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Repurposing Old Clothes – How I’m Doing It

To be honest, I’ve had all kinds of plans for repurposing old clothes in the household, along with several mountains of fabric scraps. Part of it is trying to keep stuff out of the waste stream, and part of it is a fun, creative challenge.

Blue shirts ready for the exercise in repurposing old clothes
The targeted shirts

But some years ago, I found I had a huge pile of blue shirts that my husband had worn parts of to shreds, mostly the collars and cuffs. So, I stashed them for some future date. The bodies of the shirts mostly remained intact, so I had extra fabric. The question remained of what to do with them?

Around that time, a friend of mine posted photos of a couple of dresses she’d made from old Hawaiian shirts. Hmmm. That sounded interesting, and the results looked pretty darned good. Could I do the same? I found a pattern I liked, the Hawthorn dress, from the site. Then I set that and the shirts aside for an extended time. After all, repurposing old clothes is not as straight-forward as you might think. At least, for me it isn’t.

The project is started

Repurposing old clothes

Last spring, I finally got the project into the queue and got it cut out. I color-blocked the bodice pieces and kept them as much alike as I could. I also had to add a back seam to the center back. The skirt was going to be harder. My husband isn’t that big, so there was no way I could do straight color blocks of each of the four pieces. I did not want to try patchworking it all together, either. But I came up with the idea of making the skirt in tiered rows.

I’ve done this before with another skirt after yet another project or five went south on me – it’s a fun way to repurpose stuff. I cut out rectangles with one set, for the top tier, cut at seven inches by however wide I could get out of a shirt, and two sets cut at nine inches by however wide I could squeeze. I made a point of including the shirt pockets, too, but not as practical ones. I’ve borrowed a pocket from another pattern for the actual pockets on the dress. I almost never make anything without pockets.

The nice thing about doing the tiers is that I wasted very little of the shirts. I still had bits that got thrown away. Sorry, Zero Waste is impossible. But a lot less of the shirts got tossed than if I’d gotten rid of them whole.

Where the repurposing project stands

Repurposing some shirts as skirt tiers.

It’s still in pieces. I was on an overlock binge this past weekend (I tend to sew things in batches), so I got the skirt tiers assembled. It took some doing to remember how I’d done the math on the lengths I needed for the three tiers. Fortunately, my cutting table was still up in the living room and it’s six-feet long, which made the measuring a lot easier. I also remembered to lay out the rectangles with pockets on the bottom tier and they look pretty good so far.

I have to gather the top edges so that I can overlock them together on the next overlock day. Plus get some of the work done on the bodice. How this will all work – that’s going to be interesting. I got a little too excited about my repurposing goal and forgot to lengthen the bodice when I cut it out. It should be okay, although I better make a note to stitch that seam at a quarter inch instead of three-eighths.

I have no idea when this will get done. But I’ll post a photo of the finished dress. I promise.

2 thoughts on “Repurposing Old Clothes – How I’m Doing It”

  1. I also have projects in process, and lots in my head and files of things to do!! I was a custom decor seamstress for years and still have the urge to sew, but now toward more craft type stuff, Totes, small purses, dog things, recycle-trim used clothes, jewelry, aprons, pillow covers…….Tons of fabric packed and moved for years that I “plan” to use! Hope to see if things sell. I am retired and want to have fun. The best motive LOL. Nancy

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