I’m going to date myself here, but do you remember the TV show, “Magnum, P.I.”? Maybe your mom watched it for mustachioed ‘80s megababe Tom Selleck.
True story: My mom went into labor with both me (1981) AND my sister (1984) while watching “Magnum.”
(In case you didn’t know, Selleck played Magnum, a private investigator who lived in Hawaii.)
When I finished this V-neck hack for a woven Cass T-shirt, the first thing I thought was, “Dang, that looks like a ‘Magnum’ Hawaiian shirt.”
And that’s OK with me.
This V-neck woven tee is a mashup of two mods found in the Cass T-Shirt Pattern and Book of Hacks PDF. When you buy this digital product, you get the original Cass tee pattern (in misses and plus sizes), instructions for the original pattern, and instructions on how to hack Cass five different ways.
You’re looking at the Woven T-Shirt hack with the faced V-neckline from the Cass Caftan hack. The Cass pictured here goes on and comes off over your head — like your favorite T-shirt — but it’s got a little more polish, thanks to drapey woven fabric and a faced neck opening.
Come with me, won’t you, as I:
- Chat about the “fabric donor” for this woven T-shirt (it used to be a dress!).
- Give you blow-by-blow directions on how to take unconventional fabric and turn it into a garment.
- Lament how I botched an attempted thrift flip (and give you advice on how to NOT let the same happen to you).
Where Did the Fabric Come From?
This tropical-vibes rayon lived a life as a maxi dress before it became the fabric donor for the V-neck woven tee.
The rayon was the skirt, and the top was a crocheted halter situation. The design of the dress wasn’t my style (a little too on-the-nose boho/hippie-dippy), but I loved the colorway. Here’s an Instagram Reel of the dress.
I found the dress in the clearance section at Target, and I hung on to it for the rayon skirt. It’s quality rayon, and the amount of it in the skirt made me think that it could be transformed into something else.
The dress had been languishing in my stash for a handful of years (I think it’s a pre-pandemic find?), and when I wanted to try stitching a woven Cass tee with a V-neck, I knew it was time to bust it out of fabric jail (aka, my stash).
I heartily encourage you to scour the racks of your favorite stores for fabric donors, and don’t stop with the ladies’ department. You’re allowed to wander to kiddos, gents, and even home goods, too. (I made a pair of pajamas from flannel bed sheets.)
How I Hacked Cass into a Woven V-Neck T-Shirt
These are the steps to take to transform a maxi skirt (or other unconventional fabric) into a Cass tee. As always, use your best judgment and apply this advice in a way that works for how you work and what fabric and tools you’ve got on hand.
I don’t think I say that enough: The stuff I write on the blog isn’t gospel; please take what you need and leave the rest. I’m of the opinion that it’s good to get another take on how to do something from time to time, and that’s what I try to do with my articles. As always, test it for yourself.
1.) Use pattern pieces to evaluate potential yardage.
When shopping for fabric donors, take along your pattern pieces, or at least have rough dimensions of each pattern piece. For example, The 6/8B front is roughly 28 by 22 inches (half of the pattern piece is 14 by 22 inches). Pattern pieces will tell you the truth: whether that skirt (or bed sheet or men’s oversized shirt, etc.) can be turned into a woven tee (or skirt or tank, etc.).
2.) Think about seams, hems, and other features.
For example, the back of the skirt was two pieces with a center seam. I used the skirt center back seam as the shirt center back seam. Don’t unpick seams (or plackets or zippers, etc.) that can work with your garment. Don’t make extra work for yourself.
This is especially important if your fabric donor came from the thrift store. Treat the fabric donor as you would any new piece of yardage: Do not pass go until it’s washed.
4.) Cut off what you don’t need.
I lopped off the crocheted halter top and elastic at the top of the waist. Don’t make yourself work with unnecessary fabric when you’re cutting out pattern pieces. Extra fabric can pull on the fabric you’re trying to cut, preventing it from lying flat.
5.) Cut apart fabric as needed.
This is when you cut apart the fabric donor at the seams to make it into the pieces of fabric that you’re going to cut into the actual pattern pieces. For example, to cut the tee front (from the front skirt piece) and tee back (from the back skirt pieces), I cut apart the skirt at the side seams (after I cut off the halter bodice).
6.) Press (and starch).
Before you cut fabric, ya gotta make sure it’s smooth and flat. And, when you’re sewing with a lightweight fabric such as rayon, a little spritz of spray starch gives it enough body to make a difference when you finally get to sewing pattern pieces. Use a light hand with spray starch, and give it a few seconds to let it soak into the fabric before pressing. (Press according to your fabric requirements.)
RELATED: 6 Tips for Sewing Lightweight Fabrics (to Try on a Woven T-Shirt)
7.) Check the grain line.
When you’re working with a fabric donor that doesn’t have selvages, you gotta use common sense when it comes to finding the grain line. With basically every skirt and shirt (unless it’s cut on the bias), the grain is going to be perpendicular to the hem. The grain of a sleeve will be perpendicular to the sleeve hem. In most cases, grain will be “up and down” and cross grain will be “side to side” — “side to side” because it’s (often) preferable to have a bit of stretch laterally in garments (vs. stretch “up and down”).
8.) Cut out fabric pattern pieces.
Once your fabric is flat and the paper pattern pieces are aligned to the grain as prescribed, cut out the fabric pattern pieces.
9.) Sew as directed.
From here, you may follow directions found in the Cass T-Shirt and Book of Hacks. To make the V-neck T-shirt, you’ll follow a combo of instructions for the Woven T-Shirt and the Cass Caftan. Use the caftan instructions for creating the V-neck facing. The Woven T-Shirt directions will get you through the rest of it.
For the record, I like my finished facings to be 2 inches wide, and I almost always finish the facing raw edge with an overlock stitch.
Thrift Flip Gone Sideways
I sewed the “Magnum” woven V-neck T-shirt at the same time I was working on another Cass hack.
I got the bright idea to check some of my favorite online thrifting sites for Marimekko clothes and fabric. Because, wouldn’t Cass be cool in a bold Marimekko print? Yes, it would be cool.
Found this extra-large Marimekko blouse (above) in 100 percent rayon on Poshmark. I really, really, really thought I could squeeze a woven Cass out of it.
I washed it, took it apart, and started doing my pattern-piece Tetris thing with it. Things were going OK-ish until I cut up an existing pattern piece to create a DIFFERENT pattern piece. Oops.
I didn’t have any fabric to spare, and to be honest, I wasn’t super happy with my patchwork anyway. So I tossed the unusable scraps and wadded up the rest in a bag where I no doubt will uncover it while searching for a totally different fabric altogether.
Maybe one day I’ll make it into bias binding? (Oh, the lies we tell ourselves as sewists!)
In retrospect, I should have asked the Poshmark seller for width and length measurements before I bought the blouse. The Cass pattern pieces are pretty wide, and had I asked for dimensions, I probably would have passed and someone else could have enjoyed this shirt.
OK, my fellow sewists: Please make me feel better and tell me about a time you slaughtered a piece of fabric you were excited about. Thanks in advance for your vulnerability. What other tips do you have about using unconventional fabric donors for upcycled garment projects?
P.S. Check out this post with specific tips for sewing lightweight fabric. I wrote it at the same time I sewed the “Magnum” tee here. If you like to sew with thin wovens, such as rayon challis, this article is for you.
P.P.S. Should you be interested in other Cass hacks or advice on sewing T-shirts (Cass and otherwise), I got you: