How to give an old t-shirt a new lease of life and send one less thing to landfill!

This tutorial is for a straightforward little pair of leggings. I have just used a simple zig zag stitch on the sewing machine which works nicely once you get the tension just right. You can of course be a lot more fastidious than I have been here and hem all the seams more tidily if you want to. I have my wonderful overlocker to do all the Stripey Squirrel clothes with so my seams are all much neater on the stuff for sale, but it is totally possible to make a lovely pair of wearable trousers without an overlocker and in this tutorial I have shown you how. 

The steps below will lead to a simple pair of trousers.  You could use this same method as a basis for creating all sorts of designs. Check out the trousers, leggings, tops and skirts on the rest of the site for some more inspiration!



  • An old t-shirt or top (best material to start with is a nice stretchy t-shirt).
  • A pair of leggings or trousers that you like the size and shape of that you’d like to replicate.
  • Scissors
  • Dressmakers chalk/pen
  • A length of elastic (you may have some in an old piece of clothing that you could pull out and re-use. But you wont need much anyway – only about 50cm or so)
  • Pins
  • Safety pin
  • A sewing machine threaded with the colour of your choice




Step 1: Lay out your top on the floor, nice and flat with no creases on either side.

Step 2: Fold your existing leggings in half and line up the outside of the leg with the side of the t-shirt, and the bottom of the trousers up with the hem of the t-shirt.

Step 3: Draw round the trousers, giving yourself an extra 5mm-1cm all the way up the side of the leg, right up to the waist. There’s no need to leave any extra space at the bottom. At the top though, you need to cut about 3 cm higher than the top of the existing trousers. Cut it out!

Step 4: Turn over your cut out piece and place it on the other side of the t-shirt, exactly as you did before with the actual trousers. You could draw round it again, or just cut freehand. No need to add any extra bits this time.

Step 5: You want to end up with two pieces like in the picture.


Step 6: Take one leg and turn inside out, with right sides facing together.

Step 7: Sew up the leg, from the ankle to the point where the crotch will be.

Step 8: Do the same with the other leg.

Step 9: Turn one of the legs back the right way round, keeping the other inside out.

Step 10: Insert the leg that is the right way round into the one that is inside out, and line it all up so it looks like this:

Step 11: Now sew all the way round from the top of one side of the waist to the other.


Step 12: Pull out the leg that’s inside the other one and you’ll see a pair of trousers have started to form! Keep them inside out for now.

Step 13: Fold over the top to the width of your elastic and sew around the top leaving a gap to thread the elastic into.

Step 14: Using a safety pin to guide it round more easily, thread your elastic through the waistband making sure not to let it fold over or twist, then sew the two ends together (overlap one to the other to keep it flat inside the waistband).

Step 15: Sew up the hole, turn the trousers the right way out….

...and hey presto!