Trash Into Treasure: Toddler Clothes

Formerly stained and ripped toddler clothes are given new life!

I’ve learned that keeping a toddler in clothing is a challenge. Not only because my toddler evidently prefers to be nekkid ALL the time, but also because of the astonishing rate at which she outgrows, stains, rips and otherwise destroys perfectly good clothing. My daughter is a tall, lean string bean of a two year old — taller than 97 percent of her peers. Finding pants that fit her lengthwise, but don’t fall off her skinny waist and bum, is like finding dinosaur bones.

What makes the whole finding-properly-fitting-clothes issue even more hilarious is that our daughter is a rough and tumble, on-the-go kind of girl who likes to play in the grass and dirt, climb on the jungle gym, rip around on her tricycle, run fast as the wind, and practice her champion puddle jumping. I adore all of the above, by the way — couldn’t be prouder that my girl wants nothing to do with teacups and princesses. But man, does she go through clothes. We usually make it about five wears before something gets stained or ripped.

See that stain dead center? No clue what it is, but it’s NOT budging. I can fix that.

Another pair of jeans, sacrificed to the pavement. BUT they’d make great hipster shorts!

So, what’s a mom on a budget to do? Get crafty. I’ve gotten very good at disguising stains with patches, fabric paint and ribbon. And ripped pants become cut off shorts that are pretty stinking adorable. She may not always let me customize her wardrobe, but for now, I’ll keep on creatively fixing the battle scars of her playtime shenanigans as best I can to keep our clothing costs down.

I had some metallic acrylic craft paint on hand from my DIY vase project and noticed that it said it could be used for fabrics.

This time around, I wanted to use some acrylic craft paint I had on hand to decorate and disguise stains and rips.

Since this was a last ditch effort to save the shirt and pants AND because it’s likely Elsa will outgrow the clothes before the paint can get any real wear and tear, I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a shot.

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted the copper color to cover up the stain. I decided to give the tank a few quick metallic stripes (using green painter’s tape to create clean edges) and call it done. Simple, easy and pretty. The jeans got the cut off treatment, but I kept them on the long side. I love the look of long denim shorts and thought they’d look cute on my peanut. I then set out to print some polka dots on the shorts using the metallic paint.

Psst — a pencil eraser makes perfect polka dots.

Once I was done striping and polka-dotting, I just had to leave everything alone to dry. Once it was dry, it was time to see if my handiwork got the toddler seal of approval. 

I think we were both pretty pleased with her newly minted custom duds. Not bad, all things considered. She may come home with the remnants of mud pies all over her this afternoon, and we’ll probably add a layer of blackberry juice to the mess, but I bet I can come up with another fast fix to give myself at least one more week before I have to start the search again for some new threads for my girl.

So tell me, how do YOU breathe new life into old clothes?

If your child is only a baby, check out the cute ways you can dress up a onesie in the photo gallery below.

13 Responses

  1. man tops says:

    Once I was done striping and polka-dotting, I just had to leave everything alone to dry. Once it was dry, it was time to see if my handiwork got the toddler seal of approval

  2. Yeah exactly
    it was a very usefull information. i have also some suggestive site for boys and girls wear and i sure you find well you find the variety of wears which are also very pocket friendly.. And thanks for sharing this..

  3. childrenswear says:

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  4. I'd like to hear concerning any Trash to Treasure Toys you've got created for your toddlers, too! we tend to love new toys and challenges!!!! And allow us to grasp if you create either of those – we'd like to skills a lot of fun you have got whereas learning and developing new skills!

  5. Carly says:

    Last week I went in to check on my apartments repairs and found one of my shirts had been used as a rag! I was furious! I mixed together white vinegar, baking soda am a tiny bit of dawn dishsoap, scrubbed it on the stained parts, let it sit 10 minutes(I'm impatient) and then rinsed it out. All the stain were gone! I swear its magic! I lve this idea too though, definitely making those pants! Thanks!

  6. DeliciaA53 says:

    One of the things I am famous for in my family is getting stains out of whites. It bumbs me out that I have to resort to chemicals based cleaners to do so but I don't have the money to just throw away clothes either. I like the new "do" you gave your daughters clothes. For whites I use hot water, a small amount of regular detergent and add DRY dishwasher detergent {about 1/4 cup to a load} along with 1/4 cup REAL Clorox bleach but pretreat by dampening the stained area{s} by spraying Mean Green on them and letting that set for at least a half hour or so and then I wash in the above blend in the washer. Here's a tip: If the stain doesn't come out do NOT dry your clothes. Drying sets the stain permanently. Just like washing a fresh stain without treating can. Instead, retreat the stain{s} again.
    I also re-purpose clothes, children's or otherwise by giving them to folks I know can use them.
    I also have been known to plaster/mortar them to make little kid outdoor decorations or adult sized holiday decorations that are awesome. This is done when there is no hope of saving the piece of clothing besides using for rugs, quilts, etc.

  7. [...] next was a little ditty on how to turn trash into treasure: toddler clothes edition. Our daughter is a super tall string bean of a girl, so finding clothes for her can be a [...]

  8. brenda says:

    when my boys were little and on the thin side take the pants and on inside open one side seam thread piece of elastic to fit into back and around to other side stitch it in place by hand or machine then do same to attach end of elastic at opening and making the pants smaller in the back.

  9. Interiors By Patty says:

    Sew purchased or handmade applique motifs over stains or holes, add trim, lace, whatever suits the person, to denim items to lengthen or cover rips, I have more…..

  10. janet bennett says:

    This is a good helper thing to do.

  11. BestHousewifeToBe says:

    This is great!!! Was going to get rid of so many clothes and now you have given me ideas. Thanks!

  12. Lauren says:

    You are so clever… I am already thinking about which of Lily's favorite (and quite worn) items I might be able to spruce up!


About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

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