Sew a cute skort out of old leggings and shirts

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I tend to be extremely frugal. Some people might think that is synonymous with cheap, but I feel frugal and cheap are two completely different things. For me, I believe being frugal means figuring out ways to save money without impacting my family’s quality of life, but cheap means I will sacrifice quality of life to save money. For example, I routinely figure out how to upcycle old clothes into something new and fresh as long as they are in good shape.

One area that I find easiest to be frugal with is clothing. Especially children’s clothing. Most of my daughter’s clothes come in the form of hand-me-downs or thrift store buys. I have a cousin with a daughter who is three years older than mine and once or twice a year she has more clothes for us. I go through the boxes and sort the clothes into sizes, which I store in totes under the bed until we’re ready for them.

The last time it was time to up-size, one of the items we discovered was this adorable ruffled skort:

Inspiration skort for how to upcycle old clothes into a skort
This skirt was the inspiration behind my upcycled skort project

My daughter insisted on wearing it immediately. Eventually, I got it off her and examined the construction (yes, I regularly study clothing construction and details lol) and had a great idea. I have boxes of old clothes slated for DIY upcycling projects and/or to donate. Among those are bright shirts of mine and a pair of Ella’s jeggings where the seam is weak across the butt. Hmmm… I believe I can figure out how to upcycle the old clothes to make a custom, cute, and unique skort.

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Step 1 of How to Upcycle Old Clothes into a Girl’s Skort

Gather your supplies

Obviously, need some old clothes. I chose three shirts that were mine and a pair of my daughter’s jeggings. To skip the next step (cutting and hemming the pants), you could also use a pair of shorts of an appropriate length. *I really wished I would have pressed the shirts first, but I was so excited to get started that I couldn’t be bothered.*

For reference, I made this skort to fit 2-3T. The jeggings were a very stretchy 2T and the shirts were women’s size small and medium. The great thing about DIY sewing projects like this is that you can easily customize the sizing to suit your needs – this is simply a tutorial to show the technique instead of a specific pattern.

You’ll also need scissors, durable thread, pins, a ruler, and a sewing machine. I highly recommend Fiskars scissors. I’ve had my spring-loaded pair for over a decade, and they are still super sharp. Part of that is because I only ever cut fabric and thread with this pair. The Dritz sewing gauge was actually my Grandma’s so it’s at least 24 years old, but Dritz still makes them. Please note that the one I found most similar to mine has a plastic slide while mine has metal. I don’t know how the plastic will translate into long-term durability.

Step 2 of How to Upcycle Old Clothes into a Girl’s Skort

Make the shorts (if using pants)

Next, cut the legs off the jeggings. For my project, I left about 2” of leg remaining below the crotch seam, but you can adjust that. I wanted the shorts to be just long enough to cover her diaper, but be well hidden beneath the skirt.

Now you will do the only hemming for this project. I just did a simple hem by folding the raw edge up a ½” inside the pants and sewing with a small zig zag stitch to allow for some stretching. Shorts portion complete!

Step 3 of How to Upcycle Old Clothes into a Girl’s Skort

Base shirt layer

Next, get your shirts ready. I chose three for this version, but you could use more or less depending on your preferences. Stack them on top of each other arranged with the widest waist hem on bottom and narrowest on top.

Shirts stacked for upcycled gir's skort
Stack shirts with the widest on bottom and narrowest on top

The widest shirt becomes the base layer. Using the existing skort for length reference, I cut mine about 8 1/2” from the bottom (hem).

Baste along the cut edge, about ¼ -⅜” from the raw edge. For the basting, you want to use a sturdy thread that will not break easily. When you gather the baste lines, you will put a lot of stress on the thread. If you use a durable thread, it will be less likely to break.

Now mark about a little less than a ⅓ of the way down from the cut edge. I marked mine at 2 1/2”. Sew a baste line about 1/4″ above (toward the raw edge) the marked line (I used pins to mark the line, but you can also use a marking pencil).

Pull the second (toward the hem) baste line until the base layer is the same width as the second layer. Work the gathers in the basted fabric until it is evenly spaced across the width.

Gather base layer to width of second shirt
Gather the base layer to the same width as second shirt

Step 4 of How to Upcycle Old Clothes into a Girl’s Skort

Second shirt layer

Cut the second shirt up from the hem 1” longer than your last mark on the base layer. For me this was 3 ½”.

Measure second shirt for second layer
Measure to cut middle shirt for second layer

Put the base layer upside-down inside the second layer with right sides together and pin in place. The raw edge of the second layer will be on the same side as the hem of the base layer, as seen in the following photos. Sew a baste line ¼” from the second layer’s raw edge.

Next, mark a line about 2/3 of the way between the raw edge of the second layer and the hem of the base layer. For me, this was 2” below the raw edge of the second layer. Baste on the base layer about 1/4″ above the newly marked line.

Pull the newest baste line until the base layer is the same width as the third layer. Work the gathers in the basted fabric until it is evenly spaced across the width.

Step 5 of How to Upcycle Clothes into a Girl’s Skort

Third shirt layer

Cut the third shirt up from the hem about 1/2″ shorter than the base length remaining (between your last mark and the hem. For me this was 3 ½” (I had 4″ of base layer left).

Cut narrowest shirt for third layer
Cut the narrowest shirt for the third layer

Put the base layer upside-down inside the third layer with right sides together and pin in place. The raw edge of the third layer will be on the same side as the hem of the base layer, as seen in the following photo. Sew a baste line ¼” from the third layer’s raw edge.

Step 6 of How to Upcycle Old Clothes into a Girl’s Skort

Finishing touches

Once you have the two ruffles basted onto the first layer, pull the baste line at the top of the base layer until it is the same width as the waist of the shorts. Then evenly distribute the gathers around the waist.

Pull the baste lines on the second and third layers until you are happy with how the skirt falls. It should gradually get wider from top to bottom. Once gathered, evenly space the gathers, then sew a regular seam to attach the third and second layers to the base layer.

Put the shorts inside the skirt exactly how the finished item will look. The right side of the shorts should be against the wrong side of the skirt. Pin the skirt into place so the baste line is about even with the bottom of elastic on the short’s waist.

How to upcycle old clothes into a girl's skort pinned for last seam
Skirt portion pinned to shorts portion

Sew the skirt to the shorts, then pull out all the baste lines to complete your project of how to upcycle old clothes into a girl’s skort! If desired, you can add embellishments after completion (or at any time during construction).

How to upcycle old clothes into a girl's skort is complete!
Finished skort upcycled from old clothes

If you enjoy learning how to upcycle old clothes into children’s items, check out how to upcycle a sweater into an adorable fringed hat. It’s a quick and easy project with no sewing machine required!

Happy Crafting!!

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