two versions of brown shirt, one upcycled with frilly sleeves

Upcycled frilled shirt

It’s time to take an adventure! Track down a large shirt and let’s upcycle it into a cute, ruffled top with frilled sleeves.

Instead of buying a new, oversized shirt for this project why not raid your Dad’s (or your boyfriend’s) wardrobe, or take a trip to the charity shop?

Upcycling clothes is a much more sustainable way of updating your wardrobe. Don’t be afraid, we will show you how to take apart an oversized shirt and sew it into something new.


  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • An old, long-sleeved shirt (can be oversized, doesn’t have to be!)
  • Yarn in the same colour as the shirt
  • Seam ripper
flat lay brown shirt with Brother Innov-is A60SE and sewing notions

How to


Step 1

First off – find the perfect shirt for this project. Now it’s time to give it a transformation!

If your shirt has a pocket, you can start with taking it off. Use a seam ripper to make sure there will be no damage.

We also need to get rid of the collar, take it off with the seam ripper and again, try to do this smoothly as possible, so you don’t make holes in the fabric of the shirt. Put to one side.

two brown shirts one with collar and pocket removed

Step 2

Try on the shirt and decide on what will be the perfect length of the sleeves and the shirt. Before you make the cut, be aware that we need 2cm extra to make the hem of the sleeve and the bottom of the shirt. Add 2cm to the length, and then cut.

Tip: if you want to keep the shirt long, you don’t need to cut the bottom edge of the shirt.

Step 3

Put the cut part of the sleeves and bottom of the shirt to one side. We will use this fabric to the make the ruffles on our shoulders.

Grab your cut fabric and cut two rectangles of 10cm x 64cm.

Tip: if the leftover fabric is too small, you can patch these strips together, or use contrasting fabric from your fabric stash.

Step 4

Now it’s time to use your sewing machine!

Cut the edges of the rectangles so they’re rounded. Make a mini rolled hem around this side (see image below for shape). Do not hem the bottom straight edge of the fabric.

Tip: backstitch at the beginning and end of stitching for stability.
diagram showing how to make ruffle from brown shirt sleeve

Step 5

Put your straight stitch length setting on 5. Make sure that the bobbin and upper thread are long. To do this, pull both threads a bit.

Start sewing your basting stitch on the longer, straight edge (what will become the bottom of your ruffle). Do not backstitch the beginning or end.

Once you have sewn all along the edge, gently pull the upper thread and your ruffle is born! Use pins to keep it in place.

We made ruffles of 25cm. Do you want less volume? Make the length of the ruffle piece longer!

Place your ruffle on the shoulder seam with the right sides of the fabric facing (see below).
diagram illustrating how to sew a frilled ruffle on brown shirt sleeve

Step 6

Stitch on the ruffles with a 1cm seam allowance. Now, fold the piece to the other side and make a topstitch on the ruffle to make sure your ruffle falls nicely to the sides. Repeat on the other side of the shirt.

Tip: if you can remove the accessory drawer of your sewing machine to create a free arm it will make sewing the ruffle onto the sleeve easier. Make sure you only sew the ruffle to the top of the sleeve, and don’t stitch your whole sleeve closed.

Step 7

To make a frilly collar, use the old collar you removed.

Cut a strip of fabric measuring 5cm by 1.5 x the length of the old collar. If you like more volume in the collar, you can make this piece twice as long.

Ruffle and pin the strip, like you did for the sleeve frills. When gathering your new collar, make sure it fits the collar opening of the shirt.

Place the new collar right side to right side on the shirt, stitch in place using a 1cm seam allowance. Then topstitch on the old stitch line to ensure your collar stands up and stays in.
diagram illustrating how to gather a collar and reinsert in brown shirt

Step 8

Did you pick an oversized shirt that’s a bit too baggy? Make small pleats on the front panels to decrease the size of your blouse.

Tip: instead of pleats you could add darts or shirring.



We’d love to see what you upcycle. Why not tag us into your upcycling projects on Instagram. Make sure you tag Brother on Instagram and Facebook too.


Got some leftover fabric from this project? Why not try using it up making food covers, scrunchies, or Japanese knot bags?

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