Upcycle Clothes: 11 Easy No-Sew Ideas For Beginners

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Don’t sew but want to upcycle your old clothes? Here are 11 easy no-sew upcycling ideas that are perfect for beginners.

I like crafting as much as the next person. However, I’m the first to admit that my sewing machine skills and needlework leave a lot to be desired! I’m not as nimble as I’d like to be with a needle and thread. And I don’t know my way around a sewing machine that well. But what I’m really into is upcycling clothes, to give them a new life and keep them out of landfill.

For a start, it’s because I’m pretty frugal, and I want to get the most bang for my buck when I’ve spent money on an item. You bet I’m going to want to wear it until it’s no longer wearable!

Another big part of the reason for wearing our clothes as much as possible is that the fast fashion industry is a massive environmental problem.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has calculated that the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year. The IPCC has also estimated that the fashion industry uses around a staggering 1.5 trillion litres of water annually.

Meanwhile, concerns have been rising about pollution from chemical waste – originating from the dyes used in clothing manufacture – to microplastics.

One of the most radical and impactful environmental acts we can therefore do is extend the life of our existing clothes, by wearing them longer, and upcycling and fixing our clothes when we need to.

No-Sew Ideas For Beginners To Upcycle Old Clothes

Person upcycling jeans with blue text box that reads upcycle clothes with 11 easy no-sew ideas for beginners.

To help get you started repurposing your wardrobe, I’ve got eleven clever no-sew ideas for you to upcycle your old clothes. Click on the links to be taken to the full tutorials.

Upcycle Clothes With Lace

upcycle clothes with this clever no sew dress diy

Got a stain that you can’t get out? A little rip that you can’t sew. Upcycle your clothes by covering them with lace! All you need is some lace, some fabric glue and some fabric scissors. No needle and thread are required.

This no-sew lace dress from Pretty Life Anonymous is just beautiful. I’m looking forward to giving this a go!

No-Sew DIY Elbow Patches 

no sew elbow patch clothing diy

These no-sew elbow patches from the ladies at Honestly WTF are brilliant. Such a great way for a crafting novice to add an individual touch to their clothing, don’t you think? I also think it would be a clever way to mend an elbow hole.

They cleverly use cookie cutters to get the perfect shape and use a technique called needle-felting. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Wendy, you said this post was about things you didn’t need to sew”. The good news is that needle-felting isn’t about sewing. It’s about stabbing fabric with a needle. I don’t know about you, but this sounds pretty fun to me! A good way to relieve stress perhaps?!

no sew ladies clothing diy

As well as hearts, you could use any cookie-cutter shape – from classic ovals to stars and anything else that catches your fancy.

It would be a great way to cover up any holes in your favourite cardigan or jumper and to personalise baby tops and vests for a special gift. I’m thinking of dinosaur cookie cutters for this!

Upcycle Clothes With A DIY T-Shirt Pocket

upcycle clothes with this no sew pocket t-shirt diy

This cute no-sew pocket DIY from Oh The Lovely Things is a great way to bring new life into an old or plain top or to cover up a stain or hole. I plan on doing this very soon on a stained top that I couldn’t get the stain out of (not even with my best natural stain remover techniques) so that I can save it from landfill.

Scalloped Shorts Upcycling Project

diy no sew scalloped shorts

This DIY for no-sew scalloped shorts is a great and easy way to upcycle some old clothes. This technique would be great for trousers or shorts that you no longer like, or to upcycle trousers that have irreparable tears in the knees.

Although it initially looks complicated, to get the perfect scallops it turns out that all you need is a lid from a jar – no sewing required! How clever is that?

best no-sew clothing diys


Paint With Bleach

bleach painting easy clothing no-sew diy

I love this idea for upcycling clothes by painting a top with bleach from the crafty lot at A Beautiful Mess. So striking, yet so simple! This is such a great way to upcycle a plain top that you no longer like or to disguise a bleach stain on a dark item of clothing.

Whilst I’m not a fan of using chlorine bleach when it comes to cleaning – I do think there are much better alternatives – I am a little more pragmatic about its use in saving clothes from potential landfill. I feel there’s a world of difference between painting a very small amount of bleach onto a top to make it usable, to squirting chlorine bleach straight down the toilet and letting it enter our waterways.

Don’t feel the same? That’s fine – give this one a miss, and try one of these other DIYs!

DIY No Sew Stud Buttons

no-sew diy shirt button tutorial

This is one of the easiest DIYs ever, from Collective Gen. All you need is a shirt and some studs and you’re good to go. It’s a great way to upcycle a plain shirt. Also when you’ve annoyingly lost a button and can’t find one to match the others, don’t worry – just cover them up with studs!

Upcycle Clothes With Potatoes

upcycle clothes with this stamped top diy

Kate at See Kate Sew stamped this cute cat t-shirt using potatoes! Upcycling clothes with potato prints must surely be the ultimate easy way to update your wardrobe! This technique also works really well if you want to cover a stain that you can’t get out.

Jazz Up Basics

no sew top

It turns out there are lots of crafty Kates out there. This no-sew DIY lace insert top is by Kate of Mr Kate! All you need is some iron-on hem tape, an iron and some clever scissorwork. This technique would work well if you had a hole that was difficult to mend – just make a feature of it!

Upcycle Clothes With Embellished Flowers

no sew flower embellishment

This embellished flower DIY from Jessie Daye is for kid’s clothing but would look beautiful on an adult’s cardigan or jumper too. This technique to upcycle clothes is such a great way to disguise any holes in your knitwear – be it from moths or just general wear and tear.

Fabric Dye

ombre diy clothes upcycling ideas

This ombre t-shirt from I Spy DIY is a really great way to revitalise an old plain top that you no longer wear. The link is sadly no longer available, so try this similar tutorial instead.

The thing I love best about these upcycling techniques is that they are such effective and relatively simple ways to breathe new life into old clothes, without needing to have too much technical knowledge or professional skills. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking at crafty DIYs on Pinterest, but the no-sew ideas always seem the most relatable and achievable to me!

Will you upcycle clothes using any of these techniques? Do share how you get on!

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  1. I am not sure really about the use of bleach, did a sharp intake over that suggestion! I trained as a textile designer and taught it on a degree course, we did a unit about ethical production, for manufacturing or for textile art; bleach is a noxious substance that gets into the water system and gives off deadly fumes, most dyeing methods can also result in much the same damage. Even, so called natural dyeing, uses harmful substances to fix the dyes in place, otherwise they don’t last as long as synthetic ones. The least environmentaly damaging method of getting a design onto fabric is through painting it on. Try to find the least damaging acrylic paint, adding a textile medium to it first, then when dry, it can be ironed onto the back, making it washable and permanent. Any left over paint can be used to decorate cloth for applique scraps, for instance, rather than washing down the drain.

    1. You are absolutely right about bleach. It’s for that reason that I don’t clean with bleach. You also touch on some great points about the impact of dyeing new clothes – even natural dyes. And that’s why I think using a tiny amount of bleach to prolong the life of an item that is perhaps stained in some way, and would otherwise be binned and a replacement bought, has less of an impact on the environment than buying new. If it’s not for you though, that’s ok, there are 9 other techniques that don’t use bleach – and the acrylic paint is also a great idea. Like bleach, its still with its impacts (its made of plastic and derived from fossil fuels) but definitely much less of an impact than having to buy a new item of clothing.