Upcycle a plaid wool skirt into a stylish capelet or poncho

Upcycle a plaid wool skirt into a stylish capelet or poncho with me – super easy, satisfying sew!

I sewed two wool plaid skirts in high school (yes, I’m in my 50s…) and kept them – they were, of course, much too small in the waist, but I was able to transform them into a poncho/capelet that is stylish and much more suited to my casual WFH lifestyle. You can also do this with thrifted wool skirts.

The ideal skirt is A-line, knee or below length with a side zipper. You’ll retain the existing hem (and lining if it has one). I’ll show you in the video with unlined skirts, but I’ll explain here how to simply and easily sew it using the lining.

Create upper body shaping and neckline:

A skirt is not shaped for your upper body, so we’ll add shaping with 2 darts in the front and back, and some shoulder shaping.

Cut off and remove the waistband and remove the side zipper. If your skirt has a back zipper, you’ll close this up now. Mark the center front (CF) and center back of the skirt front and back.

Measure from the CF 6-7″ out and place pins – this is the width of your new neckline. Try on the skirt over your head and see if the neckline you measured fits well – you want to be able to slip it over, and not have it fall off your shoulders. 12-14″ wide is ideal.

While you have the skirt on your upper body, pin some shaping into the upper shoulder area and pinch out darts in the front (you’ll add similar darts in the back). Darts on mine are 3/4″ wide x 6″ long. I positioned them roughly so they point at my bust points (aka nipples!) and they are 3″ either side of your center front mark.

Measure down your arm to just below your elbow on the skirt. Place a pin in the skirt side seam. This is the top opening of your arm slit. The arm slit is 9″ long. Open up the side seam 9″ below the pin (I have 2″ closed side seam below my arm opening). Try on and adjust this opening wider, up or down as you need to and record your measurements. Press open the seam allowances and stitch with a 1/4″ stitch around the opening, in a box shape.

For the neckband, I used purchased double fold bias binding. You can make your own or use this. I place the binding right sides together with the capelet top, stitch all the way around, joining the ends with an overlap at the side seam. Then I flip this around press, and topstitch 1/2″ around the neckline opening.

If your skirt is lined:

Do not separate the lining from the skirt before cutting. Remove the lining after you’ve cut the skirt waistband off.

Cut off the waistband, make the darts in the fashion fabric, construct the sideseam openings in the fashion fabric as instructed above.

Remove the lining if you haven’t already (most linings will be free of the skirt at this point),

Place lining and skirt/capelet right sides together and stitch the neckline opening.

Flip the lining to the inside of the skirt/capelet and press the neckline.

Toptitch around the neckline at 1/2″

For the side seam openings, open the lining up at the same spot as the fashion fabric. Press seam allowances back and slipstitch (by hand) the opening of the lining to the opening edge of the arm holes.

You’re done!

Your capelet looks awesome over jeans and a turtleneck, or as I’ve shown it, with wider leg pants and a turtleneck. It’s a great extra layer in the winter, indoors, and a perfect outerwear layer in the spring and fall.