Upcycling Old Clothes

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I don’t know about you, but I am always clearing out old clothes. There are clothes coming out of my closets left right and centre. Old clothes from Elizabeth that she has grown out of. And her baby clothes that I had previously put aside “just in case’ I got pregnant again. Ditto I too have clothes that are too small, and maternity clothes that I hoped may get used again. All these need to be cleared out. Some of our old clothing is new / good enough to sell on eBay (more on that in this post). And some I could can donate to friends’ children or send to thrift stores. But what about the others that are left? I hate letting any cloth go to waste. So here are some great ideas on how you can go about upcycling old clothes!

Upcycling Old Clothes



I love finding ideas for upcycling old clothes I have instead of sending them to landfill. One of my favourite TV sewing programmes features a task that involves ideas for upcycling clothes or waste fabric to make new outfits or things. Contestants end up sewing dog coats out of tents, dresses out of net curtains, and fashion punk outfits out of tartan garments. 

Why Should We Find Out More How To Upcycle Old Clothes?

The cloth and fashion industry simply is one of the biggest polluters of this planet, and is just not sustainable! When we upcycle old clothes, we stop this cloth going to the trash, and thus we get more life out of the fabric by reusing it.

Over the years, I too have done quite a fair bit of upcycling clothes of my own. I much prefer being sustainable in my clothing choices, mend my clothes and not to waste cloth. So today I am going to share with you my upcycling clothes tips, plus some easy diy projects reusing old clothes so that you too can

  • save money
  • recycle old clothes into something new
  • stop all that cloth going to landfill and thus
  • help save the planet!

How To Repurpose An Old Shirt

Walk into any thrift store, and you will see racks of very cheap men’s shirts. And these are often 100% cotton, which in itself is quite an unsustainable fabric. (Read this post to find out why

So what can you make with a man’s shirt?

1.A Child’s Dress

My other half often cleans out his closet of work shirts. There is nothing better than finding ways of reusing all this cotton fabric.

See how you could make a little girl’s dress from an man’s old shirt.

How To Upcycle A Shirt Into A Child's Dress - repurpose a man's shirt into something cute and summery. This step by step sewing tutorial shows you how to make an old shirt into a cute little girl's dress. Reuse old clothes.Reuse, repurpose and recycle fabric with these thoughts and patterns. Upcycle your old clothing and cloth to make fabulous new things #upcycling #sustainableliving #sustainablefashion #sustainable #sustainability #upcycling #upcycleclothes #upcycledclothes #zerowaste #fastfashion #zerowastelifestyle #ecofriendlyideas #recycleclothes #upcycledshirt

2.A Summer Top

You could also repurpose a man’s shirt into a summer top. Julie over at Sum Of Their Stories shows you how in this post.

3.Small Cotton Items Like Facemasks

I actually upcycled a lot of my OH’s shirts into facemarks last year. The cotton was perfect, plus it meant that the masks were practically free to make.

But you could use a cotton shirt or remnants to make all kinds of small items.

See the end of this post for some more ideas.

How To Upcycle Jeans and Denim

I could dedicate a full post to this subject. There are so many ways of how to upcycle old jeans. I always try to mend jeans first. But here are some of my favourites.

1.Making A Skirt From Jeans

One of my favourite upcycling clothes ideas is to repurpose old jeans to make a denim skirt.

New Clothes From Old

Find out how I made a pair of jean leggings into the skirt here

2. Making A Handbag From Jeggings Or Jeans

Jeans make great handbags!

See here how I upcycled my little girl’s leggings to make a shoulder bag!

Child leggings to handbag


3.Making A Wall Hanging For Pins

I have a ton of pin badges, and wanted a pretty way of displaying them. So I used some old demin, bias bound the edges and it now hangs next to my sewing station!

My pin wall hanging

How To Upcycle Old T-Shirts and Adult Leggings

We always have lots of old t-shirts in the charity donation bag, and I do like to upcycle these as much as I can. Lots can go to making dust cloths and cleaning cloths. But what other ideas for upcycling clothes made out of stretch material are there?

1. Make Child Leggings From An Adult T-shirt

I’ve made lots of leggings for my daughter from my OH’s old leggings. They are perfect for playwear and nursery.

