Upcycling your clothes can breathe new life into your wardrobe, allowing you to enjoy new styles in a sustainable way. By adopting a DIY mindset and learning a few crafty techniques, you can take a worn, damaged, or simply outdated piece and turn it into a trendy, unique piece. Making your own clothing doesn’t have to be intimidating–because you’re starting from an existing garment, DIY upcycling gives you an accessible way to create custom clothing. From making small adjustments to using the fabric to make something completely new, you have endless opportunities for transforming your clothing.
Next time you want to clear out your closet, channel your creativity and look at your old clothes from a new perspective instead of taking them straight to the donation bin. Take a look at these strategies and techniques for enhancing your closet DIY-style.
Choosing an upcycling option that doesn’t involve sewing is a low-stress way to DIY your clothing without having to worry about making neat stitches or following complex patterns. No-sew projects can be as simple as turning a pair of well-loved straight leg jeans into comfortable cutoff shorts, so you can start slow and experiment more as you gain confidence.
If you have a pair of sharp fabric scissors, you can crop pants, skirts, and tops to be more comfortable for the spring and summer. Before you get to chopping, try on the garment and measure the perfect place to cut. It’s best to give yourself some extra room, since you can always trim off a little bit extra as you go.
You can also try techniques like t-shirt weaving, a popular no-sew upcycling technique where you cut strips into a garment and then use basic weaving techniques to create fun patterns. This method works best on fabrics with a tight weave that don’t fray easily, like stretchy cotton blends and spandex. As the name implies, this method is popular with t-shirts, but don’t let wording stop you–you can use weaving on turtlenecks, jersey dresses, and even leggings.
If your garment has good bones and just needs a little something extra, a DIY embellishment may be just what you need. Embroidering a cute pattern along the neckline of a top, the hem of a dress, or the pocket of your pants can elevate your look and add a subtle, one-of-a-kind touch. Don’t worry if you’re not an embroidering expert–basic embroidery techniques are typically easy to take out if you change your mind, make a minor mistake, or want to adjust the pattern.
Looking for a different way to embellish your wardrobe? Grab some fabric paint and a paintbrush and let your imagination run wild. You can use stencils to guide your painting or create a custom freeform design. Fabric painting is especially popular for pieces made of sturdy fabrics like jean shorts, denim jackets or thick men's hoodies, but your only limit is your own creativity. Beloved garments with a small stain can easily be revived by painting a cute design over the discoloration. Painting colorful patterns adds interest to basic garments that are just a bit too plain for your current tastes.
Ready to dip your toes into more advanced DIY techniques? Try your hand at tailoring your own clothes. If you have a piece that you absolutely love but doesn’t fit quite right, taking in the seams or adjusting the hem may be just what you need. By using a well-fitting garment as a guide, you can measure precise lines of where to take in or let out the seams. Sew along your guidelines, cut off the excess, and voila–that baggy dress is now a perfect fit.
But what if you don’t have an existing piece to guide you? Never fear–you can become your own dress form and pin the piece to your liking. Put on the garment inside out, then use safety pins to create a tailored fit that matches your measurements.
Not all of your clothes are destined to be upcycled into another outfit, but you can still use them for DIY projects. For clothing that’s in good condition but not quite wearable, consider repurposing the fabric for pillowcases, patchwork curtains, or tote bags.
Cut your most tattered clothing into strips and use them to weave potholders, rugs, or platnholders. You can even just cut your heavily-worn pieces into squares to create rags for messy cleanups in your kitchen or garage. By finding a use for even your most well-loved scraps, you can bring sustainable upcycling into all areas of your home.
Whenever you’re feeling creative, pick out an old piece of clothing you want to transform and try one of these techniques. By upcycling an old piece of clothing, you can enjoy the feeling of enjoying something new without spending a dollar.