Learn how to upcycle an old or oversized sweatshirt into a stylish DIY crop top

-Brother Sews Blogger

Before after

 Let’s talk fashion! Since we are all staying home a bit more these days, the casual style of our everyday clothing is at an all-time high. With the cropped look for sweatshirts and hoodies being the latest trend and basically the “it” style of the moment, it’s time to make our own. The look is comfy yet stylish, and all you need to recreate the look is an oversized sweatshirt or older sweatshirt or hoodie that needs an upgrade. So, go dig into the closet and let’s upcycle this old garment into something new and stylish. 


1 supplies

2 machines

Oversized or old sweatshirt or hoodie 

4 Before

Pattern paper and marking pencil

  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Straight pins
  • Rotary cutter and straight edge
  • Brother Sewing Machines
  • Brother Serger

STEP 1: Reverse Tie-Dye

To give this new look an urban edge, distress the sweatshirt with a bleach bath to give it a reverse tie dye look. 

3 Reversed tie die look

This is an optional part of the project. If you choose not to create a reverse tie dye look you can move on to step 2.

To start the process, wrap, fold and twist the shirt into tight bunches using a rubber band to secure it in place.

5 Bound still

The areas that are not exposed or less exposed to the bleach bath will remain closer to the original color and the areas that are saturated by the bleach bath change color.

Using a bleach bath made from one part water to one part bleach, submerge the bound sweatshirt.

6 Bleaching Bucket

Be sure the container you are using is bleach safe and you wear protective gloves and goggles in a well-ventilated area. Leave the sweatshirt in the bleach bath until you achieve the color you want; this can take as little as 15 minutes up to an hour. The change in color will vary based on the fiber content of the fabric; because it is a reverse tie dye the look and your folds and binding areas will differ, the resulting patterns will be different every time you bleach a new garment.

Rinse the soaked sweatshirt in cold water and undo the rubber bands. 

7 Rising shirt

Continuing rinsing the sweatshirt for another 10 minutes. Wash the sweatshirt in a washing machine by itself on a regular cycle. 

8 Washing machine

 STEP 2: Create Pattern

Create a box pattern. We know that cropped sweatshirts have a boxy shape that hit a persona at their natural waist or even higher.

9 Pattern

With that in mind, measure the length you want for your new sweatshirt and measure the width for the cropped bottom. Those two measurements should be almost the same. The length of my pattern from the neck down is 18 inches, and the bottom width is 20 inches.

We will use the existing ribbed collar and shoulders of the sweatshirt, so measure them to include in the pattern you are creating.  Because this is a casual, boxy look, it will have a drop sleeve. To do that, create a small curve at the bottom of the arm hole and top of the side seam. Leaving a 8-9 inch arm hole opening.

STEP 3: Cutting Fabric

Fold the dry sweatshirt in half lengthwise with the front sides together. Place the pattern on the fold, pin in place and cut the bottom and sides. Remember we will keep the existing shoulder seams together.

10 cutting pattern

Save your sleeves as is. We will modify and add them back onto the shirt later in the project. Also, save the scraps from the bottom. We will use them to create a bottom band to finish the sweatshirt.

STEP 4: Embroider
Let’s embroider the shirt. With the shoulders and collar still together, lay the front side of the shirt, right side up and secure it in the embroidery hoop.

11_Hooping sweatshirt

Using your Brother embroidery machine, create the design for the front of your shirt. Use the built-in designs and fonts to create your own custom style. With a Brother embroidery machine, it’s easy to get creative.

12_Programming embroidery


14_finished in hoop
STEP 5: Side Seams

When the embroidery is complete, unhoop the shirt and with the right sides together. Pin them in place and serge or sew the side seams.

15_side seams

16_side seams sewn

STEP 6: Sleeves 
Using the sleeves you set aside earlier, turn them right sides out and insert each sleeve into the arm holes of the sweatshirt that is the wrong side out.  If the arm holes are too small to fit the existing sleeve, modify them by first measuring the length of the arm hole on the new sweatshirt.

17_arm hole

Measure and mark the size.

18 Sleeves measuring

Draw a seam line, tapering it to match the existing sleeve seam.

19_sleeves measuring

20_Arm Hole sew line

Sew the sleeve. Now insert the sleeves into the shirt arm holes, matching up the shoulder seams and side seams.

23_Sleeves lining up to fit

24_Arm hole sleeves

Secure pins and sew in place. Do the same on the other side.

25_Sewing sleeves in

26_Sleeves Sewn
STEP 7: Creating Bottom Band 

Using the extra scraps from the bottom of the original sweatshirt, cut the bottom ribbed portion off. If there is not enough fabric there to make a new band, use the original bottom band. 

Measure the bottom width of the new sweatshirt, the sample here is 20-inches so I need to cut a 40-inch strip of fabric from the scraps.

27_Bottom Shirt measure

The width can vary based on how much fabric you have. The demo is a 5-inch width which will finish at 2.5 inches for the bottom band.

28_Bottom Band

Sew the short ends of the strip of fabric together to create a band.

29_Band Serging sides 

Fold the long band in half lengthwise with the right side out.  Then serge the long edge of the band together all the way around.

STEP 8: Finishing 
Lay the sweatshirt right side out and put the bottom band over the top of the sweatshirt so the bottom edges match up.

32_Band attaching to shirt

Pin it in place and sew the band on the shirt.

34_Band Sewing onto Shirt

Serge the two edges to give it a clean finished look.

35_Band Serging to finish

This trendy DIY look can be paired with joggers or jeans, but you can also give it an elevated look with high waisted trousers or layering it with a blouse. 
The best part about this DIY sweatshirt is that it’s eco-friendly and you made it yourself!

36_Finished shirt

Sweatshirt Before and After

38_Before after looks