Sewing hacks for your secondhand clothes

Mary Rockcastle's has given us a whole bunch of sewing hacks for your secondhand clothes so that you can reduce, reuse and recycle.

Sewing hacks for your secondhand clothes
Published: September 17, 2020 at 11:12 am
Try 3 issues of Mollie magazine for just £5

Think secondhand isn’t your style? Try these foolproof sewing hacks from blogger and maker Mary Rockcastle to make your clothes fit and flatter.


"Shopping for myself seems impossible these days. What was once an activity I actively used to destress and calm down has become stressful. I’m actively trying to not consume fast fashion any more, and find solace rummaging through charity, secondhand and vintage stores, looking for a gem in the rubble. I spend most of my time curating my closet, getting rid of things I don’t need, and making the pieces I do want out of quality materials that will last. Sometimes you need to just buy a regular shirt like a regular person without carving out the time to make it yourself though.

"I’ve realised that being a plus-size lady and shopping secondhand comes with its own frustrations. Clothes are mislabelled, never fit like you think they will, and are often almost what you want them to be, but not exactly right. Taking clothes from a charity shop or your closet and making them better suit your style is good for the earth and your purse.

"I’m going to share my favourite ways to alter and adorn clothes to better fit your body and style, to mark the British Heart Foundation’s The Big Stitch campaign."

Sewing hacks for your secondhand clothes 1

Crop a shirt into a tie-waist summer staple

This alteration is so easy and effortlessly flattering on all body types. Slightly oversized men’s button-up shirts always look nice tucked into a skirt or skinny jeans to cinch them in at the waist. You can step up the style on this concept by cutting the shirt to create a tie front, like in this tutorial by Rookie mag.

The best part of this technique is that it’s great for too-big tees as well, giving a totally different, more relaxed look. I also love this tutorial for a tie waist tunic length top from A Pair & A Spare.

Sewing hacks for your secondhand clothes 2

Put a patch on it

This is my staple accessorising technique. I put patches on ready-to-wear accessories like backpacks and purses, and on secondhand clothes that are a little too plain for my personal taste. Adding a patch to the back pocket of your jeans will make you feel way more excited to put them on in the morning! It’s important to firmly attach your patch - iron and sew them on, as shown in this simple set of instructions. My favourite patches come from Stay Home Club and Gimme Flair.

Sewing hacks for your secondhand clothes 3

Personalise with embroidery

You can step up your style to a new level by hand embroidering almost any article of clothing. I’ve embroidered canvas shoes, T-shirts, dresses, and denim jackets. If you’re looking for a simple but lovely embroidery pattern to put on a top, check out this free pattern from Allie Jackson’s blog. Embroidery can spice up charity shop clothes, handmade clothes, and even clothes from your own closet that you’re bored of.

More upcycling inspiration

If you’re looking for more upcycling inspiration, check out Annika Victoria’s YouTube channel. Her videos show how to make your own high street-inspired clothes using materials from charity shops. I also enjoy withwendy’s videos, which include instructions on stylish DIYs, as well as sewing tips for beginners.

After ideas for updating your summer wardrobe? Give the posts in last month's Refashion Your Summer Wardrobe contest on Feather’s Flights' blog a try. There's a ton of content about refashioning items on trish stitched, or find loads of good posts on #irefashionedthat on Instagram. I’ve been getting lots of inspiration from #thebigstitch on social media as well – there are tons of new posts going up every day and the campaign runs until the end of this month. Happy clothes hacking!

Sewing hacks for your secondhand clothes 4

About Mary

Mary is a maker, seamstress, illustrator and florist living in Rochester, New York. Find out more about her at the Little Lamb Studios blog.


Phoebe Burt
Phoebe BurtSEO and Communities Editor, Gathered

Phoebe has worked for Gathered, and our sister magazine Mollie Makes, for 3 years. She manages our Arts & Crafts section and specialises in social media and content strategy. She has a background in all things marketing, a flair for Pinterest and a knack for finding the next big craft trend. Previously she worked as Digital Campaign Executive for Fat Media. You may recognise her name from Mollie Makes Social Media magazine, where she shared her expertise and top tips on becoming social media savvy.

Comments, questions and tips

Rate this recipe

What is your star rating out of 5?

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Overall rating


Sponsored content