Fabulous Ideas for Upcycling Your Clothes

Are your closet door straining at the hinges? Do you need a pick and a miner’s lamp to search for your clothes? Do you give up deciding what to wear and resort to old favorites because you just have too many options? If your clothing collection is overwhelming you, maybe it’s time you take action to revamp your wardrobe and make use of all those hundreds of worn-out, unfashionable or boring items. Of course, you could just donate them to the local thrift shop. However, with a little imagination, you can upcycle all kinds of items to create fabulous new clothing—or even something totally different. Plain colored items can often be easily dyed, decorated with fabric paints or washable embellishments, or be jazzed up in other ways.

How to upcycle an old T-shirt


There are a million things you can do with an old t-shirt. If the color has faded on a plain shirt, it’s a simple task to dye it, either by hand or in your washing machine (just be sure to rinse the machine well afterwards!). Use fabric paints and washable embellishments to design your own decoration, or try a printable decal—you can buy kits to let you do this from your own artwork using your home printer. Get a bit bolder with tie-dye or batik printing if you like! It’s simpler than you think. Try some hand sewing to alter the shape, such as adding decorative gathers on the side of an oversized tee or adding lace edging to the waist and sleeves to make the item prettier. For a grungy look, experiment with cutting or slashing—a rotary quilt cutter is great for this, but you can also use sharp scissors. Weave strips into a braid and add a buckle for a soft belt. Cut into panels or strips to create a new shirt or skirt, or combine logo t-shirts to make a patchwork quilt.

How to upcycle jeans


Denim jeans come in a fabulous variety of blue shades. It’s simple to cut and fray the legs to make pedal pushers or little shorts, and you can also add rips or abrasions for added effect. Cut the denim into triangles or squares, and design yourself a mini-skirt—just measure around your waist, measure from your belly button to your thighs, and be sure of the correct size and length. Use cut-off legs to create casual bags, sew multiple pockets onto a colorful background panel for a fun organizer, pencil case or place mat, or weave denim strips together to make a beautiful rag rug.

How to upcycle a sweater


If your favorite sweater has developed holes, don’t despair – just upcycle it! Naturally, you need to oversew any raw edges well so the knit doesn’t unravel, but it’s easy to cut panels and sew them together to make an item like flared skirts. You can even combine sweaters to make something entirely new. Sweater arms make great leg or arm warmers, or you can add suede panels to make slipper socks (making sure the soles are non-slip for safety). Combine a sweater and fabric to create a dress with knitted bodice. Knitted sweaters can also be pressed into service as a tea cosy, potholder or fancy cushion cover.

How to upcycle socks


If you wear a hole in your sock, it’s no longer the end. Modern trends dictate that socks don’t have to match any more, so you could simply wear individual socks from two pairs, but there’s plenty more you can do with a humble sock. Brighten up tired cotton socks by re-dying and adding tiny lace or braid edging—try to match your existing color schemes. Meanwhile, long socks can make cosy arm or leg warmers to keep you toasty in the winter. And if your socks are beyond wearing, you can still use them! Pamper your feet with nourishing foot lotion before bed, and wear old socks to protect your sheets. Even more creatively, cut the legs off wooly socks to insulate a drinks bottle (keeping the contents hot or cold), make a child’s hand puppet or toy, or make wearable dusters to help when cleaning ornaments.

The internet is teeming with brilliant ideas for upcycling clothing, so why not revitalize your wardrobe today? You’ll be amazed at what you can create.