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Altering Old Clothing Into New

Category Alterations
Altering Clothing on Sewing Machine
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.


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By 10 found this helpful
March 23, 2016

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Today, as an empty nester, in addition to many other creative outlets, I continue to re-purpose outdated clothing.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

Comment Was this helpful? 10

By 19 found this helpful
May 25, 2010

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.

Beige or cream sweaters or cardigans, if they are looking grubby or dull, can be dyed a brilliant cherry red or bright pink. Yellows, greens and blues should be dyed again somewhere in their own color range or the color looks a bit muddy. Use Dylon dyes which can go in the washing machine. They are not expensive. New buttons and colors give you a whole new wardrobe.

By Lucy from UK

Comment Was this helpful? 19

By 8 found this helpful
June 25, 2015

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.
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  5. Cut your shirt where you want the waistline to be. I wanted sort of an empire waist.
  6. 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!
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  8. 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.
  9. 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!
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  11. Now you will go back and make your small, permanent seam.
  12. Front...
  13. I liked it better with a belt.:)
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Comment Was this helpful? 8

June 5, 200912 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.

Comment Was this helpful? 12

October 20, 20116 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,

A letter L made out of a denim scrap.

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 6

January 7, 2009

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.

Comment Was this helpful? 2

March 12, 2011

Have a sweatshirt that is stained or worn out on the front, but the rest is in good shape? How about a jacket that you are tired of or is out of style, but you can't bare to part with? Here is a way to save them and make a "Jacketshirt"!

A recycled sweatshirt combined with a recycled jacket.

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 4

November 17, 2008

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

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 2

By 6 found this helpful
June 16, 2014

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.

Comment Was this helpful? 6

By 7 found this helpful
April 12, 2011

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.

Comment Was this helpful? 7

By 1 found this helpful
March 5, 2007

If you find a big stain on the front of your infants onesie or child's t-shirt, or would rather not be advertising some company name splashed across the front, cover it up with a hand-made patch!

Use a Handmade Patch to Cover a Stain or Ad

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By 2 found this helpful
May 7, 2013

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.

Comment Was this helpful? 2

June 28, 20060 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.

Comment Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
December 22, 2008

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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By 0 found this helpful
May 27, 2008

Recently, I saw a lovely blouse on a lady. I complimented her on it. She replied, "Thank You, I bought this along with several other blouses, at a sale, all having long sleeves, I took them home, cut the sleeves off and made me all summer time blouses." She most likely saved a lot of money by doing this.

Comment Was this helpful? Yes


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
October 26, 2009

What can I do with a t-shirt that is two sizes too small? I really like it and would like to turn it into something I can wear.

By neo from Raleigh, NC

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
October 27, 20090 found this helpful

I have friends who have turned clothing into pillows.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 27, 20090 found this helpful

I would cut out the sleeves also wet it then put it over the back of a chair to stretch it. Let it dry on the chair, if it's still not large enough when you put it on pull & stretch it more, good luck.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 27, 20090 found this helpful

Back in the late '80s, when I was a super skinny teenager, I turned some t-shirts into skirts. I'd use the neck hole as a waistband, and then tie the sleeves together. It's been so long, I don't even remember if I tied them in the front or back.

If I wanted to do something like this today, I'd have to cut the neck hole drastically to be able to use it around my waist, and I don't know how well the sleeves would tie together. I'm sure it'd look a lot less cool/cute today than it did 20+ years ago (at least on me!).

Good luck. Hope you find some great ideas!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 27, 20090 found this helpful

If the tee is large enough to fit around your hips, it can become a skirt. If the neck does not stretch enough, cut it on both sides along the shoulder seams until it does. Reinforce both ends of the cut with hand stitching so it won't rip. If short sleeved, sew the sleeve openings shut with hand stitches. Pull the tee skirt on, and tuck in the sleeves as pockets.

You can cut the tee open along the side seams if the neck and shoulders fit. You can cut strips of material similar in type(another tee maybe) and sew to both halves of the cut open tee, hemming at the sleeve edges and bottom. You can use matching, blending or contrasting material. I once used a print which matched a skirt I had made when the only tee I could find that went with it was a medium, and I wear XL/1X. Expanded it by about 2" on each side. Still wearing it years later.

If the tee has a graphic on it, you can applique it onto a shirt that fits you.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 28, 20090 found this helpful

Make a tote/green grocery bag. 1. Lay it flat on a hard surface. Measure down 8" from the center of the neck. Mark a "U" shape and cut out. Sew across the bottom of the t. Cut off the sleeves (the openings make the handles)

Source: T-Shirt Surgery

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
April 5, 2012

I have been asked to help adjust a dance recital dress for a toddler. She is three years old and the size 6 dress ordered for her was the largest size available. It is too small particularly in the torso and sleeves. The skirt I think will be OK.

Here is what it looks like. The top is pink satin with a Peter Pan collar. It buttons in the back to the waist. It has short puffy sleeves with elastic edging. The skirt sits at the natural waist and has multilayers of underskirts. The main outer layer is cotton. I measured the child in the dress and we need additional inches across the back and in the sleeves.

