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How To Start Upcycling Clothes

How To Start Upcycling Clothes

Posted on: Sunday 26 September 2021

Upcycling clothes is something I meant to try during the first lockdown last year, but a distinct lack of sewing skills (and a sewing machine at the time) left me at a bit of a loss. Fast forward a year, a 30th birthday that brought me a sewing machine and an Amy who has attempted to scrub up on her year 9 textiles knowledge and I've finally started having a go.

And you know what? I'm finding it a lot easier than I expected. And that's coming from someone with limited sewing knowledge and limited patience when it comes to learning new things (if I don't get good at something immediately I have an awful tendency to just give up).

Upcycling is a really important (and fun) part of maintaining a sustainable wardrobe; a lot of sustainable brands run their entire business off the concept of re-purposing old clothes, so if you can do it yourself then it's a win-win; you get a whole new item without spending any money and you manage to get rid of your old one without the tug on your conscience that it may just end up in the bin. Also, upcycles don't necessarily have to be exciting; they could be as simple as making a load of plain black scrunchies out of an old black t-shirt. 

So I thought I'd cobble together a little post on where I started and how I'm learning (plus a little look at what I've done so far) for any other budding upcyclers out there.

1. WARDROBE CLEAR OUT // The first thing I did was sort out my current wardrobe; where I would usually make three piles (keep/sell/donate) I made four - keep/sell/donate and upcycle. I found that I managed to reduce both my sell and donate piles drastically by adding in the upcycle option. In my upcycling pile was a mish mash of clothes that just needed a bit of tweaking, clothes I thought I could make into something else and fabrics I liked that I thought would make good scrunchies/accessories.

2. PLAN // Once I had all the clothes I wanted to do something with I sorted through them to come up with concrete (sort of) plans of what I wanted to do with some of them. I started with three things; a plain grey dress that I wanted to make into a co-ord, an old shirt of my boyfriend's that I wanted to make into a blouse and an old skirt that I wanted to try making into a bucket hat.

3. PRACTICE // I didn't fancy biting off more than I could chew so before I even attempted any of the above I scrubbed up on my sewing skills (and knowledge) a little. I did a bit of reading, watched some tutorials and then started off by making small things like scrunchies, face masks and a tote bag. This helped me get used to my sewing machine as well, although I did sew some scrunchies by hand so you definitely don't need a sewing machine to upcycle your clothes (it just makes things a bit easier and quicker!).

4. TAKING IT SLOW // Seeing as I don't actually have that much time to sew I don't have much choice other than to take it slow, but doing one thing at a time - for example sewing the sleeves on the shirt - then leaving it and coming back another day seems to work quite well for me. It means I can really concentrate on the job in hand (in this case, the sleeves) without my motivation or concentration waning.

5. THE FINISHED PRODUCTS // I've popped some pictures of the finished products in this post; let me know if you'd like me to go into any more detail about what I did with them! Remember there are also heaps of simpler upcycling projects you can do, some of which don't even involve a sewing machine; cutting the hems off the bottom of jeans/shorts to make them raw, changing up the buttons on a garment or dyeing something a different colour.

Have you ever upcycled clothes?

Amy x


  1. I've never tried to upcycle clothes but I'd be interested in trying. I've just never been that good at anything to do with sewing!

    Corinne x

    1. I didn't think I was either, but there's so much stuff you can do that's actually quite simple :) xx

  2. Ooh this is such a fun process! I started sewing a few years ago and sadly drifted away from it, but I can imagine how much fun it must be to give pieces in your wardrobe new life! :) x

    1. Yes it's so rewarding - plus you get new clothes for free :) x


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