Upcycling is a great way to take items you find at the thrift store and turn them into something new. This has become a popular topic on Youtube and the in the blog world as people recreate and recycle items all over the world. Items range from clothing, home decor, and furniture, but sometimes you just want something quick and easy to turn the drab old item into something new and fabulous. I’m all for spending time to recreate your new favorite piece, but sometimes I’m all about instant gratification. Give me a pair of scissors and 10 minutes and let me get to creating!
These two upcycles are very, very basic. Like, so basic that literally all you need is a sharp pair of scissors and 10 minutes (or less if you start getting good at this). They do not require a sewing machine or any other fancy equipment. You can also use these upcycle tips on all sorts of items including jeans, t-shirts, blouses, linen or cotton pants, and anything else you’re feeling brave enough to chop up. There are probably a thousand other tutorials you could read or watch to help you accomplish the same thing, but this is how I accomplish my end product so I hope you find it helpful.
The first DIY we’ll dive into is a pair of cropped jeans. These are super popular right now and range from skinnies, to wide legs, to boot cut, to bell. Luckily, the frayed hem look is also super trendy right now. You can have a slightly frayed hem, fray that hangs for inches or something inbetween. This makes it so that you don’t have to hem your jeans or pants after trimming them, and makes for a super fun and easy on-trend upcycle.
To begin, grab a pair of jeans. These can be an old pair you’re no longer loving or a pair that you grabbed from the thrift store that may need some extra love. The pair I’m using today are an amazing button-fly pair of vintage GAP jeans I found at the thrift store. The only thing I’m not in love with about them is the boot cut leg. I’m going to chop off the ends of the legs to turn them into a cool pair of cropped jeans with a slight flare at the end along with a raw frayed hem. Also grab a pair of sharp scissors. It’s important when you’re working with fabric, especially denim, to have sharp scissors. This ensures that you get clean straight cuts that will look intentional in the end. You can find good fabric scissors for relatively cheap on Amazon or at your local craft store. If you’re able to, I’d suggest buying some that are mid-range in price so that they last through many DIYs.
Once you have chosen your jeans, try them on and fold them up to where you’d like them to be cropped. Use photos of styles you like as a reference and a full-length mirror so that you’re able to get to a length that you’ll actually enjoy wearing. I looked up cropped jean images on Pinterest to give me a better idea of what the trend looks like and where to fold my jeans relative to my height. Once you have them folded, carefully remove the jeans without unfolding the legs. At this point, you really only need one leg to stay folded for measuring, but make sure you fold both when you have them on so you can imagine the finished look.
After removing the pants with one leg folded, use your scissors to snip a small marking at your fold line. This will act as a guide so that you can unfold the pant leg and still know where you want to cut your jeans. Unfold your pant leg and get ready to chop!
With the leg of the jeans lying flat, cut slowly and steadily in a straight line. If necessary, of if your pant legs are super wide, you can refold the leg and add another snip mark on the other side of the leg to act as a guide for a straight cut. If you’re comfortable with just going for it, simply cut straight across. A good rule to have with this is to always cut less than you originally intend. This way, if you mess up or cut a less than desirable line, you always have more to go back and cut off.
You’ve done it now! One leg is complete (well, mostly). Neatly fold the jeans in half so the longer leg is underneath the shorter leg. This will act as another guide to make sure you cut both legs the same length. Trim along the edge of the shorter leg, and voila! You have successfully cut off both ends in a symmetrical fashion. You could also use the first end piece you cut off as a guide. Lay the cut off piece on the un-cut leg and hold down as you cut off the longer leg. This will create the same symmetrical cut and ensure that your pant legs are both the same length.
All that’s left to do now is throw these babies in the wash. The more you wash them the more they will fray. You could also do this process by hand if you were short on time. Simply pull on the threads at the end of the leg over and over and over. You could also use tweezers to pull fibers from the end to get them really distressed, but I do suggest washing them at some point to get a naturally frayed look.
Onto DIY number two! This DIY is super versatile as well and there are SO MANY cutting options you can experiment with. For this particular t-shirt upcycle, I’m going to cut a v-hole (is that a thing?) in the neck to give my basic white t-shirt a more edgy look without sewing, dying or doing anything too terribly difficult or time consuming.
To begin, grab your t-shirt and your trusty fabric scissors. Again, sharp scissors are crucial with t-shirt fabric as well to get clean intentional looking cuts without any weird spikes of fabric jutting out.
Using a tape measure, measure out where the center of your neckline is. If you don’t have a tape measure, you could also either eye-ball it while laying the shirt out flat, or try the shirt on to determine where you want the center to be. I used a tape measure and pinched the material at the center of the tape, on this t-shirt, it was approximately at the 7 inch mark.
Using the center as a guide, fold the shirt in half down the front of the neckline, making sure the fabric on both sides of the fold is laying flat. Also make sure the ribbed neckline at the top is lined up so that your cut is even on both sides. Once you’re ready, cut along the messy dotted lined (stupid phone markup), or cut at whatever width and length you’d like your opening to be. You can follow the same rule as with the jeans, if you cut less now, you can always adjust later if you want the opening to be larger.
Using long smooth cuts, cut a triangle section from your shirt. After you’ve completed the cut, you can go back in with your scissors to cut away any weird or uneven lines, or to trim more away from the ribbed neckline if necessary. When you’re finished adjusting your cuts, stretch the opening slightly to smooth out your cut lines. Washing the tee will also soften the edges and make the shirt look like it was made that way from the store.
And there you have it! From plain, boring white tee, to edgy and trendy top. You could adjust your cuts in so many ways with this as well. Make the opening larger, cut slits in the shape of a triangle, make a larger cut in the back for an open back look – the options are endless!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these super easy no-sew upcycles. I know that there are thousands of tutorials like this out there, but I really wanted to give you guys something visual that didn’t require a video or a bunch of additional steps or materials. Let me know if you try out these upcycles or if you have any other favorite methods that I should try!
Until next time!