I would love to make these adjustments without too much cutting. I was thinking I may be able to add a piece of satin (maybe with some spandex?) to the back between the buttons and the buttonholes and then open the seams of the puffy sleeves and add some extra fabric to enlarge the area around the arm and armpit. Or maybe opening the sides of the top and inserting stretchy fabric all the way from the sleeve to the waist and leaving the back area as is; that is, leaving the buttons alone. Any other ideas out there? Thank you so much for any help!

By Joanieb from NY

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
April 5, 20120 found this helpful

I don't see how a size 6 dress can be too small for a three year old. My daughters and grandkids were all large for their ages, but never had that problem. In fact my Mother always said all four of her kids were large for their age, but never to the point that a size 6 dress would be too small for a three year old.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
April 5, 20120 found this helpful

Also aren't all of the dancer's dresses supposed to be identical. Any alterations that you make will have to be done so that they aren't noticeable.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
April 9, 20120 found this helpful

Obviously a factory error in the sizing, and it happens more often than people think.

You're on the right track, I think; you could probably get away with creating an extension panel with buttonholes in the width you need across the back. Button the panel to the existing buttons, and seam it to the other side.

You'll have to work it in at the waistline no matter what you do-you may have to unpick the waist and reattach it to the newly expanded bodice.

Would 'cutting in' large panels under the arms all the way down the entire garment work to add enough in the sleeves and back? (I did this to enlarge a gorgeous wool and cashmere charity shop overcoat two sizes too small-worked a treat and looked perfect)

Good luck, post pics if you can of the altered garment so we can learn from what you did, please?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
October 12, 2011

I need help altering clothes due to weight loss. Any suggestions to help would be appreciated.

By Karen from Winona, WV

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
October 12, 20110 found this helpful

The most obvious way of altering clothing is to take in the side seams. Put on the garment inside out & then pin the cloth to the desired fit, you then sew along the pins on a sewing machine (although I have done it by hand occasionally). My mother took in all of her old knit slacks that way when she lost weight. (If you want to take in more at the front, say, you might have to take off the waistband.) You can also make any darts larger. Of course, then, trim off the excess fabric & press down the new seams. (Here's where loosely fitting clothing shows how practical those pieces are, as you can just belt them in tighter, this even works for some pants, or you can simply shorten any elastic in a casing along the waist.)

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 12, 20110 found this helpful

Here's an easy way to put some elastic in pants that are just a little too big that you aren't ready to give away yet. On the inside only of the back waistband cut a slit over near each side seam. Thread elastic (about 1 inch wide works fine) through along the back with a big safety pin. Use smaller safety pins to anchor the elastic at each end. Voila! One size smaller!

I put the pins on the outside since I never tuck in any of my tops, but you can put the pins on the inside if you tuck in your tops. Also, I use old suspender elastic sometimes. My husband gave me a bunch of them when he retired and quit dressing up in suits.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 27, 20110 found this helpful

This site has some fantastic tutorials for sewing. Their "refashioning & upcycling" section has some great instructions for re-sizing clothes.

http://www.allf  ng-and-Upcycling

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

January 17, 20050 found this helpful

As I get older my waistline expands and I find that my skirts get tighter! I don't want to throw them away, does anyone know of a way to make them larger by "taking them up" at the waistband, and make them elasticated instead of button and zip?

I realize that this will make them slightly shorter but that doesn`t matter. Also, a lot of my skirts have a zip up the front, any ideas how to incorporate that? (I always wear blouses over the top of my skirts, I don't tuck them into the waistband.)

Looking forward to hearing from someone. :)

Jan from England

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
January 19, 20050 found this helpful

If you haven't grown too much you can loop a rubberband through the button hole and then back through itself and secure the button with the rubberband. Don't know what to do about the zippers, though.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
May 25, 20050 found this helpful

I read a letter from a woman who sews clothing for many of her (long-distance) relatives. She says that instead of finishing the waistbands of these garments, she sews a buttonhole on the inside of the waistband, pulls both ends of the elastic through it, and secures it with a safety pin. This way her relatives simply try the garment on and sew one line of stitching or just re-pin where they need it! I would leave a little extra elastic on the inside. The buttonhole can be used to add new elastic as needed without cutting your seams. As for your zipper, why not sew it closed using a ladder-stitch by hand or a zig-zag by machine. How about making it into a pocket or adding applique?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

September 22, 2008

I recently purchased a couple of really nice t-shirts, only to find they are too large. Nice problem, huh? I want to alter them to fit me better. The shoulders are much too wide as well, so will need to do something about that. Does anyone have directions for altering t-shirts that are too large? I have been sewing for years. Thank you.

Judy from Birmingham, Alabama

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
September 23, 20080 found this helpful

I'm a seamstress (by trade, originally) and I don't have any "pattern" per se, but short of completely opening up the entire shirt and re-cutting and re-sewing, I've simply sewn new allowances where I need the closer fitting. I've done them as a baste-in 1st, checked the fit, made any adjustments necessary and then sewn them in permanent, afterwards cutting off the excess "old" seam allowance.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
April 6, 2016

I am interested in the ideas, hopefully patterns or directions, for using recycled large sweaters. I want to make toddler girls' jumpers, hats, and mittens. Other matching ideas are appreciated.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
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