The Lazy Gal’s Guide to Clothing DIYs

lazy clothing diy projects

Have you noticed that all posts on this blog that contain the abbreviation “DIY” also contain the word “lazy”? Let me explain why: IT IS BECAUSE I AM LAZY.

My friend Trinknitty is an amazing cook and craftswoman, and when I show up for her Crafternoon gatherings with my tote bag full of super glue and gas-station-purchased sewing kits, I make her cringe with my slapdash methods. And I’ve tried to change my ways. I have! But my DIY-ing preferences are set. If I want something done right, I hire a pro. If I want it done quickly and shoddily, I do it myself.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m hemming wool pants with staples or gluing sequins onto fine silk blouses. But it DOES mean I’m:

Cropping my own jeans

Just about all of us have hacked jeans into shorts, but don’t limit yourselves! Even if you’re not comfortable hemming, you can still crop. Make a pair of clamdiggers or Bermudas from those unworn, unloved jeans. If the unfinished hem gets scraggly, just trim the longest threads to keep it relatively tidy.

Turning crew neck tees into boat necks

Crew necklines are renowned for their neck-shortening properties, and boat necklines are more flattering on many.  If you’ve got an old crew neck tee that needs a new lease on life, try transforming it into a boat neck. (Make sure you’re starting with a crew and not a scoop or v, or you’ll end up making a shirt that shows the world your entire bra.) Place the tee on a flat surface and make sure both halves are aligned, then begin cutting an inch out from the formal collar, dipping down to remove the existing neckline, and then trimming back up to an inch out from the other side of the formal collar. Obviously, the end product of this particular DIY is going to be pretty ragged and casual-looking. But if you’re fine with that, haul out the scissors!

Swapping out buttons

Even sewing novices such as myself can remove old buttons and stitch on new ones. The tiny holes that the removed threads leave behind even serve as a foolproof template. And friends, nothing makes a plain shirt, jacket, or cardigan look fancy like colorful, funky, even mismatched buttons. Buttons are cheap and can even be thrifted, they’re easy to deal with, and they jazz up any garment.

Changing hardware color using a paint pen

OK, most clothing doesn’t have hardware, so I’m sneaking in an accessory-specific DIY. (Don’t be mad.) I found out about these magical metallic paint pens last winter, and have used them to “improve” the hardware on at least four pairs of shoes. Touch-ups are definitely necessary, but the paint lasts a surprisingly long time and the only areas that need tending are those where clasps or buckles rub. Use masking tape to shield any areas you don’t want painted. This could even be done to rivets or snaps!

Image courtesy stylepint

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2011-08-29 06:08:52.

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26 Responses to “The Lazy Gal’s Guide to Clothing DIYs”

  1. Style Eyes

    I love DIYing but I am pretty lazy too. My favourite DIY at the moment is using bleach to create a spodgy pattern all over a tailored jacket.

  2. coffeeaddict

    Though I am not a fan of quick and shabby DIY, here’s a couple of suggestions that are fuss free with guaranteed results:
    1. embrace fabric dye. I’ve rescued and brought back to shiny existence countless of faded cotton t-shirts and cargo pants. I keep at least one packet of black die in my stash at all time. And tie-dying needn’t be boring! Check the Internet for easy shibori techniques, like these from BurdaStyle:
    2. little holes can be mended, bigger ones can be concealed with a iron on applications, either bought or if you have a printer you can buy a special paper, print your own design and voila!
    3. A bit advanced DIY: a hole can be concealed buy sewing rhinestones and buttons and ribbons on and around it, or you can just use a sturdy backing such as felt, sew on the decorations on one side and a safety pin on the other and you get a detachable brooch.

    • Anna

      Coffeeaddict, I too have extended the life of many garments by dying. Rit dye, which is available almost everywhere, tends to fade, in my experience. I have had much better success with Tintex, but it’s harder to find. Currently I am hoarding one box of navy Tintex while trying to decide whether to use it for faded jeans capris or a faded jeans jacket. It is not likely to stretch for both. Do you have any specific dye recommendations, especially for dark shades?

  3. Clarice

    Clip-on earrings make great shoe clips to add interest to plain pumps and are often very inexpensive at thrift stores. The sleeves of old wool sweaters can be snipped off, hemmed and used as winter leg- or arm-warmers. If you find yourself with odd single earrings, use pliers to trim the hook and bend it into a loop, then thread it onto an old cord or chain. When I was a teenager, I used to turn tights into tops of sorts by cutting off the feet and making a hole for my head in the crotch, then putting my arms through the legs and using the fabric from waistband to crotch to cover my chest. I had lots of them in different designs and they were staple clubwear for me for a while. Those were the days…

  4. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    I do very little DIY-ing, being lazy and rather talent-free in that area : > But I have altered a tee-shirt neckline like you suggested – I don’t like those tight crew-neck tees around my neck. And I do mend little holes with iron-on tape every now and then. Martha Stewart’s job is safe from me.

