How can I reuse, recycle or upcycle old tshirts?

TshirtKarlie emailed over a clever idea that she saw on the Martha Stewart show recently – shopping bags out of old tshirts:

First the bottom hem of the shirt was sewn closed.

Next the neckline was opened up by tracing a large bowl and then cutting out a large half circle.

Finally, the sleeves were cut off.

It’s a great idea for t-shirts that are too baggy (ahem) or misshapen to go to charity shops – and when they’re worn out as bags, the fabric can be recycled again anyway.

Any other clever ideas for reusing old tee shirts?

(Photo by goodsignal)

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25 Responses to “How can I reuse, recycle or upcycle old tshirts?”

  1. Bobbie says:

    They can be used to make quilts which are warm and cozy. They make great rags once completely worn out. Another sewing trick is to use another T-shirt to extend the bottom and make a dress.

  2. Delusion says:

    They make AWESOME outside “flares.” The material most t-shirts are made of are perfect for this.

    You will need a large tall “melting pot” used for candle making. Some canes & old t-shirts, hemp cord and wick

    Rip the t-shirts into pieces (do not use any motif imagery, just plain sections of material.

    Wrap them around the top part of the cane, not to thick! Take a long thick wick and lie it against the t-shirt section with a small bit at the top overhanging. Bind it and the t-shirt to the cane with hemp cord.

    Melt / heat the wax in the pot. When it reaches the right temperature start dipping. It is more successful to have a tub of cold water so you go:

    Dip in wax, dip in water, dip in wax, dip in water etc until you build up a nice head of wax.

    Let it dry and then stake into the ground outside during a barbeque or whatever and light. They burn gently and really stand out!

    PS: obviously make sure they are stood securely, and not near overhanging etc branches

    They can be

  3. Áine says:

    Try this link for intrustions on how to make underwear out of old t shirts!

  4. Jana says:

    Here’s a bathmat I made out of old tee shirts:

    I’ve also knitted and crocheted rugs and bathmats with tee shirt yarn and keep a basket of tee yarn at all times.

  5. Melinda says:

    I’ve seen great memory quilts from old t-shirts that came from special events.

    There is a lot of work on t-shirts on a website called

    Old t-shirts can also be cut into strips and woven, crocheted or knitted into washable rugs for small spaces, such as bathrooms.

  6. Lily says:

    You could sew a variety of them together to make curtains, or make pillows out of them.

  7. dddana says:

    i compiled a bunch of t shirts and made a curtain out of it, then i used the scraps as rags or bits to patch holes in jeans.

  8. Charlie says:

    I seen on the HGTV She’s Crafty show where she takes the t-shirt and re upholsters chair seats with them, looks reeeally good

  9. Shabnam says:

    I use them as rags for cleaning and shining. nothing better than an old cotton shirt!

  10. christinet says:

    Not really t-shirts , but shirts generally- if they’re past going to the charity shop, I cut the sleeves off halfway down and use them as paintshirts for my Primary One class
    ( worn back to front, buttoning down the back for maximum coverage !!) . I save the buttons off the cuffs for a friend who makes bags and needs trimmings and open up the seams of the bits I’ve cut off to make rags for eg cleaning brass. When the paintshirt has completely had it , I cut it into dusters and give the buttins to said friend.

  11. Leah Ingram says:

    I, too, use old t-shirts as rags. With the way my kids go through shirts, I’m never short on these kinds of cleaning supplies.

    I will second the notion of companies that turn t-shirts into quilts. Though I haven’t used one, all you need to do is a Google search using the terms “t-shirts” and “quilts” and, voila, hundreds of resources.

    I’m guessing that it would be easy to turn t-shirts into pillow shams, too. I might just try that.

