Rolls of material and fabric

Ditch fast fashion for refashion: a guide to clothes upcycling

08 Apr 21 3 minute read

Most of us have at least one or two outfits hiding at the back of our cupboards. Maybe they no longer fit, need repairing or maybe we’re just plain bored of them.

Buying and wasting in excess is seriously damaging the planet. Everything we buy, including clothes, creates greenhouse gases so upcycling is great value for money and better for the environment.

Why upcycle old clothes?

Upcycling isn’t just a fun hobby – it can help in the fight against climate change too!

89,000 tonnes of clothes, footwear and household linens end up in landfill each year in Scotland. In 2018, Scots separated 63 tonnes of clothes and footwear, but only 11% were recycled here, with the rest being reused or recycled abroad. 

This is bad enough on its own but doesn’t even begin to take into account the wasted energy and resources that have gone into producing them in the first place.

89,000 tonnes of clothes, footwear and household linens end up in landfill each year in Scotland.

Anything that we can do to extend the useful life of clothes and avoid the need to constantly buy new, has to be a good thing. Time to get creative, dig out the sewing machine, save money, have fun and help our planet.

How to get started

“But I don’t have a sewing machine and wouldn’t know how to use one!” we hear you cry. Not a problem. There’s an ever-expanding list of community groups and organisations out there offering workshops, courses or loans of equipment to help you get going.

Check out organisations like R:evolve Recycle in Glasgow, The Edinburgh Remakery, Sew Confident (Glasgow and Dundee) or Re-Tweed in the Scottish Borders for details of their courses. (During Coronavirus restrictions many are running online classes) 

You might be able to borrow a sewing machine from your local Tool Library (internal link) too which will save on the cost of buying a new one outright and means you don’t have the added headache of maintaining your own machine either. 

If you already have the skills, but need some ideas, then the internet is bursting at the seams with inspiration.

There are sites like Instructables with loads of how to guides, Love Your Clothes has upcycling tips as well as other ways to extend the life of clothes, and there are some great facebook groups such as The Upcycled Cloth Collective where members share photos of some amazing upcycling projects they’ve worked on.

Jeans upcycling

Ideas for upcycling projects

So unleash your artistic side. There are upcycling projects for all skill levels. We’ve listed some ideas below, but look online for a whole load more.

101 uses for socks has great simple ideas like wash mitts or baby leggings for all skill levels and let’s face it, we all end up with odd socks at some stage.

Embellish old clothes with beads and sequins – upcycling doesn’t have to be a major overhaul. It could be as simple as adding a bit of ‘bling’ to that old jumper to make it feel brand new.

Make a top and skirt out of a dress or get a bit more ambitious and completely change an outfit into something else. 

Tie dye is back and it’s ideal for those not-so-white-anymore t shirts.  

Turn an old jumper into a cushion cover.

If this has inspired you to pick up a sewing needle then share your latest creations with us on Facebook or Instagram - we’ll repost our favourites!