  5. LinB

    You’ve left out using a permanent marker to touch up fade spots on favorite garments! And/or stenciling or embroidering to cover a pesky stain. (Or, indeed, using permanent marker to disguise the stain.) And fusing patches over holes that mysteriously develop. Although, now I think of it, dragging out the ironing board and digging out the fusible web is more work than i am willing to put into that repair … happy Monday!

  6. helene

    oh I am so getting one of these metallic pen and changing the hardware color on some boots buckles I got at target last winter! Thank you for the tip 🙂

  7. rb

    Here’s one – if you have a neckline you constantly have to pin for modesty, consider just sewing that area together, provided you can get the garment over your head with it sewn together. A couple of stitches will look better than a safety pin, in most cases.

    You can also stitch together any sleeves you only wear rolled up. If you change your mind, all you have to do is snip the thread.

  8. Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    I sew, but I hate hemming even tho’ I’m short. My workaround — iron-on hem tape (look for it at fabric stores in small packs next to binding, or ask for help).

    Get a friend to help you pin a skirt or pair of pants to the right length, making sure to fold the excess fabric under evenly. Iron the new hemline. Trim off the excess fabric leaving about an inch of length from the ironed crease. Then place the iron-on hem tape to join the raw edge & the backside of the skirt/pant fabric. Use a scrap of fabric as a press cloth (a hankie is good for this), iron 30 seconds, repeat all around the hem, & you’re done! The instructions are included in the tape packet too.

    No sewing, & it lasts for ages. Doesn’t work well on really heavy or textured fabrics, so no tweedy wools, sweater skirts, or jeans. But perfect for most of an office wardrobe.

  9. Rachel W.

    My ideas of ‘easy DIY’ are probably a little skewed (I sew for a living!) but here are some easy things that most people can do with nothing more than a bucket, a needle, scissors, and some thread. I swear, anyone can do these!

    –Fabric dye, for sure! Most synthetics won’t pick up dye, but your cottons, wools, and other animal fibers will soak it up. RIT and Dylon dyes are cheap at drug stores, but for more important projects, like dyeing your expensive cashmere sweater, spring for a pricier dye like Dharma or Jacquard (sold online). They’re more difficult to use, but you’ll get much better results.

    –Got a long skirt you want to shorten, but don’t want to mess around with hemming its bottom edge again? Shorten it from the waist down by cutting the top inches off, folding and sewing the new top edge down, and threading elastic through the fold. Bam! New gathered skirt. (If it has a pesky zipper, pinch the zipper in from the inside and sew a line of stitches past it, making a new seam. Cut the zipper off– MUCH easier than picking it out!) It can look a bit wonky, but very few people ever notice.

    This works best on long-ish A-line skirts. Don’t attempt it on a skirt that’s already pleated or gathered– you’ll go insane trying to fold it down at the top!

    –Pretty thrifted dress with horrible ’80’s linebacker shoulderpads? Cut the shoulderpads out! You’ll find that the neckline is now too loose, so turn the dress inside out and pin along the shoulders until it fits how you’d like it. Take it off, sew along the line you pinned/marked, and cut off the excess.

    –I love Sarai’s easy ideas for tailoring a frumpy cardigan: Don’t be scared by the words ‘tailoring’ and ‘altering’– you just sew two lines and some trimming, and you’re done! Use the bits you trimmed off to make embellishments. She used her excess material to make a fabric flower for her cardigan, but it could also be cute on a hat or a blazer.

    I hope that these ideas weren’t too difficult. I have non-sewer friends who swear by shortening their own skirts and dyeing old clothes, so I promise, you can do these!

  10. MM

    Sal! Please do a thrift-Able fall trends blog for this year asap!!!!:)


  11. sarah

    I can only come up with one – and it’s still a little time-intensive (sorry, I’ve always been one for labour-intensive diys; if I’m going to take the time to make something, I expect it to be made well and last longer than mass-produced fashion made in a factory in another country).

