10 Ways to Upcycle Old T-Shirts

By Laurie Fanelli in Thinking Sustainably

Many of us have a hard time getting rid of beloved clothing, even as it becomes threadbare or unwearable. Thankfully, there are several ways to upcycle old T-shirts to create interesting artwork, unique accessories, and even cleaning supplies. Of course, donating gently used T-shirts is a fantastic way to give back while allowing your cherished clothing to live a second life, but there are options for transforming shirts for new uses in your home as well.

Framed Art

Retiring a favorite T-shirt can be difficult, especially if it represents a fond memory like an amazing concert or a winning season for your favorite team. Displaying these items with decorative frames lets you incorporate creative artwork into your home while preserving these memories.

Quilted Memories

If you’re a skilled seamstress with a collection of clothes, a homemade quilt is a fantastic way to upcycle old T-shirts. This is also a great method for repurposing your kids’ shirts from past theater productions, sports teams, and summer camps. For those who don’t sew, there are businesses that will do the needlework for you.

Tote Bag Transformation

No sewing is required to transform an old T-shirt into a tote bag. Simply cut off the sleeves (the shoulders will be your handles), cut a wider neck (emulate the scoop of a traditional tote), and cut two-inch-long strips into the bottom of the shirt. Pair up the strips, and tie each pair together to create a secure bottom. Ta-da—you’ve got a one-of-a-kind tote to take on your next trip to the farmers’ market.

Braided Belts

Turn a T-shirt into a casual belt by cutting it into strips and braiding the pieces together. You can also combine strips from multiple shirts to create a colorful design.

Plush Pillows

t-shirt tote

The same strip-tying technique from the totes can be used to turn your favorite shirts into DIY pillows. DIYNetwork offers a handy step-by-step guide (with photos) to help you make a comfortable, creative design.

Stylish Scarves

This just might be the easiest alteration of them all. To make a comfortable infinity scarf from an old T-shirt, remove the bottom hem of the shirt and cut the remaining fabric in half horizontally. Take the lower portion (the part without the sleeves), and stretch it out as much as you can. There you have it: a casual scarf to wear as you run errands.

Produce Bags

To create a homemade produce bag, follow the same steps you used for the tote bag, but cut several small holes in the sides so that your fruits and veggies can get the ventilation they need.


Every summer, friends and families gather for backyard barbecues, and at least one round of beanbags is inevitably played. If you need of a new set of beanbags for your cornhole setup, old T-shirts are a great option for durable fabric. There are various ways you can go about creating your own beanbags, including using glue instead of a needle and thread.

Dog Toys

Our four-legged friends can also benefit from repurposing old T-shirts, as your old gear can be made into soft, safe pull toys. Cut a T-shirt into strips, combine several strips into three separate piles, and braid them together. To finish, tie off each end with a big knot. These toys can be customized for the size of your dog by cutting the shirts into smaller or larger strips.

Reusable Rags

When a T-shirt seems destined for the trash, consider cutting it into squares to be used for rags around the house. These reusable rags work for any household chore, from dusting to window washing. Plus, the more you have on hand, the fewer paper towels you need to use while cleaning.

You no longer need to wonder what to do with old clothes. With many ways to upcycle old T-shirts, you can hang on to your favorite items while exploring your own creativity. For more upcycling tips, check out Bethany’s creative uses for old socks and don’t forget to share your creations with us on Twitter!

Image sources: Pixabay | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Rather than throwing away clothes during spring cleaning, stretch your creative muscles and upcycle old T-shirts into decorative items, pet toys, handy tote bags, and much more. This way, you don't have to part with a keepsake you've grown fond of. The only limit is your own imagination.