Wardrobe Redress: Making the old new again

Hello there! It’s me, Karen. You might remember meeting me. Kristin introduced me here. I’m stepping out of the background today to share a few projects.

When Kristin started her Wardrobe Redress series, it got me thinking about my efforts to “fancy up” my wardrobe. Since my three little boys find shopping “SOOO boring,” I have to find other ways to update my wardrobe. Refashioning takes my old clothes and gives them a new life AND eliminates (some) trips to the mall. So far my projects fall into two categories: embellishment and reconstruction.


This is a simple concept. I took an aging t-shirt and added a design to it. Out of the many ways to embellish, I chose embroidery.

t-shirt w/ hand embroidery

(Apologies for the wrinkled clothes. Ironing falls by the wayside at my house–three small boys.)

This shirt is comfortable and fits well. It’s an old favorite. Unfortunately, it became slightly discolored with small oil stains. By adding an embellishment, the stains are invisible because the eye is drawn to the design instead. I took this design and embroidered it on my t-shirt with supplies from my stash. I liked the idea of a design set off center and this one did the trick nicely. I tried on the shirt with the tracing paper pinned on it. I wanted to be sure that the embroidery didn’t end up in an awkward spot.


It’s been fun taking on the challenge of reconstructing clothes from one form to another. The things I’ve seen all over craft blogs are amazing and inspiring!

Recently, I took an overly-felted pullover sweater and combined it with a moth-eaten scarf. Both were in a sad state. I had intended to felt the sweater to fit me better and it shrunk way too much. The sleeves were at an embarrassing “I’m not a long sleeve nor am I a 3/4 sleeve” length. The body of the sweater was very short as well. The cashmere scarf was an orphan we had around the house. Providentially, the color matched the sweater perfectly.


Before my goof, I was going to make a button down cardigan. Since the scarf was such a great color match, I was able to salvage my mistake. I added cuffs to the sleeves and additional material around the bottom hem. With some buttons from the stash and a little rose from the scarf scraps, I made one of my favorite cardigans.

karen's new sweater

Another reconstruction project I had fun with is a ruffle neck top made from a linen skirt. (Again, apologies for the awful “before” picture. Hopefully it makes the “after” shot that much better.)

karen's linen skirt

I bought this skirt for those “I just gave birth and have nothing to wear” days. Last summer, it was in the donation pile as it became too large. Around that time, a couple of my friends were swapping clothes. They told me this funny story of how one thought a certain item was a skirt and the other thought it was a poncho. It got me thinking, “maybe this skirt can be a shirt.”

After wearing the skirt around my neck and doing a lot of fiddling, I had a plan. First, I removed the drawstring waistband. Then I cut into the skirt. The rough sketch below shows my cut lines in red.

skirt to shirt sketch

I was feeling a little intimidated, so I tackled the neckline first. After I cut the excess fabric for the new neckline, I re-attached the waistband. I didn’t have to make any changes to the waistband. All I needed to do was pull the drawstrings tight enough so that it laid flat around my neck.

I put on it on again to place the cuts for the arm holes. I used a tank top from my closet to get the right shape for the arm holes and side seams. Since the skirt was cut on the bias, the scraps from the side were perfect for finishing the arm holes. Since I kept the bottom hem intact, all that was left was sewing up the side seams.

I was wearing the skirt around my neck a lot to get everything just right. I felt ridiculous but it helped me get a good fit. And in the end, I had a ruffle neck top!

karen's ruffle neck top

These projects were so much fun. It satisfied my itch to create and my old clothes became new again!

Karen Liao is a lifetime crafter and online editor for the Craft Leftovers blog. She sells her handmade goods for charity in her etsy shop, Turtlestar.

8 thoughts on “Wardrobe Redress: Making the old new again

  1. “After wearing the skirt around my neck and doing a lot of fiddling, I had a plan.”

    This line made me snigger so much at work..

    When I read it out loud to a colleague, who was intrigued as to why I was laughing so much, I ended up having to go for the “Yep I’m just crazy” line rather than trying to explain to non-crafty types why a woman would be making a shirt out or a skirt..

    but thanks for making my smile as well as inspiring!

  2. I enjoyed reading this. It inspires me to do something with the old clothes I have. I used to be intimidated by refitting things, but this is really an encouragement.

    Re: the previous comment: For non-crafters — Sometimes there is something about an item (for me it’s often the simply fabric itself) that we want to keep. It makes more sense to refit it rather than having it uselessly taking up closet space because I no longer wear it.

  3. Thanks for sharing!! Repurposing old things into new uses is such a much-needed return to the basics. Clothes are so cheap now we all have overflowing closets and just get rid of what we don’t like anymore. I love this idea of giving clothes new life and updating them (and having a fun, crafty project in the process). You might be interested to check out my site Vintage Savoir Faire, I write about similar things. :)

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