Upcycled Knitwear Project

Black Polo Neck Jumper Upcycle

image of upcycled jumper with upside down zip detail

Our finished top with upside down zip detail.

Upcycling is very popular these days and it’s easy to see why; it’s fun, it’s green and it is a wonderful way to express your personality through your own clothes. It’s also a great introduction to dressmaking if you don’t want to dive right in and work with patterns and expensive fabric. This allows you to experiment and build up skills in a relatively safe way.

It was while  looking at upcycled clothing on the net, particularly projects that use knitted garments as a starting point I noticed that the end results tend to fall in to the “bohemian” or “funky” camp with lots of added texture in the shape of scraps and cut or torn fabric and lace additions. But, what if this is not your style, and while you’d like to give upcycling a go, you want a more elegant and polished result? Well, we think we’ve found a solution for you…Knitted Tape Yarns from Corkwood Knitting and Craft Supplies- http://www.corkwood-knittingandcraftsupplies.com/knitted-trims-49-c.asp.

They come in a variety of widths and weights and we think they look better on knitted garments than trying to struggle with bias binding or ribbons; they move with the garment and seem to be more compatible in both the sewing process and the finished look. We decided to upcycle a simple polo neck jumper into a V-neck top with an “upside down” zip detail to the centre front.

black polo neck jumper before upcycling

Our original charity store jumper.

When you have decided on your design make a quick sketch of it so you can refer back to it later.

It’s a good idea to assemble all your possible component parts before you begin even if you don’t end up using all of them.  There’s nothing worse than having to get up from your project all the time to dive around your workshop looking for bits and pieces. It’s also a good idea to thread up your machine in the right colour.

component parts for project

assemble all the component parts before you begin

The process we are going to use to attach the zip to the garment involves sandwiching the zip and the garment edges between two layers of tape.  First, though we need to prepare the garment a little.

  • For this project it is important to establish where the centre front of the garment is. Do this by matching up the side seams and laying the front down on a flat surface. Make sure the shoulders match too.
centre front of polo neck jumper

find the centre front of the garment

  • Mark the cutting lines as required. We reduced the fullness of the garment by cutting away some of the garment  at the centre front below the bustline but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
  • When you are happy with your shape, cut and remove any waste.
cut away the excess fabric

cut away the excess fabric

  • Overlock/serge the raw edges if it’s a loose knit and looks as though it might fray excessively.
overlock raw edges if necessary

overlock raw edges if necessary

Now prepare the zip and tape.

  • To achieve a good result we recommend sewing what will eventually become the outer edges first, incorporating the zip and then bringing it up to the garment in the next stage. Don’t be confused and sew the edges that need to sandwich around the exposed edges of the jumper! Obviously this will need careful measuring of the amount of tape needed. While doing this remember not to overstretch either the tape or the garment and allow a bit of excess at either end for turning.
  • Once you have established the amount of tape needed cut another layer the same length.
  • Line the zip up where it will go in the jumper and then pin it between the two layers of tape so it will fit back into the garment in the right place.
measure the tape out on the garment to get the right amount

measure the tape out on the garment to get the right amount

  • Pin together the rest of the tape that will travel around the neckline at the outside edge.
Zip in the tape yarn ready to insert into the jumper

Zip in the tape yarn ready to insert into the jumper


  • Stitch close to but not right on the outer edge. Since we are sewing two layers together and the tape is made from stretchy knit you need to be very confident of catching both edges all the way round so come in from the edge a bit to make sure. For this project I didn’t use a zipper foot but I did move my needle close to the sewing edge. This gave me more control between the feed dogs and the sewing foot.
sew close to but not on the outer edge

sew close to but not on the outer edge


The next step is to sandwich the cut edge of the garment between the two layers of tape with the zip in tow.

  • Pin your tape with the zip in onto the garment, lining up the centre back with the centre of the tape. Again, do this by folding both the tape and the garment in half and inserting a pin to mark the centre point then line them up.
centre the tape at the back neck edge

centre the tape evenly at the back neck edge

upcycled project

pin assembled tape and zip into garment


  • Also make sure the bottom edges of the garment and the zip match up. You want to have the excess tape of the zip hanging below the garment so you can fold it behind later.
pin assembled tape and zip into jumper

pin assembled tape and zip into jumper

  • At this stage you can insert a decorative lace if you wish.
image of optional lace insert

adding a decorative lace insert if desired.

  • When you are happy with the fit of the tape, you can sew the inner edge of the tape. Again, come in from the extreme edge to sew as you need to be sure to catch both layers and you cannot see what the underneath layer of tape is doing all the time!
sewing knitted tape to a jumper

Sew the tape to the jumper

  • If you happen to miss catching the underneath tape here and there, do not worry you can catch it in with a hand stitch later and as it’s on the inside no one will know.
image of missed stitches on inside of jumper

missed stitches on the inside of the garment can easily be hand sewn

Sleeve treatments. There are many ways to finish the sleeves, especially now you have discovered the tape yarns. We decided to emphasize the flare of the sleeves.

Creating flared sleeves.

  • Cut away the tight rib at the end of the sleeve.
image of cut away rib on sleeve hem

cut away the tight rib on the sleeve hem

  • If you have an overlocker, finish the raw edge, stretching the fabric as you sew. If you don’t, you can steam out the sleeve fabric to create a flared bottom. Next, take two layers of the tape cut longer than you need
image of stretched sleeve

stretch sleeve edge as you overlock it to get a flared finish

  • Lay one on top of the other as before and sew together close to the long edge.
  • Sew the short edges together to create a band.
  • Measure and mark the quarter points on both the band and the sleeve hem. Do this by folding them in half and half again and marking with a pin before bringing them together. You will probably have to stretch the sleeve in to the band.
image of quarter points on a sleeve hem

measure the quarter points on the sleeve

  • Sandwich and pin the sleeve fabric between the two layers of tape as you did on the body of the garment and sew down the inner edge.

Alternatively you could do what we did…

  • For a finer trim, cut a piece of tape to fit around the base of the sleeve.
image of tape and sleeve hem

measure tape for sleeve hem

  • Join the short ends to make a band. Find and mark the quarter points on the sleeve and the band as before.


  • Pin the tape to the inside of the sleeve so the edges meet, lining up the seam on the band with the seam on the sleeve.
image of tape pinned to sleeve hem

pin tape to sleeve edge evenly

  • Stitch the band to the sleeve hem with a medium zig zag stitch right on the edge, stretching the sleeve to match the tape as you go.

    image of tape being sewn to inside edge of sleeve.

    sew tape to inside edge of sleeve


  • Fold the remaining length of tape towards the front of the sleeve, rolling it over so it covers the zig zag stitching.


  • With a straight stitch, sew the remaining edge of the tape down on the outside of the sleeve edge, covering your previous stitches.

Go back over your garment and check for areas where you may have missed the tape and stitch them down.  Turn under the raw edges below the zip and secure with a few hand stitches and you’re done

image of raw edge of tape hand sewn into place

fold raw edges of tape under and hand stitch into place

Give knitted tape yarn a go and have fun. Do let us know how you get on.

image of upcycled jumper with upside down zip detail

Our finished top with upside down zip detail.