Recycling old clothing into new items is not only green, but also, great fun. Making rugs and other craft items from recycled t-shirts is a popular activity. This is a guide about crafts using recycled t-shirts.
I made my daughter (age 5) a jumpsuit from my dad's old shirt. I didn't have a pattern, but I think it turned out OK. She loves it anyway.
By Ruth from England
I wanted a new nightgown, and figured there must be something in my wardrobe that I could fashion into one rather than buying one. A touristy tee shirt that someone had given me was just the thing. Nice and soft, but too short. I like long nightgowns for the cold temps here in NY.
And the cheesy, glittery seashell motif had to go. I found some soft fabric in my stash to add the length I wanted. And another matching piece to cover up the seashells--had to line this bit with a piece of muslin to keep the pesky seashells from showing through.
I'm happy with how my new nightie turned out and saved some money too. I had to scrunch the fabric up in the photos in order to get it all in the pictures.
By Gloria from Western NY
My daughter had a stain on one of her shirts that I was unable to get out, and she had another shirt that she had outgrown. I decided to use the outgrown shirt to create something to decorate the shirt that had the stain. This is the result!
Approximate Time: About 1 hour
You can also use this same concept to decorate pillows, towels, and other items.
By Rachel's Mom from Wilkesboro, NC
A great way to use T-shirts that are no longer wearable is to make a pet blanket or throw. Just cut the center out of the T-shirt and sew each square together. Fold the outside edges under to hem.
You can donate these to a local pet shelter. They can use them for bedding, drying animals, or most anything. This recycling idea keeps those T-shirts out of the landfills, and also helps much deserving animals.
By Bittyfrog from Tupelo, MS
Take an old child's shirt, preferably with spaghetti straps. Turn it inside out and sew the bottom of the shirt. Turn it right way and you're done. Great for small games and books. We also use them in the summer for each child's swimsuit and towel.
By coville123 from Brockville, Ontario
I'm looking for some information. I recently learned to crochet and am practicing making rag rugs (all shapes) and tote bags with recycled t-shirts that I cut up into strips.
At first, my family was really excited about my rugs and I made lots. They gave me all their discarded t-shirts and stuff. I now have mountains of old t-shirts which aren't good to give away, but perfect to recycle into other things. The problem is, now my family is begging me not to make them any more rugs, place mats and bags because they have so many. I still have literally a mountain of old stuff which I would love to use, but I have no idea for what else to make with them.
Does anyone have any ideas please? I really hate to throw them away, but they are taking up so much storage space for nothing, at the moment. Any thoughts, please?
By cett from Malta, Europe
January 17, 2012
All the items you've made for gifts, could also be sold at craft shows or do a "yard Boutique"; like a rummage sale, but no rummage, just hand made "gifts". I do them about once a month from May through Sept. Make some pocket change with your creativeness :0)
I know that most stores sell cloth bags to reuse for groceries, etc., but you can make your own with a bit of cutting and sewing. Take an old T shirt and lay it out flat on a table. Cut off the sleeves at the armhole seam and scoop out the neckline. Then, sew a seam or 2 across the bottom hemline. You now have a recycled shopping bag! The scooped out neckline is where you pack the groceries and the armholes become the handles. These are also great to make for kids to take their things to the pool. Smaller ones can be made from kid T shirts.
I saw these for sale on the Martha Stewart website for $20!
Source: Martha Stewart website
By Jan from Gainesville, GA
I just came across an amazing website called SuperNaturale with instructions on making your own underwear out of t-shirts! It has detailed instructions and a pattern you can print out. I can't wait to make use of some of the cute t-shirts I have *cough* grown out of.
By Kathleen from AB Canada
Lay the t-shirt flat, starting at one side of the neckline and ending up at the other side of the neckline, cut a deep 8 inch U SHAPE.
Next, cut off the sleeves.
Lastly, sew a seam across the bottom of t-shirt ( reinforce the seam and corners by sewing it a second time) and Voila! instant tote bag. These are super fun and easy to make. I use them for grocery shopping, etc.
By Frances from Bland, MO
Back in the 60's, I saved all my pantyhose for crafts or wearing with pants. I decided I needed some way to keep them and ended up making an old shirt into a storage bag.
I sewed the bottom of the shirt, cut off the sleeves and sewed up the armholes and hung it on a nice hanger. It went on the inside of my closet door and all of the hose that came out of the laundry were tucked into the neck hole.
Over the years I have used this idea several ways:
A pretty one for the kitchen for a bag holder.
