Upcycling toddler shirts

You guys.


I had SO MUCH FUN doing the upcycling sewing summit. So much fun. And I loved turning my old t-shirts into tote bags. LOVED.


So, I needed to make more.


My kids keep growing. I pass down clothes as much as I can, but eventually even the youngest grows out of clothes. Most of them I pass on elsewhere, but I have just a few shirts I can't bear to get rid of.

This shirt seems like a no brainer to pass on to someone else, because it's such a simple design, but it's one of those I can't bear to let go. My daughter, who is a perfectly happy and healthy three year old now, spent several days in the NICU shortly after she was born. When I saw it, I had to buy it, because she is STRONG.


But it doesn't fit her any more.


I would happily turn it into a tote bag, but it's pretty small. So I thought, maybe I should turn it into a clutch.

And I think it turned out pretty cute!


I started out the same way I started out the tote bags, by planning how I wanted the bag to look. I decided not to do box corners on this one, mostly because I don't think clutches need box corners. I love box corners, but not every bag needs one.

I decided to cut it 6 inches by 8 inches, to leave me with a finished bag of about 5 by 7 inches. Mostly, this left enough at the bottom so I could cut the strap.


I cut the strap to be 11 inches by 2 inches (for a finished 10 by 1/2 inch strap). Since I used a zipper, I also cut zipper tabs, 2 inches square. I used quilting cotton for the lining. I could have put interfacing on that, but I like a softer lining, so I only used interfacing on the parts I cut from the t-shirt.

I really like the way the colors came together.


The zipper was long, so I cut it down to about 7 inches (so it would fit with a 1/2 inch seam allowance). Then after interfacing was on, I made the zipper tabs and the strap.

Both the strap and the zipper tabs are made by ironing a crease in the middle and then folding the raw edges all the way in to the crease. I topstitch both sides of the strap, because I think it looks better. The zipper tabs just get topstitched on the open edge after the zipper is put in all the way to the middle crease too.

Then the strap needs to be basted to the bag. Like the tote bags, I don't use a basting stitch, just to help hold it in place better. But I do baste it at about 1/4 inch from the edge so I don't have to worry about the stitching being visible.


Then it's time to add the zipper!

To sew a zipper in, first put down the lining right side up. Then put the zipper right side up. Then the main fabric (in my case, the t-shirt), right side down. Use a zipper foot so you can sew as close to the zipper as possible. You will likely need to move the zipper pull at some point, make sure your needle is down when you do (don't ask how I know this).


When the first side is sewn, press it right side out and then you can add the other side in the same way (lining right side up, zipper right side up, then main fabric right side down). I also like to topstitch the fabric down once the zipper is sewn in, it helps keep fabric from getting caught in the teeth.

Once the zipper is sewn in, it's time to put the bag together! Put the lining fabric and the main fabrics together and sew all the way around, except for a gap in the lining fabric to turn the bag through. Also, pro tip: Leave the zipper open, about 2/3 or so. Trust me, it is SO much easier to turn the bag when the zipper is open and you don't have to fight the zipper pull from the lining.


So. Much. Easier.


Once it's sewn, clip the corners and trim the seam allowance if necessary (I do, because the bag is so small, I try to reduce bulk wherever necessary. But if you only use a 1/4 inch seam allowance, you probably don't need to).

Then turn it right side out and press! Especially make sure to press the opening in the lining, so that it is nice and crisp when you go to sew it closed.


You can hand sew it closed, but since it's in the lining, I like to sew it with a tiny zig zag stitch. I keep the stitch length the same, but reduce the width to about 0.5, and use a matching, or at least coordinating, thread.

It's visible, but once the lining is inside the bag, you'll never notice it. And it is so much faster than hand sewing. I don't mind some hand sewing, but when I'm this close to a gorgeous new clutch? Can't stand it.

And that's it! A fun new clutch made out of a toddler t-shirt I love.


Don't forget, you can sign up for updates here and get a free planning sheet for your bag! It was specifically made to plan a tote bag, but you can use it for a clutch too. Have fun upcycling your favorite shirts!

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