How to upcycle old clothes without a sewing machine

Hi Creative Mamas! I am so happy to be sharing with you how to upcycle old clothes. I love talking upcycling! Upcycling is one of my passions and something that I teach and that I do myself a lot.

It’s a great fashion sustainability strategy since what you are basically doing is giving a garment a new leaf of life. Therefore, you are reducing waste and you may be ending up with a garment that has emotional meaning to you (since you have taken the time and energy to upcycle it)

upcycled jacket using an embroidered patch

How to upcycle old clothes?

In this article you will learn how to upcycle old clothes and turn them into something special! No sewing machine required for this technique but if you are a lover of sewing machines it’s easy to adapt the instructions by using a zig zig stitch or any machine embroidery stitch 

What does upcycle mean?

By definition upcycle means to reuse discarded objects or materials in such a way that you are able to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.

What does it mean to upcycle old clothes?

To upcycle old clothes means to use a garment that you don’t want any more and to recreate it into a garment of higher value. The main purpose of upcycling is to recreate the original object and to give it a higher value than the one it had before your intervention.

What is the difference between upcycling and recycling

Recycling is the process of collecting and changing an object so that it can be used again. There is no intention to add a higher value to it, it’s simply an exercise focused on re using rather than discarding. It’s a sustainable strategy to reduce landfill waste and to develop better consumer understanding in relation to consumption. To Recycle old clothes would mean to put your old garment through a shredding machine and to create yarn with the shredded fiber for example.

What is an example of upcycling?

As a mom I love the upcycling strategy. I am forever re using and re creating my kids old clothes, books and linen. I am also a little obsessed with shopping in thrift stores (op shops) and re using old blankets. With natural dyeing I am able to change the color of my fabrics and to create objects of value. Here are a few examples:

Fabric flower brooch

I made this flower brooch by upcycling an old blanket which I hand dyed as well.

fabric flower made using hand dyed  upcycled wool fabric

Pillow with embroidered patches

I made this envelope pillow by using an old linen which was hand dyed and then I embroidered patches onto it.

upcycled linen made into an envelope pillow using embroidered patches


I made this quilt by upcycling an old blanket as well as old embroidery and lace.

upcycled fabric into  a quilt

What do you need to upcycle old clothes without a sewing machine?

“This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.”

I will show you how to upcycle an old garment by making a patch using LA CREATIVE MAMA Sewing Patterns. To upcycle a garment and give it a new lease of life with a higher value than before you need:

  • An old garment that you want to work with (an old skirt, an old pair of jeans, your old over used denim jacket, a t shirt, a scarf, a shirt…it can be any garment that you love and don’t want to discard it but it’s too over used or it’s too plane and boring. I would normally upcycle anything that has a high emotional value to me so then I keep it around a whole lot longer.
  • Needles
  • Embroidery thread
  • Scissors
  • Fabric scraps
  • Felted fabric or old blankets

DIY upcycling clothes Tutorial

Step 1:

Choose your favorite sewing pattern from The Sewing Patterns Binder

Step 2:

Choose a foundation fabric. For my patch I have chosen a dyed old blanket but you can use a piece of felted fabric. Cut around your pattern shapes from your Sewing Pattern Binder image. Pin the pattern pieces on your chosen fabrics and cut around them.

diy tutorial upcycling old clothes

Step 3:

Pin your cut out fabric shapes on to the foundation fabric.

embroidered patches on upcycled fabric

Step 4:

Hand sew around your shape. For this example I first used the glue stitch to baste my shapes in place and then I embroidered around using both a back stitch and the needle turned down applique.

upcycling old clothes with embroidered patches

Step 5:

Once you have sewn in place and you have embellish it as much as you want its time to cut around your patch. Place patch on your old garment. Play around with different placements of your patch.

After much trial I have decided to place my patch at the back of my jacket To attach your patch to your garment you can use Blanket stitch or whipstitch.

diy tutorial upcycling clothes

Ideas of how to upcycle an old skirt with a patch

I used Embroidery to follow around the shape of the pattern. I created a patch to upcycle an old woolen skirt of mine.

I manipulated the patterns by twisting the legs around and also replaced the arms with my own embroidery.

upcycle old clothes

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