What to Do with Old T-Shirt: 10+ Fun Ways to Repurpose Them

What if we told you that right now, using nothing more than a pair of scissors, you could make a whole new wardrobe out of what you already have? Like most people, I used to wonder what to do with old t-shirts.

Then, I discovered the upcycling movement and realized I could turn all my old memories into new items, including some fantastic new shirts and accessories — and it was life-changing.

Most people think that when they bag up a pile of old clothes and donate them that they know what happens. However, the United States alone dumps about 21 billion pounds of textiles, much of it clothing, into landfills every single year. And much of that comes from all those lovingly donated items.

So, if you have them laying around and you don’t know what to do with old t-shirts, we found some super cool ideas for you.

Recommended Read: T-Shirt Cutting Techniques: How to Revamp Your Wardrobe

What to Do with Old T-Shirts

tools for making things out of old t-shirts

Now, before we begin to talk about what to do with old t-shirts, let’s talk about searching for information on your own. If you type, “what to do with old t shirts,” into the google search bar, you will get as many results as you would if you wrote t-shirts correctly.

Secondly, let’s talk about upcycling. As we all know, it’s essential to recycle things like paper and plastic. However, there’s a whole movement now, and its entire purpose is to encourage people to make new things out of their old items instead of throwing them away.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing today with all your favorite old t-shirts.

Upcycling Versus Donations

Next, before we talk about what to do with old t-shirts, let’s dig in and see why it’s so important. Right now, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), around 84 percent of our old clothes end up in a landfill.

Depending on what materials the manufacturers used in the clothes — it could take hundreds of years to decompose. On top of that, manufacturers use chemicals and dyes in clothing. Those reactive substances often leach out into the surrounding soil and air.

Remember, though, even taking your old clothes to the Goodwill can lead to problems. Many times, when we donate clothing, the store will pick out and sell the most desirable items. However, most of that stuff ends up in massive plastic bundles headed overseas.

Once the clothing arrives overseas, sadly, it’s not even needed there. Many people think Americans should stop using those countries as the “dumping ground,” for all of our unwanted clothing items.

It’s Fun, It’s Cheap, and It’s Easier than You Think

old t-shirt with dog painted on it.

Since we just delivered the bad news, it’s time for some good news. We promise that doing your part to help curb the flow of textiles into landfills is way easier than you think. For many of the projects we listed below, you won’t need more than a pair of scissors.

Additionally, once you learn these skills, you can create one-of-a-kind pieces that will make you stand out from the pack. And who doesn’t want to be able to make use of their favorite old t-shirts?

The t-shirt quilt project

First on our list of what to do with old t-shirts is a popular project idea — the t-shirt quilt. This quilt is an ideal project for those of you with a bunch of old band t-shirts lying around.

For this project, you’re going to need:

  • 13 t-shirts
  • Fleece for backing (or cotton and batting if you prefer)
  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric scissors
  • Ballpoint needles
  • Yarn

Check out the project in the video below:

As you can see, this quilt idea is a great way to keep those old t-shirts around for years to come.

Tote bags

Second, if you need to know what to do with old t-shirts and you don’t have a sewing machine, don’t worry. For this next tote bag project, you won’t need to sew a thing.

To create a tote bag out of an old t-shirt you need:

  • The t-shirt you want to use
  • Fabric scissors
  • Chalk to mark the fabric
  • Ruler (optional)

Check out the tote bag project in the video below:

As you can see, this project is super easy and should only take you a few minutes.

What to do with old t-shirts — scarf edition

Third on our list of ideas for what to do with old t-shirts is another super easy project — a cute infinity scarf. For this idea, all you’re going to need is a pair of fabric scissors. This project idea is great for those old t-shirts that don’t have a cool graphic you want to hang onto.

Check out the infinity scarf project in the video below:

Keep in mind; there are hundreds of different variations of this project. For example, check out the video below for an infinity scarf idea with a twist:

As you can see, the next time you’re wondering what to do with old t-shirts, it’s a great idea to grab a pair of scissors. With just a few snips and a couple of knots here and there, you upgrade your wardrobe with a one-of-a-kind accessory.

