TUTORIAL: Muscle Tees

by Dana on March 11, 2013

One final project to wrap-up Celebrate the BOY.
It’s a simple spin on the Basic TEE I shared 2 weeks ago and works great for Texas summers.

I told him it was a muscle Tee and he said, isn’t it a tank top?
Fair point.  But doesn’t muscle tee sound cooler?

Muscle Tee it is.  He thought it was fun to show off his (growing) muscles and actually surprised me by really loving this outfit.  He asked if he could wear it the rest of the day.  You gotta it Mr. Muscles.

The sleeveless Tee is just as easy to make as the Basic Tee.  Start by reading the Basic Tee tutorial and download the free size 4T Pattern .

And now it’s time for that mysterious dotted line.  Ooooo.   Cut along the dotted lines of the Front and Back pattern pieces and you have Muscle Tee pattern pieces ready to go!
NOTE:  Make sure your write “Muscle Tee” on the new pattern so you aren’t confused the next time you go to make a Basic Tee and pick up the wrong pattern.
• With your new pattern pieces, cut a Front and Back from the fabric (as outlined in the Basic Tee)

• Cut ribbing for the neck and armholes, and iron each strip in half (read more about ribbing in the Basic Tee)
Cut 1 Neck piece: 11.5 x 1.75 inches
Cut 2 Armhole pieces: 12 x 1.5 inches

• Sew the neck ribbing as shown in the Basic Tee.   Then, rather than adding sleeves we’re going to add armhole ribbing.
• With right sides of the folded ribbing and t-shirt armhole together, stretch and pin the ribbing to the armhole.  First find the center point of the ribbing and pin that to the center of the armhole. Then pin the ends of the ribbing to the ends of the armhole.  Then continue stretching, pinning, and evenly spacing the ribbing along the armhole.
• Sew the ribbing in place using a straight stitch and a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Iron out your seams.

• To add a pocket, cut a small square (or any shape), iron the edges under (sewing the top of the pocket down first as shown in this tutorial), position it on the Tee, pin it in place, and sew it down with a 1/8 inch seam allowance.
• With right sides of the Tee together, pin and sew the sides of the Tee together.

• To keep the armholes snug and from gaping out, do not follow the line of the arm ribbing as it flares out slightly when you sew.  Just sew a straight side seam with a 3/8 inches, starting at the top of the ribbing and going straight down (see left photo below)
• When you’re finished with your Tee, the side seams at the armholes will be poking into the armhole slightly, which might be uncomfortable to wear. So, sew the side seams down on the ribbing about 1 inch.

And you’re done!

Owen thought Muscle shirts gave him Jedi powers.

Is he ready to punch me?  Or flex me?

He’s probably just happy this is the last photoshoot he has to do for a while.

Yay for boys!
Now head over to Made by Rae to see what she’s sharing.

This is part of Celebrate the BOY, a series hosted by me and Made by Rae.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:
DAY 1: Dana: 5 Steps to the Basic Tee • Rae: Saffron Pants and Color Roundup
DAY 2: Dana: Pants Roundup • Rae: Little Bit of Color Hoodie
DAY 3: Dana: KID Pants with Back Pockets • Rae: Little Bit of Color Hoodie
DAY 4: Dana: 13 DIY Fabrics • Rae: Show your Stripes Turtleneck
DAY 5: Dana: Favorite T-shirt Buddies • Rae: Stripes Rule Roundup and Celebration Garland
DAY 6: Dana: Big Stick Pjs • Rae: Fox Tee
DAY 7: Dana: Beach Robe to Cozy House RobeYES to Bold Prints and Tuxedo Stripe Pants
DAY 8: Dana: We be Jammin roundup • Rae: City Pants
DAY 9: Dana: Stripes, Checks, and Piping, oh my • Rae: Mustache roundup and Tic Tac Toe Shirt + Piping how-to
DAY 10: Dana: Chewie Shirt • Rae: Piping improves everything

• Keep adding your own BOY projects to the CTB Flickr Group!
• And check out the Archives for additional projects

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah K. March 11, 2013 at 10:08 am

Super cute!


2 Laura March 11, 2013 at 10:20 am

Love these, they really suit Owen. I can’t wait until it’s warm enough for my boys to wear some of these. It snowed again here in the UK last night. Celebrate The Boy is such a great series, I’ve loved following along this time.


3 Jackie March 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Those look awesome. Great job!


4 Delia March 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

What a stud! Love it Dana.


5 Dagny March 11, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I made my first muscle tee last summer when we were having 107 degree days here in St. Louis. My son loved them and they were such a quick sew.


6 Amy mayen March 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Cute! Thanks for the free pattern!


7 carolina March 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Love the colors!!!


8 laura @ on{thelaundry}line March 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

They were always ‘muscle shirts’ in our house! :) Super cute! Pinned!


9 Irina March 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Well, my boy is 10 months so I’ve got plenty of time to learn and improve my sewing with knits skills…! I just tried to make the tee from a onesie pattern and I definitely have to practice a bit more, I’ll blog about it soon although I’m a bit embarrassed! I’ll share the link too.
Thanks for all this tutorials!


