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I have a plain cotton t-shirt that I need to crop for a costume. I was wondering what is the best method to cropping it without it potentially fraying without a sewing machine?

5 Answers 5

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T-Shirt fabric does not fray. Fraying is a property of woven fabrics; most t-shirts are made of a jersey knit that resists fraying. It may shed a few loose pieces, but it's a very resilient fabric that will stay intact when cut. The best option to crop a shirt is to cut it a bit longer than you want, then pull on the fabric perpendicular to the edges. This will curl it up on itself, bringing it up to the length you want it.

The resistance to fraying is sufficient that old t-shirts can be used to make yarn with nothing more than cutting the fabric into a long strip, then stretching it to roll it.

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Everything Allison C mentioned in their answer is correct, but if you don't want the t-shirt to curl up at the edge, you can try iron-on interfacing.

The default interfacing is non-stretch and coated on one side with a kind of hot-melt glue. If your t-shirt is oversized and you can manage to put it on without stretching it, this might work your you. There's also stretchy iron-on interfacing, but it's less stretchy than t-shirt fabric in general.

You should apply the interfacing before cutting the shirt. Simply turn the shirt inside out and lay it flat on an ironing board or other heat resistant surface. Lay a strip of interfacing (I suggest roughly 2 inches / 5 cm wide) over where you plan to crop the shirt with the glue facing down and press it with a heated iron. Don't push the iron over the interfacing, but press it straight down, lift it up and press it into the next spot. After the shirt cooled down, cut it at the bottom of the interfacing.

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  • The thing that caught me out with stretchy interfacing is that it's only stretchy in one direction. That happened to be the wrong direction for what I wanted it for. But here it could be good. That was bought as a 2" wide strip.
    – Chris H
    Nov 5, 2023 at 21:18
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If you want a flat edge similar to the bottom hem of a t-shirt, you can use iron-on hemming tape.

This is a strip of extremely thin fabric, coated in glue that melts when you iron it. You just:

  • cut the fabric slightly longer than the finished size you want. The allowance for the hem should be a little more than the width of the hemming tape, which is typically 10-25mm (3/8-1"). Otherwise the glue will stick to your iron and you don't want that.
  • fold it up inside with the tape in the fold, so the tape is against the wrong side of the fabric.
  • press firmly with a hot iron.

I recommend pressing without the tape first, to set a crease in the right place, then let it cool a bit, slip the tape in, and iron.

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  • Is that similar to the interfacing Elmy mentions in her answer?
    – Joachim
    Nov 3, 2023 at 7:46
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    @Joachim at first I thought it was a different name for the same thing, but no, because the hemming tape is adhesive on both sides, and much thinner. It's also stretchier than interfacing (because it's barely fabric at all). It looks like we were writing at almost the same time, but they're actually different answers so I'll leave it up even though I was a few minutes behind by the time my train came out of the tunnel and I could post.
    – Chris H
    Nov 3, 2023 at 9:59
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i just did this to a bunch of my t-shirts this past summer! ive been really into crop tops lately anyway~

i hand sewd french seams on the edge of all mine and theyve held really well through multiple machines washes. the side id do facing out just depends on my mood but basically it fully encases the seam so you dont have to worry about it coming apart from fraying or the weird stretchy rolly thing edges of unfinished knits do. it also has two seams sewn in so its very secure, lays flat and has two different finishing options. its the kindof seam you see in the inseam of jeans and a lot of denim materials.

one side kinda looks like its rolled up like how you would sleeves almost and the other side if you color match the thread well enough won't be super noticable.

if you want the rolly part out you'd cut the shirt using pinking shears with an extra 1 1/2-2" on the bottom. fold the pinked edge up to where you want the shirt to end with the pinked edge showing. sew a seam about a half inch up from the bottom of the fold (the new bottom of the garment). after the seam is inplace fold the pinked edge back down to touch the seam you just sewd and then fold that whole part down onto the hemline, encasing the pinked edge entirely.

sew the fold into place along the very bottom of the garment. i feel like this is weird to visualize using just words so heres some pictures of both sides of a finished crop i made recently. i used a backstitch for almost all my handsewn stuff because its really secure and still looks nice in the front.

this has the rolly side in so i started by turning my shirt inside out first and then doing the same thing i described above. be sure to pay attention to which side you want the front of your stitches to go and working acordingly! i think they can make really cute accents in a bold color. Have fun and good luck!

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    Using a back stitch is a great tip for hand sewing knits in general because the stitching can still stretch somewhat. A running stitch would rip very quickly.
    – Elmy
    Nov 10, 2023 at 6:38
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Simple and easy:

  1. First things first, make the desired length of the crop with a pen or chalk (Use a ruler or tape to ensure accuracy).
  2. Lay the T-shirt flat on a cutting surface.
  3. Cut along the marked line using a sharp scissors.
  4. To prevent fraying, consider these options:
    • Use pinking shears to trim the raw edge. The zigzag pattern created by pinking shears helps minimize fraying.
    • Apply fabric glue or clear nail polish along the cut edge. This helps seal the fabric and prevent fraying.
    • If you have a sewing machine, you may finish the edge with a zigzag stitch or use a serger to create a clean, finished edge.
  5. After applying one of the above methods to prevent fraying, gently stretch the cut edge to help it roll slightly inward and create a neat finish.

Finally, wash and dry the T according to the garment's care instructions to further secure the cut edge.

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    As other answers have pointed out, T shirt fabric doesn't have problems with fraying, and as the question points out, there's no sewing machine available, so it seems like most of the key points of the answer don't really apply
    – Chris H
    Nov 5, 2023 at 21:16

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