5 ways to upcycle your old clothing

Feeling guilty about the stacks of old clothes you never wear but aren't charity shop worthy? Get creative and turn your trash into your own new treasure!
closetCredit: Emily Poisel – Flickr

Parting with old clothes can be tough, but when it gets to the point that you're barely able to close the doors of your wardrobe anymore whilst only actually wearing a tiny fraction of what's in it – something's gotta give.

First, try selling any designer gear or more unique pieces you might have on eBay to see if you can turn those threads into cash. We've got a great guide on how to make more cash when selling your items on eBay right here.

Another option of course is to take your wearables that are still in decent nick down to your local charity shop (although make sure you don't end up leaving with more items than you walked in with, remember the aim of this exercise!). If there are items in there that you have a bit of an attachment to or that you can't imagine a charity shop being able to sell on, the next trick would be this: upcycle!

The beauty of upcycling is that your options really are endless – and the more creative, the better. Also, as you'll spend a bit of time turning your clothes into something new, the idea of ‘upcycling' is that you'll ‘upgrade' them into something you'll love even more than you did previously.

Here are a few ideas we have for upcycling your clothes into something new. It's like going on a shopping spree without leaving the house or spending a penny. Neat!

If you're up for this upcycling lark but don't actually have any clothes you'd be happy practicing on in case it all goes horribly wrong, scope out the bargain bins at Primark or check online if you've got any vintage kilo sales in your area (where clothes are sold by weight – we kid you not!).

5 smart ways to upcycle your old clothes

  1. Turn your favourite t-shirts into cushions

    pillowsCredit: Jess Abbott – DIY Network
    It always seems a shame when you've been collecting tour t-shirts from some of your best gigs or festivals over the years, only for them to end up being used as pyjamas. Or maybe you're holding on to some seriously ragged jumpers and t-shirts that you never wear anymore but which have a real sentimental value.

    Either way, a great way to avoid chucking these out and instead bringing them into the limelight is by sewing them into simple cushion covers. Might be worth thinking a bit about your colour scheme before you start chopping them up though! Here's a video tutorial to get you started.

    Bonus tip: Try this out with any university hoodies you have and you'll have a nice souvenir for after graduation!

  2. Rip your jeans a new look

    denim bagWhen your favourite denims have seen better days and summer is (hopefully) just around the corner, all you need to do to create a whole new look is to take a pair of fabric scissors and chop those babies up! Jeans can of course be cut into shorts, or even a denim mini skirt with a few snips and stitches.

    For shorts, make sure you mark out where you want them to be cut too before you start snipping so there are no surprises when you put them on! You don't want to cut unevenly or so high as they're rendered unwearable.

    Also, take care not to snip the bottoms of your jean pockets in the process, or you'll end up losing change all over the shop (been there, unfortunately).

    If you do end up cutting your shorts too short, sew the legs up and turn your denims into a tote bag, complete with handy side pockets!

  3. Create hot/cold packs from material scraps

    hot:cold packsCredit: Bee in My Bonnet
    This is a great option for any unwanted items you have that are made of strong material without much elastic to them (so t-shirts and jumpers won't work for this one, but shirts will, as will some skirts and dresses).

    Cut the material you have into roughly 5″ x 5″ squares and some extra squares the same size in a simple flannel material to double up and make the packs extra strong.

    Once you've sewn the squares together and filled them with uncooked rice, either pop them in the freezer to be used as an ice pack or blast them in the microwave for 30 seconds and you've got a great little hot water bottle substitute (which will save you on your energy bills!).

    You can also create longer packs out of trouser legs that can then be placed along the bottom of your bed to keep your feet warm during the winter months! Check out this full tutorial for details on how to get started.

  4. Transform XXL into XXLovely

    tshirtremodel1Credit: Diary of a Mad Crafter
    Remember those giant XXL men’s t-shirts that are always lying around in Primark sale bins for 50p? Stock up on a couple and get experimenting with different ways to upcycle them. With all the extra material to play around with, you can go wild!

    There are tonnes of tutorials online so get searching on Youtube and check out Pinterest for some amazing how-to guides and pictures. If they’re extra big tops, they can double up as jersey dresses for us girls, which are perfect for days at the beach to just throw over your bikini.

  5. Jewellery Upcycling

    upcycled-jewellery-megan-hicksCredit: Megan Hicks
    Ok, so this one doesn't technically involve upcycling your clothing, but it's all fashion-related, right?

    We felt we just had to mention this one, since jewellery upcycling can be super fun, and can even be good for the environment if you use materials that are difficult to recycle.

    A broken pair of earrings or a ring that's lost it's pendant can be embezzled with anything you find particularly stylin'. For example, bottle top earrings like those in the image above, and we also came across a designer who made her entire jewellery collection out of the different coloured Nespresso coffee capsules (which are notoriously tough to recycle).

    Saving the planet, one outfit at a time!

These are just a few ideas for how to stay stylish on a student budget. If you’ve got any more ideas for upcycling or customising clothes, leave a comment below!

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