Upcycle Sweatshirts

Upcycle Sweatshirts: Your Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Fashion—Old is the New Sexy!

At present, the world of fashion is progressing at the speed of light. Every day, older trends grow out of fashion as newer ones replace them. One such trend that is beginning to make its mark in the fashion industry is upcycled clothing. Upcycled fashion is not a concept that has been unheard of; in fact, humans have been practicing it on an individual level for far too long.

The term ‘upcycling’ refers to the practice of making a new use out of any old or worn-out clothing item by transforming it into something better than the original and much classier. And as unusual as it may seem, cutting a portion of your old T-shirt to turn it into an aesthetic dishcloth also qualifies as upcycling. Which gives rise to an obvious question: Why go through the trouble to upcycle when we can buy new clothes? Well, here’s why:

The Need for Upcycling

Sweatshirt upcycle ideas
Image Source: Forbes

The need for upcycling clothes arises from the call for sustainability. The fashion industry is a significant contributor to pollution. As relayed by Forbes’s specific reports, apparel wastes account for about 4% of the total global waste. Out of the 92 million tons of clothing waste produced annually, only a short amount is singled out for upcycling.

The reason mentioned above serves as a motivating force that has led brands to adopt such sustainable upcycling methods. A few brands leading the way in this aspect are Burberry, Nike, RubyMoon, and others are following suit. Some hot sellers of upcycled clothing include:

    • Upcycle sweatshirts and T-shirts, 
    • upcycled hoodie, 
    • upcycled skirts, shorts, and jeans,
    • upcycled dresses, 
    • and upcycled swimsuits that have recently become quite popular.

To make the shift to upcycled clothing does not necessarily require purchasing them from brands that sell upcycled clothes. Upcycling sweatshirts at home instead can help you cut back on many expenses and save you those extra bucks that go into purchasing new clothes.

We’ve come up with a few fun and cool DIY hacks that will help revamp your entire wardrobe and change the way you look without costing you much.

How to Upcycle a Sweatshirt at Home?

A DIY upcycled sweatshirt or hoodie is a more economical investment that ensures less wastage. They are also your chance at making a bold fashion statement, and breaking the monotony by introducing a DIY will make heads turn as you walk in. 

Here are eight sweatshirt upcycle ideas you can use to transform the look of your sweatshirt:

    1. Turn it into a dress. You can do this by stitching a skirt made out of an old sweatshirt or a patterned shirt to a new hoodie or sweatshirt. 

Upcycle sweatshirt
Image Source: Pinterest

               2. Cut your sweatshirt at the edges to create fringes.

Things you will need:

      • An old sweatshirt
      • Scissors
      • Fabric marker or chalk
      • A ruler

Steps to follow:

      1. Begin by marking a horizontal line on your sweatshirt from where you want the fringe to start.
      2. Draw vertical lines from the chalk line to the bottom of the sweatshirt with ½ inch intervals between them.
      3. Cut along the drawn lines. Make sure to cut the front and the back of the sweatshirt together at once. 
      4. Tug at your fringes to elongate and curl them. This will give them a more natural look.
      5. Knot together the fringes or add beads according to your preference, and voila! You are ready to roll in this cool DIY fringe sweatshirt.

Old sweatshirt upcycling
Image Source: Youtube

               3. Bleach a part of your sweatshirt to add a gradient effect. Refer to this blog to learn how: How to Bleach Tie-Dye a Sweatshirt – Easy DIY

While working with bleach, make sure you:

      • Wear protective gloves to prevent the bleach from burning your hands.
      • Work in a well-ventilated environment so that you can minimize the chances of inhaling dangerous, built-up bleach fumes.
      • Put on some old clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined by bleach.         

Upcycled hooded sweatshirt
Image: Pinterest                                                         

              4. Add a patterned pocket or a woven label to the front of your sweatshirt. This hack works for sweatshirts that have a huge stain on the front that needs to be covered.

DIY upcycled sweatshirt
Image Source: Velcro

             5. Cut an oversized sweatshirt at the bottom to turn it into a crop top. After cutting it, you can either leave your sweatshirt the way it is or fold a thin layer inside and stitch it to give it a more finished look.

Hoodie upcycle ideas
Image Source: Youtube

             6. Paint your favorite image, letters, or pattern on the front of your sweatshirt. Make sure to use fabric paint that doesn’t come off your clothes even after multiple washes. Here are the Five Best Fabric Paints that you can choose from:

      • NicPro 3D Fabric Puffy Paint
      • Mont Marte
      • Individuall
      • FolkArt
      • Crafts 4 ALL

Upcycled hoodie projects
Image Source: Wikihow

If your sweatshirt is in a condition that makes it unwearable, no matter whichever DIY method you try to improve it, then you can cut it out to create other cool things that come in handy in your everyday life. Here are some of the simple everyday wearable things you can try out with your old sweatshirt:

