12 Ways to Repurpose Old T-Shirts

Who doesn’t have a collection of old t-shirts at the back of the closet? Maybe they’re from your university days, or maybe they were part of your weekend wardrobe until they started to look a bit worn and disreputable. Thankfully, there’s no need to send them off to the landfill, or leave them taking up valuable storage space. Check out these techniques for turning those unworn shirts into something fun or fashionable!

1. T-shirt Quilt

Concert shirts, team jerseys, and other sentimental printed tees can easily be turned into a quilt. Start by collecting your shirts and deciding which elements you want to use. Pockets, sleeves, front and back can all be used, but be prepared to do some creative piecing if the different elements are different in size. Since the knit material of t-shirts can easily stretch, it’s a good idea to reinforce your blocks to keep them from distorting before you can get them quilted. A lightweight fusible interfacing works well, but can leave the finished quilt feeling a bit crisp. Another option is to stitch the individual blocks to a woven material to prevent them from stretching.

2. Create T-shirt Yarn

There are so many projects you can make with t-shirt yarn, whether you want something to knit, crochet, or even use for macrame projects! Best of all, you’ll only need a pair of scissors and your chosen shirts to get started. Here’s a tutorial on how to cut a single continuous piece of yarn from your shirt.

3. Market Bag

The knit material of t-shirts is perfect for an easy, on-the-go market bag. All you need are a material won’t fray like woven fabrics—but for a stronger handle, you might want to hem couple seams. Stitch the bottom of the shirt closed, and then cut away the sleeves and collar to create handles and a larger top opening. You can leave the handles raw-edged—knit them, or use a lining or facing to reinforce this area.

4. Kids’ T-shirt Dress

When the kids’ shirts start getting a bit short, or if they’re looking a bit worse for wear around the hem, turn them into a cute t-shirt dress! All you’ll need a length of material for the skirt. A walking foot can come in handy for this project, as you’ll need to gather the woven material to the knitted fabric to preserve the stretch.

5. Braided Headbands

This trendy braided headband ia quick and easy accessory that only requires a bit of stitching. Using four or more strands of t-shirt yarn, braid a band that’s long enough to just fit around your head. Stitch several times across the ends of your braid to secure the strands, and attach them to either end of a length of soft elastic for an adjustable headband.

6. Infinity Scarves

This project can even be done without any sewing at all. Simply cut off the bottom hem from your shirt and then make a single parallel cut to remove the sleeves and upper chest and back from the shirt. Leave unhemmed for a casual look, or hem using a stretch stitch, serger, or hem binding.

7. Rag Rug

For shirts that are too beat up for other uses, turn them into a cute rag rug! You’ll need a piece of latch-hook lattice, which is a stiff, fibre grid used for hooking rugs, or you can use a piece of non-skid rug mat—that foam stuff designed to keep rugs from sliding on wooden or tile floors. This one will take a lot of leftover shirts, depending on how large a rug you want to make. Check out this tutorial on how to make your own.

8. Pillows or Pillow Cases

The perfect project for beginning sewists! One seam and you’ve got a pillowcase; two, and you’ve got a whole pillow! Cut off the top of the shirt in a straight line. For a pillowcase, turn the shirt inside out and stitch this raw edge, leaving the bottom hem for the pillowcase opening. For a stuffable pillow, stitch both open ends, leaving a gap to turn and stuff your pillow.

9. T-shirt Dog Tugs

Got a furry friend who loves to chew? T-shirt yarn braided or twisted into a thick rope will keep them thoroughly occupied. Use a sturdy knotting technique, like this one, to make sure your dog doesn’t go straight through the material with one chomp. As with any toys, once they start unraveling or trying to eat the material, it’s time for a new one. Always supervise your pets to prevent choking or other accidents.

10. Upcycled T-shirt Necklace

You wouldn’t believe how chic those old t-shirts look when made into a soft but stunning necklace. There are lots of ways to accomplish this, including stringing large statement beads onto strands of t-shirt yarn, braiding or knotting the yarn in different patterns, or mixing it with strands of beads, ribbon, lace, or other fibres.

11. Braided Belts

Yet another use for t-shirt yarn! These fashionable accessories like this are surprisingly easy to make, and you can use a variety of different techniques to achieve different looks. The most basic option is a braided belt, which has the benefit of being highly adjustable since you don’t even need to punch holes in it. Another option is to use thinner t-shirt yarn and weave a panel to use as a belt, or use macrame knots, crochet, or other techniques. The finished product can be used as a simple belt, of course, but don’t limit yourself to just one use. The same procedure can be used to fashion guitar straps, handles for bags or purses, and other fun projects!

12. Fringed Cover Up

Give an old shirt new life at the beach! Cut off the hem, sleeves, and collar of your chosen shirt (this project works best with one that’s a bit oversized), and slit the shirt from hem to collar to open the front. Now cut vertical slits about midway up the back to form individual strips. Tug on these to help the fabric roll into its new shape. Finish the remaining raw edges if you choose, or let them naturally roll under for that casual, beachy look.

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