4 DIY Ways to Repurpose Old Clothes

By Angela Tague in Thinking Sustainably

This spring I’ve been purging old clothes and shoes from my closet. Most of it is good enough to find a second home at a thrift store, but some is ready to get “upcycled” as part of a fun project.

The average US citizen tosses more than 70 pounds of old clothes and textiles into the trash (and thus, a landfill) each year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. On the flipside, you can repurpose old clothes into reusable grocery bags, pillowcases, rugs, and purses. Flex your crafty skills without much effort or time and you’ll feel good about keeping unnecessary waste out of the landfill.

T-Shirt Shopping Bag

One of my favorite do-it-yourself projects is converting old shirts into washable shopping bags that I can use in lieu of paper or plastic. As a bonus, they’re already personalized and colorful!

T-shirt bag

I found this no-sew option online at Mommypotamous. All you need is a sharp pair of scissors or a fabric cutter. Trim off the neckline and sleeves. Then, cut along the bottom of the shirt for a decorative fringe. Lastly, tie up the loose ends, either on the outside or inside of the bag. I left my fringe on the outside to give my “I Love NY” bag a funky look. I like to use this at the grocery store or as a gym bag.

Easy Tie Blanket

If you have a bag full of unwanted T-shirts, make them into a memento. This T-shirt blanket from Thrift Town requires sixteen fabric squares cut from old shirts, glue, and knot-tying. You don’t even need a sewing machine.

Put on a movie and grab your old clothes. Use a ruler or fabric cutting board to measure the squares and start trimming. Once you have a stack of squares, move to the dining room table or a large open floor space and glue the pieces together. You final step is knot tying, and it can easily be done on another day while watching the kids play outside or as you relax in bed.

Try showcasing a collection of vacation souvenirs, sports team memorabilia, band shirts, or even your favorite outgrown baby clothes. Make the blanket as big or as little as you want by adjusting the number and size of the shirts you make.

Upcycled Pillow Cases

One easy way to freshen up a room is by adding new pillows. You can repurpose old T-shirts, button-ups, cardigans, sweatshirts, or polos to create cases that slip over old pillows that give them an entirely new look. Lately I’ve been turning silly holiday sweatshirts into pillow cases to use this fall.

Upcycled pillowcase

Following a simple video on Martha Stewart‘s website, you only need to know how to cut fabric, pin fabrics together, and create a straight, basic stitch. It’s the perfect project for a beginner or someone with limited time.

Start by turning the material inside out and trimming off the collar and sleeves. Use a sewing machine or hand-stitch around the perimeter of the fabric (only three sides if the upcycled shirt isn’t a button-down), then turn the fabric right-side out. Tuck a pillow inside. If I’m working with a sweatshirt that has a finished bottom hem, I leave this part open for tucking the pillow in so you can’t see it when displayed sitting up.

Chic Tote Project

Finally, you can upcycle old jeans. Turn them into sturdy, washable accessories that are perfect for any season. Large, alternatively colored jeans make interesting tote bags, whereas small blue jeans can turn into purses. Your toddler’s outgrown pants even make the cutest little clutch.

Here’s a tutorial about how to make a bag from any denim you have on hand, such as skirts, dresses, jeans, or vests. Use your sewing machine to piece together strips of fabric. Get a little artsy by using various colors of thread, stitching patterns, and shades of denim. If you have a preteen who wants to learn to sew, use this project to practice making straight lines by patching pieces together. If you make a mistake, it only adds to the character of the bag!

Do you have a creative way to repurpose old clothes? We’d love to hear about your crafts with old clothes! Send us a note on Facebook or Twitter.

Image source: Angela Tague

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

Repurpose old clothes to thin out your closet, get crafty, and keep unnecessary waste out of the landfill. These sewing projects are perfect for parents to tackle with their kids after completing spring cleaning chores. You get a fun new project while decreasing some landfill waste.