XL t-shirt to maternity tee

Before anyone sends me some congratulations or any grandparents phone me up, I did not create this tutorial for myself. I am not pregnant. Okay.

This idea did come about by a reader, who actually is pregnant, that requested a way to reconstruct a man’s extra large t-shirt into a fitted maternity shirt. The idea is to keep the voluptuousness of the xl trunk, but bring in the shoulders and sleeves to fit properly and comfortably. There is nothing worse than feeling all bloated and huge with the belly, and then throwing on a gianormous men’s cut t-shirt that makes you look like a retired linebacker with a beer gut. Or at least that was my experience :D

You can also use this tutorial to convert any large men's t-shirt into a fitted women’s tee by adjusting the sides to fit a non-pregger shape.

I really, really wish I could have materialized a medium sized pregnant woman out of thin air to model this shirt for you. No Woman, Man, or Child in this household was going to pull this one off, though. You’ll have to just trust me when I say that it would look great and fit perfectly on a model, about 6 or 7 months pregnant, glowing from an abundance of fresh vegetables, folic acid, and slurpees.

Begin with a regular t-shirt from your closet that fit well before your belly grew out of it. We are looking for a style that fits your shoulders and arms well. Next, locate a xl men’s t-shirt or larger, depending on your own size (try to go up at least 2 sizes) or, as I used here, a polo shirt. When choosing a shirt, think about softness and breathability; cheap, stiff t-shirts are horrible in the summer heat. If this is your first reconstruction, you may want to go with the freebie charity run shirt, though, before you cut into the husband's prime stock of band tees.

Fold the larger shirt in half, inside out, aligning the side seams. Turn your guide shirt inside out also and tuck in the sleeve to expose the shape of the arm seam. Lay the guide shirt down on top of the folded large shirt, positioning the center line of the guide shirt over the folded edge of the larger shirt and aligning the under arm seam on a horizontal plane.

What you are looking for is to line up the underarm seams in order to give yourself enough room on top to recut the arms and shoulders, without losing the belly space. (If you are not able to get enough room to recut the arm and shoulder, consider finding a larger shirt to reconstruct.)

Take your scissors and cut the larger shirt in the same shape of the guide shirt around the shoulders and armholes. Make sure to include a seam allowance. (Do not overthink the arm shape, just cut the best approximation that you can - this will not be a perfectly tailored t-shirt, but it will fit just fine.)

Cut under the arm down the side seam, but depart from tracking the guide shirt shape a inch or two under the arm and angle your scissors to create an A-line shape, reaching out as far as you can. The more belly room the better.

Open up the folded larger shirt and separate the front and back halves. We are going to do some tweaking to improve the fit and neckline.

Refold just the BACK portion of the larger shirt and cut your A-line in slightly. This is to reflect the fact that your back is not growing outward at the same rate as your front (though, granted, it is getting larger too. If your shirt is going to be very long or have a pear shape, skip this step; you may need the extra space to accommodate expanding hips and, sorry to be indelicate, butt.)

For the FRONT half of the larger shirt, the neckline needs to be adjusted. When you cut out the shirt originally, you could only cut the back neck shape. Now you can play with the front of the neckline.

Fold the Front of the shirt in half once again. It will help if you make a small mark on the shoulder to indicate how wide the shoulders should be. Use the back piece for reference and a piece of chalk to indicate exactly where the neck begins.

The front of your guide shirt will give you the best shape to trace. As it was, the front of my guide shirt happens to plunge low enough for me to take out the button placket on my polo shirt.

The last bit to cut before we head to the machine is the sleeve. Again, do not stress the sleeve shape, this is knit, and it will forgive you. We are going to cut from the finished edge back, adjusting the length to fit under the new armhole (measure it if you are not too sure). What you are looking to do is to cut down a lazy, pulled out 'S' shape from the shoulder down, the same length and width as the guide shirt.

The lazy 'S' shape, is going to give your sleeve some extra room for the shoulder ball and allow the sides to come down and curl around to accommodate your arm.

Ready to sew? Good. (Don't forget to put a ball point needle in your machine for sewing knit material. If you have any more questions about sewing knits, look over here.)

Begin by stitching the front and back together at the shoulders:

Next comes the sleeve. Secure the middle of the sleeve to the shoulder seam and pin outwards. The whole sleeve shape is symmetrical, so if you have any overhang, it will be the same on both sides. We'll just cut off any extra :)

Then, match up the finished edges of the sleeves, the underarm seams, and bottom hems. Stitch closed the sides.

