Ten Ways to Upcycle Your Old T-shirts

There’s always that one t-shirt that is impossible to throw away. You know the one. You’ve had it for years and besides the sentimental attachment it is also one of the most comfortable articles of clothing you have in your closet. Still, there comes a time when that t-shirt is almost impossible to wear in public. The good news is you don’t have to get rid of it. Besides being incredibly comfortable, t-shirt fabric has plenty of upcycling potential since it’s easy to cut and stretch out. Below are ten quick and simple upcycling ideas to give your favorite t-shirt new lease of life.

T-Shirt Belt


This is a perfect craft if you’re looking to add a new belt to your clothes collection. This requires a little bit of sewing and two D-rings. Take your favorite t-shirt and cut four strips from the bottom. Pin them together and use a heavy book or can to hold it down. From there, simply braid the strands together tightly until you reach the end and sew it shut. On the other end, wrap it around the D-rings a couple times then sew it down so it’s secure. There you have it, a stylish belt that allows you to keep your tee in rotation for a little longer.

T-Shirt Yarn


If you happen to knit or crochet, you can use your old t-shirt to make your very own yarn so long as you have a t-shirt without side seams. This project also works best with non-graphic shirts, but feel free to experiment with what you have. Cut directly below the sleeves and remove the hem of the shirt, leaving the middle section. Fold the shirt almost in half horizontally while leaving a 1-inch space up top then cut 1 inch vertical strips without cutting into the top space. Unfold the shirt and then, starting at the first strip, cut diagonally towards the next one. Once you’ve finished pull the strips through your hand to create a “tube” shape and continue until you reach the end. Roll it up into a ball. Congratulations, you’ve created your own yarn!

T-shirt Paintings


Art is in the eye of beholder and tees are no different. Whether your t shirt has a silly phrase or perhaps gorgeous artwork, you can transform them into real “paintings” in just a couple steps. All you need is a t-shirt, canvas, scissors and stapler. Smooth your t-shirt over the canvas and make sure to center the pattern. Pull the shirt tightly across the frame and then staple it to the edges. Trim off the excess fabric and, voila! A piece of artwork you created is ready to hang on your walls in a matter of seconds.

If you want to make sure your t-shirt art stays in pristine condition, cover the whole area with a water based  fabric sealer like Mod-Podge, and it will keep cleaner, for longer.

T-shirt Sandals


This is a double whammy because you’ll be upcycling your old t-shirt AND a pair of flip flops. The catch here is you’ll need an old flip flop with thick soles, otherwise this tutorial won’t work properly. You’ll need a lot more materials for this project than the others, but the end results is definitely worth it. You can read the full instructions over on Kathrin’s Etsy page. Suffice to say it’s a great way to reuse old materials and it’s super classy. Still, we don’t suggest getting these sandals wet.

T-Shirt Pillowcase


One of the great things about t-shirts is their soft texture. Not only does this make them great to wear, but it also makes them great for pillowcases as well! If you go this route, you’ll of course need to take into account the size of the pillow you’ll be dressing. Put the pillow inside of your shirt to make sure there is enough room left on all sides to make the pillowcase. If there is, turn the shirt inside out and pin along the sides then remove the pillow and continue pinning to the bottom. Sew the pinned areas then trim the edges. That’s it, all you need to do now is turn it right side out again and put the pillow inside. If you’re good at sewing you can even cut off the extra fabric and add a zipper for a more secure pillow case.

If your pillow is larger, consider sewing a few t-shirts together in a patchwork style to make it fit. This is especially good if you have a lot of tour t-shirts from your favorite bands.

T-shirt Necklace


Who says t-shirts have to be casual? You can transform you favorite tee into a sophisticated necklace with the help of some copper tubing, a brass ring, cord ends, a handsaw, cord end, clasp and needle nosed pliers. Take the concept of the t-shirt yarn and simply reduce the size of the strips to ½ inch strips. After that, cut down your copper tubing to about an inch or so. String the copper tubes onto the strands then close up the ends with cord ends. Attach a brass ring and clasp to the cord ends and you’ve got yourself a chic new necklace. Play around with the design a bit by braiding the strips or even adding in a gold chain for some more flair.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to upcycle your t-shirt and breathe new life into it. Of course, if your shirt is too far gone, it might be time to cut it up and turn it into a dust or cleaning rag. Before you resort to that though, see if you can’t find any better ways to make use of the fabric. Some DIY dark dyes can cover up even the most egregious stains and you can even use some rips in your favor into a new design. These simple things can double the life of your shirt saving you money while also saving the environment.

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