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12 Ways to Upcycle Your Old Clothes

Trending on Gumtree

Do you ever wish you could take an old t-shirt and turn it into something new? In this article, let Gumtree run you through some top tips and tricks for upcycling your clothing items into something you'll love to wear. So whether it's tie-dyeing a stained t-shirt or upcycling tired jeans into cute shorts, get ready for our ultimate list of ideas to inspire you.

👚 Why should you upcycle clothes?

Every year, millions of tons of clothing are sent to landfills around the UK. We can help the environment by thinking of creative ways to keep wearing these clothes for longer and reusing them for different upcycling clothes projects.

👚 How can I upcycle my clothes?
You can upcycle your clothes in many ways. This could be as simple as using fabric paint or markers on an old t-shirt that has lost its design. Or, you could take on a larger project by using pieces of clothing from different items and combining them into an original garment.

👚 Is upcycling fashion sustainable?
There will always be clothes available to upcycle. By keeping them out of landfill, you’ll be helping the environment. Plus, you can find tons of raw materials to work with, from lace to leather.

➡️ Upcycling t-shirts

1. Lace trim
Fall back in love with an old t-shirt by sewing a lace trim onto the hem or sleeves. It’ll look like a radically different piece that you’ll want to get many more wears out of. Adding lace is also an easy way to add some extra length to a top or dress that’s on the short side.

2. Tie-dye t-shirt
If you’ve accidentally spilled something staining on your favourite t-shirt or top, you can give it a new lease of life by tie-dying it. You’ll simply tie some elastic bands in bunches along your item, then dip it into coloured dye. This creates a unique pattern that’ll disguise the stains.

3. Tea towels
Old clothes can be made into practical things, too, like reusable tea towels. Simply cut out a rectangle or square from your fabric, then sew a hem around the edge to stop it from fraying. You can use these creations instead of single-use kitchen paper to mop up spillages, then pop them in the wash.

4. Reusable shopping bag
With just an old t-shirt, you can make a shopping bag to use time and time again. All you need to do is draw and cut out the shape you want your bag to be, sew the wrong sides together, then turn it inside out. You can then cut out a handle. To make the bag expandable for filling with bulky produce items, simply cut small, uniform slits in straight lines all over the main sections – just don’t make them so big that your lemons and onions go tumbling.

5. Make-up removal pads
Another handy thing you can fashion from an old cotton shirt is a set of reusable make-up removal pads. Simply cut out circles or squares of fabric, then sew them together to replace commercial cotton pads or balls.

6. Cushion cover
From polka dots to stripes, patterned shirts make striking cushion covers. Better yet, they’re easy to make in a matter of minutes and you can find lots of tutorials online. If you don’t want to keep the cushion for yourself, you could always give it to a loved one as a thoughtful handmade gift for their home.

7. Embroidered motifs
One way to transform a plain t-shirt is by embroidering a slogan or motif onto it. With just a needle, some thread, a stabilising fabric and an embroidery hoop, you can sew any design onto your clothing – perhaps you’ll choose a pretty flower or you may prefer a witty phrase or meaningful message.

8. Shirt dress
It’s easy to transform a men’s t-shirt that has seen better days into a stylish summer dress. You can play around with the design to make a lightweight piece that’s uniquely yours. Depending on your sewing skills, you could go one step further and turn a shirt into a structured peplum dress using a pattern.

➡️ Upcycling sweaters

9. Statement sweater
Express yourself using iron-on letters to add words to an old sweater. There’s no sewing involved, so you can create a whole new piece of clothing with your own slogan in just a few minutes.

10. Shaped patches
If you’re wondering how to fix holes in clothes, you might want to consider sewing some patches on them. A hole in a top or pair of trousers can soon be covered up with a patch of scrap material from a sweater. You can get creative by choosing a fun pattern or shape for your patch.

➡️ Upcycling old jeans 👖

11. Denim shorts
There are many ways to upcycle denim. Once you’ve cut the legs off your old jeans, you can either leave them with frayed edges for a distressed look or sew a hem for something neater and longer-lasting. For an extra-special touch, consider using patterned scrap fabric to create new pockets or cover up the existing ones.

➡️ Even clothing scraps can be upcycled...

12. DIY scrunchies
You can upcycle fabric scraps left over from sewing projects by turning them into hair accessories. With some simple sewing and elastic, you could make a scrunchie or headband. You can even turn extra fabric into a hair bow in just a few minutes.

✂️ How do you upcycle clothes without a sewing machine? There are loads of simple ways to upcycle clothing without a sewing machine. You could:

- change over buttons
- cut off the sleeves and collars of an old shirt
- use fun iron-on decals
- create designs with iron-on tape

Feeling inspired to upcycle old clothes? Take a look at our advice article on beginner-friendly sewing machines, then get started by picking up a second-hand sewing machine from Gumtree. Before you know it, you could be getting requests from friends and family for your new upcycled fashion designs.

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