May 16, 2014

How to: Sew a Scout Tee from a Men's Shirt

What better time to take on a reconstruction project than in the Spring, when nature is overtaking the stinking heaps of winter trash and last Fall's unraked leaves to create new life ... much like (segway!) we can stitch another season into tired castoffs from the men in our lives, like this Scout Tee I made from one of my husband's old button-ups:

Seasons change. Center-front button placket becomes charming back button detail:

Being one of those pre-rumpled shirts that are so popular at the Gap these days, this shirt wasn't long for this world. Still it had a decent run. See it in a family photo from last Fall:

Looking slightly uncomfortable is, like, our thing

And on the set of his first commercial, shot in L.A. in January:

I know, it's barely the collar but c'mon he looks like Matt Damon here
When he cast it on my sewing table a couple weeks ago, I knew I could turn it into a wearable Spring/Summer top using (what else?) Grainline's Scout pattern. Though I have made several iterations of this easy-to-sew (and easy-to-wear) pattern, this is the first time I actually made it in its intended fabrication — a woven.

It's not at all hard to do, and if you line things up correctly you will even save yourself some work; I retained the bottom hem from the original men's shirt, which meant I was wearing my new top all that much sooner!

Men's button-up shirt (preferably large to XL or else yokes might get in your way)
Scissors & Stitch-picker
Sewing machine (duh)

1. Start by downloading Grainline's Scout Tee pattern if you don't already have it. (It's only $6.50 and if you're anything like me, this wearable top will more than earn its keep in time!) Follow the instructions for printing and assembling. Cut out your size. (I dropped the neckline on mine by about 1.5 inches because it was a little prim for me).

2. Cut apart your men's shirt at the seams, separating the front and back pieces, as well as the sleeves. Discard the collar and the cuffs. Pick off the pockets unless you want to look like Kris Kross (save one if you think you might like to add a little patch pocket to your Scout later!). Iron flat.

3. The back of the men's shirt will be the front of your new Scout Tee (and vice versa). Fold your front piece in half at center front and smooth, matching up the curve of the neckline and the bottom hem. Lay your front pattern piece on the fold and pin in place. Take note of any back yoke pieces that might get in the way. You may have to drop your pattern piece a little lower and make use of the original hem. Repeat with the back pattern piece (which will be pinned to the original shirt's front, remember), and the sleeve. If you're using a stripe, gingham or plaid, it should be easy to find your grainline on the sleeve:

4. If the hem of the original shirt curves up at the sides (most men's button-up shirts do), that's cool. Just make sure you match it up with a ruler at your side seams so that when you stitch them together it all matches up:

5. Cut it all out:

6. The original pocket is probably too big for the scale of your new Scout Tee, but that doesn't mean you can't use it. I retained the top-placket detail on my pocket by trimming an inch off each side and the bottom, and then sewing it to the front of my Scout Tee just as you would any patch pocket:

A hand-painted button adds a sweet touch
7. Now, sew the shirt together following the instructions included with the Scout Tee pattern. Not so hard, huh? 

Here's my finished Scout in action, at the New York Botanical Garden on Mother's Day: 

Showing off our mother/daughter me-mades on Mother's Day:

Happy Spring and Happy Sewing!


  1. I hadn't realised the scout was for wovens - I even have some shirts kept aside for re-using so this might b just the job:) Also kris kross- that's a flasback !!!

  2. OMG he totally does look like Matt Damon in that pic! #swoon

  3. first you guys are the cutest family. second you are doing a tutorial which you hate doing :) third I love this and want to copy it. my mind is making its way through my husbands closet as we speak.




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