How to Make a Kids Shirt Smaller

It’s hard to Buy Shirts for Small Kids!

My kids are little.  They are young, but they are also small, tiny, that sort of thing.  So I often find that getting a shirt that first them well is a challenge.  And it’s even more challenging when I’m making custom shirts for them.  So, I have learned how to make a kids’ shirt smaller so that I can still make custom design but not have to spend a fortune on the shirt itself.

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How to Make a Kids Shirt Smaller

For this tutorial, you don’t need to have mad sewing skills to get this done.  I’m not a master sewer by any stretch of the imagination, but this works great for my kids’ shirts!  Especially Gildan Shirts, which are the ones I use most when making custom designs.

What You Need:

  1. A shirt, preferably one that is too large.
  2. A shirt that fits the way you like
  3. Pins – lots and lots of pins
  4. A sewing machine (preferably) but a needle and matching thread will also work.

Let’s Begin!

Flip your shirts!

Before you start, you need to flip both shirts inside out.  All the measurement take place like this.

make a kids shirt smaller

Measure Your Shirts!

Place the larger shirt down on your counter/floor/workspace.  Make sure it is flat and even. There should be no wrinkles.

Place the smaller shirt on top.  Make sure this shirt is inside out also.  

Line up the shirts so that the neck openings and shoulders line up. 

Tip – it’s best to wash the new shirt before you work on it, as it may shrink slightly, and the last thing you want is to make the shirt too small.

Also, ironing the shirt before working on it can help but not required.

make a kids shirt smaller

Pin the Large Shirt

With the smaller shirt on top, with either a fabric pen or marker, trace the smaller shirt onto the larger one, followed by pinning along the outline.  Or you can pin the outline directly onto the larger shirt without drawing.  This is how I do it. 

Tip – leave a bit of a gap between the small shirt and the pins.  This is to account for poor sewing skills and additional shrinkage after the next wash.

Depending on the original length of the shirt, you can also pin the bottom to make it shorter.


Sew the large shirt!  You can use your sewing machine or a needle and tread. The sewing machine is faster but not required.

Tip – Make sure you are sewing on the outside of the pins, but close to them.  You already gave yourself some leeway by putting the pins a bit away from the smaller shirt, so you don’t want to overdo it.

If you are sewing the bottom of the shirt, make sure you cut and fold the bottom to have a finished edge.


Cut excess

Once both sides are complete, check the stitching to make sure you did a good job.  To do this, flip the shirt and pull along the edges of the sewn material.  

Once you’re happy with the stitching, you can cut the surplus material.

final cut to make shirt smaller

Flip the shirt and …

And That’s It! You’re Done!

smaller kids shirt

Was this Tutorial Helpful?

Did you find this tutorial on how to make kids shirts smaller helpful?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

If you liked this tutorial, be sure to check out my other sewing tutorials here.

smaller shirt pin

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Britt K

    This is such a great trick to have! Especially if your child happens to fall in love with a shirt that’s only available in a specific size. You know how attached a child can grow to a certain pattern or favourite cartoon character on a shirt in 2 seconds flat, leading to utter disappointment if their size isn’t available lol Mom of the year award right here!

    1. Katherine

      Thanks! It’s works well at my house! And it has saved me from several disasters due to favourite shirts! Kids are so funny like that! Thank for reading!

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