Make It New: Upcycled Flannel Scarf

 Upcycled DIY Flannel Scarf

Newsflash! It’s October, and where I live that means it’s scarf season! Well, where I live it is scarf season more often than it isn’t scarf season, but there is something gratifying about a new chunky scarf as those cool breezes start a blowin’.

What you need:

  • Flannel shirt that you no longer use in a pattern that you like. (see notes below on this)
  • Sewing machine - doesn’t need to be new or fancy, as long as you get a reliable straight line and zig-zag, you should be fine. (There are many shops selling refurbished machines these days, see if you can find one in your area!)
  • Matching thread
  • Optional accent fabric.
  • Optional seam ripper, in case your brain stops working and you sew the wrong edge. I do it far too often, the seam ripper and I are good friends.

Choosing your original piece of clothing

Things to keep in mind:

  • The larger the better. The flannel shirt was a men’s large, and I still added a little more fabric. However, I did make it quite chunky. If you have a choice in your garment aim for larger men’s shirts. If you just have a hand-me-down or old shirt of your own, the size of your shirt will determine some of your scarf dimensions, but don’t let that stop you! Just adjust the sizes as you go, my dimensions are a suggestion to get it to look like my final product, but not a rule.
  • Make sure it’s comfortable… sometimes those vintage outdoorsy flannels are the old itchy kind of wool. Your neck won’t love it. Unless you are planning on living in turtlenecks, then by all means wear the itchy stuff!
  • Aim for 1 or no pockets. I had 1 pocket and decided to keep it on there, and it made it a bit bulkier. You have the option of removing them with a seam ripper, but that’s time consuming. I need to keep some of my projects simple or I don’t finish them.

Warning and Confession: this tutorial isn’t the easiest thing to describe in writing. But, I love scarves and making scarves from other things, and I wanted to share, so I hope you can follow along. I’m no professional seamstress, so much of my sewing language is made up.


Alright, you’ve got your flannel shirt. Lay it flat and do some initial measurements to make a game plan. My example scarf, when all the fabric pieces was laid out flat, measured to about 60in x 24in. Make adjustments to your measurements with the fabric you have available. If your scarf will be thinner, you can get away with it being a little shorter as well. If you have enough fabric to make it about 24 inches wide, I’d stick to a minimum of 60 inches or it will strangle you. If you see you won’t likely be able to get to 60 inches in length, start thinking through what other fabric you’d like to accent it with. In the end, I added a few inches of lace, (this was some fabric left over from another project, that I originally got from a local shop that buys leftover fabric off people and sells it at a discount. It’s my favorite.)

Once you have a game plan, start cutting!

See the incredibly fancy diagram below to get an idea what pieces you will end up using. The yellow is back panel, which you can keep 1 large piece. However, just cut the chunks as large as possible to start.

 DIY Flannel Scarf

Begin with the front panels. Cut up the side seams of the shirt, and I recommend even cutting into the sleeve in order to use the width of the chest (see below for what I mean) I recommend starting by just cutting along the seams on top of the shoulders.

I removed the buttons from the front, but you could keep them on as a fun accent if you think they’d be awesome. Once you have this cut apart, square off the top and bottom. Having a pattern is nice for this, you have straight line as a guide. Set these 2 pieces aside.

Next go to the back panel of the sirt. This should be fairly easy at this point as many of the seems are already cut for you. Do the same as the front, cutting into the sleeves a little, and then squaring off the top and bottom of the piece of fabric, saving as much for the scarf as possible. Set aside.

Cut the sleeves off from what is left of the shoulders, then open up the sleeves by cutting along the seam on the underside. Lay flat and measure the lowest spot on the sleeve that has the same width as one of your front panels. Cut the bottom half of the sleeve off. Then, square off this piece as well. Do this with both sleeves.

You should have 2 pieces of sleeve, 2 panels from the front of the shirt, and 1 large panel from the back, all fairly rectangular. And a few scraps, which you can use to make your puppy look mighty handsome.

