5 Things you need to know about upcycling clothes

Upcycling Fabric

Upcycling is on the rise in the United States. The UK and Australia have been doing it for quite some time. It takes a combination of conventional sewing skills and free spirited or even renegade sewing! It is definitely thinking outside the box, or rather recreating the lines of the box. The thing I love about it is taking something that is classic and changing up the way it is, customizing it to its new owner.

When it comes time to go through your clothes and weed them out, if you are interested in learning new ways to recycle, you may want to think outside the box, too. Recycling fabrics can be done in more than one way.

  1. We all already know to re-home things via give-away’s, garage sale or donating to a thrift or charity shop.That is usually our first go to way of saving the earth from overflowing landfills.
  2. Simple alterations can be done to make a garment fit a new owner or a re-sized body.
  3. There is also clothing that is stained or has wear beyond your ability to make use of it. These types of garments  can still be salvaged by making it into a smaller size, a child sized garment, pillow/cushion, scarf or a purse/tote. I have a blog page on one thing that I made recently for someone else; a military uniform re-made into an amazing purse! Here are some others I have done (bear with my phone photo’s).
    Financial Peace envelope system upcycle
    Budgeting Wallet
    FPU envelopes DIY upcycling
    Budgeting Envelopes
    upcycling upholstery
    Sewing chair cushion

    upcycling torn tshirt fabric
    T-shirt yarn infinity scarf
  4. They can be broken down into even smaller usable parts both for sewing or for crochet and knit projects. Quilting originally was a way to re-use good parts of an otherwise unusable item. Look at this tutorial on how to make t-shirts into continuous parts to crochet with:

Then you can look up “T-shirt yarn projects. There is an abundance of things to find. Here is one example:


Woven fabrics also can be made into yarn to use for crochet. In the short video below, it shows a very quick way to cut the strips. You would have to remove all seams before doing this, and make sure the fabric is evenly cut.

You can find many ideas for their use by searching “crochet fabric strips”.  You can also weave with it. There are rag rugs, baskets, purses and more. This provides an essentially free source for project materials, since you already own the fabric. The outcome of color is so different than the original look! You can also use smaller pieces to make a rag rug, using the very easy method of latch hook. This tutorial shows you how to do latch hook recycling or you can see the preview below.

Make: A Latch-Hooked Rag Rug


5. Finally, a great way to continue to use outdated garments is taking the fabric of the garment and giving it a complete make-over to where it is something completely new. There is a program that I would love to watch and wish I could find. It’s from the UK, called “This Old Thing”. It seems like it is referencing that old reply to a compliment on one’s clothing ; “This old thing? Why, I only wear this when I have nothing else whatsoever to wear!” The show’s host, Dawn O’Porter is a refashion sewer and she changes up vintage clothing that people bring to her. She does so because she has a love and appreciation for vintage clothing and has begun designing a new line of things that are stylistically vintage but have elements that make them more suited to today’s wearers, (pardon the pun). Check out this clip:

I so love this young woman’s reaction to what has been done. She can’t find what the hostess asks her, to find what is recognizable on herself. She totally cannot see the former, in the new item that she is wearing. 🙂

I find value in re-learning how to re-consider what to do with the things we weed out of our closets and drawers. Rather than just having convention give-away/garage sale pile, or a trash pile, perhaps we could add a couple of these new categories. Re-fashioning in order to fit ourselves without looking like we’re from another era,  or doing so to fit someone else is not a customary way of thinking but it might be worth your time and effort! Re-making items into something smaller, AND re-claiming the smaller parts of usable fabric from something for purposes such as quilting are ways to prevent total loss, and fully use that which is ours. Even if you are not a person who would get around to using the fabrics for craft purposes, maybe there is someone you know who would. If not, what about donating it to a local daycare center or other child care facility?

So next time you do a sort, try to think outside the box. What can be useful with what you have?