sewing small talk: do you upcycle?

Hello friends!

I noticed the other day when surfing Instagram that a lot of you have been up-cycling garments to great effect. And you’re not alone. I recently stumbled across the company Rentrayage, which is upcycling clothing for the fashion industry, one piece at a time.  The re-invented pieces are quite creative and innovative, so take a look!

Which brings me to my question this week: have you ever re-made a garment?

have you tried upcycling?If so, tell us about it! Was it a complete re-make or a smaller alteration? If you haven’t tried upcycling, is it something you’d like to try?




  1. Mary Inchauste

    I think about up-cycling clothing and fabrics, but in practice don’t actually do it very often. Likely because I have lots of fabric in queue for projects, beyond the time available. And, once many years ago, I used some recycled fabric in a quilt. The recycled fabric wore out faster than the newer fabric & had to be patched.

    Most of my “remade” garments were done to salvage a project gone wrong in some way, as to not waste the nice fabric and sewing energy. Such as a dress cut too short, got a very creative contrast border on the hem, plus touches of the contrast on the collar. Frequently the “save” was more interesting than the planned garment. (I taught my daughters to sew, so there were lots of learning opportunities.)

  2. Sarah Lippitt Houston

    I would LOVE to upcycle clothing! I have done just a little….like turning cute curtains into a child’s skirt….and an old tablecloth into a door curtain on cafe rods at both top and bottom. But to have an adventure with something more challenging I would need some guidance!

  3. Barbara Kugler

    I have remade a blouse for myself from a thrifted button up men’s shirt. The fabric was in very good shape and I used the front edges as is as well as the short sleeves. I used a pattern I had made before successfully. It came out really well.

  4. Angela

    I had a silky blouse with long sleeves, one of which caught on something at work and shredded the elbow section. I couldn’t repair the sleeve, so I removed the sleeves and used them as a pattern for new sleeves in a lace fabric. It turned out very cool – paisley print satin blouse with off-white lace sleeves. Sadly I no longer have it,or even photos, but it was a proud maker moment for sure.

  5. Diann

    Yes, I combined my mother, my aunt and my wedding gowns to create a new wedding gown for my daughter when she got married. I used the beautiful lace from my mother’s 1956 Lace wedding dress to make the bodice. The 5” wide lace trim off my aunts 1962 Hoop style wedding dress to edge her veil. I used the very full net underskirt from my aunts dress to make a slip and The silky lining from my 1977 dress on the inside of the netting slip from my aunts dress to make it soft against her skin. I can’t believe my aunt wore that rough Scratchy net all day against her skin. The skirt was made from new raw silk. She was beautiful in her new dress. No train just a very full beautiful dress. If I could figure out how to add pictures I would. To show you my new creation.

    1. Sarah Lippitt Houston

      WOW! That sounds like a beautiful dress! I wish we could upload pictures!

  6. When the kids were little I found it easy to make a pair of jeans using the After School or Art Museum patterns from a pair of my husband’s jeans and cutting around the holes.
    I’ve definitely”upcycled” the kid’s trousers into shirts when the knees have worn through but the pants still fit.
    I don’t like to cut up garments that are still fit to wear as I prefer to hand them on, or send them to charity in the hope that someone else will enjoy them.
    But, having said that, we went away last week and my husband forgot his swimmers. We bought the only pair of boardshorts in town. They were very cheap, and really, really ugly! I’ll be cutting them up and using small sections of the ugly print as panels amongst more tasteful solid fabric to make more boardshorts for my son.

  7. Renee Lee

    I up-cycled a skirt that was gifted to me. It was pink with large embroidered flowers and butterflies along the hem- not really something I wear, but perfect for my then-5 year old. It was a pretty simple re-make. I made a popover sundress, with the waistband becoming the yoke, and flaring out the pattern to take in as much of the embroidery at the bottom. All I had to add was some bias binding for the straps. My daughter was very pleased, especially with the silky lining that came with the skirt.

  8. teresa Gonzalez

    I have made a lot of things with jeans, and I usually make me some clothes with my 0ld son´s T-shirts. Made handkerchiefs from and old flannel white bed sheet (the best we have), etc. I love reusing old things making with them new clothes.

  9. Judith

    Been doing this for years its nothing new! I used to go to ‘jumble sales’ (anyone remember those), and buy large sized clothing in material I liked and make clothes for myself or my children.
    Bedsheets or duvet covers are also useful to look at.

