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?

A Re-fashioned uniform

refashioned uniform

A re-fashioned uniform… a military wife asked me to refashion a uniform that she had into a new bag. Fun!! I was SO excited about this project. Sadly, I wasn’t able to start it right when I was ready to dig into it. I would have liked to! My already existing “to do list” prevented me from doing so. But onward, and forward! Here is what she gave me for the project.


The photo below shows a judicious purchase (a thrift store bargain), that was acquired expressly for the purpose of lining her bag.


From Military Shirt to Bag or Purse

She sent me a link to a photo of how it would turn out. It actually was part of a tutorial on how to make it, totally expediting my ability to make quickly the exact outcome she hoped for! Here is the tutorial. So, all I had to do was “commence” as my sewing machine manual calls it! lol I removed the pockets, pen pocket and sleeve tab. Wow, that is some industrial grade velcro on those pocket fronts!!


Next, I cut the front and back pieces from the shirt, and the olive dress shirt.


AND the straps.


The assembly process was next and the bag… oh the bag!! It’s a pocket lover’s delight!! Every pocket came with velcro tough enough to keep a small anxious pet inside it. Inside, there is the really big pocket from the camo sleeve, which has a strip of velcro to hold it closed. Nothing is getting lost! Next to it is the pen pocket, with three spaces for pens. On the other side of the lining, is the olive dress shirt’s front pocket. The button area was sewn shut.

lining of bag

This bag’s bottom strip is four inches wide. It will have plenty of room for personal belongings. the front has pockets that velcro shut, and also have velcro loop tape on the front. The tab that was once the shirt’s sleeve closure, is not the bag’s closure.

Pocket Lover’s Delight!

re-fashioned uniform

The view of the other side.

Other side of bag

The pockets on this side were on this piece when I cut it off.  It was previously the shirt’s front. I also took some velcro from the sleeve and sewed it on here for the closing tab. THAT was a fun project! Many thanks to my friend for asking me to do this for you! Beyond that, many thanks to our military men and women for your service to our country, and to those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom. We appreciate you and are thinking of you all this Memorial Day weekend. You have our prayers.

You make me weak in the knees bag

Weak in the Knees?

My “Weak in the Knees” bag, was what I came up with to find a use for ALL parts of denim jeans that need to be recycled. The holey knees were the only part I hadn’t found use for until this. Being that frayed denim is somewhat popular, I knew I *wanted* to create a use for them, but it just wasn’t happening.

My good friend Kelly likes to create… and is very creative. She designs fabric prints from home, using a website called Spoonflower, (link to her designs). She prints up samples to offer them for sale and shares some with me!!  After cutting up some jeans and having the square with the holey knee in it sitting around, I happened to notice that they bore some resemblance in size to the samples. That was the inspiration I needed as the impetus to work out what to do with the frayed denim.

Pi fabric wild aztec fabric fabric http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/weavingmajor pine cone fabric broken tv fabric Van Gogh inspired fabric

I also tend to buy up sewing supplies at resale shops. It sometimes lends itself to more interesting outcomes. Such was the case for this item. I had a pretty hip zipper that was perfect for the bag.

hipster zipper

Around the same time, I was altering casual dress shirts for one of my sons. The guys in my house prefer the “slim fit” over the “muffin top” look.  It just so happened that one of the shirts to be altered was in a color similar to faded denim. Soooo, I used the cuffs to make pen pockets atop the existing pocket that I added into the center of the bag.

I really wanted to use some of the original hems from the bottoms of the jeans for the top edge of the bag. As depicted in the picture above, some, but not all of the top seams worked out that way. For the remaining raw edges I used bias tape.

It is large. I almost wanted to call it a portfolio, until its current name came to me. The resulting bag is pretty exciting to me!

Weak in the knees bag


Pillow Case Dress ReFashion

 Pillow Case Dress!

Pillow case dress


A pillow case being used as something other than it’s original purpose never occurred to me. Living in a world of boys, (no daughters) I was not familiar with the concept of using them for dresses, until my friend introduced me to it. I totally fell in love with the idea! I made a point of looking for cute pillow cases on my next thrift shop expedition.  I found two identical ones in a cute print, as shown in the photo. . When I returned home, I followed a tutorial online and I was so pleased with how simple they are and appreciated the outcome. I gifted one each, to two friends, who benefited from me having no girls to make fru fru goods for.  😉

Since that time, I have discovered that pillow cases make wonderful cross body bags, as well. The tutorials for this were available since before the recent wave of bags now known as “cross body”. They are wonderful for balancing the weight of the bags’ contents. Hmm… might have to try those in the future, too! 🙂

I am wondering if there are other uses for pillow cases that I am unaware of. Do you have favorite uses for them, no matter if you refashion them or not….?


Denim Recycling 1: Girls Jeans Remake to Skirt

denim recycle

Denim Recycling: Jeans to Skirt


After the knees blow on a pair of jeans, there is still lots of life left in them to use for denim recycling. Some of my favorite recycling projects involves the use of  denim pants. I have made so many things with it, and have collected even more ideas than I have used. A friend asked me to do a make over on her daughter’s pants. This girl still fit her pants in the hips when the length was far too short. Her mom liked the pants and so they found a fabric that they liked, and asked for a skirt to be made out of it. I usually have a link to the tutorial I used, but in this case, what to do was obvious to me and I didn’t need one. Here is what I did: I cut off the excess denim at the hip region, below the button up area by a couple of inches. Of the purchased fabric for the project, I cut it to a measurement that would be an appropriate length for the soon to be wearer. I then pressed and sewed in a half inch hem. Then I stitched along the top edge without using a back stitch. I  gathered the top to precisely fit on the bottom of the pant, and attached it.

What Can the Leftovers Become?

Denim Recycling

I also used some of the denim leftovers, and some of the leftover fabric from the new skirt to make a little purse. I also decided to try a little beading, adding sequins in the mix, as well. I have re-beaded garments that were already designed, such as wedding gowns, and bridesmaid gowns, but I didn’t really know how to go about inventing a design. It was made with an eight year old girl in mind, and the design isn’t sophisticated. Even so, I am not sure how I would bead something that were made of a silk or silk like fabric. If there are any out there who have done some beading, I would love for you to post your project photo’s in the comments and how you went through the decision making process. I can look it up, but  then, would I find your projects posted? I know I have spent years perusing the internet and hardly a peep was posted on it from myself! 😉