'The most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe.'
- Orsola De Castro, Founder of Fashion Revolution
You don't have to make everything from new fabrics. You can use preloved garments. There are many ways you can use your existing wardrobe to make something new.
Continue reading to learn about 5 sewing projects to upcycle and refashion your wardrobe.
TRANSFORM AN OLD OR PRELOVED GARMENT INTO A NEW WARDROBE STAPLE
It doesn't matter if you have a fully handmade wardrobe or even you are just starting out, we all have that items in our wardrobe that we might have only worn once. And there can be many reasons to it. Perhaps the fabric wasn't right for the project. Or you made a wearable toile but you weren't happy with the fit. Whatever the reason, you can use this garment and turn into something new. A dress has plenty of fabric to be turned into a simple top or even skirt.
I made the below dress June last year and only wore it once. The pattern was part of my search for the perfect wrap dress. Unfortunately, this toile - while wearable overall - wasn't the perfect fit. The neckline had quite a gape and I added a snap to keep it closed. Although I absolutely love the fabric, it wasn't right for this project and always felt like a towel dress. So I took the plunge and turned it into my favourite top - the Scout Tee by Grainline Studio. I changed the sleeves to be Tulip Sleeves because I didn't have enough fabric to fit the original sleeve pattern on the fabric. I absolutely love the outcome.
GIVE AN OLD PAIR OF JEANS A SECOND LIFE
Denim is a great fabric to upcycle as it is super durable and even as a beginner, easy to sew. Just make sure you have a thicker universal or even a denim/jeans needle for your sewing machine.
With denim, you can make so many different refashion projects. Previously, I have turned an old pair of jeans into a jeans skirt. I have used some of it for the base of a tote bag as well as a pencil case. So even if you just want to use smaller pieces, they will make your project very unique.
But of course, you can use an entire jeans or multiple pairs to patchwork together. Check out some more inspiration on our Pinterest Board.
TURN A MAN'S SHIRT INTO A CUTE OFF-THE-SHOULDER TOP
During lockdown in May, in one of the many live sew-alongs we turned an old man's shirt into an off-the-shoulder top using shirring elastic.
Because I didn't have another old shirt, I wasn't able to record a how-to at the time. We have since done a bit of a wardrobe clear-out and I have scored another shirt. So I will be busy recording a step by step in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for that!
SHORTEN, LENGTHEN, TAKE IN & LET OUT
This is one the quickest and easiest adjustments you can make. It is less of a refashion but an alteration to suit your style and wardrobe.
To shorten and take in are easier than to lengthen and let out. The latter two you will have to find fabric or appliqué to add. While the other two you take fabric away from the original piece.
To determine how much you would like to shorten a garment, try it on and pin away. Keep in mind, before you cut away the length, how you would like to finish the hem? Take a look at the existing hem and if you like the finish, replicate it. When I shorten trousers or dresses, I like to draw out the new hemline with one colour and then the cutting line in another colour so I don't get confused.
To take in your clothes, apply a similar practice - try it on and pinch out the amount you'd like to take in. Then I baste first, try on again and can make any adjustments if necessary.
To let your clothes out or lengthen is a bit harder since you will need to add fabric and trims. Finding the same fabric will be tricky, so here you can get creative and add a trim or fabric to stand out, rather than trying to match. lace makes a great trim and will give your garment a stunning new look.
Here is one pair of trousers I made as a sample for my Dressmaking Intensive workshop. The sample was made for the photoshoot to show off the original pattern but I never quite liked the wide legs on me, so I decided to taper the legs to suit my style more and I love it.
MEND WITH EMBROIDERY
Mending your existing clothes is another great way to give your clothes a second life and put your own personality in it by adding a bit of embroidery to cover those stains and holes.
Meet Natalya from Glitches & Stitches and her view of visible mending.
As a former fashion designer, I am well aware of the short-comings of fast fashion and have been striving to reduce my own clothing consumption. Now when I find a hole or stain on a garment, rather than tossing it, I repair it with colorful embroidery patterns, or Visible Mending. I have one t-shirt that is up to 8 repairs now; I've come to think of it as a piece of art in progress: with each new mend I add in a little bit more of myself.
Visible Mending is a repair technique that follows principles of wabi-sabi, a japanese philosophy that values the aesthetics of imperfection. Another example of wabi-sabi you might be familiar with is kintsugi, a technique of repairing pottery and ceramics with gold - the idea being that imperfections and flaws should not be hidden but rather glorified as they make an object interesting.
Have you done any refashion? What was your favourite refashion project? Comment below and don't forget to tag us on social media when you share your refashion projects?