upcycle old clothing

Creative Upcycling Projects for Beginner Sewers

*Guest post by Sarah Stoner* (No, that’s not a typo)

Roughly 3 years ago I was gifted a gorgeous 1956 Singer sewing machine. I had no idea how to use it, but it didn’t take me long to find the manual online and thread it for the first time. Since then I have upcycling projects sewingbeen a stitchin’ maniac! I didn’t realize how fulfilling it would be to not only repair and alter my family’s clothing, but to upcycle the clothes that we’d outgrown or were just too worn out to mend.

My main artisty is hand embroidery. I love how personal and unique the process is for each design especially when it includes an upcycling component. My first upcycled piece was when I redecorated my son’s bedroom. I was going to embroider a hoop to hang on his wall, but it was summer time – the kids were home while I had painted and reorganized and I had run out of time (and patience) so I took one of his old t-shirts, put it in an embroidery hoop and BAM – instant wall art.

upcycling ideasSince then, I have put aside many of our favorite worn or outgrown clothes and have used that saved material for patches, wall hangings, doll clothes, headbands and much more. It’s saved me so much time and money it’s ridiculous.  But wait… there’s more! *GASP*

A customer came to me recently with a special request. She handed me a brown sweater that had been worn so much there were holes in it. It was obvious that it had been a favourite sweater of hers, but she explained to me that it was also her son’s favourite sweater. He loved to snuggle with her every time she wore it – so much so that when he went away to summer camp he would sneak that tattered sweater in the bottom of his bag and take with him, so he wouldn’t miss her as much.

She asked me if I could make a decorative pillow cover out of her sweater so that he could have it upcycled ideaswith him always. It turned out so beautifully – for both of them! That to me is priceless.

I’m not crying, you’re crying! *sob*

There are countless ways to upcycle clothes/fabric. Here are just a few stellar examples:

  • make a quilt or teddy bear out of baby clothes. Get the quilt tutorial and teddy tutorial.
  • repair holes with elbow & knee patches. Get the tutorial here.
  • sew up some tote bags out of t-shirts. Get the tutorial here.
  • create pillow covers or wall hangings from old concert T’s. See tutorial here.
  • make mittens out of old sweaters. Get the step-by-step guide here.

Next time you’re about to throw out or donate some clothes, old curtains, or linens, stop for a moment and consider upcycling it into something new!  New to sewing?  Contact your local sewing store and inquire about sewing classes/groups. If you are wondering which type of sewing machine is great for beginners, many people are in love with the easy functionality of the Brother PE800. It is a great little machine as it is a sewing and embroidery machine in one. So you can use it to upcycle your old clothes, as well as add some beautiful embroidery designs to make them look fresh and new. If a friend has a sewing machine, they most likely love to sew and could show you the basics to get you going. If you have a great idea but just don’t have the time, there are many small shops out there (cough* Stone Crest Stitches *cough) that can help you make your design become a reality!

Sew……what are you waiting for?!

*See more of Sarah’s work at her Stone Crest Stitches store. 

Wanna watch our spring tiny house build? Of course you do! Subscribe to our YouTube channel for regular updates. 


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

Check out our Books!