Five Tips For Upcycling Fabric Into Beautiful New Teddy Bear Outfits.

It's no secret that we're huge fans of upcycling at Best Dressed Bears and most of the teddy bear outfits featured in our teddy bear clothes sewing patterns have been made from second-hand fabric. We believe that there’s something quite special about making teddy bear clothes from old garments, preserving special memories of a person or an event. Or creating new teddy bear outfits from clothes no longer suitable for gifting on, items that would have ended up in a landfill. 

However, reusing old fabric often requires a different approach to sewing than sewing with new fabric so we've put together some of our favourite tips for using upcycled fabric.

Fabric Recovery:

You may have limited fabric available if you are upcycling your children’s old clothes therefore carefully review where all the pattern pieces will go before cutting any pieces out. Sometimes, it may be necessary to open the seams of the old garment first so you can lay the fabric flat. If you think you may be short on fabric, open the seams with a seam ripper rather than scissors – those extra 5/8-inch seam allowances may be needed!

Placement of Pattern Pieces:

Planning is key when using recycled fabric! Before laying out the pieces check for stains, rips, or areas where the colour of the fabric may have faded. Lay out the largest pattern pieces first and fit the other pieces around them, taking care to check the directions on each pattern piece. If you need to cut a pattern piece multiple times, then it may be easier to print out extra copies of the piece. And remember, if you need to cut two of the same pattern piece, double check if the second piece needs to be reversed – if you are short on fabric, you may only have one chance at cutting out!

Pattern Pieces:

In several of our patterns, we include two sets of pattern pieces. One set can be used on standard yardage fabric whilst the second, smaller set of pattern pieces have been designed specifically with upcycling in mind. Using the smaller pieces will ensure that the seams of the garment will be in the correct place once the teddy bear clothes have been sewn up. 

Reuse existing features:

It may be possible to use existing features of the garment such as a trim, hem, embroidery, or badges in your new teddy bear outfit so think carefully when placing pattern pieces. If using existing button plackets remember to check where the buttonholes will end up on your new teddy bear clothes!

Choosing your fabric:

‘Bear’ in mind the size of teddy bear clothes. Plain fabrics or fabrics with small patterns/stripes work best. Don’t be afraid to colour block or mix fabrics to create a unique new teddy bear outfit. Look for non-clothing fabric to upcycle as well, such as duvet covers, pillowcases or fabric bags.


Upcycling is an incredibly satisfying way of making beautiful and unique teddy bear clothes whilst reducing our consumption paw-print. We’d love to hear how you upcycle old fabric into teddy bear outfits – just leave a comment below!

by Eve on February 22, 2024

I am particularly fond of upcycling duvet sets. Many have 2 different, but complimentary patterns, making them fantastic for clothing sets, dresses, and other projects like bags, pouches, purses & other storage items. If the fabric feels a bit too thin or soft, as budget end sets can after many trips through a washing machine, some soft, lightweight fusible interfacing can help give a more tailored look or structural integrity.

Eve xx

by Carolyn Carter on February 22, 2024

Thank you for tips. Haven’t had courage yet to start my outfits as using my late husband’s shirts. Planning to make outfits for my teddy bears to give to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Will let you know when I manage to make any.

by Windsor Lewis on February 22, 2024

Great post, and timely as well.

I’m repurposing my 32 year old college sweatshirt for a Gund bear I’ve had since high school. While the sweatshirt is way past its prime, it’s nice to know that it will live on through my bear’s wardrobe as the Kensington Hoodie. I may even get out my Cricut machine to recreate the college logo! 😀

I’ve always loved stuffed animals (more so than traditional dolls) and being in my early 50’s has/will not stop me from indulging the collection of stuffies. Your patterns are teaching me a lot about garment design and construction. They offer me opportunities for time alone with my sewing machine to unwind and be creative.

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Back To Top