Recycling Old Clothes into New Styles

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If you have some basic sewing skills, such as ripping out seams and hemming, you can upcycle old clothing into something new. This article gives ideas for turning a dress into a skirt, lengthening a too-short skirt, and turning an old shirt into a new halter top. It also explains two ways of widening pants; adding fabric to the side seams or to the back waistband.

Recycling Old Clothes into New Styles

Restyling old clothes is a fun and economical way to update your style, which used to be a common method of adapting an existing wardrobe to keep up with new fashions. But with the shift to mass-produced clothing, most people tend to throw away or donate any items they’ve gotten tired of instead of being creative with what they already have.

Almost any type of clothing can be changed into something new. But if you’re combining two articles of clothing into one, use fabrics that have the same type of washing instructions. Your search for useable items doesn’t have to be limited to just your clothes closet. Items from the linen closet, such as pillowcases and sheets, can be turned into attractive apparel by a person who has some imagination and basic sewing skills.

Instead of wasting resources and spending more money next time you’re tired of what’s in your closet, try one of the following projects to create something new to wear.

Halter Tops:

One of the easiest projects that require little fabric is halter tops. They can be made from t-shirts that don’t have a flattering fit, old blouses, or even large embroidered napkins. Trace the outline of a top you already enjoy wearing to get a rough pattern for your new halter. Use the pattern to cut out the front and back from the material you want to use. Finish the neckline with bias tape to make it look neat, and sew ribbings or strings of complementary colors on the shoulders and under the arms to hold the halter top together.

Dresses to Skirts:

Another very simple project is turning a dress into a skirt. This project works especially well with a dress that’s seamed at the waistline. Just rip the seam to separate the top from the bottom. Fold the top of the skirt over to create the new waistband and sew, leaving room for either a drawstring or elastic to fit through. The bottom is already hemmed. Voila! A brand new skirt.

Lengthen a Skirt that’s too Short:

Lengthening from the top, rather than the bottom usually gives a better-finished project than trying to add to the bottom of a too-short skirt.  The length can be achieved by adding a yoke. Remove the waistband and zipper if there is one, and rip out the side seams. Use the top part of the skirt for a guide to making a paper pattern for the new yoke. Make sure you allow a 1/2 inch seam on the yoke and the skirt where they will be joined.

The fabric can be the same as the skirt if you’re turning a dress into a skirt, or a contrasting fabric can be used for an interesting look. For example, a denim skirt can be lengthened using a cotton yoke. After you have your yoke cut out, sew the front and back together at the side seams, and then sew the original skirt together at the side seams. Attach the yoke to the skirt and sew together, then make the new waistline as described in the previously mentioned project.

Making Pants Larger:

If you have a favorite pair of pants that have gotten a little too snug to wear, they can be made wider by adding a piece of suitable fabric to the side seams. If more room is needed, add a triangular piece of fabric with a 1/4 inch seam to the back. To add a little extra room, rip the seams out of the sides of the pants, and insert a strip of fabric into each side, before sewing back up and re-hemming the bottoms. Matching color can be used, but a patterned fabric also works for this type of widening.

If adding fabric to the sides isn’t sufficient,  measure your waist and the waistline of the pants to figure out how many more inches you need, and then cut a suitably sized triangle of fabric out to add to the pants. Cut out the back of the pants and place the triangle of fabric in the center back seam, with the wide part fitting into the belt and the tapered point toward the crotch. This alteration method works best with pants made of solid color fabric and a triangle cut of the same color.

Recycling clothes requires a bit more patience and ingenuity than following a pattern and using fresh material, but the results are rewarding and one of a kind. With some practice, you’ll find new uses for all kinds of items that have been sitting unworn in your closet, and you’ll save money too.

Recycling Old Clothes into New Styles

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