Altering Old Clothing Into New

You can save many of those clothes you were thinking of getting rid of with some do it yourself alterations. This is a guide about altering old clothing into new.

March 23, 2016 Flag
10 found this helpful

I confess, I love clothes! I love shoes and handbags, costume jewelry, and art. As a creative individual with limited funds, I have scoured thrift shops for years on the hunt for bargains. When my sons were young I clothed them in second hand, like-new clothes that saved us so much money and they looked great! I would look for interesting things, like t-shirts with cool graphics that could be cut and appliqued onto jeans, etc. to create entirely new and original looks.


As the oldest of six children, times were tight when I was a child. We often received boxes of hand-me-downs from others and were happy to get them. My grandmothers sewed clothing as well. It is no wonder that I learned to be frugal and yet use my own creativity to imbue freshness into older, no longer fashionable articles of clothing.

Today, as an empty nester, in addition to many other creative outlets, I continue to re-purpose outdated clothing. This also helps saves hundreds of pounds of fabric from ending up in waste sites. It is sometimes a slow process to find things that will work in a refashion project, but the results are worth it! I often find great items for as little $.50 that others overlook.


I encourage anyone who might never have considered it to give it a try! Get those creative juices flowing and strut your shine!

Source: ReFashionista

March 27, 20160 found this helpful

High praise! Thank you so much! Working on new project now!

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March 27, 20160 found this helpful

Thank you!

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June 25, 2015 Flag
8 found this helpful

I had a special occasion coming up and wanted a new dress. My budget was quite tight so I decided to make my own from clothes I already had. I had 2 items that I had purchased for only a couple bucks from a thrift shop. I never wear them and the shirt was too big anyways. So I decided to cut them up and make them into something new.

I was very happy with the results, I received many complements, and I got a dress for free. Yay! This is very easy to do. If you can turn your machine on and sew a straight line, you can make a dress too!

Total Time: Hour or less

Yield: 1 dress


  • shirt or blouse
  • skirt
  • sewing machine
  • scissors
  • straight pins


  1. Find your desired shirt.
  2. Find your desired skirt.
  3. Cut the waistband off of your skirt.
  4. Cut your shirt where you want the waistline to be. I wanted sort of an empire waist.
  5. You will leave your skirt right side out, turn your shirt inside out. You will put it over and around the skirt. Just be sure to have the front of your shirt turned the right way, in line with the front of your skirt. You'd hate to finish sewing and realize it's facing the wrong way!
  6. You will pin your edges and sew around the entire hem with a running stitch first. This is simply your longest stitch setting. Why? Because your shirt and skirt are more than likely "not" the exact same width around. By making a running stitch, this will allow you to make sure all the gathering is even before you make your final seam.
  7. After you make the running stitch, try the dress on and make sure any gathering is straight and that it is loose enough to get on before you permanently decide the size!
  8. Now you will go back and make your small, permanent seam.
  9. Front...
  10. I liked it better with a belt.:)
June 28, 20150 found this helpful

You have "out frugaled" me and got a great outfit to boot! Great job!

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June 28, 20150 found this helpful

I need a dress for our Son's wedding. This may be the answer. I'm already tired of looking for a dress. Thank you.

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April 5, 20160 found this helpful

May 25, 2010 Flag
19 found this helpful

I've just changed the buttons on an old coat and it looks just like a new one. I buy buttons in thrift stores (where you can find horn, mother-of-pearl, or brass ones) or take them off other pieces of clothing. I also often dye clothes, particularly woolens, to revitalize them.

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October 20, 2011 Flag
6 found this helpful

Each time I donate bags of clothes to Good Will, there is a lingering pile of items that didn't make the cut. It consists of frayed jeans and torn t-shirts that can't be donated and are destined for the trash can. After talking with someone about her scrap crafts, I started to tally all of the items that I could create with the used clothing that was a bit too used. It seemed like the best of both worlds-recycling and free crafts items.

Old Yarn Is New Again

If your clothing is too worn to donate to the local Salvation Army, consider using it to make new items. After all, clothing is made of fabric and yarns. A skein of woolen yarn is expensive, but an old and worn woolen sweater is garbage waiting to be taken to the curb. Put your knitting, knotting, and crocheting skills to the test by un-weaving the sweater. With a few careful scissor snips at the knots (look on the inside of the sweater to find them), sweaters can be gently pulled apart by even the most inexperienced hands. Wind your yarn as you disassemble the sweater, and when you're finished you'll have a nice roll of yarn to use in a future crafting project.

Recycled Cloth

Older generations remember looking at their mothers' newest braided rugs and recognizing their siblings' old clothing patterns woven into the rugs. Why don't we share this tradition? If your daughter's stained, worn, and torn dress can't be worn anymore, who says it has to remain a dress? Cut the seams out of the fabric and create as many whole pieces of cloth that you can. Make dolls, rugs, or doilies out of them. If your sports fans have destroyed their jerseys and team t-shirts, consider using the part of the fabric that sports the logo and creating a set of team placemats for your next party.

