5 Creative Ways to Reuse or Upcycle Old Clothes That Won't Fit

Maura White
by Maura White

*This is a sponsored post

Few things are worse than realizing that your favorite clothes don’t fit anymore. While it can be a nice confidence booster when clothes that once fit flawlessly have gotten too big, it’s more common to discover that an old favorite (like your favorite sports team old t-shirts) have gotten too small. If you are like a lot of people, you have probably held on to several too-small pieces of clothing in hopes of someday fitting into them again. Moms especially dread getting rid of their pre-baby own clothes that just don’t seem to fit your new mom body now. Whether it’s the jeans or an old sweater you wore when you were in high school (in hopes it would come back into style), a favorite tee from your college days, it is disappointing to realize that something you once loved just does not fit anymore. And it’s hard to let go of that disappointment — and your old clothing — even when you buy some new clothes. So, let’s talk about some creative ideas on how to use different materials from your own closet and turn them into items such as living room decor, a new look for an old pair of jeans, or fun ways to give old fabric new life.

5 Creative Ways to Reuse or Upcycle Old Clothes That Won’t Fit

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Source: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

Before you throw those ill-fitting clothes in the trash or donate them to charity, check out these ideas for reusing and upcycling them. And when you’re finished, be sure to stock up on some bulk wholesale t-shirts and other affordable apparel and accessories like wholesale baseball hats to refill your closet!

Make a T-Shirt Quilt

Is your closet bursting at the seams with old concert tees, shirts you wore when you were in high school, and tees you bought while on vacation or when attending events? For all those shirts that you no longer wear but can’t bear to get rid of, making a t-shirt quilt is a perfect solution. And it’s easier than you might think!

Start by deciding how many t-shirts you want to use for the project, and how large you would like each shirt square to be. You might want to sketch this out to scale to get a feel for how big the finished quilt will be. Once you have settled on what size each square needs to be, cut a template out of cardboard. Then, use the template to cut the front (or back, as the case may be) of each shirt into an appropriately sized square. If you don’t have enough shirts to make a quilt in the desired size, cut squares from the solid-colored sides of the shirts to use as fillers.

Once you have enough squares, spread them out on a flat surface and figure out how you would like to arrange them. Then, start sewing them together. This is much easier if you have access to a sewing machine, but you can sew your quilt by hand, too.

When you are finished, you can add batting and a backing to make it a true quilt, or you can finish the edges to prevent them from fraying. The former option is best when you want a warm and cozy quilt, but the latter is best for creating a lightweight blanket. It’s up to you!

There are also companies that specialize in transforming old tees into beautiful quilts. You may even be able to find a seamstress in your area who would be willing to lend a hand with this project.

Transform a Tank into an Eco-Friendly Shopping Bag

If you think about it, a tank top is already shaped kind of like a shopping bag. The only issue is that the bottom is open. Turn those old sleeveless tees into shopping bags by simply stitching or tying the bottom shut. When it comes to upcycling projects, it does not get much easier than this one! When you are done you’ll have a reusable grocery bag or a produce bag. Check out the simple steps in my easy 15 minute tutorial on how to make a no-sew tote bag, read over here! You can get tank tops super cheap at a thrift store so you can make a few of these bags for when you are out shopping!

Make a T-Shirt Pillowcase

Making a pillowcase is a great way to repurpose a special tee that you can’t bear to part with. This is a great way to turn shirts that once belonged to someone who has passed into beautiful keepsakes, too.

Lay the shirt out flat and carefully cut off the sleeves. Depending on the size of the shirt, you may need to trim off some of the body, too. You can estimate this by laying the shirt on top of the pillow you plan on covering. Sew the neck and arms closed, leaving the bottom open. If you had to trim off some of the length, fold the bottom edges over and sew to finish and prevent fraying. To keep the pillow secure, consider adding a button closure.

Patch Up Newer Jeans Using Old Ones

Eventually, your current favorite pair of jeans will wear out. Instead of throwing them away when those holes start appearing, though, whip out an old pair of jeans of ill-fitting jeans to repair them. By removing some of the material for your old jeans, you can make a patch to fix your newer ones.

Patching denim can be tricky for crafting newbies, but it isn’t impossible. With basic sewing skills, you can stitch in a patch by hand or with a sewing machine. Just remember to use a strong needle since denim is thicker and harder to work with than many other fabrics.

Turn Tees into a Rag Rug or T-shirt Rug (My Favorite T-Shirt Upcycle!)

Source: Server180/Shutterstock.com

If you want to make old tees into something new, but do not know how to sew, this project is for you! This one is great for repurposing old shirts that are stained or torn, too. You’ll need a variety of t-shirts or tank tops and a good pair of scissors needed to create the braided t-shirt yarn.

Start by cutting the shirts into 1.5-inch-wide strips starting at the bottom. Snip along the side, too, to make sure you are making strips and not loops of fabric. Take three strips, and knot them together. Braid the three strips for about four inches and then begin coiling the braid into a tight circle with the knot in the middle. Pass the strand closest to you through one of the loops in the coil to attach the braid to the coil as you work. Then, attach additional strips of fabric using this no-sew technique.

Keep braiding, coiling and attaching until the rug has reached the size you desire. Finish by applying polycrylic spray, spray-on starch or iron-on fusible facing.

I hope these 5 ways to repurpose old clothes gave you some great ideas to give old clothes new life. These are some of the best ways and simple ways to give new lease of life on clothes you don’t want to part with (like your old favorite shirt.) But it’s also great knowing these upcycling ideas help reduce your carbon footprint and that there is an easy way to take an old wardrobe and turn it into home decor, or a way to create a tangible memorial of days gone by. You may also create some new fashion trends along the way! So start stocking up on scraps of fabric or old denim combined with a little imagination to create a unique upcycled item that you can use for years to come.

Maura White
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2 of 29 comments
  • Vicki Vicki on Nov 18, 2023

    I've crocheted fav rose-colored worn-out sheets into bathroom mats....cut up my kids' jeans & flannels into uber-thick "remembrance quilts"...so cute w/even pockets and buttoned cuffs included. Turned teacups w/broken handles into seed starters for on my covered back porch sunny spot...racked up on slim, old video tape shelving. Perfect. I grow year-long greens. I own a dehydrator, but the BEST way to dry my bumper tomato crop is on a rack over a pan in the back window of my parked car during summer tomato harvesting days. FASTER (than you might know), so easy & effortless. Same w/herbs. Stuff old dress ties w/batting & braid them into gorgeous Christmas (or other, according to decoration) wreaths. I use lovely commercial, cardboard, packaging....like "Land O' Lakes....or certain bread or cracker advertising designs, to cut up/use to construct cardboard baskets to fill w/related edible gift treats. I Have this pattern from my grandmother & great-grandmother who did it yearly for Christmas treats for friends and neighbors...Loved the reference to the button box....I played w/my great-grandmother's button box in my pre-school years, & remember fondly. Pretty sure it was a vital part of my early childhood "education" in sorting, grouping, other mathematical functions that aided me later in my public school years.

  • Pat Pat on Nov 25, 2023

    My grandmother raised all of us kids and one of the first things we learned was to pick up after ourselves. Anything found on the floor or outgrown and not handed down wound up in a quilt. I remember laying in bed with my cousin and pointing to different patches. "I remember that dress." or "That was my favorite shirt." Our outgrown everythings got used and we stayed gloriously warm in an unheated bedroom. God bless our wonderful grandma and the lessons she taught us.