From Bad to Fab in just over 2 Hours

First, let me start by telling you about this oh-so-bad blouse my mom would not get rid of.

It was boxy. It was brown and black and paisley. It had shoulder pads the size of Texas. Even my grandmother thought it was one of mom’s maternity shirts! (sad thing – it wasn’t).

But, it was sentimental. It was my great-aunt’s shirt. One she passed down to my mother – a shirt that contained a lot of happy memories because, you see, my great-aunt, Lucille, died from breast cancer in the 90s.

She and my mother were very close and the ugly shirt has come to represent that bond. Mom has kept that shirt in the back of a drawer for years though. I refuse to let her wear it. I’m mean, I know. But really, there had to be a better way to keep it than to wear it. So, I convinced Mom to let me try something – let me make the bad into fab. 

And this is what I did:

It took me just over 2 hours to turn this shirt into an awesome tote bag! (time includes breaks for seam ripping – it never fails. I always have to redo at least one seam when I sew… c’est la vie)

But, Mom loves it and now it can live on as a fabulous tote bag! I’m pretty excited about how it turned out (especially since I didn’t use a pattern, and did I mention, I hate pinning fabric?)

Anyway, read on to learn and see how I did it 🙂

Written Directions:


  • 1 ugly blouse
  • aprox. 1 yard lining fabric (I used some scrap fabric from a previous project)
  • aprox. 2 yards extra-super* wide ribbon (*not real measurement – just make sure it’s wide enough for comfort. Same goes for length – you’ll want it to be long enough to go all the way down the front of the bag plus however long you want your straps.)
  • thread to match
  • a few straight pins (Like I said, I’m not a huge pinner – but, if you use a silky lining fabric like I did, Heaven help you if you don’t pin. You’ll also see in the photos, I’m not big on ironing either…)


  • Cut shirt and lining fabric as follows: 2 large rectangular pieces to be the sides of the bag (exact measurements will depend on your shirt’s size and your bag preferences), 2 strips as tall as the rectangle and 1 inch wider than you want your finished bag to be, 1 strip as long as the rectangular piece and as wide as the side pieces. (you can also cut extra fabric for pockets, if you want.)
  • Take all shirt side pieces and sew right sides together on the side seams (not the top or bottom). Sew alternating: rectangle piece, side piece, rectangle piece, side piece.
  • Repeat previous step using lining material.
  • Sew shirt strip into tube by connecting remaining rectangle edge to side edge with right sides together.
  • Repeat previous step using lining material.
  • Once you have 2 tubes of fabric (1 out of the shirt, and 1 of lining) it’s time to sew in the bottom panel. There are several ways to do this, but what I did was sew the bottom strip to one long rectangle edge first (right sides together). I then sewed the long side and did the two shorter ends last.
  • Once you have 2 ‘bags’ (1 from lining and 1 from the shirt) place the shirt bag inside the lining bag with right sides together
  • Sew the two bags together around the top – leaving about a 3″ opening.
  • Using the opening, turn the lining fabric right-side out and put it on the inside of the bag. You can tack the lining down if you want. I always hate bags where the lining turns out when I dump them to clean them out….but that’s just me.
  • sew the opening closed
  • measure the length of ribbon to match the length of the handles you want.
  • pin the ribbon to the bag and sew it on.
  • You could be finished now, or you could sew a thin “hem” around the top of the bag to reinforce the handles and make sure that the lining doesn’t “roll” to the outside.

Visual Directions:

Visual Directions for Shirt-Tote

4 thoughts on “From Bad to Fab in just over 2 Hours

  1. De - Carpe Vas says:

    Okay, this is just toooo fun! Im not at all a person who sews — see… I dont even know the right word, but Im pinning this. I love the whole repurposing of shirts and tees and this is a great idea. : )


    • Emily says:

      I’m glad you like it! It wasn’t too hard, but if you don’t sew at all, I definitely would NOT use a silky fabric for the lining – it had me wanting to pull my hair out!


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