Sewing Basics: Upcycle A New Garment | Vida Vazquez | Skillshare

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Sewing Basics: Upcycle A New Garment

teacher avatar Vida Vazquez, Turning old things into new things.

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.

      Find Your Inspiration


    • 4.

      Choose Your Materials


    • 5.

      Plan Your Design


    • 6.

      Transfer Your Design To Fabric


    • 7.

      Practice Sewing Irregular Shapes


    • 8.

      Sew Our Applique


    • 9.



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About This Class

Do you wish you had a closet full of unique pieces that no one else has, but don’t want to spend a ton of money buying new clothes? Or Maybe you want to do your part for the Earth by not contributing to fast fashion buying habits. Upcycling is a way to do both.

In this class, you'll learn how to bring authenticity to your personal style by practicing the sewing technique of appliqué on a garment you already own. Appliqué is ornamental sewing technique often used when upcycling clothes in which pieces of fabric are sewn onto a larger piece of fabric to form pictures or patterns- making the original piece new and totally unique!

Every year, millions of tons of textiles and garments are dumped into landfills around the world. It’s no secret that textile waste is a significant factor in our environmental crisis. By learning ways to prolong the life cycle of our clothes instead of buying new ones, you can reduce your eco footprint.

By taking this class, you will learn to hone in on your personal aesthetic, bring more mindfulness to what you wear, and add a playful and authentic touch to your clothing. 

This class is great for both beginners and experiences sewers. The only skill required is a basic command of operating a sewing machine or hand stitching. Both of which will be covered.

You should take this class if you want to:

  • Integrate environmental sustainability into your wardrobe 
  • Builds or enhance your basic sewing skills
  • Hone in on your personal style and design sensibilities
  • Create a deeper connection with the clothes you to wear

I'm Vida Vazquez, an artist and entreprenuer in Oakland, CA. I've been hand-making jewelry, art prints, and selling curating thrifted fashion for many years. I got into upcycling a few years ago and have been using the technique of applique as a way to cut down my carbon footprint as well as integrate my love for illustration and color in my own fashion. I now sell my unique, one of a kind pieces in my online store

Meet Your Teacher

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Vida Vazquez

Turning old things into new things.


I am a multi discipline visual artist and designer based in the Bay Area. I am a lifelong thrift and flea market scavenger and find joy in reimagining old or discarded textiles into wearable pieces of art. Check out more of my work on my website and social media channels.