And lots more, anything that needs keeping needs a handy place to go. The shirt bags take about 20 minutes to make (even hand sewing them) and can be hung anywhere.
Source: Just something I came up with in the 60's.
By villagecraftsmith from East TN
I somehow got a hole in a decorative t-shirt I only wore once, right in the front. There was no way of fixing it so that I could wear it again so I decided to cut just above the hole and make a pillow out of it.
I bought a fleece pillow at a garage sale and used that for my insert. I laid the t-shirt over a piece of fabric that I had in my stash and made the back envelope style (meaning the fabrics overlap at the back to insert the form).
Sew on all 4 sides and turn at the envelope opening. Then where the opening is, sew on a strip of hook and loop tape on each side for closure. The second picture shows this.
By Elaine from Belle Plaine, IA
Here is a video that shows how to turn a T-shirt into a no sew pillow. I found it easier to watch this video with the volume off. This is one of the projects I really enjoy.
Okay, so I'm an extremely sentimental soul. I have this shirt that's no longer wearable, but the image on the front, which I adore, is still entirely intact. I would love to immortalize this article of clothing (I've been looking into converting it into a pillow, for instance), but there's a slight issue: all of the craft ideas I've stumbled upon are geared toward t-shirt material.
The top is made of extremely flimsy material (which was ultimately its downfall as an article of clothing), and I have my doubts as to whether or not it would work in most of the crafting scenarios I've looked into thus far. Any ideas?
January 6, 2014
Do what I have done with aprons... simply hang it up on the wall, with maybe a scarf around the hanger like an outfit. If you can't save it, keep it intact. I googled "using clothes as art" and came up with hundreds of ideas. Good luck!
Use an old favorite tee, by making a pillow out of it. Just buy or use a pillow form and make a cover by just sewing the t-shirt and matching material on 3 sides and inset pillow. Then handstitch the remaining seam.
By Vickie from Lewes, DE
This video shows a simple innovative idea to re-purpose a t-shirts into a cute halter top.
This is a guide about uses for old t-shirts. Old t-shirts have a lot of second life uses. Whether you are a crafter or are looking for other ways to reuse them, the possibilities are numerous.
I take old T-shirts and cut off the binding around the neck. There is no need to cut deeper as this will stretch far enough making a scoop neckline. Then comes the fun part. Use a decorative stitch on your sewing machine to sew around the neckline.
I have access to a lot of inexpensive used t-shirts and I was wondering if anyone has any craft ideas. I can't crochet but I guess I could learn. I was thinking maybe rugs or something that would take advantage of the myriad colors I'll have available.
Anna from Indiana
My old roommates grandmother made a quilt out of her old t-shirts. It was really quite nice. Hope this helps (03/11/2005)
Hello, I'm going to take mine & cut into 4" squares to make into a super comfy blanket! I have saved all t-shirts from when the kids were little of special places we purchased t-shirts from & I plan to cut out the logos. Also the pockets are cool to cut out to, the same with jeans, I save all old jeans & I plan to use the pockets! I just think it would be a super comfy comfort blanket to curl up with on those not feeling so good days! One day I'll be able to get this project done! I hope this gives you some ideas, good luck! (03/11/2005)
Old t-shirt (logos) make interesting patches for patch work quilts. Check at "Simply Quilts" at
www. hgtv.com. for good directions. (03/11/2005)
They make adorable pillows for in a family room or a child's bedroom. just sew around the sleeve openings inside out and the bottom. turn and stuff w/ old hose or poly-fill. slip stitch the neck shut, and you have a pillow! (03/12/2005)
My mother has rugs that look like they've been made out of used t-shirts. It looks like the maker just rolled up pieces of the shirts in 1 cm thin lines, tied them in little sections (also about 1 cm sections), then sewed the sections all together. It looks slightly time consuming as well, but it's cheap! Look up rag rugs, you've probably seen them, and they sound like what you're looking for.
Something I like to do is make journals. You can find techniques for binding the pages (I'd tell you but I'm afraid I can't explain it without a demonstration or pictures). Then I cover the journals in old t-shirts that have a neat design or pattern on them.
Also, patchwork skirts can be a fun item to wear, or patchwork pajama pants. You can make pillow cases for your bed with cotton shirts, and I find it's comfy.