Time to start sewing!

 DIY Flannel Scarf

**Remember, as you sew, make sure what will be the INSIDE of the scarf is facing OUTSIDE. Sew the ugly sides facing you.

Our first sewing step is to sewing the front panel pieces together, and the sleeve pieces together. Lay the 2 sleeve pieces on top of each other, ugly side out. Pick one of the short edges and run it through your machine. For these stitches I use a small zig-zag stitch in order to allow the fabric a little stretch.

Then, lay the 2 front panel pieces of top of each other, ugly side out, with the sleeve portions lined up. Sew the edge without the sleeve portions first, again with a small zig-zag stitch.

Once this is done you’ll have 3 panels, all hopefully around 24 inches wide when spread open. You can see my measuring skills are not my maddest skills, but they are close enough for now.

I have found the best method is to sew all of the fabric into one large panel before sewing it into a tube. (especially if you measure as terribly as myself). Start by sewing the width of the front panel/sleeve pieces. Keep the seams lined up, and facing outside, if the outside/unsewn edges aren’t even, we’ll fix that in a later step.

Now sew the width of your last 2 pieces together. Again, if the outside/unsewn edges aren’t even, we’ll fix that shortly.

After this is done, you have a decision to make, to add another fabric or to not add another fabric. You can try and wrap your current mess of fabric around your neck and see if it’s enough, but I usually feel the need to sew it into a tube to know for sure. When I measured the fabric I had a total of about 57 inches, I thought it might be close enough, so I sewed the tube and lo and behold, it was a little on the short side. If you are confident you’ll want to add fabric, do that in this step. Simply sew one more piece of fabric that is the same width of your assembled piece, and add the necessary inches to the length. I added a few inches of lace, as you’ll see later.

OK, so you now have a large panel of assembled fabric somewhere in the 24x60 in realm. The next step is to make a long tube. Fold this giant assemble piece in half, so it now looks 12x60in, with all the ugly side stuff and seams facing you, and begin sewing up the long edge, continue using a small zig-zag stitch. Note, DON’T sew the top or bottom edges shut, JUST the long edge. If your widths have some variation, you can either make the whole scarf one uniform width, or “sew with the flow” (my personal favorite) and keep your seam about 1 inch from the edge, leaving room for the variations. See below.

Trim any excess fabric off from outside of the seems. Once done, flip the whole thing inside out, and you should have a long tube. Yay tube! It means we’re almost done!

Now for one of the hardest parts to describe… sewing the ends of the tube together.

You are going to sew this with the pretty/finished side out, however, you are sewing most of this part with the seam still facing inside. Not confusing at all, eh? You can kind of see in the photo below (shown with just 1 fabric) how, while the rest of the scarf has the pretty side facing out, the seam you are about to sew will still be facing the inside. Start sewing this together, being CAREFUL to only sew the 2 edges and not let other parts of the scarf get caught. This is worth going slow for.

Sew as MUCH of this part together like this, it will look like the photo below in your sewing machine. (Again, you may be sewing 2 different fabrics together at this point, if you chose to add an accent.)

Take it out of your machine, tuck all of the insides back inside. Hopefully you only have 2-3 inches left to sew. We still don’t want a bunch of loose ends outside, so fold the edges inside the scarf, lay it flat, and sew a very very thin edge to finish it up.

You can see what that bit of seam looks like finished below, when done with 2 fabrics.

 DIY Flannel Scarf

Another confession: the reason I have some pictures with just flannel and a couple with lace is because I changed my mind after I finished it. I wanted it a little longer and I liked the idea of the feminine hint of lace. I hope in the end that made some of the directions easier to see. Lesson of the day: mistakes aren’t tragedies! Just rip some seams and try again. Too bad we don’t have seam rippers for real life mistakes, am I right?

Wear, feel good, and enjoy! 


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