Easy ways you can upcycle and repurpose old clothes and accessories

Transform your old wardrobe items into something stylish and practical instead of throwing them away.

Anis Nabilah



Published: 22 May 2020, 7:28 PM

Singapore produced 168,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste last year. We have also been producing more waste since we started staying home for the circuit breaker.

Instead of throwing away unused clothes and accessories that will generate more waste, why not try repurposing them?

Here are some ways to upcycle under-utilised pieces in your wardrobe and reduce your own fashion waste.



1. Crop oversized sweaters

This is the easiest way to transform your old, baggy sweaters into something that’s more in style now.

All you have to do is cut off the bottom of your sweater using a pair of fabric scissors.

I recommend cutting slightly lower than where you want your new cropped sweater to end, in case it ends up being too short.

Here's a detailed YouTube tutorial you can follow.

You can also use the fabric allowance to hem the sweater so you won’t have raw edges.


2. Turn an old purse into a belt bag

I’ve always wanted one of those trendy belt bags from ASOS, but they retail for upwards of $20.

If you’re like me and don’t have that kind of money to blow on a tiny bag, try these steps to transform a crossbody purse into a belt bag.


This will only work if your purse’s straps are not glued to the bag.


First, untangle the knots in the strap.


Try to straighten out the ends of your strap. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ANIS NABILAH


Next, remove one end of the strap and thread the opposite end through the holes.


You should end up with two free ends on the strap.


All that’s left is to adorn the bag on your waist and tie the ends of the strap behind your back.


Now, you can wear your old crossbody purse two ways!



3. Use fabric paint to cover up stains on jeans 

If you feel your jeans look too plain or you have small stains on them that you can’t get rid of, paint your designs on them!

For this project, you’ll need acrylic paint, fabric painting medium, paintbrushes, masking tape, a charcoal pencil or an artist’s pen. And of course, your jeans.

Before you start to paint on your jeans though, do wash and dry them so you can get rid of any dust that lingers.

If you’re painting the jean pocket, tape off the area around it so there won’t be any paint smudges.

You can see how YouTuber Maddie Cuan paints her jeans in the tutorial here.


Tape around your pocket so there won’t be any paint smudges.


Remember to only remove the masking tape once your paint dries!


Cover the entire area with the white paint and fabric painting medium mix.


One tip to prevent your paint from cracking after it dries is to turn your jeans inside out and iron the part you painted to make sure the paint sets.

I actually tried painting an old pair of jeans with my sister. It was a fun and therapeutic experience (with my sister doing most of the work).

We decided on a simpler design since we’re not really artists.


Our finished product had a few paint smudges, but we still love how it came out.


4. Turn an old knit t-shirt into a grocery bag for produce

All you need is a knit t-shirt, scissors, marker or fabric chalk and basic sewing supplies.

This reusable grocery bag will be great for holding your fruits and vegetables from your supermarket trips.


Use a knit t-shirt to ensure that the material will stretch out nicely to hold your produce.


You can find a detailed tutorial on how to make your own produce bag here.


5. Turn fabric scrap and elastic into scrunchies

When doing upcycling projects, you’ll probably have some chunks of fabric left over. Don’t throw them away just yet!

With just some fabric, elastic or an old hair tie (and basic sewing supplies of course), you can create pretty scrunchies that will hold your hair in place all day.

Although this tutorial requires you to sew, you can take the easy way out and use a hot glue gun instead!

6. Print your own graphics onto a shirt using transfer paper 

You’ll need a printer, scissors, transfer paper, an iron and an old plain t-shirt for this project.

What’s great about this project is that you can create your own designs and customise what you want to be printed on your shirt.



This tutorial shows the difference between using light and dark transfer papers.

Do note that you have to mirror your image or design 90 degrees before printing on light transfer paper so that it will appear right side out when you transfer it onto your shirt.

Also, wait for your t-shirt to cool completely before peeling off the transfer paper backing so you don’t hurt yourself.

The next time you clean out your closet and end up with a big pile of clothes you want to get rid of, try repurposing them using these ideas or donate them instead!

Doing these upcycling projects with your family is also a great way to pass the time.



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