Save money by recycling second-hand clothing for sewing doll clothes! #MoneyMaker #Sewing

Please visit for ideas on how to make money sewing and selling crafts. Today's topic is about how to save money by using second-hand clothing as a fabric source for sell-able fabric crafts.

Over the summer, I’ve been posting daily free doll clothes patterns, but I’m about to go back to work. Some of you know that in my “day job,” I work as a school librarian. We librarians come back to work a week or two before the teachers and about three weeks before the students return.

It takes me about 5 hours to make a single pattern, and if I need to create a sloper too, it can be as much as 7 and a half hours to create a brand new pattern for this website. That’s possible to do when I’m on summer vacation, but once school starts, I won’t be able to juggle both my job and the daily patterns I’ve been posting on this site.

But I’ll continue to offer a new free pattern once a week (along with the tutorial on how to make it), and I’ve come up with some new sewing-related / doll-craft-related topics to discuss on days when I’m not offering new patterns.

I’m going to try this new theme called #MoneyMaker Monday, where I offer ideas for making money as a crafter. Seems like a lot of my followers are people who sew and sell their doll clothes (and crafts), so hopefully this will give you insight into selling your handmade doll clothes and doll crafts.

Today I’m going to talk about the benefits and drawbacks of saving money by sewing doll clothes made from second-hand clothes.

As far as benefits go, recycling old clothes is better for the environment. And in case you didn’t know, third world countries, where garments and textiles are often made, have the least amount of funding for pollution prevention and clean-up. This leads to air pollution, rain forest depletion, and damage to drinking water and other essential resources. If you’d like to learn more about this issue, please click here for information about the Circular Fibers Initiative.

So using second-hand clothing as a source for craft fabrics actually does help prevent damage to the planet.

Second-hand fabric can also be a money-saver in your overall fabric investment, which is why a lot of doll clothes sewing enthusiasts have tried this approach. You can gather hand-me-down clothing from friends and relatives or purchase them at second-hand clothing stores.

But when you buy second-hand clothes, make sure you’re really saving money. If you buy a pair of jeans for $4.00 at a second-hand clothing store, it might have been less expensive to buy thin, soft denim for $2.99 a yard when your fabric store has a sale.

Thin, soft denim will also be easier to work with, both on your sewing machine, and in terms of the types of dolls you can use the fabric for. If the jeans you buy at a fabric store are made of extra thick denim, it’s going to make a pair of Barbie-sized doll jeans look bulky on the doll. So when buying second-hand clothing for doll clothes, consider the weight of the fabric.

You should also consider the fabric’s print size. In case you didn’t see it, this video that I made on “How to Buy Doll Clothes Fabric” reminds you that small dolls don’t look good in big prints. The print-size of the fabric needs fit the scale of the doll. Human clothes can have some really big prints that just look wonky on a doll, so bear that in mind when shopping second-hand stores for your fabric stash.

And now for the biggest drawback… used clothing can have pulled threads, pilling, unexpected holes in the fabric, stains, and loose weaves. But as long as you carefully study the fabric before cutting and sewing it, this shouldn’t be a problem. But I mean REALLY… CAREFULLYSTUDY the fabric.

Take a look at the image at the top of this blog post. See the details in the fabric? Study your second-hand items that close to make sure you don’t miss something before you begin to cut out your doll clothes pieces. Cut away stains and irregularities in the fabric before you add the used garment to your fabric stash, and that way you won’t accidentally cut doll clothes garment segments in the wrong parts of the fabric.

One more thing, and I’ve actually learned this one the HARD way…

If the threads start to unravel while you’re sewing used-garment-fabric into doll clothes, PLEASE give up on the project and moving on to something else — especially if you’re planning to sell your doll clothes.

Have you ever recycled old clothes or fabric scraps for making doll clothes? What experiences have you found? Feel free to offer your advice and ideas in the comments.

FYI: my recently-posted Barbie owl-fabric outfit was made from used hand-me-down half-sewn fabric scraps:

Here we see a made-to-move Barbie doll with her hand on her hip. Her bias-tape-trimmed shirt is brown with red trim and there are large print owls and flowers decorating the fabric (which is identical to the fabric of this short skirt). The skirt comes to mid-thigh in length. She wears a pair of peach-colored flats with her brown-and-red outfit. Click on the link in the caption, and it will take you to a page where you can download and print all the free printable sewing patterns for making these doll clothes, along with links to tutorial videos that show you how to make this outfit.
Please click here for all the patterns and tutorial videos you’ll need to make this outfit: (available after 13 July 2020)


13 thoughts on “Save money by recycling second-hand clothing for sewing doll clothes! #MoneyMaker #Sewing

  1. I live in a rural area where fabric options are limited. I watch for specialty fabrics in used textiles, especially children’s garments. Thanks for your wonderful patterns.

    1. Thank you for the nice comment, Kathy. I, too, live in a remote rural area, but thankfully we do have a JoAnn Fabrics store about 15 miles away.

      1. I saw this morning that you live in Idaho. So do I — near Orofino. Where are you?

      2. I live near Twin Falls, but I went to high school in your area: Cottonwood. I still have extended family up on the prairie, and my brother lives in Coeur d’Alene. Small world, right?

        Thanks for commenting, Kathy. 😉

  2. Hi! I really like your blog and have been reading for a while now. Once I found lots of fabric samples from a fabric store that went out of business. The pieces were rather small, but for doll clothes they were perfect!

  3. Most folks don’t want to purchase doll clothing made from old garments unless it is something such as a vintage wedding gown, worn jeans, etc. If you do use things from a thrift shop, be sure to WASH or DRY CLEAN the fabric before using for items that you will sell!

    1. I should have included that “wash before use” suggestion in the original article. Awesome advice, StitchingUpDreamSam! Thank you for leaving this valuable comment!

  4. I sew mostly for antique dolls and have used Thrift Store finds very successfully in the past. Many items are very new looking. I have salvaged light weight wool to sew coats, capes and boys suits or have felted the wool by washing in hot water until shrunken enough to cut out without fraying – it is like sewing with felt – no hems, facings, etc. Men’s or XL women’s shirts of 100% cotton or silk – have enough fabric to be very useful. Light weight cotton knit t-shirts in white or other solid colors make great -T-shirts, leggings, capris and underwear among other items for modern dolls. Check for stains or tears that you might not be able to work around. I also check ladies clothing for buttons. A blouse or two or even a man’s shirt can give you some nice buttons at a low price…

    1. I’ve purchased used clothing for buttons too. It’s surprising how much you can spend on brand new buttons, and buying a man’s shirt with buttons at the front, on the pockets, and on the cuff can be a much more frugal purchase. Great advice! Thank you Pamela!

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