12 Must-Have Tools for DIY Shirt Makeovers

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So far on this site I’ve shared my Must-Have DIY Tools for Sewing, Embellishing, and Jewelry-Making. Here is my roundup of the must-have tools for DIY Shirt Makeovers:

Tools for DIY Shirt Makeovers

1. Seam Ripper

You.Must.Have.A.Seam.Ripper. You need it to remove buttons and take apart shirts to be cannibalized, to fix stitches…this is vital to prepping your shirt for a successful makeover.

2. Awl

Though not completely necessary (I often use my nail scissors or metal rod from my Turn-It-All), an awl is a very helpful tool for creating perfect holes, and using as an extra finger to keep fabric down as you feed it under a moving machine needle. I’ve saved many a finger with this!

3. Chalk Pencil

This marking pencil is my absolute favorite since it makes super-precise lines and works just like a mechanical pencil. LOVE.

4. Tape Measure

Or is it “measuring tape…?” I never can settle on how to refer to it! In any case, having a flexible measuring tool is essential for measuring yourself and ensuring a perfect fit as you makeover your shirt. I don’t recommend the cheap paper kind – get yourself a nice one made out of soft vinyl that will not get twisted with use.

5. Sharp, Sharp Sewing Scissors

El-cheapo scissors won’t cut it (literally)! Prepare to spend around $30+ for an excellent pair of Gingher or Singer scissors, and they will last you a lifetime. (Just never, ever, EVER cut anything else besides fabric with them [especially paper]…which will dull them like nobody’s business.

6. Sharp, Sharp Pins + Emery-filled Pincushion (or strawberry)

I’ve found that certain “decorative”-style pins aren’t all that sharp, and the round-headed ones tend to cause bumps when pinning a pattern to fabric in order to cut. I prefer the extra-sharp flower-headed pins so the pattern isn’t puckering and lifting, and they don’t get in the way of the machine foot so much. Plus an emery-filled pincushion/emery strawberry to keep them all corralled and sharpen them is a must!

7. Sewing Machine

I use a Kenmore 16231, and it’s a real workhorse! I had a Kenmore my mom and I used while I was growing up, and I just stuck with the brand. Even with the amount of sewing I do, it really wasn’t necessary to get anything super-expensive! – and it’s held up great since 2009.

8. Iron

This is another MUST in creating successful projects – the iron will turn hems, set seams, and give everything a crisp and professional look. You don’t need anything fancy, just a basic off-brand one will do.

9. Ironing Mat

Though I have an ironing board that I photograph on, I find myself using my ironing mat on a hard surface far more. It’s portable, light, heat reflective, and it’s much less clunky and space-consuming than a standard ironing board.

10. Curved Nail Scissors

I love love love these scissors! (They also appear on my Must-Have Tools for Jewelry DIY’ing list…that’s how much I love them!) They work great as thread snips if you don’t feel like investing in those, and help you poke holes and cut perfect buttonholes (just be careful of the curved edges).

11. Poly-Cotton Mercerized Thread

This is the stuff sold everywhere, that you want to use to sew your shirt makeovers with. Make sure you get poly-cotton mercerized (even though your shirts will likely be cotton), as poly-cotton is stronger and less prone to breakage and fraying. “Mercerized” means it’s been treated to be stronger and have a slightly shiny appearance.

12. Sewing Machine Needle Pack

A standard 90/14 needle will do just fine for the majority of shirt makeover projects, but for different fabrics I like to have a needle variety pack on hand just in case.

And check out my DIY Resources page for more lists of resources to up your DIY game!





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