Upcycling ideas for clothes: a woman is using old clothes to sew something new.

Tips and upcycling ideas for old clothes

In everybody’s wardrobe there are clothes that either sit there unworn or sit on a hanger and are only worn once or twice. There are lots of reasons for this such as maybe the clothes don’t fit properly, they have small tears or rips or you simply don’t like certain clothes anymore. However, this is no reason to say goodbye by throwing old clothes away! You can repair or upcycle old clothes with just a few creative ideas and a bit of craftsmanship. In this article we have put together some upcycling ideas for your old clothes and we will also give you some tips on how to make your clothes last longer.

Repairing clothes with small tears and holes

If your button has fallen off one of your clothes or if one of your seams has torn this is no reason to throw these clothes away. You don’t need to be a sewing expert to repair small things on your clothes. For most small things there are simple guides and tutorials for beginners that you can easily follow.

  • If you have never sewn before there are video tutorials on Youtube, which can help you get started. These videos will show you step-by-step on how to stich and the different techniques you can use to repair clothes.

  • If you would like to learn how to use a sewing machine, then it may be a good idea to attend a sewing course on an evening or at your local community centre. If you know someone who knows how to sew you can ask them to show you and for any sewing tips.

  • In lots of cities there are sewing cafés or repair cafés where you can repair your old clothes on sewing machines that you have brought with you or that are provided there. These are great places to exchange tips with others who enjoy sewing.

  • If you don't feel confident repairing your old clothes or clothes with tears and rips, you can always take them to a professional tailor to be fixed. This is especially important for suits, leather jackets and dresses. In many cases, a tailor can also help you if you would like to have your clothes altered.

  • Repairing shoes is often very difficult for beginners. Therefore, it is a good idea to take a pair of shoes with a good fit to a cobbler to be repaired.

You can quickly and simply repair small tears on your clothes quite often without a sewing machine.

Step 1: sewing on buttons

Even if you are a sewing beginner you can easily sew on a loose button with just a bit of matching thread. If you have lost the button you can either find a replacement with a similar design or use the spare button that came with the item of clothing. You will find replacement buttons on the inside of many newer items of clothing. They are usually in a small plastic bag or sewn directly onto the label. It’s important that you keep these and you don’t throw them away.

Repairing clothes: a woman is replacing a zip on her pair of jeans.

Step 2: repairing zips

By using a small pair of pliers and a little bit of strength you can straighten the bent (metal) teeth of a zip. If the slider is too loose, you can also gently press it back together.

How to mend jeans and sew holes

Jeans can be easily repaired with patches and if you don't mind the worn look. If a seam is torn, you can easily sew it back together from the inside, as there is no damage to the fabric. If the tear is in a different place, you should first check how big the hole is or if the material is very worn on that point. If this is the case unfortunately, you will not be able to simply sew it back together instead, you will have to fix this on the inside with a piece of fabric and/or use iron on patches.

You can use this technique on other clothes and you can also make holes in other clothes if you would like to make a particular item of clothing stand out a bit more. For example, you could also sew on quirky patches that will make your clothes really stand out. Alternatively, small tears or holes can be concealed with designs made out of lace or a creative embroidery pattern.

In our knitwear guide you can find helpful tips and tricks on how to repair your knitwear.


If you haven’t sewn before it’s a good idea to practice sewing on old clothes that you are not very keen on. Sewing will get easier with practice, therefore, don’t be too disappointed with the results when sewing for the first time.

Upcycling ideas for clothes: a woman using spare pieces of material to sew a skirt.

Creative upcycling ideas for clothes

There are various ways in which you can use fabric from your clothes that can no longer be repaired due to the fabric being damaged or if there is a large tear. Depending on how much of the fabric is still in good condition, you can make completely new items of clothing or alternatively make small cloths and similar items out of spare pieces of material.


Only use clothes that you already own for upcycling projects. Buying new clothes and then immediately cutting them up or using parts of them to make new clothes is not a very environmentally friendly approach to fashion. The goal of an upcycling project should always be to use clothes for as long as possible.

Getting creative with upcycling ideas

  • Create new items of clothing out of old clothes. You can turn old jeans into a denim miniskirt or old dresses into tops. Old T-shirts made out of materials that let your skin breathe can also be used to make baby clothes.

  • You can also make new clothes out of spare pieces of fabric. Depending on the size of the patches you can make homemade patches for denim jackets, backpacks or for sewing a patchwork quilt or for making plastic-free dog toys.

  • You can use spare pieces of cotton to sew washable, sanitary towels or nursing pads.

  • You can also use larger pieces of spare fabric such as from old bags to make eco-friendly gift wrapping paper that can be used more than once.

  • Old towels can be turned into dishcloths or dishwashing sponges with several layers. Since they are washable you can use them time and time again.

  • Thick and tightly woven cotton or linen fabrics can be sewn into homemade oven mitts.

  • If you like the material of an item of clothing that no longer fits you it can be used to make decorative items such as cushion covers, fragrance bags or cutlery holders for table decorations.

  • Suitable fabrics can also be reused in the kitchen. You can use a thin cotton or linen fabric to make cheese cloths or filter bags for cheese, nut based milks and syrup or reusable tea bags for loose leaf tea. The fabrics you use should ideally have been washed several times so that any harmful substances from the manufacturing process have been washed out.

Below you will find three exciting upcycling ideas to try, which will also help you to reduce your household waste. All you will need are some old clothes:

Useful tips on how to make your clothes last longer

It’s always annoying when you notice tears or holes on your favourite clothes. By taking good care of your clothes you can get the most out of them. Getting the most out of your clothes will help you to adopt an environmentally friendly approach to fashion.

  • Don't wash your clothes too often: clothes that you have only worn for a few hours are generally not very dirty and they can be left out to air. Small stains can also be removed by hand washing, which is better for the environment and the fabric.

  • Make sure to separate your laundry before washing it: this will help to prevent your clothes from becoming discoloured or looking worn.

  • By washing your clothes in a more environmentally friendly way you can help to protect the materials. Don't use too much laundry detergent, don't wash too hot and don't spin too fast. This protects both the environment and the fibres in the clothes. Delicate materials such as wool or silk should be hand washed or washed on a special delicates programme.

  • Small holes or tears in clothes can occur when delicate fabrics come into contact with metal eyelets or zips. You can prevent this by fastening metal buttons, hooks and zips on clothes before you wash them. It is also a good idea to turn your clothes inside out or put any clothes made out of delicate materials into a laundry bag.

  • If you turn your underwear inside out this will help to protect the colour and the design.

You can get more out of your clothes if you take good care of them. Clothes should never be seen as something disposable no matter how much they cost. However, you should opt for clothes made out of high quality sustainable materials. You should always value the things you own and keeping something and getting the most out of it is a much more sustainable approach than replacing it.

Conclusion: getting the most out of your favourite clothes

Adopting an eco-friendly approach is not only important when purchasing new clothes. The lifespan of your clothes is also important, as you can easily repair any small holes or tears instead of throwing them away! If you take good care of your clothes and repair any small tears you can make them longer lasting. You can even give old, worn clothes a new life by using them for creative upcycling ideas.

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(Last accessed on 16.06.2023)


(Last accessed on 16.06.2023)


(Last accessed on 16.06.2023)


(Last accessed on 16.06.2023)

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