Up-cycling and Other Thrifty Sewing Tips

Sewing garments is a wonderful hobby but the costs can start to add up. Fabric isn’t exactly a cheap resource and the amount you might need for a few child-sized or even just one adult-sized garment is likely to be several metres/yards. Here at Waves & Wild, although sometimes we do splash out on more expensive fabric, we also love a bit of thrifty sewing. Check out these top tips for creating fabulous garments but at the fraction of the cost of using full price fabric.



The first great way to reduce costs is to up-cycle; reusing old or discarded items to create something new…and better! Let’s look at some different ways to up-cycle fabric based items.


Things like old duvet covers, bedding sheets and table cloths are brilliant for up-cycling because they are often very big pieces of fabric. Lots of Waves & Wild makers have used these type of items to make woven patterns like the Heyday Dungarees and Kinjarling Dress. Even very old and worn out homeware items can be of use because they are a great (and super inexpensive) way to make a test of a garment, to check the sizing and fit before you make the final garment. But fabric from duvet covers etc can be used for the final garment too. Always check how opaque the fabric is first as bedding items can be made of woven cotton that is a little thinner and more see-through than the woven cotton that’s bought off the bolt from a fabric shop. Check out some off these amazing outfits made from up-cycled homeware items…

Smaller or heavier fabric homeware items like cushion covers and curtains can also work really well for smaller makes like the Fell and Dale Flat Cap and Back to Cool Backpack. Always make sure the pattern is suitable for heavier weight woven fabric when up-cycling this sort of thing (the Heydays can also work really well with heavier fabrics like curtains…just make sure the up-cycle item has enough fabric!). Check out some of the awesome possibilities…


Adult Clothing – part one

Up-cycling old or worn out adult clothing into children’s clothes works really well for a few reasons. Firstly, because of the difference in the size there’s a good chance you’ll have enough fabric for your new garment. Holes in adult clothes can be worked around, again because of the sizing difference with child garment pattern pieces. And it’s also a great way to make something for your child out of a significant or sentimental item of clothing (like a cool band t-shirt)…you can really create a unique childhood wardrobe with this idea. You can also use this idea to make smaller items like the Back to Cool Backpack or the Cool Time Lunch Bag.

These Waves & Wild makers have used adult t-shirts, worn out trousers, old dungarees and jeans to make these child-sized items…


Adult Clothing – part 2

Just because up-cycling adult clothes into children’s garments works really well, that isn’t to say that you can’t up-cycle adult to adult. However, this can be more of a challenge to find the right fit. This is when checking your pattern pieces against the clothes you might up-cycle works better than looking at the “fabric requirements” section of the instructions. If you’re making a slimmer fitting item from a baggy one you could have the right amount of fabric. For example, this Waves & Wild maker used a baggy fitting shirt to up-cycle into the slimmer and strappy Summer Breeze Camisole. I especially love the way they have kept the shirt’s buttons and placket, using them as a stylish detail!

And if you are still struggling to fit your up-cycled “fabric” to the pattern pieces, think about using it as smaller parts of the garment like pockets, a hood lining or even a decorative patch.


Shop Thrifty

Another great way to reduce costs when making garments is to simply get a bit more thrifty. Being thrifty isn’t just about spending less, it’s also about making less wasteful choices.
Here are a few top tips:

  1. Charity/Op shops can be a great source for bedding and other homewares/home decor items if you don’t have any at home that you are ready to up-cycle.
  2. Take advantage of fabric shop sales or fabric pre-orders for discounts.
  3. Try less expensive fabric alternatives. It’s always important to choose the appropriate fabric for your patterns but sometimes there are cheaper options within each fabric type. For example, woven poly-cotton blends are often cheaper than 100% cotton, and plain fabric is usually cheaper than fabric prints.
    Note of caution: sometimes super cheap fabric can be more difficult to sew, like very thin jersey or slippery woven fabrics.
  4. If you are making more than one garment (especially if they are different patterns) from the same fabric, you may need less fabric than the two “required” fabric amounts combined. Layout all the pattern pieces (don’t forget to take into account pieces that are used more than once or pieces that are cut on the fold) to work out exactly how much fabric you’ll need and then purchase accordingly.
    Extra thrifty tip: you may need less plain fabric because the pattern pieces don’t have to be cut the right way up like they would do on a directional fabric print. If you are re-orientating pattern pieces, always make sure you still take into account the grain/stretch direction that is needed.
  5. Save your fabric scraps and off-cuts. These are perfect for smaller garment features like pockets, cuffs and gussets. I regularly get a pair of Speedy Pants out of the fabric left over from another garment make, especially as some of the pattern pieces are small enough to fit into weirdly-shaped off-cuts. Another great way to use up scraps is to cut them all into squares, sewing them all together like a patchwork quilt and then use this like a piece of fabric to cut out your pattern pieces. Check out this fabulous scrappy patchwork Hygge Vest/Gilet/Bodywarmer


Other ideas?

I hope some of these suggestions have inspired you to try some more thrifty sewing options. Comment below if you have any other ideas to add…