Step by step instructions on how update an old shirt with iron on patches in Spring pastel shades for the perfect Mother’s Day gift.
Simple and unique sustainable gift idea
‘a jacket in the style of a shirt’
Hi, I’m Barbara from Vintage-Patch, a North Oxfordshire based small business specialising in upcycled and vintage clothing. Regular readers will know that I’m passionate about keeping clothes out of landfill, and today’s blog will show you a fast and easy way to upcycle a secondhand shirt into a lovely pastel patched shacket style top that can be worn tucked in or unbuttoned over a t shirt or vest.
I’m so sold on this design that I think it would be perfect as a Mothers Day gift. Of course, if your Mum is a crafter, she may prefer to receive the patching kit I’ve used instead, so she can create her very own bespoke version.
Now that Spring is fast approaching, I knew I wanted to use a crisp white base garment to work on, but sadly on the next visit to my usual sources of secondhand goodies I couldn’t find anything much in pure cotton on the ladies’ rails. This is a shame; it seems us girls are palmed off with synthetics more and more often these days. No matter – there were plenty of excellent cotton shirts in the men’s department of Wood Green Animal Charity’s Banbury store, and the looser fit was great for this type of garment. As a result, I came home with an armful of beautiful natural fibre white shirts ripe for an update.
And that brings me to my first tip:
1. Check for strains and marks
Always check any preloved white clothing for greying and stains before buying. Many stains can be removed easily enough, and as a rule, patching is a fantastic way to cover a stubborn mark or stain. However, as we may be giving this item as a gift, where a stain is will dictate whether the item is suitable for your purpose. I would avoid anything that looks the slightest bit dingy on this occasion.
2. What you'll need
White cotton loose fit shirt
Vintage-Patch iron on fray edge pastel patch kit (or fabric scraps and iron on adhesive)
Iron and ironing board or pad
Needle and thread or embroidery floss
Optional: chalk or pins.
For this project, I was lucky enough to score this men’s shirt by Scandinavian heritage brand Melka. It has a slightly pronounced cotton weave with relaxed styling that lends itself to unisex wear and made the perfect subject for upcycling to a slightly more feminine style. That said, I wanted to maintain the classic theme rather than going too girly, so flowers, hearts, excess lace and such won’t be used on this occasion.
3. Wash the base garment
Pop the shirt into a hot wash with some oxy bleach to get a crisp clean garment to work on. Dry and iron the shirt so the area you will patch is nice and smooth.
4. Fray the patch edges (optional)
For this upcycle, I’m using one of the Vintage-Patch Pastel Fray Edge Patch kits, but you could also use whatever lightweight cotton fabric scraps you have to hand and back them with some iron on adhesive. The Vintage-Patch Pastel Fray Edge Kit contains 8 random shape patches with an iron on backing and a margin of fabric around the edge which will fray naturally with wash and wear. Each patch is a different pastel colour; light mint green, spring green, light blue, turquoise, pink, peach, lavender purple and light primrose yellow. As I’m impatient, I started off the fray process myself by pulling just a few threads loose and trimming any long threads that don’t come away easily. I really love the homespun effect of these, and for those who like it too, we also do a similar pack in denim.
5. Position the patches
Back to the matter in hand: Lay out the shirt on a table or flat surface and place the patches randomly in an effect you like. You can pin the patches into position if you wish, though I just take a photo of the placed effect and eyeball it when replicating the design at the ironing board.
I like to use odd numbers of patches together; usually 3s and 5s, but anything goes so long as you like the shapes and placement.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind: The darker colour shades may show through lighter ones if patches are layered. This can create some interesting shadow effects, but if you prefer not to see that, use your paler patch shades at the bottom if you are overlapping colours.
Also, where you add an accent with a patch, the eye will be drawn to it, so placement can direct towards or away from areas of the body. Image consultants will tell you how, by adding an accessory such as a brooch or scarf, you can emphasise certain features, so think a little about your applique patch placement, and use it to work for your body shape.
6. Iron on your patches
When you are happy with your rough design, peel off the backing paper on your first patch and place it shiny (glue) side down, ironing it into position following the instructions in the pack.
There is a trial sample snippet included with all of our iron on patch products and it’s really worth doing a test with that to ensure your iron temperature is suitable to get a nice strong bond. If you are ironing over a seam, make sure to press the seam area thoroughly to ensure the patch sticks over it completely without any air bubbles.
Once you are satisfied that the first patch has adhered well, continue the process with the rest of the pack.
7. Decorate shirt with stitching
Once your patches are all ironed in place, it’s time to add some stitching to make the whole thing ‘yours’. I like to use a running stitch to further secure each patch because it’s quick and easy, but just the other day I saw a gorgeous effect with a chain stitch used around a heart shape and I’ll definitely be trying that in a future upcycle. Using embroidery floss in pastel and bright shades I stitched around the edge of each patch to create a secure and long lasting result durable through many washes and wears. Whilst our iron on patches can work without additional sewing in many cases, I can’t emphasise enough how much better it looks to add just a little stitching to finish off the effect. Totally worthwhile to spend a few extra minutes threading up a needle.
This was quite a quick and easy upcycle, taking about an hour. Once I had applied the patches, I felt I wanted to add something else, and that’s why I love upcycling, it’s so absorbing and the process gets the creative juices flowing, so whilst having a kit is a great start, inevitably you’ll want to to add little signatures that make the project completely your own creation. I wasn’t minded to go too feminine with this upcycle, or I would have added some floral embroidery and fancy stitching, but I did want the garment to have something that made it unique, so I also added decorative running stitch to the collar and cuff edges in a couple of contrast shades of embroidery thread and I relented on the lace with a tiny scrap added to the patch on the pocket.
8. Iron, fold and giftwrap
I’m really happy that this item of clothing picked up for pennies now has a new life. It’s going to be great as a spring shirt or shacket over a t shirt and looks so cheerful and fresh. I think it would make a great gift for Mother’s Day or any occasion, either as a completed upcycle, or if the recipient is creative, in kit form.
Here is the finished shacket taking pride of place in front of my stall at a recent Deddington Farmer’s Market Craft Fair. Hope you like it!
Our Pastel Fray Edge Kit is just one of the huge Vintage-Patch range of iron on patching products for repair and decoration to attire and fabric goods.
Visit our patch collection to see a myriad ways you can customise and upycle to extend the life of clothing and keep garments out of landfill.