Hello All! I can’t tell you just how excited I am that we are into our 2nd Season of the Upcycling Challenge! Like 2018, the SewingPortfolio Diamond Ambassadors and myself have created looks to kick off the challenge. This year the fabric sponsor for this challenge is Windham Fabrics, and we’ve got some pretty adorable spring and summer looks to share with you! Same as last year, I wanted to share my favorite upcycling tips to show you just how easy upcycling can be and hopefully inspire you to play along with the challenge! (Click here to find out how you can play along to win weekly prizes) Today, I’m going to share with you a few of what I think to be the easiest beginner Upcycling Tips. These will be complete with some  actionable to-do’s, so please get comfy! I write the same way I talk so its going to be a long one hahaha! Last week I made this super cute summer outfit for the for the Project Run and Play blog tour, the top features a button down back and peplum which made it a perfect pattern for an Oxford shirt upcycle. For pattern details and more pictures you can visit that blog post HERE. I will be using this super cute summer outfit as a reference for my upcycling tips. LET’S GET STARTED!

Adult Shirt to Top DIY Upcycle sewn by Candice Ayala


Let’s assume you’ve never upcycled before, or have a hard time coming up with ideas… here’s my EASIEST and Most IMPORTANT TIP:



I promise this crazy talk will make sense as you read further lol. Forget how hard you think upcycling is, forget trying to wrap your head around it and forget all the anxiety it gives you.



Actionable To Do: Listen to Master Yoda. Seriously tho, right now as you are reading this, pause – close your eyes and forget everything you think you know about upcycling! Here…I’ll wait…(no cheating!)…..Have you forgotten? Yes??  Good, now on to Tip #2.



Now that your mind is clear, think of ready to wear garments as JUST fabric. Nothing else, just fabric! Doing this allows you to envision a ton of “potential” finished items. #TrueStory: Somewhere along my sewing journey I found myself subconsciously deconstructing and reconstructing people’s garments in my head as they walked by me. At first it was really trippy because It felt like I had unlocked some kind of sewing super powers! I soon discovered that doing this allowed me to shift my mind’s eye to see beyond the manufactured finished item. I could envision how to get more things from a specific piece of the garment, like a child’s bodice piece from an adult’s sleeve…or a tiny dress from an adult skirt – see where I’m going with this? Now that you’ve activated your “3rd” eye…make notes of what you “see”.


Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018


Actionable To Do: Grab a pen and a piece of paper, (preferably a notebook because this is a good exercise to practice) and take a moment right now, (again…I’ll wait), and try to deconstruct in your mind the top you are wearing, or someone else is wearing that you can see.  Once you’ve deconstructed it, envision pattern pieces you can get from the body of your shirt (front and back) and the sleeves (left and right) and write them down; or sketch them…whatever works for you.



Truth be told, the best way to shop is with a $0 budget!  So shop your own closets. You’ll probably find a bunch of “last season” clothes that will never be worn again, some that are probably too big, or too small but are still of good quality.


Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018


Actionable To Do: Take an afternoon and go through everyone’s closet. You might be surprised at how many usable garments you find.




The best place to get a bargain for your buck is at thrift stores or garage sales. Here’s what I look for when I’m shopping thrift stores or garage sales:

  1. Garments that are lightly used.
  2. Garments that have unique features (beading work, embroidery, patches, buttons, zippers, fabric pattern prints etc)
  3. Garments that fall into the bigger size ranges. For the obvious reason that bigger sizes mean more fabric to use.


Actionable To Do: Take some time to go thrift shopping keeping those 3 tips in mind.  OKAY NOW LET’S ASSUME YOU’VE GOT AN OLD GARMENT YOU WANT TO UPCYCLE:


While this might seem like a tedious task, I highly recommend using your seam ripper to disassemble your garment rather than simply cutting into it. I find that disassembling a garment at the seams and then giving all the pieces a good press, gives you more fabric space to work.


Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018


Actionable to Do: Learn to love your seam ripper. Haha!




Upcycles are fun, easy and fast when you can use the original tailored finishes of a garment like the hem, collar or button packet to your advantage. Wasn’t sure if this tip should have gone before #5 but it guess it does depend on what your finished upcycled garment will be. For example: I kept the button placket and the hem of the original shirt when creating this top.


Adult Shirt to Top DIY Upcycle sewn by Candice Ayala


Adult Shirt to Top DIY Upcycle sewn by Candice Ayala


Actionable To Do:  Think of ways to keep the collar, pockets, hem or button plackets or other tailored finishes when upcycling.



Use existing pattern pieces to construct your garment. You can draft your own or use a commercial pattern piece.  Also, feel free to take it a step further and get creative with your patterns, hack them and add elements, like pockets, appliqués etc. I choose this top specifically because I wanted a pattern that already had a button closure so I could keep the existing closure in the finished project. To achieve this, I simply eliminated (folded over) the seam allowance for the button plackets from the paper pattern piece to allocate for the already finished button plackets. [Think about it, you don’t need to create those, because they are already created for you!] Also, be sure to read your pattern instructions carefully so you take off /fold over the correct amount of seam allowance.


Mark allowance to be removed and fold over or under.
Line up “new” pattern piece with edge of existing placket and cut.

I also used the sleeves of the shirt to create the neckline ruffle and the bias tape to finish the neckline and the sleeves. (Original pattern calls for full bodice lining)


Remember to create bias binding stripes must be cut on the bias.

This Ladybug print from Windhams BBF line was perfect to create these summer shorts! For pattern details click HERE.


Adult Shirt to Top DIY Upcycle sewn by Candice Ayala


Actionable To Do:  Make a note of the patterns you like that have a great fit, and use those to help construct a new garment, and don’t forget to get creative! There’s so much possibilities with a single pattern block. Also, it’s a good practice to lay all pattern pieces down before you cut, much like you would if you were using fabric from the store to be sure you’ll be able to cut all your pattern pieces out.   BONUS TIP IF YOUR FRONT BODICE WILL HAVE THE BUTTON PLACKET: Use Reynolds Kitchens Parchment Paper with Smart Grid linesto help you find a perfect center every time. I did this so I could be sure the button placket remained in the center. Simply trace your pattern piece on the parchment paper, cut and use that as your new pattern piece. Remember to position one of the grid lines at the center (to find your center just fold original pattern piece in half).  Here’s a handy LINK to the parchment paper. 


Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018


Combine pieces of your old garment with store bought fabric to create a whole outfit. Part of the fun for me is mixing old and new stuff to create a whole look!


Adult Shirt to Top DIY Upcycle sewn by Candice Ayala
Adult Shirt to Top DIY Upcycle sewn by Candice Ayala


Actionable To Do: Think of ways to combine old and new fabric and to create something brand new! And there you have it, those are my top 8 beginner upcycling tips. Hopefully its has inspired or sparked some new ideas for you!


Now how’s about something fun?! This will be our first prompt for the weekly giveaway and it’s open to all players worldwide! (Those with kits and those without!) Here’s what one lucky winner will win this week!


  1. A £20 coupon to the Pink Coat Club. WE ALL LOVE SEWING BLING RIGHT?! They have soooo much sewing bling!


2. 1 PDF Pattern From Designer Stitch! (Adults) Below is the newest Callie Pinafore Dress.


3. 1 Pattern from Phat Quarters. (Kids)


Here’s how you can win, simply enter using the rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends Saturday July 06, 2019 at noon.  Winner will be announced on Sunday, July 07th, 2019.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck and See you next Sunday!!



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