“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” -Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) 

Do you remember the time when you had to throw out your favorite shirt because you either a) shrunk it, b)”ruined” it, or c) out grew it? I have definitely done all of these things. I have a hard time getting rid of clothing even if I rarely wear it; even if it really doesn’t fit. I have a hard time letting go. When I finally do clean out my closet I feel like it’s over–why not let it be the beginning of something new?

We are busy deconstructing our most recent thrift store trip so we will be ready to cut out more vests, dresses, and toys. Most of the items we upcycle are button up shirts; we take to hacking them to pieces carefully removing the buttons, collar, sleeves, and yoke, and then separate the front from the back. It’s a bit of a tedious process; but it makes cutting out new items much faster (and we can catch up on some TV). The more shirts I deconstruct the more I also notice the fabric quality–there’s no way I could buy the same fabric used in some of these name brand, high quality designer shirts by the yard and be able to turn out a product that I would be cost effective, especially for children. And I’ll tell you: they’re so much softer and more durable. High quality fabrics have a much longer life span and will feel much better to the touch wash after wash.

A few clothing upcycling tips:

  • Wash everything. The more vintage/old the fabric the more likely it is that it will SHRINK! Which is a totally bummer if you’ve cut it out to be one size and then wash and dry to find out you’ve lost an inch or two. Worse to find out the lining shrunk more than the exterior. In summary, pre-wash before you cut out. (This goes two fold if you find yardage of fabric at the thrift store.) If you’re using clothing you’ve worn (and let’s face it–already shrunk) then you’re probably ready to go.
  • Break it down. Cut garments into flat pieces so that you can easily cut them out with out the pull and fight of a sleeve stuck in place. I leave the seams on, I’m just going to cut them away as I cut out new patterns anyway.
  • Iron it. It may feel like you’re adding time here, but really you’re adding fabric. Ironing out those wrinkles, especially at the bottom of shirts can make nearly 3 inches appear. Like magic.
  • Details. Keep what ever details you can. Detailed pocket? Nifty Collar? Embroidered flowers? Find creative ways to keep or reuse them giving a nod to the original look.

I must admit that after three days of 3-5 hour sessions of breaking down shirts I am quite ready to start sewing. Alas, I must iron…