Sunday, May 8, 2016

Getting Down to Some Upcycling

On Friday I proved that it is perfectly possible to go out for a whole morning of fun garaging (I think we hit a dozen sales)…and spend only fifty cents. That’s right, living up to my name I came home with only two tea towels.

Naturally they came from the very first sale we stopped at. But I'm good with that, it means I did not succumb to the lures of anything I might later regret!

In lieu of showing you any exciting new purchases, let me share some recent clothing upcycles. The hubs was away last weekend, and I used the time to pull out all the many (many many) pieces of clothing I've brought home over the past couple of years for upcycle-play. I realize now I should have taken pictures as I was working, but you know how that goes. You get busy with a project and picking up the camera is the last thing on your mind.  But picture in your mind’s eye a dining room table heaped high with all kinds of clothing roughly sorted by color.

It was good to go through everything. I pulled a number of items that I decided I'd probably never use (part of that learn-as-you-go thing) and boxed them to send to the thrift store. Then I selected several pieces that I could accomplish something with fairly quickly.

Sometimes it's just a matter of a little refitting. One of the results of the weekend was the realization that I might have the world’s narrowest shoulders. When I really started looking, I saw that on virtually every shirt the top of the sleeve needs to be moved over at least an inch. So I started playing, and came up with a pretty quick fix. Instead of unstitching and resewing the sleeve, I created a tuck over the top 2/3 (more or less), which gives a pleat in the front and back. This can be stitched down, but in most cases I just tacked it at the waist. The shirt ends up still roomy and comfy but with a bit more defined shape. It's pretty unobtrusive when it's finished!

I started with four tops (one had a matching skirt) and two pairs of pants. One of the shirts was this heavy natural-color linen with a pointy collar and no shape at all.

The matching (too short) pants became crop pants, and what I cut off was used to lengthen the shirt sleeves.

I know, not much different! But now a wearable length.

On the shirt, I rolled the collar under to create one that stands up, 

did the shoulder tuck thing, and we’re done.

Another linen shirt from a church rummage sale got a similar treatment. This one had a collar with a neckband, so I removed the pointy collar and stitched the neckband back up for a mandarin collar. Gave it the shoulder tuck and added some bias tape I made with fabric from a free box under the collar, front bands and sleeve hems for a little more zip. 

The shirt with the matching skirt more or less fit but was much too short. The skirt had an under layer with a flounce, so the flounce became the new bottom section of the shirt. 
There were flounces on the sleeves too, which I just tucked under and stitched down. Another collar removal, a shoulder tuck, and this one was done.

The last top started out as this Eileen Fisher dress. 

Gotta tell ya, upcycling with an expensive brand like this makes you feel really wealthy!

I don’t wear dresses much anymore (ahhhh, retirement!) but I loved the heavy linen fabric. 
I cut off the bottom and used some of it to add triangular side panels. 
Did yet another shoulder tuck. I liked the bit of color I'd added to the green linen shirt, so I found another remnant and lined the neck band and sleeve edges with polka dots.

The last piece was a too-long pair of nubby silk pants that I paid fifty cents for a couple of years ago. They were comfortable but I doubted I'd wear them as slacks, so I decided to make something I've wanted since I was a teenager. (Yes, I’m blushing a bit to admit this!) Back in the day I really wanted a pair of knickers (ummm, knickerbockers to any Brits reading this!) and in my shy youth did not have the nerve to wear something like that. I waited, oh, about fifty years, but I finally have them! 

Hopefully I've left enough shyness behind that I will actually wear them. Probably to go garaging!


  1. Some lovely upcycling projects!!! My sewing skills are on the basic side, but I'm inspired by your successes to try a few myself. Looks like fun!

    1. One of the things I love about this kind of sewing is that it IS very basic! You don't have to cut out patterns and most of the time I can use the original hems and such.

  2. I love to see things get a new lease on life like this. You could start your own business!

    Now folks can tell you not to get your knickers in a knot and really mean it!

    1. Of course, no one would ever NEED to tell moi such a thing about my knickers! ;o)

  3. I really hope we get to see you in those knickers! Go for it. :)

    1. I'm still working on the nerve...but it's more that my closet has so many clothes right now and the weather got cool again. But soon...just for you!

  4. I have a blouse that's too large & slips off the shoulders. Paid too much not to wear it! The shoulder tuck idea might just work! Love your trim idea for liven up those oh-so-sober preppy linens! Clever you!

    1. Doesn't it just drive you nuts when you have to keep twitching your clothes back into place? Aaaarrrghh!

  5. Such good ideas! I've done the shoulder pleat for my elderly mom before and it is great. I do something with large men's dress shirts to turn them unto nightshirts. First cut the collar and band off, then cut a v-neck, next sew on binding to contrast. The sleeves at the cuff get the next cut and more binding. Sometimes I unpick the pocket and embroider or add lace, then re-sew. The shoulder pleat could be used to fit as necessary. The shirt is comfy, and the expensive brands are quite soft after a few washes.

  6. Love the orange trim and clever tucks!


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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