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Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Do you ever wish you had a wardrobe full of unique designer clothing, but you don't want to spend designer money? Getting dressed is an art form to me, it's a form of therapy, and it's a way that I share my joy and connect with others when I'm out in the world. Making and personalizing my own clothes has become a central part of my creative practice. The more I do it, the less I'm interested in wearing clothing that everyone else has hanging in their closet. My name is Vida Vazquez, I'm an artist designer and upcycler. In this class, you're going to learn the art of applique. Applique is a sewing technique where we take smaller pieces of fabric and sew them onto a larger piece of fabric to create an image or a pattern. Before learning this technique, I was more interested in shopping for clothes to give me that dopamine boost or to help me find my sense of style which I hadn't been fully aware of. I have also become more mindful of the high impacts of the fashion industry on the environment. I see upcycling and remaking my own clothes, one small way that I can reduce my eco footprint. By learning the technique of applique, it's given me the opportunity to experiment with my style in a more sustainable way. I now find myself looking for ways to give most items in my wardrobe a personalized touch that makes them unique and reflective of my identity. In this class, you will learn to bring authenticity to your personal style by practicing the art of applique on a garment you already own. You will learn to hone in on your personal aesthetic, create more mindfulness and connection to the clothing that you wear and add a playful and authentic touch to your wardrobe. This class is great for a beginner sewer, but also good for more experienced sewers who may be looking for some fresh inspiration to add to clothes they don't wear too often. Get those old t-shirts and fabrics out from the back of your closet and get ready to make something fabulous. 2. Class Project: Your class project is to add an applique to a shirt that you already have in your closet. The materials we're going to use are a sewing machine, or if you don't have a sewing machine, you can adapt this to hand sewing, so needle and thread. You'll need thread for your sewing machine, some sharp fabric scissors, also a pair of regular scissors for cutting paper. You'll need some sewing pins, a seam ripper, and then some different fabrics for your applique. These can be fabrics found around the home. Maybe a stained garment that you really like the color or the print, but you don't wear anymore. I'm using a nice hand towel. Towel material is great because it's colorful. You just want something that is not stretchy. Once you have all your materials, you are ready to move on to the next step. I'll see you in the next video. 3. Find Your Inspiration: I first got into upcycling out of frugalness more than anything. I was interested in ways that I could take inexpensive or my less foreign clothing and make it fit my body better or just make it look more modern. Simply doing small changes like shortening the length of a dress or switching out the buttons on a blouse can make a huge difference in personalizing clothing that I otherwise wouldn't want to wear. These little fixes were my gateway into upcycling, and as I started to learn the art of applique it was really exciting because it blends some of my creative interests, illustration and painting with sewing, and it's about translating a picture onto something you can wear. I like to think of it as painting with fabric. Before we get our hands dirty let's start at the beginning with the concept. Gathering inspiration can be a really magical part of the process, because it's that unique blend of influences that creates an aesthetic that's truly your own. We're going to be using Pinterest as a tool to collect our visual references. From pulling some of these different influences together it's going to help you generate some ideas for your applique design. Here are a few guiding questions as you create your moodboard. Who are some of your favorite artists? What color palettes make you the happiest? What are your favorite decades for fashion? What specific clothing brands are your favorite? What are the particular features of these brands that appeal to you? What in nature inspires you the most? Is it a specific location, plant or animal? Next I'm going to walk you through creating a moodboard on Pinterest. If you've never used Pinterest before it's a really simple tool to use. It's just a place where we're going to search and gather our visual references and you can put them together and draw from that to create your applique design. Pretty much what you're going to do is, go to your profile section and you're going to go create a new board. I'm going to name this board applique. Once you've created your new board, you go use the search tool and you can just type in some terms that you're looking for. Reference some of the questions that I just asked you, so I'll look up 70s surf aesthetic. I'm seeing some really fun visuals that I like. Some vintage surfing photography. From that search, you can just save the pin into the board that you created. I'm going to look up that artist I like, Sally Gabori. As you start to collect the inspiring images all in one place, you might start to see some common themes. You might see a certain color palette emerge. There might be certain symbols or graphics that draw you. I'm loving this image of the surfboard in the waves. Collect about 8-10 images and that's going to give you a nice starting place and by then you might already have some ideas of your applique design. If you're interested in seeing ways that designers use upcycling, a few notable designers that do this are Gypsy Sport, one of my most inspiring designers that I look up to. Also the Japanese Brand Capital Global. Both of these designers are high fashion designers that use recycled or old secondhand materials in their collections. Remember, inspiration can literally come from anywhere, your favorite music genre, color palettes or time period. Now that you've collected some sources of inspiration for you, you're ready to move on to the next step for creating your applique. I'll see you in the next video. 