Sweater upcycle | Refashion and tie dye a sweater

sweater upcycle

Sweater upcycling ideas.

In this practical sewing and clothes upcycling tutorial and video, I’ll show you how I refashioned an old sweater, dye it and altering it to a more contemporary style

A friend gave me this sweater, challenging me to transform it into something more wearable. The original sweater was white, had a large collar and zip down the front. It was stretched out of shape and had clearly been well worn but still had plenty of life left in it.

Sweater upcycle video tutorial

Step 1 – Tie dye the sweater.

The first step was to tie dye it. There were a few stains on it and the off white colour was a little lack lustre. I do a lot of clothes dying and, to save money, usually throw a few garments into the one dye bucket.

First, I threw it into a red dye batch. It came out Ok but was a little ordinary so I decided to add some purple. And this really made it pop.

I usually leave the clothes soaking in the dye for a few days so the fabric fibres absorb all the dye. You can see in the video tutorial, when I’m taking the top out of the purple dye batch, the dripping off is nearly clear. This indicates that most of the dye has been taken up by the garment.

After rinsing out any excess dye, I hang it outside to dry for a few days.

Then it’s on to the alterations.

Step 2 – Remove the zip. Sew a new front seam.

The first step was to get rid of the zip at the front. This was bulky and unnecessary. Like always, I cut out and saved the zip because I’ll try and repurpose it on another project.

After removing the zip, I sewed a new front seam all the way from the bottom hem, through to the top which enclosed and joined the oversized collar together creating a polar neck at the top. Doing this made the original collar seam visible. I simply disguised this by sewing a new seam.

Step 3 – Sew a channel in the collar. Create a hole for the collar tie.

Next, I pinned a channel at the top of the new collar where I would thread my new collar ties.

But before sewing this, I had to cut at the front of the channel where the collar tie would enter and exit.

I finished this off using on the stitches on my machine. A button hole stitch would work just as effectively.

Next I thread the new collar tie through the channel.

HELPFUL TIP: When I was dying the top originally, I threw in an old tie that I salvaged from my bag of ribbons so the tie would match the top fabric.

Step 4 – Add beads to the tie bottom.

Next, I found some wooden beads from my box of beads and added these to the bottom of the tie.

Not only did this finish it off but it stops the tie from puling back into the channel when you wash it. Next, I sewed a channel in the bottom hem and thread another tie through to form a tie at the bottom.

Step 5 – Sew and elasticate the bottom hem.

And finally, I rehemmed the sleeves and added some elastic for an elasticated hem.

This was quite the transformation. This sweater is super comfortable. The bottom tie can be tucked under so it’s hidden or left out so it’s visible.

clothes upcycling

Why clothes upcycling is important.

Clothes upcycling promotes a more sustainable, creative, and responsible approach to fashion, all of which contributes to a healthier planet and a more sustainable future.

Environmental Impact

Clothes upcycling helps reduce waste by repurposing old or unwanted garments, often diverting them from landfill.

With the fashion industry being one of the planets largest polluters, upcycling and repurposing clothing reduces the need for new materials and decreases carbon emissions associated with the product and disposal of clothing.


Traditional clothing manufacturing consumes significant amounts of water, energy, and raw materials.

Upcycling clothing not only extends the life of existing textiles, conserving these valuable resources, but promotes more sustainable consumption patterns.


Creative Expression

Upcycling clothes and other materials encourages creative freedom by transforming old clothes into unique, personalised garments.

Upcycling and sewing fosters innovation and encourages people to experiment with designs, creating one-of-a-kind items that reflect personal style and creativity.

Cost Effective

Upcycling clothing can be very cost-effective by reducing money spent purchasing new clothes but can also assist charities when clothes are purchased second hand from charities.

Quality and Longevity

Repairing and mending clothing enhances the longevity of existing garments, giving them longevity in your wardrobe and limiting the need to purchase new clothes.  This contrasts with fast fashion items, which are frequently designed for short-term use.