When I sew my the sides closed after a hem has been put on the bottom or sleeve, I like to sew the seam allowance down on the openings, so they do not poke up and show when you wear your t-shirt. I think it's just a bit of aesthetics, but some people who are sensitive to tags or and such appreciate having the edges sewn down too.

The neckline is the only bit left to tackle. How you finish your neck is really up to you, but I find the simplest and cleanest thing to do is a ribbed neck. (It took all my willpower not to add some big, pleated faux front on this shirt, but I know that the material is simply too flimsy to hold it up. Restraint and simplicity is usually the better choice with tees. Well, sometimes anyway.)

First up, measure you neckline to know how much ribbing to cut (ribbing has more stretch and must be cut in a smaller length than your neckline - playing with it will help you determine what your best fit will be).

The ribbing is prepared by being sewn into a loop and folded in half width-wise, wrong sides together. The neckline and the ribbing are each divided into quarters, marked with pins.

Pin the ribbing to the shirt, raw edges aligned and right sides together, matching up the quarter marker pins. Stretch the ribbing out as you sew. Stitch down the seam allowance to the shirt for a nice, clean finish. Any pulls in the material around the stitching can be steamed with your iron to shrink back into shape.


Now, bear with me through my sad (freaky?) attempt to build up a bit of a body under my shirt with 2 apples and a square pillow.

I hope the picture isn`t too upsetting :D You get the idea: lady shaped shoulders and arms, and ample room for gestation.


This is a free tutorial and I encourage you to use the information in any way you need to (check the disclaimer at the bottom of the page). If it works for you, please consider supporting my etsy shop by purchasing a Little Print Design pattern or toss a dollar or two in my paypal to show appreciation and to encourage me to offer up even more quality patterns and tutorials.

Thank you!
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  1. great timing, i am just growing out of my larger shirts. thanks!
    "The ribbing is prepared by being sewn into a loop and folded in half width-wise, right sides together" - did you mean wrong sides together?

  2. yes, wrong sides together! thanks for pointing it out :)

  3. SWEET! I just got done making peasant blouses (your pattern) for my two girls. I'm 6 months pregnant and I would love to make some custom maternity tops. Thanks!

    You are so funny... folic acid and slurpees. :D I also got a chuckle out of the apples and the pillow. Yep, that's pretty much what I look like right now :D Or maybe the linebacker with the beer gut.

  4. This is perfect timing! I just bought a ton of huge shirts and was hoping to find some way to make maternity shirts for my friend expecting TWINS!

  5. ha! apples and a pillow. you rock.
    this has come a little late though, bugger... my new addition is 3 weeks old, and I certainly could have done without the giant ugly bloke shirts swimming on me throughout my pregnancy!

  6. Haha! You are so funny! This is a great tutorial! I think it's ridiculous the kind of money people spend on clothes they can wear for only a few months. I plan on reconstructing my own clothes one day. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  7. ooooooh man!I am so excited to try this bright and early tomorrow. You Don't Even Know!!! Wish I coulda been there to model your demo shirt...but the Produce did a fine job! Donate I come. Thanks so much, Gwen and baby Stella :)

  8. Perfect timing! I was just fretting a bit over what I was going to do to spruce up my maternity wardrobe for this pregnancy. On a tight budget! I can do this! Thank you so much! By the way, I LOVE your model! HeeHee!

  9. Where do you find the ribbed fabric for tee shirt necklines?

  10. Erika, you can find ribbing wherever you buy regular fabric (but usually not quilt fabric shops). I actually find ribbing second hand often, I think because it's something people buy in a minimum length of 1/4 yard or so but use very little of. It comes usually in a large woven tube.

  11. You are brilliant, and hilarious.

  12. Hi,

    You have a nice blog. A 40-week pregnancy is really just a blip in our whole life time, but the problem with maternity clothing during that time is very painful. Keeping this in mind, two best friends and mother of two children each started We have high quality maternity clothes there and we would like to hear your feedback on our products.

    Carina - Maternity clotes

  13. Thanks a lot for the tutorial! I am 25 weeks along and suddenly find myself in giant shapeless sacks all the time - this will help me feel girly again! ^_^

    Also, you made me LOL with the bit about glowing from fresh veggies, folic acid, and slurpees - I swear I only had one, but it was DELICIOUS!