5 Easy Sewing Projects to Upcycle and Restyle Old Clothing

This post is by guest author Alex Moore… scroll down to know more about him.  Thanks Alex for contributing to My Handmade Space.



With the year quickly passing by it’s easy to get caught up in the doldrums of relaxing and unwinding before the weather changes all over again. If you want to keep up on your hobbyist skills, however, now is a great time to hop back into your passions and spend a little time honing them!

Whether you’re already an experienced seamstress or just need a handful of ideas to nudge you down the path to creativity, here are five simple sewing projects to get you on the road to your next masterpiece.

What You Will Need

Before beginning it’s important to take stock of your available sewing space, materials and even your skills. Knowing the limitations of your budget and your abilities is key in taking measured steps towards sewing proficiency. Make sure you’ve got a quiet place to work, with plenty of space to stretch out your projects, and sewing accoutrements to ease the process.

You can complete these projects by hand, but a sewing machine will speed you up a fair bit even if you’ve never used one before. It’s also important to choose the right machine, as your grandmother’s antique machine is not an option. If you’re looking for the best sewing machine for beginners, you need to make sure that it doesn’t have complicated features and is easy to learn how to use.

With that aside, here are five fun projects to turn your existing garments into brand new clothes and decorations alike!


5 Easy Sewing Projects to Upcycle and Restyle Old Clothing

1. Turn a Frumpy Dress into a Stylish Shirt!

Kristin of Craft Leftovers shares her experience in turning an outdated thrift shop shirt into something current and fashionable. It’s an easy project for all skill levels, as most dresses can simply be trimmed off above the hem, re-hemmed, and converted into a blouse quite quickly. Any shirt scraps left over can be easily converted into a fabric band to enhance the shirt’s fit, too!



5 Easy Sewing Projects to Upcycle and Restyle Old Clothing

2.  Alternatively, Turn an Oversized Shirt into a Dress!

Just don’t expect to turn your newly trimmed shirt from the first step back into a dress, because you’ll need a fairly large shirt to pull this one off!

Starting with a large t-shirt, you’ll want to mark the sleeves to find where your shoulder actually begins and re-sew them into a more flattering fit. You could leave it at this point if you’d like a very simple job, but you can take it a step further and add elastic bands to get neat scrunching effects on the waistband and sleeves to really take it to the next level. Don’t forget to consider some cute appliques!


5 Easy Sewing Projects to Upcycle and Restyle Old Clothing

3. Transform an Old Sweater into a Cute pillow

For this one, all you’ll need is an old sweater, a pillow insert, some buttons and thread that matches your sweater. It’s quite simple, and it makes a great holiday gift, too!


Before getting into cutting, you need to fit and measure the material. Afterwards, cut the sweater slightly larger on the back than the front to accommodate the pillow properly. Essentially, you just pin the new squares together, sew them up, insert the pillow and then finish the seal off. If you want, you can leave the bottom open so you can easily slip it on and off the pillow.


Feel free to add your buttons at this stage, unless you like how the pillow looks already. The rest of the sweater can be transformed into other sewing projects, too.


5 Easy Sewing Projects to Upcycle and Restyle Old Clothing


4. Prepare for the School Year with a Pencil Zipper Case

If you want something smaller to practice on and prepare for the upcoming school year at the same time, you can knock two goals out at the same time with a home-customized zippered pencil case.

If your child has an old blanket or a shirt they love but have outgrown, what better way to pay tribute than with a little upcycling? If you can stitch lining material to a fabric and attach a zipper, you’ve already got all the skills necessary to construct a bit of custom school gear your kids won’t soon forget!



5 Easy Sewing Projects to Upcycle and Restyle Old Clothing


5. Turn a Men’s Dress Shirt into a Handy Apron

Turning a shirt into an apron is not a difficult project at all, just make sure it’s not a shirt anyone’s currently using!

Snag an XL men’s dress shirt and remove the sleeves and the back, making sure the hems are left intact for stability’s sake. One of the removed cuffs becomes a pocket for the apron and strips of the back material are converted into the tie-offs to keep your apron on, and you’ve got a fully functional apron on the cheap!

Use more of the back material for a ruffle along the bottom edge or leave it as-is. No exterior material except thread required!




As you can see, crafting something cute and new out of clothing and material you’d never use otherwise can save you money and give you unique pieces for your trouble.

Instead of plopping down a big stack of cash on a new dress, why not make one yourself? You’ll get the exact style and fit you want at a crazy low cost, and best of all, you’ll be the only one with a dress exactly like it. From there, you can take your new skills on to even handier sewing projects. Simple, no?


5 Easy Sewing Projects to Upcycle and Restyle Old Clothing

About the Author
Alex Moore

Alex Moore is a passionate writer and a self-taught seamster who has always been fascinated with arts and crafts, especially sewing. He has now proudly taken his sewing skills to various reputable publications where he contributes as much and as often as possible. You can learn more about Alex on Twitter.