Guest post :: Assembly line method of giving new life to old clothes

by Admin on 23/04/2013

in Green Crafting, Guest Blogger

About: Sarah writes the Blog Sewing Parts Online and makes video tutorials too. She loves inspiring others to create and challenge themselves through crafting and sewing. Her guest post fits in perfectly in our Functional Creativity themed month.


We live in a world where goods are available so cheap, that it’s standard practice to simply buy ‘new’ instead of fix or extend the life of an older object. When I became a parent, I realized I’d have to buy new clothes every 6 months. To me, this was absurd. I’d been wearing the same clothes for years. I refashion and alter to get the most wear possible. It didn’t dawn on me until my son was a year old that I could be doing the same thing with his clothing. I might not get years, but an extra 6-9 months is good enough for me!

I buy long sleeve shirts and pants at the end of every summer to last my son through the winter. I buy jeans and athletic pants as well as long sleeve jersey shirts and long sleeve button-ups. They’re slightly big, to last through fall and winter. By the time the weather starts warming up, I set aside a weekend to alter the majority of his winter clothes into summer attire by simply cutting the pants into shorts, and the long sleeves into short sleeves. If I have extra time, I’ll draft up a pattern by tracing his ‘new’ shorts and shirts.


Over the years, I’ve found the ‘assembly line’ method to be the most efficient way to tackle this project. Instead of finishing one pair, then starting all over to do the next pair, I do all the alterations step by step. Do all the measuring at once. Do all the cutting once, etc.

I use a seam gauge and measure the inseam of some that already fit. Then, I use that measurement for shortening the pants. Same goes for the arm seam. So simple and easy. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. Thankfully, young children don’t care if the hem is a little off, they just want to get back to playing.


Then I can get creative! Who doesn’t love some rainbow thread? My son loves the colors and it’s a small detail that say’s “Mommy made this for you!”. It’s so rewarding to see your child wear something you made for them not just because you wanted to make something, but because they needed it and you fulfilled that need.

I ended up adding the rainbow thread to all his pants and shirts. It’s so magical when they are young and love things as simple as rainbow hems. When I finally show him his “new” clothes, we’ll probably talk about what colors he sees and which ones are his favorites. It’s those simple moments that make motherhood and creating so memorable.


All that’s left is to cut the thread tails and add a couple snaps. In one weekend I was able to dress my son for another 6 months without spending money or adding to landfill. When he outgrows these clothes, they will be donated or reused for something else.

Doesn’t it feels good to fulfill a need without buying more junk? Until next time — Thanks for reading!


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nicole April 23, 2013 at 10:34 am

I usually buy clothes 2 sizes bigger than my kids (12&5) need. We’re in Germany, so usually our summers suck, and we get to wear long pants and sleeves for most of the year. I buy long sleeve light shirts for both and then t-shirts they can wear over them for a color contrast. When the long sleeved shirts are finally too small they get new ones and they can wear the now fitting t-shirts underneath. That way my son (12 and now 1.65cm tall) has not needed new tops for over a year and my daughter, who’s still growing fast at 5, has also been fine for over a year because instead of just t-shirts to wear “over the top” she’s also got some cute sleeveless dresses she can wear over her long sleeve shirts and jeans because now they’re more “tunic length”, and once the weather stays nicer she can wear those older dresses over a t-shirt and then she gets a batch of new dresses for summer which will become tunics for winter and spring next year. I think one of her dresses is nearly 2 years old now and it still looks pretty damn cute.
We also totally lucked out and got a huge amount of clothes from a friend whose daughter is a year older. All still lots a bit big so if we’re lucky they’ll also last us a year or possibly more.

I have finally had my A HA moment when I was looking for jersey to make some Alabama Channin style things. For a book cover a kids t-shirt is more then enough fabric, and even the really small baby t-shirts with cute pictures make super accent pieces :-D


2 The MadMama April 23, 2013 at 10:36 am

Great idea! I wish I would’ve been into refashioning when my kids were babies! But it’s never too late! :)


3 DNA April 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

I’m lucky that I don’t need to buy many clothes for my kids – their grandmothers often give the kids clothing for birthdays and Christmases. But I do spend time patching my son’s pants (at the knee – always the left one!), otherwise he would only get a few months wear out of them. Fortunately he enjoys the fleece monster patches I create and sew on quickly and inexpertly. Not sure that will work once he’s in junior high, but maybe by then he’ll be more careful with this clothes.


4 Knitting Log May 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Further understanding the impact a new life can have and its characteristics undoubtfully helps. Great information. Nice work contributor.


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