Leggings from a t-shirt

The leggings were actually made by using my technique for making children leggings without a pattern. My partner was getting rid of his old Tshirt, and I needed a Superhero Day outfit for E.

In fact this is a perfect way of reusing old adult jersey garments, just cut some children’s leggings from the fabric. Even if the leggings are only used for playing out or nursery, you are getting a few more months from the fabric before it needs to go into the bin.

2.Bag From A T-shirt

There are loads of tutorials on how to make a shopping bag from an old t-shirt, but this one from Happiest Camper is my favourite. Plus -it is NO SEW!

3. Make A Rag Rug

Another no sew idea, and one of my favourite things to do with old jersey dresses and leggings is to cut them into thin strips to make a rag rug. It is so easy, and you end up with a really lovely item for your home. It’s one of my favourite upcycling clothes before and after photos!

Find my tutorial here.

Rag rug

4. Make Hair Tie Bobbles and Headbands

If my daughter ever gets a hole in her leggings, I often upcycle them into hair ties. This is a really quick and easy upcycle and saves you ever buying bobbles again!

Do you have old leggings or tights that are worn, bobbly or full of holes? Instead of sending them to the trash and landfill why not make hair bobbles and headbands from them instead? Upcycle old tights and leggings with this quick and easy craft tutorial. Follow me for more upcycling ideas, clothes refashiobs and ways to reuse and recycle your fabric scraps and leftover fabric pieces.


How To Use Old Clothes To Make New Outfits

1.Turning Old Clothes Into A New Little Girl Dress

Recently a close friend asked me if I wanted some garments that she was going to donate or dispose of. As these were Indian garments, she doubted that her local charity shop would take them. But they were too lovely to just throw away.

I accepted the challenge, and she gave me two large bags full of the most beautiful clothes. Beaded and sequinned, most had no size labels, so I could understand why she had asked me.

There was also a lot of cotton lawn material in amongst the clothes, which is perfect for making little girl summer dresses. So using the same modified pattern that I had used to make E’s Wonder Woman dress, I made a little dress using some of the fabric (that you can see in the top left of the picture below)

This was a yellow and aqua sequinned tunic with some yellow cotton trousers. There was enough fabric to make this little dress, plus a few pieces left over for other small items.

Little girl dress from old clothes

I hope my friend who gave me the material likes this dress I made for her little girl. And there is still lots more material to upcycle.

2. Repurposing Fabric Scraps From Dress Making Into A New Little Girl Dress

I upcycled pieces of scrap fabric from my dressmaking to make a dress for my little girl. This simplicity pattern is perfect for using up little pieces of fabric.

Scrap fabric dress

3. Refashioning Old Clothes

Sewing is a great hobby when it comes to refashioning old garments. When I was breastfeeding I bought this Frugi maternity/newmum dress. It had a specially designed breastfeeding top. But once I had stopped breastfeeding, I stopped wearing it as it was a little too baggy and tended to gape. So I refashioned it into a long tunic top instead, adding pockets which I love!

Frugi Refashion

You can also embroider, add panels, refashion and add appliqué to old clothes to give them a new lease of life.

Again – Julie has some great refashion tips

Upcycling Old Sweaters

If your sweaters are made from knit or jersey material then you can cut them up and use them in the same way as you would t-shirts.

If the sweater or jumper is made from wool and is knitted, then you do need to take more care. I would felt the wool first by running it through a hot washing machine cycle – then use an overlocker or serger when sewing up the upcycled garment. 

Old sweaters and jumpers are perfect for upcycling into mittens and fingerless gloves

How To Make Fingerless Gloves - DIY fingerless gloves or cutoff gloves from upcycled cardigan or old sweater. Perfect for working in the cold!

How To Upcycle Clothes That Are Too Small

But this brings me neatly on to the next section, which is a section that I know too well. What do you with when you put on weight and find your clothes are too small. I’ve found a section of my me-made wardrobe is too little. And Elizabeth is forever growing out of the lovely dresses that I have made. So what are some examples of upcycling clothes that are too small?

1. Turning A Too Small Top Into Something Else

I made this top a couple of years ago, but have gained some weight. Rather than let it fester in my closet, I decided to turn the light cotton lawn into an unlined produce bag. 

top into produce bag

See how I make these, they are a brilliant clothing upcycle idea.

