a slightly baggy tee, you may want to try creating an asymmetrical off-the-shoulder look! You will want to cut the front and back of the neck differently, so don’t try to cut through both layers at the same time.
- Make sure you iron or steam the shirt before you begin. You will also want to have chalk or a washable fabric marker on your hand.
- Try on the shirt and measure from the current collar to the point you would like the shirt collar to begin. Mark this with chalk.
- Take off the shirt and spread it flat, with the back of the tee facing up.
- Use your chalk to draw a straight line from the right side of the collar to just beneath the left armpit.
- Cut along this line.
- Now flip the shirt over, so the front faces up.
- Draw a curving line that starts beneath the armpit of the sleeve you removed, swoops out to the measurement you made earlier, and ends at the right side of the collar.
- Cut along this marking. You will remove a half-circle shape from the front of the shirt, including the whole left sleeve. You want the back to have a straighter cut, though, or it will gap and hang down awkwardly!
If you want a really cutesy look, try adding bows to your sleeves!
- Smooth out the sleeve, so it lies flat in front of you.
- Use a piece of chalk to mark the folded line from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the sleeve hem. Or you can pin this fold in place, leaving room inside the fold of your scissors.
- Cut straight from the hem to the top of the shoulder. Stop before you slice through the shoulder seam.
- You now have a sleeve that falls open in two pieces!
- Take the open edges of the hem in each hand.
- Tie a bow with these edges!
- You will have a slit along the top of the sleeve and then a cute bow at the bottom.
6. Cap Sleeves
Cap sleeves poke out over your shoulder but narrow in at your armpit in a slightly triangular shape. This style of sleeves can make your tee look a bit dressier!
To cut sleeves off a t-shirt tin a cap sleeve style, follow these simple steps:
- Iron the sleeves to create a neat, flat fold along the top of the sleeve.
- Lay the shirt flat with the front side facing up. Make sure you smooth out the sleeves, so you have a flat crease along the top of the sleeve.
- Take a ruler and a piece of chalk and mark two measurements onto the sleeves. First, mark two inches from the shoulder seam along the top of the sleeve. Second, mark ¼ of an inch out from the seam at the center of the armpit.
- Now take your chalk and draw a line from the top marking to the bottom marking.
- Cut along this chalk line.
- You can roll the cut edge for a rougher look or use a sewing machine to hem the new edge of your capped sleeves!
7. Shorter Sleeves
You can easily make the sleeves shorter by cutting off the unwanted length at the bottom of the sleeve and folding over a new hem. As always, you should measure and mark the new length with chalk instead of just eyeballing the length before you cut.
To finish the cut edge, you can allow the knit fabric to roll over on itself. You can also fold the cut edge, iron it, and then sew a line of straight stitches on top of the fold to create a new hem.
If you cut away the bottom hem or collar of a t-shirt, you may want to slice off the bottom portion of the sleeves to make everything look matched. Likewise, if you hem the bottom of a t-shirt, you will probably want to hem the sleeves as well and not leave them looking ragged!
8. Fringe Shirt Sleeves
Another cool way to change the sleeves on your tee is to cut off the sleeve hem and then slice the sleeve into a fringe. This will make the sleeves look shorter, and it will also add a dramatic bit of flair to your outfit!
- Iron at least the sleeves of the t-shirt before you begin.
- Decide how much shorter you want the fringed sleeve to be. Measure this length around the front of the sleeve.
- Cut along your markings to remove the hem of the sleeve.
- Use your chalk to measure along the cut edge of the seam marking every half-inch interval.
- Slice straight up the sleeve at these marks, creating a fringe of t-shirt strips around the sleeve!
How to Cut Sleeves off a Long Sleeve Shirt
You can cut the sleeves off a long-sleeve shirt in several different ways depending on the kind of shirt and the style you prefer. For example, if you want to turn a button-down long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve dress shirt, you will need to hem the short sleeve.
If you want to turn a long-sleeve knit shirt into a sleeveless shirt, you can just cut the sleeves off as you would for a regular tee!
For a button-down shirt:
- Iron the shirt and then spread it out flat on a clean surface.
- Measure and mark the new sleeve length that you want. Then measure another line one inch below that marking.
- Cut along the bottom marking.
- Fold the cut edge under half an inch and press it with the iron.
- Fold over the iron edge and iron the double fold.
- Sew along the double fold, creating a hemmed short sleeve!