4. Choose Your Materials: Choosing your materials is the first part of upcycling, and there is some tips to help you choose materials to make your project a success. I'm going to be using this old cotton T-shirt for my garment that I'm going to put the applique on. This works because it's plain, it's basic enough, and I like how it fits me and I like the colors. When you're choosing your garment, it's important that you pick something not super stretchy. If it has a little stretch like a T-shirt, that's good, but you want to avoid polyester or spandex. Choose a cotton shirt. Once you have the garment that you've chosen, that's going to be like your canvas that you're going to put the applique onto. When you're choosing materials for the actual design, that's where you can get a little more creative and you can think outside the box. You'd be surprised at how many fabric or sewing materials you might have lying around your house. For my project, I'm going to be using this little hand towel. It's a great color, I love pink, and it's nice, because it's a little bit thick and it's not stretchy. But you can look around your house and see. You might have a cute cushion that has a hole in it or a stain and you can cut pieces of that out, you might have maybe an old skirt that you really like the print, but it's just doesn't fit you or it might have little stain on it. You can refer to your moodboard when you're choosing your materials, look for some of those colors or maybe some texture. Another great material of applique is felt. If you don't have any of this at home, it is really affordable. I like working with felt because it comes in bright colors and it's just super easy to manage. Upholstery fabrics can be really good as well. They are non-stretch and you might have some leftover from maybe a DIY project you did around your home. Once you have your garment picked out and an assortment of fabric scraps in different colors and textures, you're ready for the next step. 5. Plan Your Design: Now that you've created your mood board and you've pulled some materials for your applique design, you probably have a few ideas brewing for what you want that design to be. Let's get those ideas onto paper. Usually before I start any sewing projects, I like to do a few quick sketches just to get my ideas out, play around, and also to plan how I'm going to use my materials, especially if there is a material that I don't have a lot of. We're going to do two different sets of sketches. The first set of sketches is just a quick little drawing to get some of your ideas out. It's not a masterpiece, it's nothing perfect, it's just some simple drawings to put some of your ideas onto paper. As you're doing these quick sketches, think about the placement of your applique so where you want to put your applique on the shirt, and then also consider what colors you're going to use, so which materials you pulled you're going to use for which parts of the design. A few other things to consider while you're doing this sketch is the simplicity or complexity of the design. It's really up to you. Just keep in mind that the more simple of a design you choose, the more quickly you are going to be able to complete this project. Also, feel free to do an abstract design. You don't have to do a very figurative picture of a sunshine and a flower you can do some abstract shapes. You can even freestyle it a little bit, if you like. For your next set of sketches, you're going to be translating the design you doodled up in the first sketch into actual size shapes that are going to go onto the shirt. What you're going to want to do is separate the shapes from your design. For example, if you want to create an applique of a strawberry, the shape of the berry is going to be separate from that shape of the leaves and the stems of the strawberry. Once you have all the shapes for your design sketched out in actual size on paper, go ahead and cut them out, and then you'll be ready for the next step. 6. Transfer Your Design To Fabric: Okay, things are getting real. We have our materials picked, we have our design ready, and now we're going to start cutting into some fabric. Before we cut, make sure to iron any fabrics that you're using that may have a lot of wrinkles. First, we're going to pin our paper shapes onto the corresponding color fabric you've chosen for your applique. Next, cut the fabric along the edge of the pinned paper shape. Once you have all your pieces cut out, lay them out onto your shirt and check to see if you're satisfied with the placement. This is the step where you can make any needed adjustments to your design before we begin to sew. 7. Practice Sewing Irregular Shapes: Time for practice. If you're an experienced sewer, you can skip ahead to the next step. But if you're a beginner sewer, I recommend doing this step so you can get comfortable with managing the machine on rounded edges and smaller corners. For our practice run, we are going to cut out a circle and a square, just a medium-size one. Does not have to be perfect, this is just for you to get a feel for sewing some rounded edges and some corners. I have my practice circle and I'm going to cut my practice square. I'll just cut it right out of the corner here. I have a scrap of fabric that I'm painting my practice shapes to. It's actually a scrap of t-shirt material. The t-shirt material helps me get an accurate feel for how these fabrics will apply to my garment. My practice pieces are pinned and ready to sew. We're going to practice sewing a corner. You want to start with one corner of your fabric, and you're going to place it under the presser foot and give yourself about half a centimeter of space or so between the point of the needle and the edge of the fabric. You can go ahead and lower your needle, check your tension. If you're using a thicker fabric, you're going to want to lower tension, and if you're using thinner fabrics, you're going to want to raise that tension just a bit. If you have a machine that you can adjust the speed setting, go ahead and put it on a medium-slow speed. Take your time with this. When sewing applique and irregular shapes, it always helps to go slow. I'm going to start just sewing a straight line. When I get to just about half a centimeter before the end of that edge, I'm going to lower