2. Making Little Dresses Into Something New

When I have made a pretty dress for Elizabeth, it does loathe me to throw it away when when she has grown out of it. I do donate to friends, but with this expensive Liberty fabric I made a pretty face mask, and used every last piece!

Liberty Mask

3. Add Panels to A T-shirt To Make It Bigger

Swoodson Says has one of the best tutorials on how to do this. Adding panels gives you more room, and in theory you could extend the panel right up to the armpit to add even more room.

4. Turning An Old Skirt Into A Rag Wreath

Elizabeth had grown out of her Halloween Tutu dress – and so I upcycled the old fabric into a new Halloween Rag Wreath!

Halloween dress into wreath

See how I made it


Other Ways Of Using Up All The Little Bits When Upcycling Clothes

And there are a MYRIAD of ideas of what you can do with all the little bits of fabric left over when you are repurposing clothing.

some other diy upcycle clothes ideas

See my post on other ways to reuse fabric scraps – I love to make all sorts of items out of my clothes, from household cloths to cloth face masks. It is just amazing all the useful things that you can make from cloth that you were going to throw away. Items like

The list is endless – and if you look I have a lot of tutorials covering how to make all these and many more from the scraps I have left.


Not Recycling Or Upcycling Old Clothes Is A Problem!


Our clothes fixation is really impacting on the planet. In the UK we buy nearly 27kg of clothes each every year. And throw away 235 million items of clothing into landfill. A lot of that material just sits there. Some of the man made fibres won’t rot for 200 years or more.

So the longer we can get some use out of these clothes the better. See how you can make your clothes last longer.

PS – There Are Other Fabrics We Need To Reuse As Well As Clothes Upcycling

During my clear out of E’s old baby clothes I found a load of bibs, flannels and burp cloths. I also always have a lot of towels to reuse. Towelling is so versatile to upcycle. 

See all the ways you can be recycling your old towels…

I hope that you have enjoyed all the ways to upcycle clothes that I have shown you, and that it has given you some ideas on how to reuse clothing when you have stopped wearing it.

Why not try reusing, repurposing or upcycling old clothes yourself? 

Do you think upcycled clothes is a concept that you could implement in your own life? I really do think that we need to change as much as we can to zero waste right now.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or find me on social media at the links above.

And please do pin this post for later


Upcycle clothing. Upcycling Clothes ⋆ Fast Fashion is so environmentally unsound. Upcycling old clothes can help to save fabric. Upcycling clothing using these ideas and repurpose and recycle fabric with these clothing upcycle thoughts and patterns. How to Upcycle your old clothing and cloth to make fabulous new things. Upcycled clothing ideas. How to upcycle clothes to useful items. Repurpose clothes. Upcycling clothing ideas. Ways to upcycle clothes. Upcycle old clothes.





29 Replies to “Upcycling Old Clothes”

    1. Helen says:

      I love cutting apart old clothes/sheets/curtains, etc and making scrap quilts from the good parts. I’ve made some lovely, and useful quilts. And they’re free!

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you. I am sure I will be adding to this in the future too!

  1. Ruth - Mummy and the Mexicans says:

    This is something I keep wanting to do – I keep old clothes with fabric that I like and still haven’t done anything with them. Some ideas I have include a little purse or makeup bag, and cushion covers or pillowcases. I don’t have a sewing machine though, which makes it a bit more difficult! #kcacols

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      My scrap bags are overflowing just like you with lovely reclaimed fabric. But I do hope both our stashes get used!

      1. Ann Harper says:

        Love the ideas for recycling. Wish everyone would attempt to reuse clothing in one way or another. I had no idea the amount of waste it created until reading fashion posts. Been making little girl play princess dresses out of tee shirt for granddaughter and friends. Sort of a pain and time consuming but, very social and comfrontable.

        1. Jo Boyne says:

          The only real downside to up cycling is that I do have a massive pile of all manner of cloth in a corner of one room. But I haven’t really bought clothes for myself very much at all in about 2 years.I will NEVER buy wash cloths/ dusters or cleaning cloths again. And that kind of thinking echoes what our parents/grandparents thought, and ultimately is so much better for the planet.

