A Masterclass in Upcycling

Hilary Pullen Great British Sewing Bee 0 Comments

Upcycling Masterclass

Breathe new life into unwanted garments and fabric with our top tips for upcycling

This eye-catching A-line skirt is made from old denim jackets and jeans, transformed into something you’ll want to wear again and again

Download this free sewing pattern and instructions from www.lovesewingmag.co.uk

Sourcing ‘new’ fabric

Your wardrobe is full of fabric, and January is a great time to sort through your clothes and separate out what you’re no longer loving. If it’s in a good condition you may want to donate it to charity, or why not transform it into something new?

Wash your unwanted household clothing, curtains and bedding and sort them into similar fabric. You could arrange them in piles of denim, knits, and wovens or by colour. Take time to notice how different fabrics may co-ordinate well or what you have more of. Now for the fun part! Unless you plan to make a feature of the hems and pockets, you will need to cut useable pieces of fabric from each. This helps you understand how much fabric you have and will save you time when you’re ready to start sewing!

What to make

The options really are endless! Traditionally smaller scraps of fabric can be put to great use in patchwork quilts or home décor items such as cushions and runners. This is best suited to cotton and wovens. Try hand-sewing as a mindful activity in the winter evenings or whizz up designs in no time on your machine.

Denim comes in all manner of dyes and washes and as can be seen in the skirt opposite, it’s also a whole lot of fun to create patchwork designs with. Depending on how much you have, you could try skirts, dresses or even a handbag. Many people also use the original jeans pockets as patch pockets and a quirky finishing touch. When sewing with denim, we recommend an all-purpose polyester thread for construction and a top-stitching thread. A 90/14 needle is great for light to medium-weight denim and a 100/16 for more heavyweight options. You may need to use heavy-duty closures and a flat-felled seam to ensure your garment or accessory stands the test of time.

Knit fabric can be perfect for colour blocking, whether it’s a sweatshirt with contrasting sleeves and yoke or a T-shirt with a contrasting peplum like we have on page 76, there are lots of fun options. Try small details like collars and cuffs or opt for something more dramatic like a panelled dress with each section made in a different colour.

A walking foot is ideal for sewing through multiple layers with control and when sewing heavyweight fabric so it will certainly come in handy when upcycling!

Embellish away

Sometimes all a garment needs is some fun decoration or embellishments. Try adding contrasting ribbing to sleeves, a lace strip along the bottom of a cropped tee or an iron-on motif to a plain jumper.

To embroider onto garments, you can use an embroidery machine or stitch by hand. You’ll need to use a stabiliser on the back, especially for thin or delicate fabric or if you are using metallic thread. A water-soluble stabiliser or tear-away interfacing as a stabiliser is easy to remove afterwards but it’s worth practising on scrap fabric to see what works best for your design. Use an embroidery hoop to keep your design taut and consider the placement carefully before you begin!

Visible mending

Garments that have holes in, scuffs or marks can be given a new lease of life with the help of visible mending. Use sashiko or boro stitching to add little scraps of fabric and embroider carefully on top. Or use these ancient techniques to reinforce areas of frequent wear such as pockets, elbows or knees with delicate stitches. Be warned, this is rather addictive once you get started!


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