To make a fancy short sleeve out of a long-sleeved knit shirt, such as a henley or jersey knit, follow these steps:
- Iron the sleeves and lay them flat.
- Measure the new sleeve length you want. Now, measure one inch above that marking across the sleeve.
- Cut on the one-inch top line across the sleeve.
- Spread out the sliced-off bottom portion of the sleeve. Measure two inches down from the cut. You should have a two-inch tall circle of the sleeve at this point.
- Fold the two-inch strip of the sleeve in half with the right side of the fabric facing out.
- Use sewing pins to attach the raw edges of the folded strip to the raw edge of the sleeve.
- Sew one-half inch from these cut edges.
- Press the folded edge flat.
- You now have a nice enclosed edge on your shirt sleeves!
How to Make a Shirt Sleeveless Without Cutting
You can’t make a shirt sleeveless without removing the sleeve, but you can make a shirt look sleeveless without cutting!
All you have to do is fold up the sleeve and tuck it underneath the shoulder seam. Or, for a 1950s bad-boy look, you can fold up the edge on the outside of the sleeve.
If you need to make sure the rolled sleeve will remain tucked away, you can use a safety pin unobtrusively inside the fold to keep everything in place. Or you can add a bit of flair by clipping a small hair clip at the top of your shoulder to hold the rolled edge!
How to Make a Cutoff Shirt With Open Sides
The key to making a stylish cut-off shirt with open sides is to make sure you cut both sides in exactly the same way. If you don’t measure and cut carefully, you will end up with a lopsided shirt!
- Before you begin this process, take a moment to try on the shirt. This style looks better with a somewhat fitted tee, so make sure the shirt fits you to begin with!
- You should make two markings on the shirt while wearing it. First, mark where you want the shirt length when you cut off the bottom. Second, mark where you want the open armhole to end.
- Take the shirt off and iron it to remove any wrinkles. Then spread it out flat, top side facing up.
- Draw a smooth line from just inside the top of the shoulder seam all the way down to your end of armhole marking.
- Cut along this line; you will remove the entire sleeve and swoop down in a smooth curve to your bottom-of-armhole opening.
- Repeat this procedure to remove the other sleeve.
- Measure around the hem of the shirt to mark the new hemline. Cut along these markings for a neat, even cut-off hem!
How to Turn a T-Shirt Into a Tank Top
You can turn a t-shirt into a tank top by adding a scooped neck to the steps used to make a sleeveless t-shirt described earlier in this article.
You can decide how much of the sleeve you want to remove for your tank top style, as well. If you want a muscle tank look, you will want a large, gaping armhole that falls pretty far down the side of the shirt. Or you can just slice off the sleeve inside the armhole sleeve for a more fitted tank top armhole.
To create the scooped neck, fold the t-shirt in half, draw a half-circle beneath the current neck hole, and cut along your chalk line!
What to Do If Your Shirt Sleeves Are Too Long
You can fix too-long shirt sleeves by hemming them to make them shorter, rolling them up, or hiding the excess length in several ways.
First, you can always go the more professional route of either hemming the shirt sleeves yourself or taking the shirt to a tailor for alterations. Hemming a t-shirt sleeve is a snap but hemming a button-down shirt gets tricky because these sleeves often have cuffs.
If you don’t have a sewing machine and don’t want to go to the trouble of getting professional alterations, you can always roll up your sleeves for a casual look. This handily hides the fact that your sleeves are too long!
You can also hide the extra length by wearing another layer over your shirt, like a blazer or sweater. Or you can play dress-up a bit by trying out old-school sleeve garters!
Actually, in a real emergency, you can use a rubber band around your upper arm to hold up the extra sleeve. Then just make sure you wear your jacket all day to hide the rubber band!
Cutting the sleeves off a shirt can create many fun, wearable t-shirt styles for both men and women. Slicing a large armhole can turn a boring tee into a stylish muscle shirt. Cutting decorative sleeves can turn a generic t-shirt into an artistic outfit with fringes, bows, or knots galore!
Ironing the shirt and using chalk to mark the cutting lines before you begin ensures even, neat edges for both sides of the shirt. With the basic steps in mind, you can cut the sleeves off a t-shirt to create a cute style, an athletic style, or even a metalhead style!
Have you ever cut up an old t-shirt? Did you make a tank top or a more decorative style? Leave a comment below to let us know!