You could also create a crazy quilt style tablecloth by cutting the shirts into geometrical patterns and sewing them together to form one large piece. Patterns for these types of crafts can be found at websites such as and If you know a quilter and you have some 100% cotton items laying around, cut the fabric into geometric shapes (cut the arms into long rectangles, leave the body of a shirt as a large square, etc.). Then, fold or roll it neatly and tie the rolls/piles together with a ribbon into a bundle of quilter's material.

Odds & Ends

Don't forget to recycle your odds and ends from your clothing. Grandma's button box didn't get filled with purchased buttons from the craft store. They were recycled from the clothing that became the braided rug. Look for all sorts of notions on your discarded items. Even a worn out dog leash has a solid metal clasp on the end that might come in handy somewhere else. Drawstrings make nice twine, and a pocket with a zipper could become a change purse. Keep your mind and your craft bin open.

Clothing to Crafts

If you would like to make your own recycled crafts, then there's no limit once you've recycled the basic supplies. An option for sentimental clothing items is to use them to cover photo albums. Select a hardcover notebook from an office supply store. Then, use your son's first t-ball shirt or the detail from the front of the dress your niece wore on her first day of school to cover the notebook. Lay the material flat and place the open binder on top of it. Using double sided tape or a hot glue gun, fold the material over the edges like you would cover a book or wrap a present. On the inside, adhere a piece of oak tag to cover the raw edges unless you've tucked them under as you work.

For more no-sew fun, create a tied wreath. Bend a wire coat hanger into a circle and add a circle hook at the top for hanging. Then, cut five inch by one inch strips of fabric from your worn clothing. Finally, knot the fabric strips onto the wire, pushing them close together so the knots don't show. You'll have a puffy, crafty wreath for your door in one evening.

Your limits are endless, and so is your supply. With some ingenuity there are no more expensive trips to the fabric store and no more landfills heaped with wasted fabrics and yarns.

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October 20, 20110 found this helpful

Great ideas there. We were always taught to use everything until there was nothing left. Removing hems to re-hem them required saving the thread from the original hem. Things are so plentiful now that people don't worry about pitching something because of a stain or a small hole.

Always good to hear someone has been frugal with their life style.

(I do not give to goodwill because we have a Thrift shop that supports the community. They do not pitch anything. Everything has a purpose and sometimes you'll find a bundle just for quilting.)


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October 20, 20110 found this helpful

I do this quite a bit myself. I re-use my old clothing, buttons from my clothing, packing materials from packages, and odds-and-ends like spools.

Sewing old receiving blankets into a flannel pillowcase for the now older child is a good idea. Keeps you from having to buy another pillowcase.

Unwinding yarn from a toddler's sweater to knit his new brother's booties and hat is also useful.

Sew a favorite shirt into a teddy bear.

If you can't do anything else, cut up the cotton clothes for soft rags.

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June 5, 2009 Flag
12 found this helpful

When my daughter was in grade school, I couldn't afford new school clothes every year, so I purchased an A-line (no waistline) dress pattern with the option of cap or long sleeves and three neckline options.

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June 16, 2014 Flag
6 found this helpful

I've been looking for tops for my white skirt and ivory skirt and looking for print skirts. One day, I found a dress with a print I liked and thought, "I wish this were a skirt." That's when I realized I could cut it in half and make a skirt.

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January 7, 2009 Flag

I have made shorts and blouses from a large bed sheet, also curtains, pillow cases, etc. It's often cheaper than fabric from fabric store.

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November 17, 2008 Flag

Look what mamma made! I made these outfits for my two daughters. The older one is from my dad's old shirt with some denim curtains that were given to me, then I appliquéd a heart on an old t shirt.

Girls Wearing Recycled "New" Outfits

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April 12, 2011 Flag
7 found this helpful

Re-use clothing parts to renovate clothes in trouble. For instance, if sleeves on a shirt are too short, cut them off just above the cuff and sew on some cut-off sweatshirt sleeves from a too-small or stained garment.

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December 22, 2008 Flag
0 found this helpful

When my children were growing up I used to take all my husband's, and my old jeans and shirts and make simple shorts with elastic bands for my kids. Then for my girls and myself I would make little sun tops out of strips of material here is how that is done. Here's how...

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June 28, 2006 Flag
0 found this helpful

My daughters like to "design" some of their own clothes, which often means they will be either cutting or adding something to their clothing.

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May 7, 2013 Flag
2 found this helpful

You don't have to throw away your favorite sheath-style dress just because you outgrow it. All things old can become new again with a bit of imagination.

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