Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Upcycling clothes

We've been doing a bit of upcycling round here. Clothes that have caught Venetia's eye in a Charity Shop, clothes that were huge bargains, but which were 'grown up' clothes. She frequently likes grown up clothes, and they're sometimes not the most suitable or it's not easy to see how to adapt them (and so often she loves grown up shoes, and so far I haven't come up with any way of adapting them!), but we've had a couple recently which were very obviously adaptable.

First up this top:

The neck has a tie, so can be made plenty small enough just by gathering it up more fully. All I needed to do was snip out a section from the sleeve down to the bottom on each side, sew two quick seams...

And all of a sudden it's perfect for Venetia.

And then this top...

As you can see, it fits reasonably well, apart from the sleeves! So I just chopped them off...

I decided to chop off a good chunk to:

  1. Give the top a half sleeve look to be slightly different.
  2. Give us more of the fabric to then play around with to create matching accessories.

So here is just one sleeve opened out fully, two of them actually provide a good amount of fabric:

We decided to turn them into a bag and Venetia wanted to make it. Plan A for the strap was some bright pink wool crocheted into a long thin strip.. My extremely limited crochet skills are just about up to this, but my teaching crochet skills were hopeless and I couldn't help Venetia to get the hang of it. Plan B was to take double strands of the wool and Venetia could plait them. She's pretty good with plaiting her hair, but she found the wool much more fiddly and struggled to get it 'even' enough to meet her own quality control standards. Unfortunately she wouldn't let me do either for her, and demanded a Plan C. Eventually I came up with cutting thin strips of fabric which she found much easier to plait satisfactorily:

They frayed very slightly, but thankfully she didn't mind, and she even let me zigzag stitch across the plaits to secure them.

The bag fabric is quite thin so we decided to 'line' the bag with some wool to give it a bit of extra weight. And Venetia started off by sewing a couple of small pieces of wool together to create a tab closure. I managed to persuade her to let me sew a button hole on to this.

My machine had the right colour thread in it, and Venetia's machine was completely buried in a muddle so I took the lazy option and let her use my machine - something I could regret since she loved it!
Then we pinned the fabric and the wool right sides together. And tucked the 'tab' and the strap in place in the middle of this sandwich, pointing down so that they're hidden in the fabric. Sorry, I could have sworn I'd taken a photo of this but it was nowhere to be found.

Venetia just sewed along the top of this to secure everything, and then we flipped the fabric the right way round to show the tab and straps neatly in place.

Our fabric didn't seem to fray badly and I didn't want everything to get too bulky for Venetia, so she just sewed the top side. But if your fabric did fray and you wanted it a bit neater inside the bag and weren't worried about bulk, then you could sew 3 sides together and then turn it the right way around to create neat sides inside the bag.

Venetia sewed the other side of the bag in the same way, but without the tab and the strap obviously, and then I pinned both sides of the bag together for her (right sides together again) and she sewed around 3 sides - not the top!

She flipped it the right way out again, sewed on a button for that tab, and here it is finished.

And now with the top:

It's not too easy to see in the photos, but when I turned over a very narrow hem on the cut off sleeves, I sewed a fairly tight little zigzag stitch to secure it and create a 'frilled' effect to the sleeve. It looks quite effective.

And we had a little extra fabric that wasn't needed for the bag - I made a quick hair scrunchie with one piece and Venetia has plans to turn the last little piece into a small, coin purse.

I do like upcycling clothes, so often it's really quick and easy to do and yet it satisfies a creative itch perfectly, and you're left with something practical at the end too.



  1. This is just awesome, and Venetia looks pretty thrilled about it all. Love seeing her work away at the sewing machine. Reece is still sitting on my lap to sew :)

  2. That's brilliant. I love the stripy top. Totally something I would have worn at her age. And making the bag out of the leftover is genius.

  3. I love upcycling clothes- it was like a gift when I had girls so I could turn all of my old favorite tops (you know- the ones that don't work for you, but the fabric is too awesome to give away so you throw it into your sewing stash to do 'something' with later) into stuff for them!

  4. YOU are a genius!! Both up-cycles turned out so adorable! I am just sitting here amazed at how cute both outfits look. Seriously, I am never going to enter a thrift again with the same eyes!!!

  5. If I couldn only have a quarter of your creativity! What a wonderful idea to make a purse out of all that fabric in the sleeves of that top!

  6. Wow! I'd love to follow you around for a day.....or two....and see if any of your creativity rubs off, on me.


Please post a comment, I love to hear from you!