How To Start Upcycling Clothes [Beginner Miniseries Part 1] – Eco Fashion Sewing

How To Start Upcycling Clothes [Beginner Miniseries Part 1]

Where and how to start upcycling clothes is a question I’ve been asked the most since I began talking on presentations and holding hands-on-workshops locally in Perth WA several years ago.

As well as it is one of the most important to my online audience on the website and on social. Thus, it all lead to creation of this special Upcycler Beginner's 3-Part Miniseries on the podcast (if can't wait, jump to listen to Part 1 here).

But that won't be all. When ready, I'll be also releasing new freebie to accompany the series: The Upcycling Beginner’s Starter Kit, a compact PDF containing all the valuable information from the three episodes, links to examples, tutorials and inspiration.

Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss (if already uploaded, it will appear here ready to download).

How to start upcycling clothes - main

How To Start Upcycling Clothes: Considerations Gathered Over Time

Over the years I knew there should be a helpful way, applicable in more general terms; without me asking series of questions in order to give my best possible advice on how to start upcycling clothes. I knew there should be something applicable regardless individual skills and level of experience.

No general system is perfect, but if it’s either this or no guidance at all, then having something tangible would be certainly something of interest (well, that’s me anyway).

Fast forwarding some years, I’m now happy that there is something that could be of help. Something useful for most, regardless where exactly you are at the moment in your upcycling journey.

And the best part of it all is that if you take this into consideration, you won’t wonder anymore how to start upcycling clothes. You’ll be also able to find projects that you’d actually want to wear.

And, the last but not the least, you’ll get to use what’s already in your wardrobe or stash, so there will be almost no or very little cost added to your makes.

The Requirements To Start Reworking Clothing In Terms Of Skills And Knowledge

I know some won't agree, but to begin tackling the clothes at the back of your wardrobe, the one thing you need is only to really want it.

From what I've seen so far, everything else, like learning to sew, sewing techniques, learning designing or whatever else comes up your way - all this is doable.

But if you have no interest whatsoever to get yourself moving forward, learn and practice, then refashioning is simply not for you.

The only thing I'd say, as mentioned in the episode, is that if you already know how to use a sewing machine and run a decent stitch you'd be able to progress into the fun and interesting things faster. You'd be able to play and figure out designs, to learn how to make better fit for your body and lots of other things.

Of course, many choose to stick to hand sewing, and that's ok, too. It is just not my choice and, in my opinion, it limits you to get to the best possible level you can in refashioning.

What Is Included In The Upcycling Beginner's Miniseries & In Today's Part 1

Below is a snapshot of what to expect in the 3-part miniseries for upcycling beginners we are going to talk about during the next 3 weeks on the podcast:

  • Today, in Part 1 we talk about where you could begin easy. You’ll learn about my 3-step successful formula on how to start upcycling clothes
  • Part 2 covers the two main strategies to upcycle old clothes into new, with 6 popular upcycling techniques, plus examples. An episode with real projects, tutorials and inspiration :) You can check Part 2 here.
  • Finally, in three weeks time in Part 3 you’ll discover my 3-pile system that will help you find your first (or next) upcycled project from what you already have at home. This is the savviest and truly satisfying option that I simply love! There’s nothing better than to be using the cast-offs you had for years AND to feel proud at the end of what you created.
  • As a bonus, you’ll be able at the end of the series to download a PDF containing the key information, links and examples. It takes time to put it together, but I’d love you to have this helping tool.

The ultimate goal: the more people begin upcycling unused clothing, the more good textiles and clothing will be saved from being wasted, right :)

Listen to episode #6:

Where & How To Start Upcycling Clothes. Beginner’s Miniseries Part 1.

Or listen at the podcast page HERE.

Some Highlights Inside This Episode:

[0:30] Shortly about what is included in each part of the Upcycling Beginner’s Miniseries.

[2:10] Why bother answering the big question how to start upcycling clothes and what I recommend so you enjoy creating and grow your skills.

[6:05] What is the 3-step formula for successful reworking old into new and the first step: Start with what you already have at home. How this could benefit your making process.

[9:35] Example of why it is easy to start with what you’ve collected over the years: an icy blue cardigan, one of my most shared projects on Pinterest.

[11:55] Uncovering the second step of the formula: Do what you can. Discussing what that means and how you can check whether you picked the right project.

[18:00] Further example of creating woman’s pants from one man’s shirt, part of my Upside-Down upcycled collection.

[23:10] What is behind step three: Make what you love and why this is so important. Also, listen to some guidelines regarding this final step.

[28:40] Another example how even initially successful project could take an unexpected turn. For better or worse, this is something that could happen, but I’d love to share why you should take it as a positive :)

[31:40] Wrapping up the episode, what’s next?

Share this episode and spread the word ✂️♻️💝

Rate, Review & Subscribe On Apple Podcasts:

If you love the conversation, please consider writing a review and rating the show. This will help me to continue spreading the word on the ins and outs of refashioning. The ultimate goal: the more sewists on board, the more valuable textiles saved from landfill!

Go to the show page here and click “Listen on Apple Podcasts”. In iTunes then select the “Ratings and Reviews” tab and click 5 stars to rate and select “Write a Review”. Make sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

If you haven’t done so yet, subscribe to the podcast. It will secure you never miss out, including the free downloads which I’m adding to some of the episodes. Subscribe here.

Other Podcast Episodes Mentioned In This Episode:

Projects Mentioned In This Episode:

How to start upcycling clothes - blue cardigan project
  • ”Upside-Down” Upcycled Collection - on the photo above I wear the initial pants made from two men's shirts, check the tutorial for details here. The model on the left wears the pants made from just single man's button-up shirt.
How to start upcycling clothes - the collection

I didn't mentioned in the episode, but when I met Clare Press, Vogue Australia's sustainability editor (on the left on the photo) at the launch of her book Rise & Resist in Perth in 2018, she was intrigued by this redesign.

After explaining how I tweaked an initially man's shirt into these woman's pants (I'm wearing them on the photo) Clare did insightful remark. 

"Here you are, Ms Brilliant Trousers!" she renamed me instantly, and passed the signed book.

"For Mariana. So great to meet you. Love your upcycling work!" she had written. We talked refashioning and laughed over the Ms Brilliant Trousers. Clever lady, she is.

How to start upcycling clothes - Clair Press and Mariana

Clare Press (left) and Mariana, Perth 2018

I enjoyed our meet and certainly won't forget her, amazing lady and one of a kind sustainability advocate. Her book is a must read. Very powerful and inspiring!


Your Host

How to start upcycling clothes - your host

As a fashion graduate and sewing professional with several years bridal and alteration experience, Mariana Kirova is passionate about quality one-off upcycles.

She loves sharing her findings, observations and upcycling ideas with like-minded aspiring creatives, refashionistas and makers.

It's time not only to start recycling those castoffs and add unique clothing pieces to your wardrobe. To enjoy it, it's time to immerse into the making process. Once you feel the deep satisfaction of creating with your own hands, you'll never look back to buying from the rack!

At the end, the more sewists start upcycling clothing already in circulation - the less valuable textiles will end up in landfill, right?

Mariana Kirova

Mariana is passionate about garment upcycling and helping others making their own upcycled clothing. Graduated with Award in garment construction from WAIFT, Perth WA, Mariana is not a main stream eco fashion designer. She makes unique eco-friendly garments from unwanted clothes and materials and believes that small fashion professionals and DIY sewers can embrace sustainability in garment creation, thus changing the fashion world for good.