3 Easy Tutorials on Upcycling Clothes & How to Make DIY Keepsakes

11 Materials
2 Hours

Today, I'm going to be sharing three tutorials on upcycling clothes. A friend of mine asked me to upcycle some of her late dad's clothing to honor his memory. I think this is an amazing way to create keepsakes when a loved one passes away.

Although I'm sharing step-by-step DIY tutorials on two shirts and a jacket, these upcycle ideas can be applied to any men’s or larger clothing. Here’s how to refashion old clothes with some upcycling tips and a lot of love.

Tools and materials:

  • 2 Large button-down shirts
  • Jacket/blazer
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
  • Ruler
  • Elastic
  • Snap closure
  • Marking chalk or fabric pen
  • Iron 
  • Needle and thread
Pinning the button packets on the shirt

Upcycle project 1: Plain button-down shirt

1. Size the shirt

Pin the button plackets right sides together. Sew the inside edge of the plackets. Once sewn, cut the plackets off.

Cutting the shirt

2. Cut the shirt

Cut off the collar and sleeves from the shirt. Cut a V in the front and the back. Trim the sleeves in a few inches for a more elegant look.

Pinning where you want the top to be cropped

Put the shirt on to measure how much to crop. Pin the length, remove the shirt, and cut the shirt to the desired length. 

The finished DIY tank top from a men's shirt

3. Finish the tank top

Serge all the raw ends and hem all the edges. Reattach the shirt label if desired for sentimental reasons, or leave it as is.

Marking where to cut on the DIY shirt

Upcycle project 2: Fish design shirt

1. Cut the fabric

Place the shirt on a flat surface. Mark and cut across the entire shirt horizontally below the sleeve line. Cut the button plackets off. 

Cutting the front of the shirt

Cut two large triangles from the shirt top for front tying tails.

Wrapping the fabric to measure it

2. Measure the chest size

Measure the chest area. Wrap the fabric around the chest area to see the fit. Pin new side seams based on the measurements. 

Sewing the side seams of the DIY shirt

3. Sew the side seams

Sew the new side seams, then sew a triangle on both open sides on the bottom, leaving two long tails for tying.

If needed, sew elastic on the back so the front of the bandeau lies flat and smooth. To add elastic, gather the back into soft pleats and sew about 8 inches (20cm of elastic) just below the top on the inside. 

Marking where to add a clasp to the shirt

4. Close the front

There are two choices to close the front:

Choice 1: Snap, clasp, or other button style closure. Wrap the bandeau around your body, dressmaker’s dummy, or the person you’re making the shirt for. Mark where to put the closure. Remove from the body. Hand sew the snap or clasp in place.

Choice 2: After measuring and marking where to close the top, pin and then sew in place with a top or invisible stitch at the closure at the very top of the bandeau. The top can be straight across or slightly angled downward.

Folding the straps lengthwise

5. Make the straps

Put the bandeau on once the front closure is done. Mark where the straps will go. Make four straps from the scraps of fabric by cutting them 2 inches (5cm) wide and 10 inches (25cm) long.

Fold the raw edges into themselves lengthwise by making small folds until it resembles a strap. Iron them flat.

Sewing the straps

Sew a lengthwise seam and then sew them onto the marked areas.

Upcycled tie-front top

6. Wear the upcycled top

Pull the bandeau over the head (if the front is sewn) or snap into place if using a clasp. Tie the straps together in a flirty bow, and tie the front ends in a lovely, tummy-grazing knot.

Marking where to crop the men's jacket

Upcycle project 3: men's suit jacket

1. Crop the jacket

Lay the jacket on a flat surface and crop the bottom to below the first button on top of the front pockets. Save at least one of the front buttons.

Pinning and hemming the jacket

2. Hem the jacket

Pin the lining and outer layer together. Serge and hem the entire bottom of the blazer. 

Creating a new buttonhole in the jacket

3. Create a second buttonhole

Mark a spot above the existing button. Measure the existing buttonhole, mark with pins, and cut the buttonhole. Sew on one of the saved buttons.

Cutting out the shoulder pads

4. Finish the jacket

Open the lining to remove the shoulder pads and stitch back the lining to close. Cuff up the sleeves. Wear this lovely jacket with jeans or an ultra-feminine skirt for a striking contrast.

Upcycled jacket made from a men's blazer

Upcycling clothes tutorial

Here's the finished DIY jacket! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on upcycling ideas for clothes. Let me know in the comments which of the three upcycling projects was your favorite and if you’ve ever upcycled a loved one’s clothes to hold onto keepsakes.

Suggested materials:
  • 2 Large button-down shirts
  • Jacket/blazer
  • Scissors
See all materials

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