  10. Lydia

    I don’t do as much upcycling as I wish I did. Although, years ago I did make my prom dress out of a previous prom dress and a used bridesmaid dress. I wanted it to look like Cinderella’s dress with the layered skirts, so I split the front of the dress and put the skirt of the bridesmaid dress under. I added some decorative cording as well.

    I have also upcycled a flat sheet (whose match was long gone) into a flowy pajama shirt tunic. I was making a top and wanted to check the location of the bust darts before I actually cut into my main fabric.

  11. Sarah

    Gosh, all the time! My wedding dress was a complete restyle of a gown a couple of sizes too big but made from the most beautiful silk crepe and lace, my daughter’s live in dresses and tops made from my husband’s old work shirts and I frequently repurpose items found in charity shops for myself. We also wear old damaged duvet covers more than anyone probably realises!

  12. I have been up cycling for decades. I bought a slubbed silk dirndl skirt at the thrift (I am old enough to have worn a dirndl skirt in my youth), and used the fabric for a straight skirt, wore it for years. I made a dragonfly quilt from old corduroy jeans. I have cut down big sweaters into ones that fit. Made a fancy set of throw pillows from an old prom dress (size 0). I found the perfect fabric for a stash buster quilt in two pillowcases at the thrift store. I alter clothes all the time, turning worn pants into shorts, long sleeve into short sleeve, making vneck out of high necks, mostly converting worn winter clothes at the beginning of summer… all my gardening clothes are rehashed.
    I recently picked up a beautiful tan hand crocheted tablecloth for $10. I am thinking about how to stabilize it and make it into a bed quilt. Too bad I downsized that table that seated 10! May be enough edges left to trim a cloth for my bitty 30×30 table? I am shopping Japanese heater tables, they throw a big quilt over them and stay warm with toes under the low watt heater. Looks delightful.
    I am watching for old prom dresses for a fiber art project.

  13. Dee

    I have been recycling clothing ( handing down ) from one child to another for at least 45 years. Things not in pristine condition have been cut down to be used in quilts. Second hand clothing remake into great memory quilts.

  14. Melony Smith

    Yes! From t-shirts, jeans to pillow cases and sheets

  15. jjjsews

    I bought dresses at a huge discounted price to turn into skirts because I loved the fabric. The fabric would have cost way more. I recently purchased awesome comfortable sheets from a thrift store to make modest skirts and blouses. The fabric washes much better than most fabrics. Years ago, I remade a formal dress I bought for very cheap from a formal rental store into a beautiful gown and 2 of my daughters received ribbons in pageants wearing them. I restyled it for the second daughter. The dress was on the clearance rack. I buy awesome fabric at very low prices and patterns when at their lowest prices (used to be $1.00) and stash them for future projects.

  16. Stephanie

    I love to upcycle! Although I don’t do it as often as the kids get bigger, my stash gets larger, and beautiful new fabric calls out to me to buy it! But I have recycled old jeans into rag quilt bedspreads with flannel for my boys; old dresses my daughter has grown out of into skirts; XL t-shirts on sale at Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, walmart, remaking them into cute t-shirts with ruffles for daughter (lol-is that still considered upcycling?); old t-shirts, knit scraps, leggings & shirts with spandex are turned into girls underwear; spandex shirts on sale at walmart have been made into iceskate boot covers; old scrubs made into kids shorts; and made an ice skating dress and used skirt of an old skort. But my favorite was a little blouse I cut from a cotton nightgown of my mothers and smocked for my 3 yr.old. (My mother was quite big so plenty of fabric!) The fabric had tiny purple flowers all over it and the smocked top turned out adorable! You would never know it use to be a nightgown unless I told you! And of course tiny things like adding ribbon to make jeans longer, making long sleeves into short sleeves, letting down pant hems and re-hemming using a facing, adding a long sleeve to a short sleeve T giving a layered look for a winter T, adding ruffles and embellishment to dress up plain rtw (if that counts).

    Yes, I love the idea of creating something new and different from something old! 😉

  17. Teri Turner

    Years ago when I had small children, I was broke but I had a treadle sewing machine and I used the fabric of used clothes that I got from relatives and friends and jumble sales to make clothing for the kids. I made patterns from a magazine called Enid Gilcrest and learned how to sew. I also taught myself to knit making jumpers and cardigans from old knitwear that I recycled.

  18. I’ve turned a few pairs of ill-fitting jeans into denim skirts for myself. I also once took the usable fabric from a pair of my old worn-out jeans and made a pair of toddler shorts for my niece.