Upcycle Idea Materials Needed

1. Winter socks

  • Sleeves of an old sweatshirt
  • Needle and yarn
  • Scissors
  • Fabric marker
  • Elastic band
  • Measuring tape
2. Cozy hat
  • Old sweatshirt
  • Needle
  • Sewing thread
  • Fabric marker
  • Scissors
  • Ribbons (optional)

3. Mittens

  • Old sweatshirt
  • Fabric Marker
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Measuring tape
  • Fleece (optional)

4. iPod/Phone case

  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread/yarn
  • Ruler 
  • Velcro
  • Beads or stickers (optional)

5. Pillowcase

  • Zippered hoodie
  • Chalk or fabric marker
  • Needle and thread
  • Buttons or laces (optional)

With so many different ideas to try out, you can effortlessly turn your sweatshirt into something personalized, fun, and chic. Let’s explore how you can achieve some of these ideas and put your imagination to reality.

DIY Upcycled Sweatshirt

While some of the projects mentioned above do not require you to know how to sew, most of them require that you know the sewing basics. If you’re new to this whole DIY thing and have never done anything of the sewing sort before, you can refer to our blog on Sewing Fabric to learn the basics of it. It may come as a surprise to you, but sewing also has several health benefits on your body, which is more reason why you should learn how to sew!

If you’re a beginner, you would also need a functional sewing machine for beginners that is easy to use and does the job for you. Before moving on with the whole cutting and stitching process, make sure you have the stitching equipment rolled out in front of you. You can also go through our blog on essential stitching tools for beginners. 

Once you’re all set with the knowledge and tools required for this endeavor, you can begin with your DIY upcycling sweatshirt project and start putting your ideas to shape. Below is a complete guide for beginners who are attempting an upcycled hoodie sweatshirt DIY for the first time.

Sweatshirt Upcycle Ideas

You can easily carry out most of the ideas listed above without any guidance. For example, bleaching your hoodie doesn’t require any expertise. All you have to do is play around with different techniques, such as soaking parts of your sweatshirt into the bleach until they lose color or tying it up and spraying bleach over it to create random patterns. 

For more complex DIY techniques, however, you need to know how to sew. For your convenience, we have provided a step-by-step guide to those sweatshirt upcycling projects on the list that require sewing. 

Before you get started, we suggest that you go through these sewing tips and tricks that we’ve listed to help beginners. As for those of you who already know how to sew, you may be able to polish your skills up with these 21 advanced sewing techniques that every sewing expert should know!

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Upcycle Idea Type of Apparel Used Difficulty level 
Mini Skirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Tulle
  • T-shirts 
Average difficulty and requires intermediate skill level. 
Maxi Dresses
  • Sweatshirts
  • Polo shirts 
  • Tank tops
  • t-shirts
More than average difficulty and requires an advanced skill level.
Winter Hats
  • Sweatshirts
  • Hoodies
  • Woolen Sweaters
  • Fleece 
Easy and requires beginner skill level.
Pillow Covers
  • Sweatshirts
  • Zippered Hoodies
  • Sweaters 
Easy and required beginner skill level.
  • Sweatshirts
  • Sweaters 
  • Winter hats
Average difficulty and requires intermediate skill level. 

The table above highlights the level of difficulty for each type of sweatshirt and hoodie upcycle, along with different kinds of apparel used in the process. The difficulty level associated with each upcycling sweatshirt project is also mentioned to guide you according to your expertise level.

Upcycle Sweatshirt into a Dress

It is a beginner’s play to upcycle sweatshirts into stylish dresses. Still, you should be careful throughout the complete upcycling process because even a minor miscalculation of measurement can ruin your whole attire. 

Attaching skirts made up of your old and baggy sweatshirts to the newer sweatshirt or crop top is common practice. The entire cutting and stitching processes are enumerated below:

Note: You can make a mini pencil skirt out of your old sweatshirt in a similar way; all you have to do is take a sweatshirt that fits you perfectly.

    1. To begin, measure down from your waistline to the point where you want your skirt to touch. In case you are thinking of attaching a skirt to your sweatshirt, you should start taking measurements from the seam line of the sweatshirt.
    2. Now take one of your baggy sweatshirts or a full-sized t-shirt, and cut through the length you measured in step #2.
    3. If you are the kind of person who loves patchy designs, you can stitch small longitudinal patches of multicolored sweatshirts or sweaters on your skirt in this way:

How to upcycle a sweatshirt
Image Source: tryhandmade

               4. You can also attach a tulle or use sparkly patches on the outside to give your skirt a flashy style. Also, make sure the length of your tulle is 1 – 2 inches longer than the skirt, just for aesthetic purposes.

               5. Now stitch your double-layered skirt along the seam line of your sweatshirt while using a matching thread to the sweatshirt. And you’re done!

Tulle sweatshirt dress
Image Source: It’s always autumn

Side Note: You can also design and create block-colored gowns using extra-large men’s sweat and polo shirts. To get an a-line design, stitch each shirt from top to bottom, with the largest one at the bottom and the properly fitted one at the top like a maxi dress.