    Here’s a post from my blog on how to recycle wire hangers that you get from the dry cleaner:


  12. anna says:

    My hubby had and still has a huge pile of old t-shirts. I love finding new uses for them.
    – for the ones that still have some nice looking pieces left, they make awesome pieces for patchwork. You can make any size pieces there. This is the first one I’ve made of them, and now I’ll be starting one with colored tees too
    – if they are way too old, way too broken, you can make a carpet out of them. Cut them to a long strip of about 1/2 – 2/3 inch (or thicker, according to your taste), and then make the carpet traditionally, or if you don’t have the tools for that, you can crochet a carpet too. This will look great on a lot of different white shades together (mix them using 3 different kinds of pieces on each row and change colors randomly and you get an awesome effect), or add a lot of colored ones too. This one is from white t-shirts (the scrap pieces of the blanket above) and this is for a round, colored one for the carpets, you can also use old socks, underwear etc.

  13. Tamara says:

    i once read a book called rags by linda and stella allison. they suggested using them to make a rug. you need an old clothesline, a couple of poles to work with, and t shirt yarn cut into about 2 inch strips. tie the clothes line to the poles so it’s easier to work with. you fold the tshirt yarn pieces in half, and put the loop part on the clothesline and then pull the ends of the yarn piece around the back of the clothesline and through the loop part of the t shirt yarn piece. does that make sense?

    you do it over and over and over until the clothesline’s all full, then wind it and sew it at the bottom, with all the pieces of t shirt on top. trim the top and you have a funky fluffy rug.

  14. renee says:

    threadbanger has some great restyling ideas…

  15. Pat says:

    If you know any shade tree mechanics, you could donate them. A lady came to my sister’s garage sale and bought all of her 5-cent t-shirts, and mentioned her husband always wore old t-shirts until they were too greasy to wash and threw them away, and my sister went back into the house and brought her a bagful of holey ones she thought nobody wanted. I cut up worn-out t-shirts and use them to polish furniture, wipe oven cleaner from the oven, and other nasty jobs. I’ve cut them into strips and tied up bundles of onions to hang and dry, worked better than string and didn’t cut into the onion leaves too much.

  16. spana says:

    Get your local school, church, club or community group to get involved with the Phil the Bag scheme. (’s a textile recycling scheme,(based in the South East area) that pays you (your group/school) for the amount of used clothes you collect. It’s such a good way of recycling clothes and more importantly re-educating children and their families on reducing waste. And they get money for it!

  17. Leah says:

    use as stuffing in rag dolls
    use as cleaning cloths
    making draught excluders
    stuffing cushions
    cutting into a square and making a makeshift hanky
    cut into strips and use as makeshift bandages on the go
    if you have kids at school nativity age then they will come in handy as shepards headdresses
    use for painting t-shirts
    use on holiday for covers while walking to the beach

  18. CovertOps says:

    We (at the Malaysian Nature Society) have just conducted a t-shirt recycling and repurposing workshop last week. Our facilitator taught participants how to make pillows, passport jackets and eye masks from old t-shirts. We are planning on a follow-up session to make cloth shopping bags and shag rugs out of old t-shirts.
    Also, this idea might be worth trying out. I saw this while googling t-shirt reusing ideas, and will try to improvise and get a template for boxers as well:

  19. We gave been using them in a communal rag rug, also knitted with them Not finished yet but will be by tomorrow ARGH

  20. HuntingWabbits says:

    Donate if they’re not too messed up.
    Stuffing for stuffed animals.
    Perfect fabric for wacky stuffed animals. (for inspiration, there’s this cool book, it’s called Plush-O-Rama: Curious Creatures for Immature Adults, it has easy patterns for making cute albeit unorthodox stuffed animals)
    Rags (if the fabric is high quality and soft, you can designate it for cleaning glasses or computer screens, cotton is the best) (cheaper cotton is excellent for soaking up spills when you don’t want to drag out the mop)
    This bag: it’s so easy, a caveman can do it :o)

  21. Lizzy says:

    Cut off the sleeves and widen the neck to make a vest out of t-shirts that are too small – really warm and soft :)

  22. Petra says:

    I just made a very nice crochet rag rug, partly from yarn from old t-shirts.
    Not a normal rag rug, but I crochet big flowers and leaves, comparable to this one:
    but more colorful. I’m very happy with the result.

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