Society is becoming more and more aware of the negative effects of fast fashion, both on the people involved in the manufacturing process, and on the environment. Fast fashion produces a tenth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and production often releases chemicals and toxic dyes into the environment. Working conditions are often harsh, dangerous and badly paid.
Part of the solution is to wear our existing clothes for as long as possible and to responsibly recycle them when we no longer wear them. Most of the time, our unwanted clothes are still in wearable condition so we can take them to a charity shop, a clothes swap or give them to a friend.
But what can we do with clothes that are completely worn out, beyond repair? I’m talking about clothes with unrepairable holes or rips, stubborn stains, or clothes that are stretched or broken. You might immediately deem such clothes as unsalvageable, and be tempted to throw them in the trash. However, they don’t have to reach the end of their usable life yet.
There are certain scenarios in which unwearable clothes can be easily upcycled into something wearable or useable. Here are 8 upcycling hacks to give new life to your worn-out clothes.
What to do with your worn-out clothes – 8 easy upcycling hacks
When you cut them open along the seam, socks are the perfect size to make a useful cleaning cloth. I shared a tutorial on how to make useful cloths out of old socks. It’s a great solution for giving new life to worn-out, holey socks.
Isn’t it annoying when your tights get a hole around the toe? You can give new life to these tights by cutting off the feet. Wear them underneath your jeans or trousers when it’s cold, to keep yourself warm. It doesn’t matter if the tights have ladders because they are just for warmth, not to be seen. With the feet cut off, they should be more comfortable than tights normally are.
Clothes with stains
Depending on the size and location of the stain, it’s often possible to patch over stains to make a unique clothing piece. I had a grey jumper that I, unfortunately, spilt curry down, resulting in a yellow stain on the chest, that wouldn’t come out. I had recently made a little cross-stitch of a cat, and I sewed that over the stain as it was in the perfect position to look like a logo. Now I have a cute and unique jumper and nobody would know about the stain.
Jeans with (unwanted) holes in the knees
The knees often tend to be the first places that jeans wear out. If your jeans develop holes in the knees, this can be a fashion statement in itself. However, if you don’t want holey jeans, cut them off above the knee. You can either roll up the ends or leave them frayed if you prefer that look. Then you have a pair of shorts, with no sewing required.
Broken or stretched hair ties
When your hair ties stretch or break, the first instinct would be to throw them away. However, they are very useful for tying up makeshift bin bags. I like to reuse plastic bags and packaging to line my bin instead of buying purpose-made bin bags. Often, it’s hard to tie them up because they don’t have handles, so it’s useful to have some old hair ties handy to seal the bags.
Dirty white trainers
Sometimes, white trainers or canvas shoes get stained and dirty but the shoes themselves are still intact and functional. They just don’t look very nice. First, try machine-washing them as that might help (put them in with some old towels for padding) or if that doesn’t work, you could dye them a bright or dark colour to hide the discolouration. There are plenty of tutorials online on how to dye shoes.
Sometimes, clothes will become unwearable due to unrepairable holes, rips, stains or stretches, but the fabric itself is still in good condition. Soft fabrics such as cotton or fleece are great for cutting up and making reusable makeup wipes. As well as saving the fabric from going to waste, you will also save on disposable makeup wipes or cotton wool pads.
This is similar to the point above but applies to any fabric that is still in good condition, even if the clothing is unwearable. If you’re a blogger or Instagrammer, you could use the fabric from worn-out clothes as a backdrop for photos. Alternatively, if you’re good at sewing, you could use the fabric to make something new such as a make-up bag.
What do you do with your worn-out clothes?
Your clothes don’t have to reach the end of their life when they become unwearable. I hope this post has given you some ideas for how to upcycle your worn-out clothes and give them a new lease of life. Have you ever upcycled your clothes in any of these ways, or any other ways? Tell me about it in the comments!