When I got started sewing in my teens, my grandma encouraged me to work with old t-shirts and pillowcases. Let me tell you – I thought she was being silly, but it was so smart! I made a mess of so many projects back then and I’m very happy that I wasn’t using my babysitting money to buy fabric!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with upcycling, it’s simply the process of reusing old things to make better new things. Upcycling is great, especially if you’re new to sewing.
You’ll be able to make neat, useful things while spending little or no money on materials. The other great thing is that if you make mistakes, it’s no big deal since you didn’t have to invest in the materials.
Today, we’ve collected a few simple upcycle sewing ideas to get you started. You’ll need a few old t-shirts, a basic sewing kit, and a sewing machine. (If you need help choosing a sewing machine, I created a guide for beginners.)
Let’s take a look.
This is a great starter project for anyone new to either sewing or upcycling. The best part is that it can be completed in under 10 minutes!
For this project, all you’ll need is an old t-shirt, some one inch elastic, and matching thread. The bigger the shirt is, the fuller your skirt will be.
- Determine how long you want your skirt to be, then add 1 ½ inches. Measure from the bottom of the shirt up. You’ll end up cutting off the top portion with the sleeves and neck hole.
- Turn your skirt inside out.
- Fold down 1 ½ inches on the top and pin it in place.
- Using your sewing machine, create a seam 1 ¼ inches from the top all around the top, leaving a 2-inch opening. This is where your elastic will go.
- Cut a piece of elastic the length of your waist. Pin a safety pin on one end and thread it through the casing made in the previous step. Make sure the elastic is straight, with no twists.
- Sew the ends of the elastic together. Make sure they overlap by 1 inch and use a zigzag stitching.
- Sew up the 2-inch gap in the casing and iron the waistband for a finished look.
If you’d like to add some flare to your favorite T-shirt, consider spicing it up with a little lace. This project takes well under 10 minutes and can add a fresh new look to your wardrobe.
All you need is a solid color T-shirt, a length of lace 3-5 inches wide, and matching thread. This project couldn’t be simpler!
- Lay you T-shirt flat with the front facing up. Line up your lace in the middle of your shirt, going from the neck to the bottom.
- Pin you lace in place. Cut it to length, leaving a ½ inch at the top and bottom to fold over for a finished look.
- Simply sew the lace in place and admire your newly upcycled shirt!
Do you have a shirt with a design you love that no longer fits? Why not turn it into a pillow. This is a really easy project. I’ve added fringe to give the pillow a little flare, but you can omit it if you want.
This is a really easy project. I’ve added fringe to give the pillow a little flare, but you can omit it if you want.
- Cut the shirt. You’ll want to cut out the design that you want your pillow to feature, cutting through both layers of fabric. It can be square or rectangular, depending on your tastes.
- Pin the pieces of fabric together with you fringe in-between them. Again, you’ll end up with a square or rectangle.
- Sew a ¼ inch seam around the edges, leaving a 3 inch opening for stuffing.
- Flip the pillow inside out.
- Fill it with stuffing and stitch it closed. You can use plain polyester fiber filling from your local fabric store, or even Walmart. The polyester filling will keep the prices down, but you can also go for a Down/Poly blend that is a great value.
These a few easy upcycling projects to get you started. The number of upcycling projects you can do is only limited by your own imagination. Once you get the hang of it, you can begin to develop you own upcycling projects with whatever materials you have around.
There are so many different things you can create! What are some of your upcycled sewing projects?