Upcycle Old Hoodie into Pillows 

Upcycled hoodie
Image Source: Muslin $ Merlot

Why shop for new pillowcases when you can upcycle hoodies to create unique pillow covers for your couch? If you know the mere basics of cutting and sewing, making pillows out of your hoodie would be a piece of cake. Even your zippered hoodie can turn out to be a modish pillow cover. With a few stitching supplies, you can tailor trendy designs for your cushions. 

How to upcycle a hoodie into a pillow? Let’s see how.

    • Step 1: Take an old zippered hoodie that you do not wear anymore.
    • Step 2: Cut its hood, sleeves, collars, and wash it properly. 
    • Step 3: Now put the pillow inside the hoodie, zip it halfway through, mark the hoodie’s edges, and assess the pillow size. 
    • Step 4: Make sure the hoodie is not too tight; leave enough room for the zip to open and close freely. 
    • Step 5: Now, straight stitch along the marked edges on the inside, and your trendy pillow cover is ready. You can add buttons and laces to add a funky touch to the pillow. 

Upcycle Sweatshirt into Cozy Hats

Is your woolen hat too warm for the weather? Why not upcycle sweatshirts to make a cozy winter hat that provides just the right warmth and is perfect for moderate weather? With the help of some simple sewing hacks, you can DIY a customized upcycled hooded sweatshirt hat for yourself or your kids according to your choice with readily available equipment. Ready? Let’s get started!


    1. Start by cutting two equal pieces of your old sweatshirt in a semi-circle and sew on either side of the cut piece, making a bowl shape. 

Upcycle sweatshirts ideas
Image Source: Make it love it

               2. Cut another semicircle of the same size and place it inside the first one as a double layer and make straight stitchings on both the sides and the bottom. Make sure to stitch both the upper layer and the underlayer separately; otherwise, you would end up sewing the cap’s hole that fits onto your head.

Upcycle sweatshirt projects
Image Source: Make it love it

               3. Once you’re done with the stitching, turn the cap upside down. 

               4. Fold the cap at the bottom and make hand stitches on either side of the hat. If you aren’t skilled at it, here are 8+ tips for sewing better.

               5. To bring life to your DIY cap, you can make a flower out of a ribbon and add it to the hat. You can also add your custom woven label to the cap and sell it as an upcycled project online. You can refer to our site to learn more about the types of woven labels you can use in your DIY upcycled hooded sweatshirt project.

Here’s a tip: You can add in more layers of cloth depending upon your need. The extra layers will provide extra warmth to your ears and will work perfectly in freezing weather. 

Upcycle Old Sweatshirt into Mittens

Upcycle old sweatshirt
Image Source: Pinterest

Crafting mittens might prove to be a complicated process for beginners as, even though it requires minimum sewing equipment, it still demands skill. With the proper guidance and a little practice, you can easily pull it off. Follow these easy steps to craft a mitten for yourself. You can also sell these online and make money out of them.

    1. Remove the front pockets, sleeves, zip, and hood from your hooded sweatshirt. 
    2. Now lay the sweatshirt flat, and outline the size of your hand on the fabric. Measure your hand from the start of the seam line at the bottom of your apparel. 
    3. Cut two pieces according to the marked outline, forming the shape of the mitten. While cutting the mitten, make sure you leave enough room for stitching. 

Old sweatshirt upcycle
Image Source: The Fuzzy Square

              4. After sewing both sides from their edges, turn them inside out — your new mitten is ready for use.

Side note: You can also add a layer of fleece or any additional cushioning on the inside if your sweatshirt is too thin to filter the cold. But if you are crafting a mitten for your newborn, a standard sweatshirt material would work the best.  

Upcycle Sweatshirt into Warm Socks

Upcycled sweatshirt to socks
Image Source: Pearls and Scissors

Follow these steps to upcycle sweatshirt or hoodie into cozy socks:

    1. Cut the sleeves of an old sweatshirt or hoodie.
    2. Put the sleeves on your feet and pull them up to as far as they go. 
    3. Mark a curved line by the toes of your feet. Ensure the part that you cut lies at your toes while the end of the sleeve is on the top near your knees. 
    4. Stitch along the marked curve line and cut off the access material.
    5. Take a 3 cm wide elastic band and fold it in a circle of the required radius (one that tightly fits the part of your leg where you want the sock to end). Place the band 3.5-4 cm below the top end of the sleeve.
    6. Fold the end of the sleeve in a way that it covers the elastic band.
    7. Stitch along the band to secure it in place. 
    8. Turn the sock upside down, and voila! There you have it—your very own upcycle sweatshirt winter socks. 

Happy Upcycling!

These were just some of the upcycle ideas that we found to be the most exciting ones. There are several other upcycling ideas you can try at home, not only with your hoodie or sweatshirt but your t-shirt and jeans as well. 

With the help of this guide, entailing step-by-step procedures of how to upcycle sweatshirts and a little practice, you may not have to go shopping for new clothes for a very long time. And who knows, if things go well, you can also start your upcycling business and make millions out of it!