    My favorite re-make, though, is a pair of maternity slacks I made for myself during my first pregnancy. I couldn’t find many work-appropriate maternity pants that I liked and that were long enough for me, but the pants I wear to work almost every day when not pregnant are readily available in thrift shops and online re-sale sites (Banana Republic stretch wool pants – they’re awesome!) So I bought a pair of second-hand non-maternity pants two sizes bigger than I usually wear, picked out the zipper, cut off the waistband (with some extra belly scoop in front) and replaced it with a cotton-spandex jersey waistband with some wide elastic in the top. I’m wearing them again now in my second pregnancy, and they are higher quality and holding up better than any of the RTW maternity clothing I have!

  19. Sue

    I used to upcycle as a teenager,anything from changing sleeve length or adding cuffs and collar to my lbd. Now it is maci dresses to skirts and cutting my dresses down to fit my niece.

  20. I definitely have upcycled a lot in my time! I love reusing materials like sheets, curtains, and bedspreads (I recently made Field Trip pants for Joe from some very soft washed corduroy that I think was a comforter cover or bedspread at some point?), and I also sometimes buy second hand and mend older garments. Probably a third of my own wardrobe was obtained second hand, and some of those items have been altered or mended by me. I also buy second hand for my kids, but they wear out their clothes so quickly, mending doesn’t always seem worth it.

    Lately I noticed there was some noise on Instagram about people buying bigger clothes with the idea of cutting them down for smaller people. The concern was that this might deprive people in larger sizes of good thrifted clothing options. I have done this a few times, and I’ve also cut adult items down for my kids, but I have to say, the items I choose are usually (a) one of many many options being sold (mens’ xl shirts are one of my favorite sources of knits and my stores are overflowing with them) and always in great supply; and (b) often stained or damaged, so I don’t feel bad using them. Obviously the best and highest use for a used piece of clothing is to be used, as is, by another person rather than cut down or totally redone. I would feel guilty buying a beautiful garment to cut it up, that doesn’t seem like a good use of the resource. But there is often a reason these things are at the thrift store, and I feel like it’s better to do something with them than throw them in the landfill!

    When I first starting sewing Oliver + S patterns for my son, many of his first pairs of shorts came from adult pants we had around the house or I found at thrift stores. Now, when my kids grow out of things, I tend to pass them on to other kids as Shelley notes, but occasionally for a favorite item I will add a band to lengthen them or cut them into shorts or in some cases, I end up using the utterly shredded well-loved clothes as rags! I do love upcycling from a sustainability perspective.

  21. Natalie Fritsche

    I really like the idea of upcycling unwanted clothing. My favorite projects so far has been making School Days coats for my grandsons using lovely, heavy wool from women’s long coats. They were lined in their favorite super hero fabric. I’ve also repurposed clothing to replace the lining in my own favorite coat and a purse!

  22. Sandra Parker

    I think that upcycling clothing is fantastic but I cannot wrap my brain around the clothing sold on the site Rentrayage. The upcycled t-shirts are selling for $125+ and it looks like they cut 2 different shirts and stitched them together but the hems don’t even match!!
    I’m very confused about ALL of the looks on that site and certainly the prices are exorbitant.
    Anyhow, upcycling loved items and giving them new, extended life is wonderful and good for the planet. 🙂

  23. Lisa

    Back when my son was small I used to make him sunny day shorts from men’s shirts (mostly my dad’s)- if I cut it right I could get the pockets already sewn on the back panels! I have refashioned ladies skirts into popover sundresses again and again for my daughters and nieces. Favorite articles of clothing are often reused for patches and pockets, and especially when they were small, the kids would often recall their original clothing when they saw the repurposed bits.

  24. Ellen Bacon

    I have done some repurposing such as cutting down some PJs that I didn’t wear to fit my daughter and resizing curtains for different windows. I am hugely inspired by the refashioners contest from The Makery. Such gorgeous clothes made.

  25. Liz

    Yes! I’ve used my husband’s old work shirts to make a Sailboat Top, a top for me and newborn trousers. I’ve used old jeans to make tote bags. I recently made a pyjama top from a mixture of old clothes, unfinished projects and unused fabric. Re-making clothes is so wonderfully forgiving and inspiring. I love all these items so much more because they are made from old clothes. I’ve got some more old work shirts set aside to make a Breezy Blouse, can’t wait!

Post a comment