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Upcycled With Boo and Lu

Earth Day is approaching, which got us thinking about sewing sustainably.

There are lots of ways you can think about adding sustainability into your sewing, but today we’re talking about our two favorite ways to do that: preserving paper during the pattern cutting process and creating upcycled projects by reusing old materials to make new garments.


A note from Boo and Lu on saving paper:

“We at Boo and Lu believe in protecting our environment by saving paper wherever possible, therefore, we provide cut charts for most rectangular pieces on our printable patterns. Projector files include all rectangular pieces, including skirts.
Did You Know?
Paper waste accounts for approximately 26% of total waste at landfills. The environmental effects of paper production include deforestation, the use of enormous amounts of energy and water, as well as air pollution and waste problems.”

For our customers who print their patterns, we provide cut charts for all rectangular pattern pieces. This way, instead of printing out many pieces of paper to create one large rectangle, you can simply cut your fabric to the required dimension and save on paper, ink, tape or glue, and time!

Additionally, every Boo and Lu pattern comes with a projector file optimized for use with a projector, so that you do not need to print anything at all! See this post for a full explanation of sewing with a projector, how to find a great one for your needs, and the basics of using one.


Upcycling is a term used for taking something old, or used, and giving it new life. When we refer to upcycled sewing projects, we are talking about sewing new things using existing materials. Common examples are scraps, vintage fabrics, household linens, thrifted finds, and old clothing. There are material sources everywhere if you get creative about looking, and using existing materials puts them to use instead of them ending up in a landfill. In a world full of fast fashion, handmade clothing is creating something that will stand the test of time, and by sewing something out of existing materials instead of new, you can take that sustainability even further.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love buying new fabric as much as the next sewist! The idea here isn’t that you have to make this your sole source of fabric, but rather to show the fun that can be had when getting creative and reusing and repurposing old things. Here are some great examples for inspiration!

Using Your Scraps

Scraps. If you sew, you’ve got ’em. And it’s always a debate of whether to save for later or toss. But there are actually a lot of great ways to use up all those scraps! Here are a few ideas:

  • Kristen made a set of charming Flora (1) bows! Flora is a perfect scrap buster. It uses only a tiny bit of fabric and is a perfect accessory!
  • Miranda made matching Tamarack (2) shirts for herself and her kids from scraps of a fabric she loved. Combining scraps of one fabric with some new, or even multiple scraps together can give you enough for a great new garment!
  • I only had a small scrap of this tree fabric, but it was just enough for a doll dress! I made Dolly Sakura (3) out of these scraps. Doll patterns are another great way to make upcycled projects that use up those scraps!

Sewing With Vintage Fabric

Vintage fabric can be a great source of fabric. When you sew with vintage fabric you are giving purpose to something that was made a while ago but not yet used. There are so many absolutely gorgeous vintage fabrics you can find and create something new with!

  • Miranda sewed up two darling outfits using vintage fabric. The dress is a Wren dress made with vintage fabric she inherited. The Evangeline romper was made from vintage fabric originally intended for pillowcases!

Repurposing Household Materials

One of the most memorable moments in the classic movie “The Sound of Music” is when Maria and the Von Trapp children dance through the hills and town singing “Do Re Mi” while wearing outfits Maria sewed out of old drapes. You can still source fabric from household materials today, just like Maria! Household linens like sheets, tablecloths, pillowcases, and more, can make great sources for fabric. And one thing that is really nice about these is that you can often get a couple yards out of a single piece!

Check out some of these gorgeous makes using materials from around the home.

  • Alexe created a gorgeous Bluebell (1) out of a duvet cover given to her by her mother. She even used an assortment of vintage buttons from her grandmother!
  • Jackie H used multiple upcycled materials for this beautiful Wren (2)! The fabric is from a vintage sheet, the yellow accent fabric is reused scraps, and the buttons are vintage from her grandmother!
  • Megan used a white sheet for her Apricot (3) dress. She gave a plain white sheet a major makeover by dyeing it with ice dye! Her daughter helped dye the fabric and then got to have a gorgeous new dress out of it! (For a tutorial on how to ice dye fabric, read this blog post!)
  • Kristina had a stunning and creative use for an old crotcheted couch throw! She remade it into a Coffee (4) cardigan. She modified the front of the pattern slightly to leave it square instead of rounded to keep the original crocheted edge.
  • Kara used a thrifted tablecloth to sew this beautiful Apricot (5). The tablecloth had a beautiful hem that she wanted to keep, so she modified the skirt to allow for the original hem to stay and shine! She also used the lining bodice piece as a main piece to center the beautiful floral motif.
  • Jackie P made an Apricot (6) using an old sheet. She turned an unused flat sheet into a darling dress that will get so much love!
  • Destiny repurposed an old baby swaddle she had into a darling Wildflower (7) skirt! A skirt is a great way to repurpose fabric that you only have a small amount of. How sweet is this little wrap skirt?
  • Sheena upcycled an old bed sheet to make a stunning Linden (8) dress!

Reusing Old Clothing

Taking old clothing to make new clothing is one of the most popular ways to bring upcycling into sewing. Whether it is an old favorite getting holes that you can give new life to, a vintage find you want to update, a hand me down that you want to feel new, or maybe a special old piece with sentimental value that you want to keep wearing, reusing old clothing is an amazing way to sew new garments while using existing materials. Take a look at some amazing makes with upcycled clothing here:

  • Caro made a Timber Wolf (1) for her child out of a cardigan she had previously made for herself!
  • Maggie made her daughter a Clover (2) out of a thrifted t-shirt!
  • Kristen made a cute Baby Olive top (3) out of an old adult size tee!
  • Kristen also made a child size Olive (4) out of the same adult tee. Two kid shirts out of one adult shirt!
  • Stephanie made a Tamarack (5) out of a combination of old t-shirts and fabric scraps!
  • Megan made a Clover (6) top out of one of her old tees!
  • Jeannine made her child a Timber Wolf (7) hoodie out of Dad’s old shirts!
  • Myriam made her daughter a modified Pepper (8) dress out of Dad’s old shirt!
  • Jennifer made a Fawn (9) dress out of one of her old self-made skirts!
  • Kara made a Seagrass (10) romper out of Dad’s old shirt!
  • Mimi made a Pepper and Peach (11) set out of an old poorly fitting dress!
  • Kelly made an Olive (12) top out of an old favorite maternity shirt of hers!
  • Bethany made a Tamarack (13) shirt out of Dad’s old shirt!
  • Vika made a Timber Wolf (14) out of an old shirt!
  • Maria made an Olive dress (15) out of an old shirt and dress of hers!
  • Miranda made her kids Timber Wolf shirts (16) out of an old adult shirt!
  • Miranda also made herself a modified Periwinkle top (17) out of an old shirt to match the kids!

I hope you enjoyed this roundup of ways old materials can be upcycled into new garments! There are so many ways to reuse existing materials, and whatever material you’ve got, Boo and Lu probably has the perfect pattern to go with it. If you decide to create something using upcycled materials we would love to see! Tag us on instagram @booandlupatterns or share in our Facebook group, and use the hashtag #upcycledwithbooandlu

Happy Sewing, and Happy Earth Day!

xoxo Jessie

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