10 kristin March 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Love your color choices, and Owen is SO CUTE! Okay forget spring, these make me ready for summer. :)


11 Rae March 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Aw he’s such a cutie!! Love the muscle tee!!!



12 Loretta March 11, 2013 at 8:31 pm

This is adorable…all your sewing items are adorable! I really like your tutorials. I made the PJ bottoms.
The only question I have is … Do you have any trouble sewing with knits? While make the PJs, my fabric kept getting caught in my machine. To the point of having to take the plate off to get the fabric out of the sewing well/hole! It was so frustrating, that I almost gave up.
I used a ball point needle size 14, even tried size 11, didnt matter.
Would love to try this, but skeptical cause of all the problems I had with the PJ bottoms. FYI, I have a brother sewing machine and a Viking.
Any suggestions? Thanks!


13 Yana March 12, 2013 at 12:28 am

Pinned! Your Pinterest button is missing though…


14 Lindsay March 12, 2013 at 12:57 am

Cute! They look like something you’d buy at Carter’s. You’re very talented — and you can tell he loves the clothes you make him. :)


15 louise March 12, 2013 at 1:06 am

I’m typically not a fan of the muscle shirts, but when I got your blog post in my email (with no pictures) I knew I had to take a look… You’re amazing. You have made the first muscle shirt that I’ve ever liked and that made me even consider making my son some! :)


16 Sydney March 12, 2013 at 11:18 am

Bravo again, you make it look so easy. You are so talented!!


17 Shannon March 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm

cute! I think I’ll do some girl ones for the summer! Thanks!


18 Trixie Lixie March 12, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Very cute! Definite make for the summer!


19 andrea March 12, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Love the muscle tees….and those grey shorts in the first and last photos…did you make them too?


20 Melissa Yoder March 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm

He is adorable. What a stud. You make everything look so easy! Love the Chewie shirt, too!


21 Julie H. March 13, 2013 at 8:42 am

I have enjoyed this whole series. My boys are 11 and 7 and it’s really hard to find boy-ish non-baby things to sew for them. I sew for my daughter all of the time and I know they feel a bit bad sometimes. I will have to make a larger pattern for these and the shorts and make them each a fun outfit made by mom just for them. Ü Wait, they need star wars PJ pants too! I had better get to sewing.

I also love your taste in fabrics and color combinations,

Great job.


22 Lynet Witty March 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm

That pic of Owen showing off his muscles is GOLDEN! Also, the knit colors you picked!? AWE-SOME. Love getting updates in my email of your blog! :)


23 Lynet Witty March 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Silly question: by the way you add so many pins to the ribbings (?) is that a prime way to avoid stretching while sewing? I have a HORRIBLE problem stretching knits when sewing…maybe I need to add more pins!


24 Mikea March 14, 2013 at 12:23 am

Thank you for this! He picked a awesome outfit! Those chucks are awesome


25 Sandy April 9, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thanks for the pattern! here is a link to the outfit I made with the muscle tee. http://pinterest.com/pin/334603447285046384/.


26 Georgetta April 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I truly
enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author.
I will remember to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back
later on. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great job, have a
nice afternoon!


27 Amy May 21, 2013 at 1:42 am

Love this gorgeous pattern!!! Perfect timing for us as its winter here in NZ and my lil man refuses to wear jerseys! So problem solved by making muscle tees out of gorgeous merino knit to wear under his long sleeve tees! Thanks so much!!!


28 Marisa May 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Hi there this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG
editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


29 asawap.com May 28, 2013 at 2:12 am

I have gone ahead and added a backlink back to your website from one
of my clients requesting it. We have used your web site URL:
http://www.danamadeit.com/2013/03/tutorial-muscle-tees.html and blog title: TUTORIAL:
Muscle Tees | MADE to make certain you get the correct anchor text.

If you woud like to check out where your hyperlink has been placed, please email me at: selene_carden@gmail.
com. Cheers


30 Toks July 11, 2013 at 7:57 am

i stumbled across your site while browsing for how to sew and you are the best tutor i have ever come across.you make sewing look soooooo simple.good work.


31 Angela Gallardo July 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Hello I was wondering if you could help me out on sewing a girls t shirt? Just a basic with fabric not using the knit type but the other you would use like for boutique outfits.Please and thank you.


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34 Caitlin March 1, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Thank you for the tutorial! This was my first time sewing with knits, and it was easier than I’d expected.

Here’s a picture of my first finished muscle tee (with more to come; this boy will only wear tank tops): http://www.flickr.com/photos/caitlind/12865808543/in/photostream/


35 Corey April 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm

This is so cute! Thank you for sharing, its so hard to find cute and manly sewing patterns for boys. I shared a link to your blog on my blog in a post about boy’s clothes patterns and tutorials. Thanks again!


36 Josette April 11, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Thanks for the tutorial! I can’t wait to make some for my little boys. I really love you website.


37 Cherie McLean January 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Hi there,
I live in Australia and don’t understand the sizing you have over there, ie 2T. What does the T stand for? PS been looking how to make one for my hubby!
Cheers Cherie


38 Faye July 31, 2015 at 10:21 am

Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve been trying to up cycle some of my old shirts into t-shirt dresses for my daughter and could never get the shirt part right until I tried your pattern. It was easy to follow and turned out great! I made her a Tinker Bell inspired dress using this muscle shirt pattern as the base. I’ll definitely be using this pattern again.

I did have trouble printing the pattern though. It showed up as full size on the computer screen, but then it printed smaller. The smaller size did work for me since my daughter is only two so she needed a smaller size. Now to try the version with the sleeves! :)


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