How to turn an old shirt into a great scarf
Infinity scarf sewn from a men silk Hawaiian print shirt

Why to turn old clothes into something new

Every item in our closets has an environmental footprint. One doesn’t have to go thru the entire production process to see the impact. The most obvious are those related to the production of the yarn, washing and dyeing the yarn, and getting the sewn clothes into the stores. There may have been fertilizers and pesticides involved when the fabric is from yarns harvested from plants. It is well known that fertilizers and pesticides may affect groundwater. When the piece is from wool overgrazing may have occurred which may lead to soil loss, dust uptake and droughts. The material has to be washed prior to spinning. Thus, a valuable resource is used. Dyes may have toxic ingredients. The ready-to-wear clothes have to be transported into the stores meaning emissions.

When you want to reduce your carbon footprint, are on a budget or just love DIY, why not trying to “up-cycle” old clothes? In this post, I show how I made a silk infinity scarf from an old shirt. You can find tips on how to upcycle a sari or on how to revive old wardrobe favorites to look wow-worthy by dyeing in these linked DIY tutorials.

lifestyle blogger looking posh in a long leather coat
DIY infinity scarf with LeatherCoatsEtc long quilt lining leather coat with faux fur accents, SAK bag, GNW tight, Adidas sneakers, eBay leather beret, and shearling gloves (all own)

Up-cycling, recycling, consigning help the environment, budget, …

The longer a piece is worn, the smaller its environmental footprint per wear becomes over time. When a piece doesn’t fit anymore, or it’s not so me anymore, I always give it a critical look. Can it be worn by another woman a second time around? If so, these pieces go to goodwill, a consignment or thrift store. It depends on the brand of the piece. Medium prize brands sell well in consignment stores, and they provide you some extra money for your fashion budget. Low price brands do well in thrift and charity stores. Thus, donating them gives you some good feeling about being resourceful. When you live in a university town, there may be even a free market. When your girlfriends have a similar size, a clothes swap party may be fun.

mature style blogger in chic winter look and leather beret
Side view of DIY infinity scarf with LeatherCoatsEtc long leather coat with faux fur details, SAK bag, Adidas sneakers, GNW tight, eBay leather beret, and shearling gloves (all own)

… and can be chic and a great deal

I have made some great scores in consignments, goodwill and thrift stores. One woman’s trash, can be another woman’s treasure. Of course, one must know the brands, and be patient as one can’t go into such a store expecting to come out with a great deal dress when you are in the market for a dress. Thus, scoring high when shopping second hand can be time consuming. However, there are some time saving tricks when shopping second hand.

midlife fashion blogger in Alaska street style with sequin skirt and sneakers
What I wore under the coat: GNW Luxe cashmere wool sweater, H&M sequin midi skirt, GNW tight, Adidas sneakers, dagwood multi-string statement necklace, Hermes collier de chien cuff, (all own), and swirl painted silk scarf c/o Uno Alla Volta
sequin skirt with sweater and silk scarf
Back view of street style look with GNW Luxe sweater, H&M sequin skirt (all own), and hand painted silk scarf c/o Uno Alla Volta

Check whether you can also upcycled pieces

Some pieces won’t sell second hand, or maybe just for a dollar at a yard sale, and only when you are lucky. These pieces may be nevertheless too precious to go to the landfill. My hubby’s silk Hawaiian shirt is one of these items. When decluttering his closet, this shirt didn’t make the cut to go back in. It was a right decision. I didn’t even remember when he wore it the last time. To be honest, I had already forgotten about the shirt. However, the silk fabric feels so precious and soft, I thought it would make a great scarf for staying warm. It wouldn’t add the bulk and itchiness of a wool infinity scarf.

Hawaiian print silk shirt
Beautiful Hawaiian print silk Vintage Silk shirt from my husband’s closet. He hadn’t worn the shirt for years. The shirt has the colors of my leather coat. Thus, I got the idea to turn the shirt into an infinity scarf to wear with the coat

Instructions to make an infinity scarf from a silk shirt

Take a straight hem men’s silk shirt. Measure the length between the shirts hem and the armpit. Mark the length over the entire shirt either with soapstone or pins. I did it with pins as my soapstone didn’t work on the shirt.

DIYfashion Marking the line for the cut
Preparing the line for the cut with pins.

Cut along the marked line.

scissors cutting along white pins
Cutting along the line marked here indicated by white pins. Make sure not to injure yourself with the pins when cutting. Use a tailor pair of scissors.

Cut off buttons, and if there is a pocket, split it off from the left side.

illustration for splitting off buttons and pocket
Photos illustrating the splitting off of the buttons (upper panel), and pocket from the left side of the shirt (middle panel), and the right side of the shirt and the pocket after splitting it off (bottom panel).

Fold the small side over along the full length of the former front and back of the shirt with the right side to the inside. Pin the hem along the cut line.

DIY of an infinity scarf folded over fabric
Cut off body part of the shirt folded over with the left side of the fabric outside and pinned along the former hem of the shirt.

Sew along the hem line making sure that the former hem can’t be seen when you turn the resulting tube’s inside out.

sewing along the hem
Sewing along the former hemline so it won’t be visible after turning the tube around

Turn the tube to the right and iron the tube so the seam is in the middle. This side will be the left side of your infinity scarf.

closing the tube
Tube turned on the right side (upper panel) and pinned ends

Now pin the ends of the tube together as far as possible for sewing them together on the left side (see photo). Make sure that you pin the future outside of the scarf together first. This means aim for the seam along the long side of the scarf being where you can’t pin the fabric together anymore. Sew the ends together as far as possible. There are two possibilities to close the rest. You can do an invisible closure by hand stitching it or just sewing it together on the right side as I did (see photo).

finishing the infinity scarf sewn from a men's shirt
Finishing steps: Showing the remaining open seam (upper panel), closed seam using the sewing machine (middle), and ironing of the infinity scarf

Now your scarf is ready to go. Happy styling.

Do you upcycle old clothes? I mean besides using old T-shirts for cleaning the house and shoes. Let me know what you up-cycled. I am curious.

Photos of the DIY process: N. Mölders

Photos of me: G. Kramm

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