Up-cycling Your Old Clothes


So in transitioning I find myself with a lot of sentimental clothes that I won’t or can’t wear anymore because of either the fit or the print. Transitioning, though, is not the only reason you would end up with clothes like this. Perhaps you’ve lost or gained weight, your child has grown, or you’ve lost a loved one. What can we do with these clothes to hang on to them a little bit longer? Everyone has heard of making a t shirt quilt or a memory bear, but these ideas may be overwhelming. A quilt can be a massive undertaking and clothes are not always made of the right materials for a teddy bear (plus, I’ve made some of those, they can be exceptionally challenging!) I’ve gathered some small projects that are quickly and easily made for this half of my up-cycling blog.

Socks - the EAM Sew It Forward Pattern


This shirt was always really special to me. My oldest daughter has loved Cinderella since she could talk, and I was always making her “Relly” dresses. For our first trip to Disney I made this shirt for myself because I felt like the mice and birds in Cinderella sewing up all the dresses for her. Now that I’m transitioning...it’s a little bit too pink for me, but I still love the print. I decided it would make a great pair of socks using the free Ellie and Mac Sew It Forward pattern. As with most of the projects in this blog, it was really convenient to be able to cut out both sets of pattern pieces at the same time using the front and back of the shirt! I absolutely love the way they came out!

Pillow - DIY Pattern


For these two shirts I wanted to highlight the images on the panels since custom fabric is so pricey. Small pillows are perfect for that, and there’s no need to follow an actual pattern. I used my largest square ruler so you could see the placement, but if you don’t have one of these or if it’s not large enough for the image, you can make your own sized square or rectangle with a ruler or straight edge. Cut out both sides of the shirt.


Place the squares right sides together and sew or serge most of the way around the edges, turn them and then stuff.


Hand stitch the opening closet using a basic ladder stitch, and secure the thread, tuck the tail into the pillow itself. Even out the stuffing and enjoy!

Beanie - Find a pattern of your choosing


With this shirt I actually liked the back better than the front. I decided to use it to make a beanie for the “cold” weather we have in Georgia. There are so many great beanie patterns out there that it’s really up to you which one you choose. I had to supplement this shirt with coordinating French terry to make the hat warmer. I still really like how it turned out and the pattern I used was reversible.

Market Bag - Close the bottom of a tank top


Tank tops are perfect for this project because you already have two finished handles! All you have to do is close the bottom! You could simply close it up by turning it inside out and sewing straight across the bottom, but I like giving my bags flat bottoms, here’s how I do that.

Fold in the bottom corners of the shirt about 2.5-3 inches. Clip the bottom of the shirt and then sew it shut. When you turn it back right-side out you’ll have a nice flat bottom!

Stocking - EAM’s Merry and Bright


For the last pattern I chose to do a Christmas stocking. This shirt was the Going Home raglan that I made to wear for my first pride parade last year (I wasn’t straight even before I came out as trans). I wanted to up-cycle it into the perfect representation of my year 2020, so a very merry and bright stocking it was. I grabbed the Ellie and Mac free pattern, followed the directions and it came out beautifully!


I loved writing this blog and coming up with small project ideas! There are so many ways to up-cycle old clothes that matter to you that I couldn’t possibly fit them all in one blog. My next blog will be a second part to this one, on up-cycling old clothes into new clothes, featuring some of the awesome Ellie and Mac colorblocking patterns. Until next time, I hope you all have happy holidays and an excellent new year!

(Written by: Elliott Grey McGraw)

If you're a beginner, check out our free sewing patterns here.

See our video tutorials for beginners here.

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