Gumtree Australia Blog

Upcycling Clothes: Transforming Secondhand Pieces into Fashion Treasures

Person taking a photo of their t-shirt

In the era of fast fashion and its environmental impact, upcycling clothes has emerged as a sustainable and creative way to refresh our wardrobes. Not only does upcycling save old clothes from ending up in landfills, but it also allows us to create unique fashion pieces that reflect our personal style. In this blog, we will explore the art of upcycling, focusing on finding secondhand clothes on Gumtree and what to look for in potential upcycling projects. 

Finding Secondhand Clothes on Gumtree

Gumtree is a treasure trove of secondhand clothing goodies. 

  1. Be specific: Use specific terms for the type, style and material of clothing you want, such as “vintage dresses” or “denim jackets”.
  2. Check regularly: New listings appear frequently, so check back often to snag great deals.
  3. Negotiate wisely: Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price, but be respectful of the seller’s efforts.
  4. Read descriptions carefully: Pay attention to sizing, condition, and fabric details to ensure suitability for upcycling.

What to Look for in Secondhand Clothes

Not all secondhand clothes are ideal for upcycling. Consider the following factors when choosing potential upcycling projects:

5 Steps to a Successful Upcycled Clothes Project

1. Find inspiration 

Explore for some killer pieces and amazing inspiration. Take your time browsing through the listings until you find clothing ideas and styles that resonate with your creative spirit. 

2. Check for quality

Ensure the clothes you choose for upcycling are in good condition and have the potential for a transformation. Avoid items with severe damage or irreversible stains if you can.

3. Find supplies

Gather your upcycling toolkit. This could include some scissors, fabric glue, fabric paint, sewing supplies and maybe even a sewing machine. Whatever specific bits and pieces you need for your project, now is the time to grab it. You might even be able to find some of them on Gumtree too. 

4. Sketch your vision

Before you start cutting and sewing, sketch out your idea on paper or in a drawing app. This will serve as your blueprint for when you get to the fun part. 

5. Dive in

With your vision and supplies in hand, it’s time to bring your upcycling clothing project to life! Let your imagination run wild and enjoy the creative process.

Easy Ways to Upcycle Clothing

Turning Graphic Tees into a Unique Doona Cover

While old school graphic t-shirts might have lost their wearability, their kaleidoscopic prints are no less captivating. Instead of getting rid of those awesome designs, transform them into a doona cover for a one-of-a-kind bedding masterpiece.

1. Wash the t-shirts

Make sure all the graphic tees you’re using are clean. Wash and dry them according to their care instructions to ensure they are ready for use as your doona cover.

2. Measure your doona

Measure the dimensions of your doona/duvet so you know how large your doona cover needs to be. Add an extra 6cm on each side for seam allowances.

3. Cut the tees

Lay out the shirts and decide which parts of the graphics you want to include in your doona cover. Carefully cut out these portions, leaving a seam allowance of at least 1.5cm around each piece.

4. Arrange the t-shirt pieces

Lay out the shirt pieces on the plain fabric sheet to match your desired pattern and arrangement. You can create a grid-like pattern or any other design you prefer. Use pins to hold the pieces in place.

5. Sew the pieces onto the fabric

Using a sewing machine or needle and thread, start sewing the tee shirt pieces onto the plain fabric sheet. Be sure to sew along the edges of the tee shirt pieces to secure them to the fabric.

6. Add more pieces

Continue sewing the tee shirt pieces onto the fabric until the entire surface is covered. Trim any excess fabric if needed.

7. Sew the back of the doona cover

Once all the pieces are attached, place another piece of plain fabric (the same size as the front) on top of the tees. This new piece of fabric will act as the back of the doona cover. Pin the layers together.

8. Sew around the edges

Starting from one corner, sew around the edges of the two fabric layers, leaving an opening (about 50cm wide) on one side. This opening will be used to insert the doona/duvet.

9. Trim and clip the corners

Trim any excess fabric from the corners and clip the seam allowances to reduce bulk when turning the cover right-side out.

10. Turn the cover right-side out

Gently turn the doona cover right-side out through the opening. Use a pencil or a similar object to carefully push out the corners for a neat finish.

11. Iron the cover

Smooth out the doona cover and use an iron to press the seams, making sure everything is flat and well-sewn.

