Making a Mini-T for My Mini-Me

When you have a baby, one of the first things people want to tell you is which parent your baby looks like. To me, babies look like babies, not their parents. And my own child was no exception. I had no idea who she looked like, or if she would end up looking like my husband or me at all.

When my daughter was about a year old, I saw a picture of myself at the same age, and realized that my daughter truly is a mini-me. She is similar to my husband in many ways, for sure. They have some of the same facial expressions and her easy-going cheerfulness definitely comes from him. But I think that she and I look a lot alike.

Sometimes I like to emphasize our matching features by dressing her like me. The project I’m sharing today is a t-shirt that I made for her to match one of mine: a “mini-me mini-T shirt.” It all started from a serendipitous thrift store find.

Buying Nothing New and Thrift Shopping

Two years ago, my husband and I set a family goal to not buy anything new for an entire year. Reading a couple of articles about others who had set the same goal inspired us to reduce our consumption and see what we could learn from the experience. Of course, we made a few exceptions. We could still buy groceries and toilet paper. We also allowed the purchase of new raw materials if we wanted to make something (I could still buy fabric!). But even with our exceptions, we tried to find used things if we could.

During our experiment, I began to peruse thrift shops. I used to find thrift shops entirely overwhelming. I wasn’t sure that finding any one “gem” was worth sifting through all the chaos. Especially terrible (honestly, I still hate stores that do this) is how thrift shop clothing is commonly organized by color instead of by size. It looks pretty to have a rainbow of garments on the racks, but when was the last time you thought, “I just really need a purple shirt and I don’t care what size it is!”

I told her to put her hands on her hips

PTO Thrift Shop: My Favorite Store

Thankfully, I found a thrift store in my area that is organized in a reasonable way: the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop. It is smaller than a Goodwill or Salvation Army, but it has consistently high quality stuff—I can’t remember the last time I left without buying something. They even sell fabric and yarn remnants. I get most of my fabric and yarn there, including the materials for most of the projects on this blog (links to some of my projects made with second-hand materials here, here, herehere, here, and here).

One day I found a great J. Crew color blocked t-shirt that was my size. I took it home and it made its way into my weekly clothing rotation. A few months later, on a separate trip, I found an identical t-shirt on the racks, but one size smaller! What were the chances? Seeing it immediately sparked an idea. I bought it and hacked it into a matching mini-T for my daughter.

Mini-T Shirt Making Process

I started making my daughter’s mini-T shirt by creating a basic bodice and sleeve pattern from another shirt that fit her well. I’m not going to share the details in this post, but I carefully measured and traced them to create a basic pattern to use.

Next, I bravely disassembled the perfectly good thrift store shirt so I could cut the new pattern pieces. Instead of picking out the seams, I cut very close to the serged seam lines.

The only seam I unpicked was the underarm seam on the sleeves so I could maximize my fabric yield. You might think that turning an adult XS shirt into a toddler 2T shirt wouldn’t be tight fabric-wise, but it is actually tricky to get the smaller sleeves cut out of the larger ones. The shape of the sleeve cap and the fact that toddler sleeves aren’t that much slimmer than adult sleeves meant that I needed to preserve every millimeter of the original sleeve width.

I cut across the shoulder seams, but I left the neck binding intact. I took advantage of the existing neckline on the t-shirt so I wouldn’t have to pick off the neck binding and re-bind the edge later. The curve of the neckline couldn’t be changed, so that meant that the mini-T would have a larger neckline than her other t-shirts, but only by a little bit.

I tried to scale every feature down proportionately, so the shirts would be as similar in appearance as possible. The cuffs and bottom bands on the mini-T are about 80% as tall as their large t-shirt counterparts, for example.

I left the J. Crew tags in the back of the mini-t because they make me smile.

Reassembling the shirt was quick and gratifying. My traced pattern fit together easily and I think the finished shirt looks great on my daughter. She loves matching me and I love that she still thinks that’s cool.

Happy sewing!


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