How to Upcycle pt 1: Shorts to Crop Top

In this article, one of our Young Content Creators Maddie talks us through her passion for upcycling clothes with a three part series of step-by-step guides to creating a new ensemble out of old clothes.

How to Upcycle

As mentioned in the video attached, I will be taking you through three projects step-by-step. Even if you don’t decide to try these specific projects, I hope you feel inspired to try your own upcycling projects. It’s really fun and creative, you get to create unique clothes, and it’s better for the environment by saving clothes from going to waste and saving on the resources needed to create a completely new garment.


Men’s Shorts to Crop Top

For this crop top I used:

A pair of men’s shorts, size medium

Matching ribbons

1’’ wide elastic

Basic sewing kit


Step 1 – Remove the legs, waistband, and pockets

Cut off the legs and the waistband of the shorts. Cut off the front pocket bags with pinking shears. We will use the rim of the front pockets as part of the armhole of the crop top. Unpick the back pockets.

 Step 2 – Cut out the side seams and back armhole

Mark on the side seams on the front and back of the shorts. Work out the size of each piece by measuring your chest, adding about 1cm to each side. Then mark a line straight down to what will be the bottom of the crop top. Cut out the front and back pieces with 1.5cm seam allowance. Cut the top corners off the back piece, creating the back armholes.

Step 3 – Sew the side seams

Pin the front and back pieces right sides together and sew both side seams. Press the seams open.

Step 4 – Hem the back arm holes

Fold the raw edge of the back armholes under twice and sew.

Step 5 – Bind the neckline

From one of the short legs, cut out bias binding by cutting out diagonal strips of fabric. Sew these together so they make two long strips of binding. Bind the neckline of the front and back of the crop top by placing the binding right sides together along the top of the crop top. Sew with a 0.5cm seam allowance. Then fold the bind over the raw edge, folding it under on the other side so the raw edge is concealed. Fold in the ends. Sew in place, as close to the seam on the right side as possible. Hand sew the ends together. Do this on both the front and back pieces

Step 6 – Make the straps

To make the straps, cut straight strips of fabric from the remaining shorts leg. Sew these together so they make two long strips which are long enough for straps. If in doubt, make them longer than you think you need. Fold both strips in half lengthways, right sides together. Sew down the long edge and along one short edge. Turn the straps through so the right sides are facing out. Press the straps flat.

 Step 7 – Sew the straps to the back

Sew the sewn end of the straps to each side of the back piece. I placed the strap on the outside but if I were doing it again, I would place them on the inside because I think that would look smoother and be less bulky.


 Step 8 – Sew ribbons on (if you want)

I chose to decorate my crop top with ribbons. This was mainly to disguise the marks on the back left from unpicking the back pockets at the start. As I placed two of my ribbons along the straps, I decided to sew them on before sewing the straps to the front of the crop top. Pin the ribbons where you want them on the top. If your ribbons meet the raw bottom edge of the top, you can just leave the ends. Otherwise, fold the ends under. Sew along both edges of the ribbon and along the top.

Step 9 – Sew the straps to the front

Try the crop top on so you can see where to sew the front of the straps. Pin them in place. Take the top off, measure the straps to make sure they are even lengths and that you’ve placed them symmetrically. Fold the raw edges inside the strap, press, then sew into place. Again, I sewed them on the outside of the crop top but I think they would have looked better sewn on the inside. It’s completely up to you, though.


 Step 10 – Put the elastic in

Now we’re going to sort out the bottom. Try the crop top on again and work out where the bottom will sit. Measure your width at this point. Cut out a piece of 1’’ elastic this length. Fold under the bottom edge of the crop top by 0.5cm and then 2.5cm. Sew along the top of this fold, creating a channel wide enough for the elastic. Leave a section open so you can pull the elastic through.

 Step 11 – Sew the elastic

Pull the elastic through the channel by putting a safety pin on the edge of the elastic and feeding it through the gap. Once you have fed it the whole way round, pull the two elastic ends out, overlap them by 4cm and sew them together. Use a zigzag stitch, remembering to the pull the elastic as you sew.

 Step 12 – Fit and make adjustments

Check the crop top fits. You may need to adjust the straps, the side seams, or the elastic around the bottom. I personally had two issues: the armholes and the back were both too wide. I sewed a piece of elastic at the bottom of each armhole to pull it in and I took several centimetres out of the back by creating a seam down the centre back.

Step 13 – Last bit of sewing!

Sew up the gap in in the elastic channel.

Step 14 – Celebrate!

Put the crop top on! Wear it! Dance around in it, cos you’re done.


If you are interested in sustainability and other environmental issues, you may be interested in the upcoming Icelandic comedy drama Woman at War, for more information on this click here.

For information about Storyhouse’s pledge to be free of unsustainable palm oil, click here.

This article was written by one of our Young Content Creators, an initiative ran in conjunction with Young Storyhouse to provide budding content creators paid opportunities to showcase their unique voices within Storyhouse’s digital channels.

Young Content Creators are supported by Film Hub North, awarding funds from The National Lottery.