    2. Ann harper says:

      I have made my granddaughter a lot of princess play dresses out of old tee shirts and men’s dress shirts. When she out grew some of them they were donated to my daughter ‘s friend that runs a daycare for the kids to play dress up. The only complaint was where are the boy dress up clothes lol so I got busy and made a few capes and vests with superhero symbols. Made them out of old tee shirts and felt(which I did have to buy). Thanks for the post.

  2. Bread says:

    I think my cats would love a rag rug lo. Great post. I’m going to forward that legging post onto my wife. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time.

  3. Eilidh Horder says:

    All such great ideas. I’m no sewer but loved reading your post. You have inspired me to at least give it a try. Sweet dress you made from the beautiful Indian fabric. Thanks for the lovely ideas 🙂

  4. Sarah | Mummykind says:

    Yay! Love more ideas for upcycling! I’ve recently been in what my husband lovingly calls “my sweat shop” upcycling my old jeans into a new dress for my little girl, and her old jeans into pretty summer shorts! #KCACOLS

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      What a brilliant idea. I am thinking of making my next worn out jeans into a sun hap for E, and have seen a great jacket idea…

  5. Lana says:

    These are some great ideas!! They all look lovely. I haven’t thought about some of these. We usually donate to charity or friends/family. I love the wreath idea! Thanks for sharing! #KCACOLS

  6. Ann says:

    What lovely ideas – I do hate waste and this avoids that too. Thanks for linking to #kcacols

  7. Malin - Sensational Learning with Penguin says:

    Some lovely ideas here on how to upcycle/reuse old clothes, and the points you make about the environmental impact of the clothing industry are very valid and important. I tend to use all my clothes until they are in threads, pretty much, and I never have an excess of money to spend on clothes so I feel okay with my own contribution to not being a fashion eco-burden 😉
    I also don’t like throwing fabric away, as they can be used for other things, such as polishing, wash cloths, crafts projects etc. x #KCACOLS

  8. Rebecca says:

    Hi Jo,
    wonderful ideas for sewers and non-sewers alike.
    I’ve endeavoured over the last 2 years to not buy anything brand new. I’m known as a bit of a womble and buy from charity shops, jumble sales and have clothes passed on to me which if not suitable will remake into something else.
    Currently loving turning men’s shirts into dresses, tops and skirts. Will embroider and jazz up anything a little dull or boring from my bits and bobs stash. Have also bought a few patterned good quality quilt covers from charity shops which will make 3 dresses easily. Will crochet rugs for bathroom with any remnants. I have so many idea’s and don’t haste to upcycle my waste!!! keep up the good work xx

  9. Nogi Bjj says:

    Thanks for this article.Thanks for your advice. I really thank once again for such good creative writing. keep it up. This is the perfect blog for anyone who really wants to find out. Upcycling old clothes is great idea to recycle clothes.

  10. Helen says:

    Hi Jo,
    Visiting from the Little Cottage link party 🙂
    Thanks for sharing these lovely ideas. I hate to admit it, but I’m hoarding old clothes with fabrics that I like in the hopes of turning them into something usable one day. I’ve made cloth napkins to replace the paper napkins, a doorstop, pincushions, travel kits, a kitten pencil case, and a ton of bookmarks and scrunchies but I’ve barely made a dent in the pile 🙂

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I must admit, I too have a large pile of clothes still to go at. But it is still so much better than them going to landfill! Keep on denting that pile, and thank you for reading!

  11. Bardley Martyn says:

    This is something I keep wanting to do – I keep old clothes with fabric that I like and still haven’t done anything with them. Some ideas I have include a little purse or makeup bag, and cushion covers or pillowcases. I don’t have a sewing machine though, which makes it a bit more difficult!
    I have read your article complete. I found it very informative and useful.This is really a helpful article.
    So Thanks for sharing.

  12. BJJ Bear says:

    Great post, Jo!

    I’ve got some old brazilian jiu-jitsu gis (kimonos) laying around. Can’t donate them because they’re a little worn out, but don’t want to toss them either (emotional value). Maybe you have any ideas on what to do with them?

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Oooh, that is tricky. If they have emotional value, are you not better keeping them in storage? Are they pure cotton? If they are cotton I would consider cutting up and reusing in so many different ways around the house. That is, if you want to cut them up. You could always make a hotchpotch garment by cutting off the best part of each worn garment to make a whole new one? Do let me know what you do…

  13. Julia says:

    Thank you for sharing your clever ideas and cute designs!


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