12. Close the opening

Fold the edges of the opening inward and pin them together. Sew along the edge to close the opening, either by hand or using a sewing machine.

13. Insert the doona/duvet

Insert your doona or duvet into the cover through the opening you just sewed shut.


Men’s Button Up Shirt to Baby Onesie

Give an old men’s button-up shirt new life by transforming it into an adorable baby onesie.

1. Wash and prepare the shirt

Wash the men’s shirt to ensure it’s clean and ready for upcycling. Iron the shirt to remove any wrinkles, making it easier to work with.

2. Create a onesie pattern

Lay the baby onesie or the onesie pattern you have on top of the button-up shirt. Make sure to align the centre, fronts, and shoulders of the onesie with the centre, fronts, and shoulders of the button-up shirt. Carefully trace around the onesie (onto the button-up shirt), leaving about 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) extra fabric around the edges for seam allowance.

3. Cut the fabric

Use fabric scissors to cut along the traced lines, effectively creating the onesie pattern from the men’s shirt.

4. Separate the pieces

You should now have two separate pieces for the front and back of the onesie.

5. Adjust the size

If necessary, adjust the size of the onesie pattern to fit your baby. You can make it slightly bigger or smaller, depending on your baby’s measurements. Make sure to keep the front and back pieces symmetrical.

6. Cut the leg openings

Using the onesie pattern as a guide, mark and cut out the leg openings on both the front and back pieces of the shirt. The leg openings should be slightly curved to ensure a comfortable fit for the baby.

7. Cut the neckline

Mark and cut out the neckline on the front piece of the shirt. You can create a rounded neckline or a V-neck, depending on your preference.

8. Sew the shoulder seams

With the right sides of the fabric facing each other, pin and sew the shoulder seams of the onesie. Use a sewing machine or hand-sew with a needle and thread. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam to secure it.

9. Sew the leg seams

Pin and sew the leg seams on both sides of the onesie. Again, ensure the right sides of the fabric are facing each other, and use a sewing machine or hand-sew.

10. Finish the leg openings (optional)

If you want to add elastic to the leg openings for a snug fit, measure a piece of elastic around your baby’s leg, cut it to size, and sew it onto the leg openings.

11. Hem the neckline

Fold the raw edges of the neckline to the inside and hem it. You can either use a sewing machine or hand-sew.

12. Add snaps or buttons (optional)

To make it easier to dress and undress your baby, you can add snaps or buttons to the crotch area. Simply sew the snaps or buttons onto the fabric securely.

13. Try it on your baby

Before finishing the project, try the onesie on your baby to ensure it fits well. Make any necessary adjustments for a better fit.

14. Finish the onesie

If everything looks good, trim any loose threads and give the onesie a final press with an iron.


Tie-Dye a Tee or Hoodie

1. Prepare your Work Area

Lay down plastic or garbage bags to protect your work surface from any potential spills or spatters.

2. Create your Tie-Dye Design

Lay the shirt flat on a smooth surface. Pinch the centre of the shirt with your fingers and start twisting it in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion until the entire shirt forms a flat spiral. Use rubber bands to secure the twisted shirt, placing the bands at regular intervals to create sections. 

3. Apply the Dye

Put on your plastic gloves to protect your hands from staining. Mix each fabric dye colour in separate plastic squeeze bottles or spray bottles according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply your chosen dye colours to each section of the shirt. Saturate the fabric with the dye, making sure it penetrates all the folds and creases. Turn the shirt over and repeat the dyeing process on the back side.

4. Let the Dye Set

Once the shirt is completely dyed, wrap it in plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag to keep it moist. Let the shirt sit for several hours or as recommended by the dye manufacturer to allow the colours to set.

5. Rinse and Wash the Shirt

After the recommended setting time has passed, remove the rubber bands and unwrap the shirt. Rinse the shirt under cold running water until the water runs clear to remove excess dye. Hand wash the shirt with a mild detergent to further remove any remaining dye. Rinse again until the water is clear.

Embrace Sustainability with Upcycling

Upcycling clothes not only contributes to a sustainable fashion approach but also allows us to showcase our creativity and individuality. Whether we’re turning graphic tees into doona covers, converting men’s shirts into baby onesies, or modernising old tees, upcycling empowers us to make a positive impact on the environment while enjoying the thrill of unique fashion creations. 

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