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The basics of upcycling your clothes, including shirts with holes

Got old clothes that you no longer wear? Rather than throwing them out, check out our upcycling clothing ideas to breathe new life into your clothes!


Reading Time: 5 minutes


Got old clothes that you no longer wear? Instead of throwing them out, why not see if you can reuse them yourself? Old clothes can be repurposed as fun accessories, outfits or home furnishings if you know how – just follow this quick summary of how to upcycle old clothes.

For most upcycled clothing projects, you’ll need some basic sewing skills, but you don’t need to be a pro: a simple running stitch will see you through!

The basics of upcycled clothing

Before beginning to upcycle, you’ll want to wash your clothing, as fabric can be harder to care for once it’s been incorporated into a project. You may even want to snip the care label off and keep it somewhere safe before you get started, so that you always have it to refer back to. It’s also a good idea to pay close attention to marks: you may want to use a pre-treatment like Omo Ultimate Liquid on tough stains. Just make sure to carefully read the washing instructions and test a new product on the small area before usage.

Once your fabric is washed, make sure you have a sharp pair of scissors: lots of upcycling projects involve cutting through fabric. Sharp scissors will effortlessly make your work look neater but do take care and keep sharp object out of reach of children!

It’s important to plan out your upcycled clothing project and to assemble the appropriate tools, but don’t worry too much if things go wrong. It happens to all of us, and the end result may surprise you in the best possible way.

Upcycling clothes: Ideas

Once you have your tools assembled, begin with something simple. Reworking clothing that you’ve fallen out of love with is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to switch up your current look. Here are three accessory projects to gently ease you into upcycling:

  1. Hair clips/corsage detail: the simplest way to make these is to cut your fabric into 15-25cm strips. Fold in half, and roll tightly into a rose shape. Put a couple of stiches through the base of your ‘flower’, and then it’s ready to glue onto a broach, hair grip, bag or pin. These also make cute additions to home furnishings, like curtains or pillows. This is the perfect way to upcycle old clothes like shirts with holes as you can make many roses from one item of clothing.

  2. Wool mittens: it’s a shame to waste good quality, warm fabric if you have a sweater lying unworn. Instead, make it into mittens! Use chalk to outline the shape of your hands, leaving plenty of room for a hem. Stitch the two halves together, then turn inside out and enjoy feeling toasty warm in your new mitts!

  3. Stylish grocery bag: upcycle t shirts into easily packable, reusable grocery bags. You can simply make a plain drawstring bag by cutting off the sleeves, then sewing the holes up, but making small cuts in the material creates a distinctly more stylish finished product. Plus, no one will notice a thing if you’ve got shirts with holes in them already!

Beyond making something to update your look, all of these ideas make great gifts for environmentally-conscious friends.

These tips work especially well if you have something in fabric you still love, but the style’s no longer your thing. Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration for what to do with old clothes and can have fun experimenting with your own home furnishing and outfit style.

  • Make sure you have the right tools on hand, like sharp scissors or a good unpicker.

  • Don’t be afraid to be creative: this is your project.

  • Be generous with sizing, as it’s easier to make clothing smaller than having to let it out.

Originally published