    SO. I had a gorgeous pair of creamy-coloured frye heeled oxfords. After several years in the soggy nw and some jeans that transferred a few faded stripes of indigo, etc, those shoes were NOT looking very creamy anymore. Just dirty. Blech. And I could never find a good polish or shoe cream to use on them – failed attempts only added to the “dirty” look. The solution? I bought a shoe paint/dye product at a reputable shoe repair shop (how to know which one is best? Call your local nordstrom and ask where they send shoe repairs for their customers – there will be one) and now I have beautiful deep emerald/hunter green oxfords. (I had to go deep to really cover all the stains.) Granted, you really have to take your time and do multiple light coats (I did 3), but each coat doesn’t take too long to apply, so spread the project out over a few days, letting each one dry for 24+ hours. Also, I recommend using masking tape to mask off the heels, and using Q-tips to really get the paint/dye product into the corners/ridges/stitching/etc. Buy a new pair of laces at We Love Colours to match and bam! Like-new-shoes for about $10!

    Also, if the sole of your shoe starts to come off around the toe, you can do this minor repair at home, too: just use shoe goo. I use a rubberband from a bunch of asparagus to hold the sole against the toe of the shoe. Let dry 24 hours, and it’s fixed! (I have a whole heap of these to do before the rains start.) This is – no joke – what your shoe repair guy will do, anyway, so why not save some cash and do it yourself?

  12. lisa

    I’m not much for lazy girl clothing DIYs, but I like lazy girl accessory DIYs, like taking a pendant off a necklace, gluing a pin back on it and turning it into a brooch.

  13. sevensixone

    I once turned a pair of fugly cream leather shoes into funky mottled burgundy leather shoes through the cunning use of shoe polish.

    Also, if you make a tiny cut in woven fabric, you can tear it straight across. Even though it’ll still be frayed, the result will be much neater than if you had chopped it. This method isn’t practical for garments with lots of seams, like a multi-paneled skirt, but it usually works fine for things like jeans.

  14. Lindy Katherine

    My motto for DIY is “just because you CAN DIY doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”. A lot of DIY projects are super fun to make, but the final product is a little iffy. Deploy with caution!

  15. Gracey at Fashion For Giants

    I am incredibly lazy and not super crafty to boot, so I have to say I’m pretty excited about this post. I just made a pair of clam diggers for the first time this summer (I’m also woefully behind the times) and I love them, so I’m definitely on board with that one. And buttons. I can change buttons. Probably. 😉

  16. Victoria

    A crew neck that’s altered into a boat neck doesn’t need to be ragged and casual. If you can hand sew buttons, you can hand stitch a hem around the new neckline. All you need is a needle and matching thread.

    Thread the needle. Fold the cut edge under an 1/8th of an inch and then fold again a 1/4 inch. Secure the rolled hem with a running stitch (just go up and down with the needle through the fabric) when you reach the end do another running stitch in the opposite direction going down and up in the same places you used before. The goal is to make a solid line of stitches on both sides of the fabric.

    (Counted cross stitchers call this an “outline stitch”, people who do embroidery call this “back stitch”, historic costumers call this “black work” because the method was done in black thread and used to put patterns, not just lines, on white fabric.)

    If you want to get fancy…. go to a craft store and buy a package of large eye needles (Embroidery or Crewel work – $2 per package) and a skein of embroidery floss ($0.25 per skein) in a darker, lighter or complimentary color than your garment. A skein of floss is 6 strands thick (1 strand is the same thickness as regular sewing thread). Use 2, 3, 4, 5 or all 6 strands of the floss to make a heavier line of stitching on the neck’s hem. The more strands you use, the heaver the line of color is. (this is why you need a large eyed needle) The decorative stitch can be repeated on the cuffs and hems.

  17. Sonja

    I have seen that “deconstructed” wollen sweaters are really big this autumn/winter, and I think this is an easy DIY that many people can do – just buy an old, unexpensive sweater at a thrift store, cut some threads and start to unravel. Once you’re satisfied with how it looks, you can secure the edges of the unraveled part by tying the two lose ends together or by sewing some stitches with sewing thread in a similar or contrasting colour around, according to what you like.
    I have found tutorials for this here
    and here
    While searching for those, I also found this tutorial for a cabled sweater embellished with ribbons:
    Another very easy DIY: Go to a toy store and pick up a little plastic figure of an animal you like, some miniature kitchen utensils or whatever strikes your fancy. At home you use some hot glue to stick a brooch needle to it, and you’ve got a cheap and most original pin!

  18. SL

    Nail polish also works on hardware, or even on cheap rings that’ve developed patina (which I have a lot of, being very frugal). The best part about it is that if you change your mind, there’s nail polish remover. Or you can simply paint over with another color.

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