Upcycled Children's Clothing

'Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without'  is a saying of Brigham Young's that often quoted within the Mormon community until up about a decade ago. Apparently it was a popular New England phrase from the early 1800s that Brigham grew up hearing. I think it would do well to take a hint from our forefathers and to apply that same principle as we wade through this recession/depression.

With the abundance of cheap finished goods available in our society, I have still felt like I should live by that mantra. Striving to live that principle has affected my mindset and is making it easier to cope with the current economic downfall because I am in the process of living more simply and using what I already have on hand.

So let me tell you about this project I started last fall before I took Tips Jr. to Europe for two weeks.
I hardly go clothes shopping anymore. I get most of my clothing from my sisters-in-law (Tips' sisters) and also my own younger sister (who works for American Eagle - so I get all of her cast-offs when she tires of them - hooray!) A few years ago she gave me this pair of tan corduroy pants that although worn in the rear - they still had some life in them. I wore them until a hole literally formed in the rear. Thank goodness I seem to always be home when the hole finally wears through!
 I was going to donate them to Deseret Industries (or the DI), a local thrift store. (Contrary to popular belief, the DI will take worn out and stained clothing that they won't sell as clothing in their stores. Instead, they sell this clothing as rags to the highest bidder, and then use the proceeds from those sales to purchase 100% wool blankets for Humanitarian Aid. These blankets are distributed whenever there is a large disaster and they are needed, so I am pretty sure they gave these blankets to the Tsunami victims in Indonesia, India and Thailand a few years back - and that Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims also received these blankets as well.) I had them in the DI pile to donate. But then I realized that Tips Jr was growing (he was 8 or 9 months at this time) and I didn't have any dressy type pants that he could wear to Church on Sundays.

I remembered those pair of pants I was going to donate. I also remembered my mom telling me how our family friend used to get jeans out of her neighbor's trash and cut them down to make jeans for her three boys while her husband was in law school. So I decided to give it a try.

Kwik Sew's Sewing for BabyMy mother-in-law had bought me Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby by Kerstin Martensson - so I got out the Master Pattern and traced the pants pattern for a 12 month old (It's a one piece pattern). I figured out where the outer leg seam would be by folding the leg pattern in half - and then I lined it up with the existing outer flat-felt seam on my pants. I also brought the bottom of the pattern down to the existing hem. If I'm going to recycle clothing into baby clothing - I might as well take advantage of the existing seams, right?

After I sewed the pants together and put the elastic waistband in, then I got out Tips Jr. overalls and put the back pocket on my copier and made a xerox copy of the pocket. I cut it out, and then cut out two pockets from the existing front pockets on the pants (they were square pockets) and sewed them onto the back of the pants, going over the raw edge with a narrow and tight zig-zag stitch. I also took off the existing American Eagle tag off the back pocket and sewed it onto the right back pocket of these little boy pants. So cute!
Just a couple of weeks after finishing them.

Then I was done and Tips Jr. had a pair of dress pants to wear to church and also to my friend's wedding in Germany. 
On the lawn of Schloss Neuschwanstein - picture courtesy Annika

I almost threw the rest of the pants away after I made Tips Jr. pair of pants, but then I had an idea. Maybe I could make a little girl's skirt out of the remaining fabric. So I did.
 I had to improvise and come up with my own little pattern - but I think it looks pretty cute.

It is currently for sale in my etsy shop, SwedishSisters.etsy.com.

I used as many of the existing elements as I could, from the AE buttons, to the waistband, to the belt loops, to side seams.
My model wearing the skirt.
THEN I realized that Tips Jr. was growing out of his shirts he could wear to church on Sunday. Luckily my dad had brought down a bunch of his old shirts. 
He had a man's button up white shirt in the box that had been worn out in the back yoke of the shirt. I decided to make up my own boy's shirt pattern (since I didn't have a pattern for one) by tracing my son's intact button-up shirt (which his auntie had bought for him at the DI for a couple of dollars). It worked out okay - I ended up having to shorten the front sides of the shirt because it didn't line up with the back once I sewed the sides together.
 Again, I tried to use as many existing elements from the original shirt as I could. This cut my work load down signficantly and I was able to whip this shirt out from start to finish in Saturday afternoon-evening (in time to wear to church on Sunday and I probably could have gotten it done earlier if I didn't have motherly duties distracting me from this project).

Existing elements I used: buttons, button-holes (I had to make one button-hole on the bottom of the shirt and I stole a button from the part of the shirt I didn't use and sewed it on where it was needed to keep the shirt closed at the bottom), sleeves (I kept the existing sleeve hemline and cut the sleeves from the edge of the sleeve hemline), and collar - I cut the collar from the button side and then cut it down from that and re-sewed it closed and re-sewed the button on. Next time I am going to use my mother and mother-in-law's advice and just shorten the collar in the middle of the collar and not mess with the edge like that. Oh well, it still only took me 4 hours top - that's from making the pattern to cutting it out to sewing it together and putting the finishing touches on it.

And here is my happy little boy wearing the entire upcycled outfit - which earlier this year I was calling 'recycled clothing' until I learned that the popular term now is to 'upcycle' it.


Amanda said…
I love this post!! I have a few pairs of Hubby's old jammie pants i plan to use for my little boys. Either a blanket or jammies. I like useinf the exsiting seams. great idea.

Great ideas!! I'm going to dig through Chad's old church shirts to see if I can make some church shirts for Warner!! It seems nearly impossible to find toddler church shirts and this is the perfect solution!
Anonymous said…
My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

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