Go to a blacksmith in Riverwood, Whiterun or any city and go to the workbench. Make sure you have the correct piece of metal or material to use to improve it. For example, iron armor needs a iron ingot to improve it. Then select the one you want and if you have the correct material it will improve it.
UniqueRelic has it right. Also, if you're willing to spend a little "grinding" time, buy up all the iron ingots you can, and collect as many leather strips as you can. Use these materials to make iron daggers. After about 6 or 7 iron daggers, you'll level up your smithing skill. It's a little monotonous, and you may have to use the "Wait" function for 48 hours in order to buy more ingots from the vendors, but you can level smithing up to 100 rather quickly, and make some uber strong armor.
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