How about a whole new lampshade?

Well, if you haven’t seen anything that’s inspired you on our list of things to do with old t-shirts so far, don’t worry. Next, we have an idea for those of you that like to make things for your home — a lampshade covered in fabric flowers.

For this project, you will need:

  • Lampshade
  • Fabric scissors
  • Old t-shirt
  • Fabric fusion stick-and-peel sheets
  • Ruler

Check out how to make the lampshade in the video below:

Remember, although she used a white shirt in the video, you can use any color you want. Additionally, if you have an old band t-shirt and you want to make a lampshade out of that, there’s a video series on YouTube detailing how to do so.

Yarn for knitting or crochet

Believe it or not, you can even make yarn out of an old t-shirt. However, for this project, you will need a t-shirt that doesn’t have any seams running down the sides. As long as you have the right kind of shirt, all you need beyond that is a pair of scissors and a ruler (optional).

Check out how to make yarn out of an old t-shirt in the video below:

This yarn idea is excellent for those of you looking to save the environment, and you get the bonus of saving money on that next crochet project.

What to do with old t-shirts — new shirt edition

These next ideas on our list of things to do with old t-shirts is a personal favorite of mine. In many cases, using nothing more than a piece of chalk and a pair of scissors, you can have a whole new shirt.

However, as you will see in the video below, if you have a few beads, you can make some eye-popping designs:

Keep in mind, when it comes to creating new shirts out of old ones, the ideas are nearly endless. In the video we shared below, you may need items such as glue, buttons, or a needle and thread.

Check out 33 more projects in the video below:

When it comes to creating new shirts out of your old ones, you are only held back by your own creativity. If you find yourself stuck, remember, there are a ton of ideas online.

What about a new rug or two?

Of course, if you don’t know what to do with old t-shirts that may have holes in them, this idea could work. First, we found a video detailing how to make a braided rug out of old t-shirts.

For the braided rug project, you will need:

  • Eight to ten (or more if you want a larger rug) old t-shirts
  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Needles

Check out the braided rug tutorial below:

Next, for this other rug idea, you won’t need a sewing machine.

To make a rag rug, you will need:

  • Small cardboard
  • Old t-shirts
  • Fabric scissors
  • Needle
  • Thread

Check out the rag rug tutorial below:

Understandably, you wouldn’t want to use those old t-shirts that you’re in love with when you make one of these. The last thing you want is someone stomping all over your favorite band t-shirt.

What to do with old t-shirts — throw pillow edition

Of course, if you do have some of those old band t-shirts laying around, you certainly want to hold on to that logo. So, if that’s the case, grab yourself a few supplies and make yourself a super-soft throw pillow — for one of them, you don’t even need a sewing machine.

You need the following supplies to make a no-sew t-shirt pillow:

  • Old t-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Template (optional)
  • Old pillow

Check out the pillow tutorial in the video below:

Now, if you do have a sewing machine, you have a couple of options. For example, we found an adorable decorative pillow.

For the decorative flower pillow, you need the following supplies:

  • Two old t-shirts in preferred colors
  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric scissors
  • Buttons (3 decorative buttons)
  • Needle
  • Strong yarn (or strong thread depending on what you prefer)
  • Tape measure or ruler

Check out the decorative pillow tutorial in the video below:

You can see that even though people made these items from old t-shirts, once you upcycle them, they look brand new again.

Saving the Planet One T-Shirt at a Time

And there you have it, folks. Now, when you look at the pile and wonder what to do with all those old t-shirts, you have at least eleven new ways to create something amazing. Remember, every time you upcycle something, you’re doing your part to help save the planet — and we all know it needs as much help as it can get right now.

Plus, who doesn’t want a new shirt that literally no one else has?

Do you have an idea you think should have made it onto our list? Tell us about it in the comments.

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