My friend made a quilt out of anything and everything she could find, some squares were pics from kids t shirts and it was so cute. Even the rubbery type t shirt graphics worked and looked nice! I've wanted to give it a try, but haven't put my mind to it yet :-) (03/22/2005)
I made a pillow out of an old t-shirt I had. They are really easy to make, and very comfy! (05/02/2005)
I'm a very young girl who wants to go into fashion and I have a lot of those white beaters and tank tops and what I do is; take the tank top I want to use and sew it over a long sleeve shirt or short sleeve and then i cut holes in the front NOT TO BIG. I laced them up with ribbons or shoelaces and I added safety pins to them. Now everyone wants me to make them! By the way, this is for you Allison. (07/31/2005)
For a cute and fun pillow follow these directions:
1. Make the base (the pillow part) like johnsonya suggested.
2. Blanket stitch (button hole stitch) with contrasting yarn on the arms and bottom.
3. Embellish with buttons, lace, ribbons, yarn, appliques (sorry if miss-spelled), or denim pockets for home phones or remotes.
4. Fill with poly-fill or anything else that is "stuffing-like".
5. Blanket stitch bottom and VOILA! A cute and comfy pillow!
Hope this works!! I haven't tried it but am going to!
~ Mackenzie age 11 (06/11/2007)
Cut to fit swiffer sweeper, attach to sweeper and dip in water and scrub floor totally washable. (09/28/2007)
I made a bag out of an old long sleeve tee shirt, I turned it inside out and stitched at where i thought a good length would be. Then I put it back the right way cut the neckline bigger to be the top of the bag, and I tied the sleeves together to make the strap. (12/29/2007)
Does anyone know what I can make out of old T-shirts? Something I can wear or what not.
Amanda from SC
You can cut them into rags, or put them over your car seats for covers, and even re-construct them into tank tops or night shirts. Or if they're still wearable, give them to someone who needs them. (03/02/2008)
Here in Southwest AZ., we spend a lot of time outside so I use worn T-shirts to cover cushions for outdoor furniture. You can just pin the excess to the back of the cushion. (03/03/2008)
They make great rag rugs. A half double crochet is the best stitch to use. (03/04/2008)
You can make many interesting cuts in the shirt and fringe the bottom and make a hippie shirt. I wear them all the time. You simply cut the bottom and sleeve hems off, not the sleeves if you don't want, make cuts about 3 quarters of an inch apart all the way around, and pull on them. it causes them to curl into a fringe. I put pony beads on mine, they're really cool. :) (03/05/2008)
By Lily 59
My son-in-law is an amateur water skier who competes nationwide. He has purchased tee shirts with logos from all of the tournaments, all quite artful, I might add. I took his favorites and made them into a quilt. I cut the logo from the chest or back portion of the tee shirt and ironed it onto Wonder Under before sewing the squares together.
Find the biggest logo and cut all the others into same-sized squares. Leave some white around each logo when cutting. After sewing the squares together, I bought a queen sized sheet made from that "tee-shirt material", filled it with Warm & Natural, turned the edges over from the bottom and sewed a binding. Be sure and wash the sheet and the tee shirts before making the quilt.
The quilt is not real heavy and that thing has been washed a hundred times without it falling apart (only by God's merciful Grace because I didn't actually know what I was doing when I made it). (03/05/2008)
Try making a traditional colonial braided rug from old cotton T-shirts. Cut worn T-shirts horizontally into 2" wide strips then snip the rings so they open up into a long strip. Some people sew the strips together to make a long snaky string, but I just slightly roll the fabric and weave the new ends into the braid approximately 3" from the end of the old one as I braid. I like to use groups of 3 colors together to make my braid (i.e., red/white/blue or dark blue/med blue/white).
As you braid every few feet, go back and wind your braid into an oval and hand-sew each new ring of braid to the ring that went before using a slip or other invisible stitch (I prefer nylon upholstery thread as it is indestructible). Make your braids fairly tight as this adds strength to the rug. You can make a huge braid out of dozens of old T-shirts then go back and sew it into an oval later, but I find it less tedious to sew as you go.
Don't be afraid to change colors every so often to make concentric stripes. The nice thing about doing it this way is that you can use T-shirts that have moderate staining or minor wear that otherwise would go into the trash because the braiding hides a lot of sins (just don't use parts that have worn so thin they compromise the strength of your rug). These make good doorway, bathroom, or kitchen-sink rugs because you can wash them.
Unlike "real" colonial wool rugs, you can just throw these in a big soapy bucket of hot water to soak overnight, throw them over the railing of your deck, hose them down, and let them dry in the sun. (07/24/2008)
I have seen several things made by local artists in stores and I have been saving old shirts to make into bags. I've also made a couple that have patches on them, this way you don't have to get rid of old shirts you love.
Also saw some ideas for making pants into a bag and such. Get creative! And if at first you don't succeed, try try again! :) Good luck! (12/13/2008)