the needle manually and then I'm going to lift up the presser foot and pivot the fabric. I turn the corner like that. We'll now sow the other edge. I'm going to manually lower the needle again, lift up the presser foot, pivot, lower the presser foot. I have sewn one corner and I'm going to sow to the next corner. Again, manually lower the needle, lift up the presser foot, turn my fabric, and lower the presser foot again. This point, you can remove some of the pins that are in there if they're in the way. I'm going to finish up the edge of this square. I have now done my practice squares. Go ahead and pull the fabric out, snip the edges, go ahead and trim your excess threads. Congratulations, you just sewed a square. Now we're going to practice sewing some rounded edges. Go ahead and place your shape pretty much on any edge of your circle. Just remember to leave that little margin of space about half a centimeter or so from the edge of the fabric. Then you're going to manually lower the needle. I like to go real slow when I do circles, it just makes it a lot easier to control the machine. I'm going to go ahead and sew slowly, and you're going to see my hands turn and rotate the fabric as I sew along the edge. You can see my hands rotating the fabric. I'm taking my time. Sometimes I stop and lower the needle just so I can pivot the fabric at a better angle. Get this pin out of the way. Just use your hands to gently guide your fabric in the direction you want it to go. When you've finished, you can pull it out of the machine, snip the edges, go ahead and trim your excess threads. Voila, did a circle. You may notice I left my margin a little big here, which I could leave it like that, but you could also just trim it a bit if your margins are too big and you don't want that excess fabric. It's very easy to clean up afterwards. If your practice run is giving you little bit of trouble, don't forget about your handy seam ripper. You can just go in and remove some of the stitches that may have come out a little wonky by just pulling them. You have now learned how to sew a square and a rounded edge. If you need a little more practice, go ahead and repeat this step a couple more times until you feel comfortable. 8. Sew Our Applique: Now we're going to cut our shapes out of our materials that we've chosen. To do this, hopefully by now you've chosen your corresponding colors for each shape, you're going to lay the paper cutouts onto your fabric flat and you're going to pin it down. You don't need a ton of pins, just a couple to make sure the edges are somewhat secured. I just put a couple of pins in there. I'm going to grab my fabric scissors. I'm going to start cutting around the edge of where the shape is pinned. You're using the paper as a guide so you can get a nice, somewhat clean cut of your shape. Also when you're pinning your shape down, one tip is to pin it closer to the edge of the fabric. If you pin it right in the middle, then you might end up wasting some of the material. So pinning closer to the edge is a way to save your materials for a future project. Now I'm going to pin down the shape of my stem. I have my applique design fully cut out. Now what I'm going to do is lay it out on my shirt just to make my final choice about the placement. This is the stage in your project where you can make any adjustments or fix anything that you're not super fond of. Let's see. I'm liking the scale. I'm going to just play a little bit with the arrangement. The towel material is a little fuzzy, but we'll clean that up after. I'm liking the placement of my applique design. I'm liking the scale. I think this is what I'm going to stick with. Next we're going to pin it in place. Reach inside the shirt and make sure when you're pinning, that you're only pinning to the front of the shirt. You don't want to pin both sides of the garment or you're going to sew your shirt closed. You might want to use a couple extra pins here just because it is important that the shapes stay in place. Once you have your pieces pinned onto your shirt, you're ready for the next step. We are almost done. We are going to take our design that we've pinned onto our shirt and this is the final moment, we're going to sew it onto the shirt. Go ahead and open up your shirt. You're going to slide the front of the shirt underneath your presser foot and just pick anywhere on your design to start. So any edge. You're going to leave a little bit of margin, about half a centimeter or so, between the needle and the edge of the fabric. Go ahead and manually lower the presser foot down to hold it in place. This is where we're going to use our hands to gradually guide the needle in the direction we want it to go. Make sure your attention is set. You want to have it on a medium slow speed because you're doing more of an intricate shape. So you want to take your time. We're just sewing one shape at a time. Part of the reason you go slow is because you just want to be careful that you're not sewing through two layers of your shirt. That's when you use the seam ripper in case that happens. Happens to me sometimes. I have two pieces of my cherries sewn down. Now I'm going to sew the stem parts down. Hopefully by now you've finished your applique project and you're really loving it. This is my finished project and I'm liking how it turned out. Want to try it on and see how it looks. I'll see you in the next video. 9. Congratulations!: Congratulations, you made it through the course and you now have a stunning new garment that is uniquely your own. Some of the things we've learned in this course are reflecting on our own clothing consumption habits, honing in on our personal tastes and aesthetics. Practicing some basic design skills and practicing some basic sewing skills such as sewing a rounded edge and sewing a corner. I hope you leave this class with the confidence, but you have the skills and knowledge to upcycle any item of clothing and you don't need to look very far for the materials to do it, please share your projects with the community in the project section. You can go ahead and snap a picture of you wearing your fabulous new shirt and use the hashtag #appliqueallday. Don't forget to tag me on Instagram, at @vidavasquezstudio. Thank you so much for taking this class and I hope this is only the beginning of your upcycling journey.