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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
- How To Repurpose An Old Shirt
- How To Upcycle Jeans and Denim
- How To Upcycle Old T-Shirts and Adult Leggings
- How To Use Old Clothes To Make New Outfits
- Upcycling Old Sweaters
- How To Upcycle Clothes That Are Too Small
- Other Ways Of Using Up All The Little Bits When Upcycling Clothes
- Not Recycling Or Upcycling Old Clothes Is A Problem!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
You can also embroider, add panels, refashion and add appliqué to old clothes to give them a new lease of life.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
- simple skirts
- food wraps
- reusable cloth sanitary pads
- reusable make up remover pads
- dolls clothes
- drawstring bags
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.
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.
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