Thursday, January 3, 2013

Repurposing Clothes for Kids

Upcycled Play Pants

Repurposing Clothes for Kids

There are many words for it: "repurposing", "upcycling", "altering", but what we're really talking about is taking something that is no longer needed and turning it into something it wasn't originally designed for. There are a number of benefits to repurposing things, and with practice you will start to realize that you are seeing everything you own in a whole new light as you begin to see the other "purposes" an item may have after outliving its usefulness.

While just about anything can be repurposed, in this article I'm going to focus on repurposing old, worn-out, or poor-fitting clothing into adorable and useful items for children. 

Repurposing can be as simple as using an item in a whole new way, such as this tutorial for using an adult t-shirt as a no-sew, pinnable diaper just by folding it!

Or as complex as using large adult items to lay out actual purchased sewing patterns on to reclaim fabric. Personally, I prefer something in between, and I've included a few of my favorite projects with basic directions below.

Some of the benefits of repurposing to make new clothing items include:
~ Less trash, less waste
~ Give new life to loved articles
~ Your child's clothing will be unique
~ Great for play clothes! The fear of destruction is significantly lessened when you know the item was a t-shirt headed for Goodwill or the dump to start with!
~ QUICKLY make clothes, because you'll find creative ways to avoid hemming and other time-consuming tasks by making use of existing hemlines and garment structures such as pockets, pleates, and zippers.
~ Save money on kids clothes

So here are some quick ideas to get you started on the "repurpose" road:

Quick & Easy 5 Minute Play Pants:

~ An old turtleneck sweater or shirt
~ You could also use any old sweatshirt, long-sleeve t-shirt, sweater or other adult long-sleeved top made of stretchy material and 1/2 to 1 inch elastic, as long as your child's waist is around for a waist band
~ A pair of your child's pants, preferably loose-fitting
~ A sewing machine or serger (though I suppose you could do them by hand if you have the patience for that kinda' thing)
Optional: A cutting mat and cutting blade, which make this SUPER quick, but a marker and scissors will work too.

Sleeve on Adult Shirt Stretched Out
Existing pants used as pattern
Lay the top down, stretching out the sleeves as shown. 

Lay the pants on top, folded in half and lining up the outer seams and cuffs (to avoid hemming).
Cut around pants

Using the pants as a pattern, cut or trace and cut around the outline of the existing pants, leaving a slight space for seam allowance. You can also easily upsize by laying the existing pants further up the sleeve and/or cutting with a greater allowance. If you are using a turtleneck you do not need to allow extra fabric for an elastic casing as the neck will serve as the waist for most children. If you will need an elastic casing allow an extra 1-2 inches of fabric at the top above the waistline of the existing pants so that you can fold that over and make an elastic casing. Another option, if the sleeves of your garment are too short, is to cut a casing from another area of the garment such as the hemline at the waist, and sew it to the pants.

Lay one cut sleeve on top of  other
Now repeat on the other sleeve, using the half you just cut and cutting on the line so that they are the same size.

Test neck sizing, turtlenecks.
If you are using a turtleneck (and the neck is large enough for your child's waist), you can simply cut it off at whatever height you'd like your waistband to be. I like high-rises on my little guy to cover up his fluffy cloth diaper butt so I used the whole neck.

All 3 pieces laid out

Turn one sleeve inside out and leave one right-side out, shoving the right-side-out one into the inside-out one and lining up the area cut for the crotch of the pants. 

Sew seam at crotch from front to back
Starting at one end sew or serge along that seam from one end to the other, being certain that the seams in the middle (if there are any from your garment) line up with one another.
Now, turn the pants so that they are inside out. Line up the neck (I hate pinning so I just eyeball it, but pinning would ensure a good even stretch all around), with the raw edges on the same side and the neck INSIDE the waist of the pants. Serge or sew, stretching the neck to fit the waistline and gather the material lightly.

Turn right-side out and voila!

Other Possibilities:

Cutting out from adult pants.
Cutting out from T-shirt

You could also easily make these from a wool sweater to use as a cloth diaper cover!

Some other great repurpose ideas:
Toddler dress from a women's dress shirt. Found at:

Repurposed Child's skirt from T-shirts. Found at:
Turn tiny newborn clothes into something usable. Found at:

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