8 Ways to Reuse Your T-shirt

8 ways to reuse an old t-shirt

This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

We here at Earth911.com work week after week to make our 8 Ways series both useful and fun. Having said that let’s be honest; this week, we are hedging a little more on the fun side. Though you’re not going to change the world by simply giving that old Miami Vice shirt something new to do, you will be practicing the art form of reuse, having a good time and not doing any harm in the process.

Now that we’ve divulged the motivation behind the list, lets address issue number two.  You may not be a seamstress and wondering who, if anyone, still dives into the old needle and thread. Well, the Sewing and Stitchery Expo, in Tacoma, Wash., is a yearly reminder of how many people like to get hands-on, about 30,000 people from all over the world to be exact. With that many talented DIY’ers out there, imagine what creative uses can be found for that old T-shirt.

Getting Prepared

If you’re a newbie, check out the following Web sites for some sewing 101. Get more info on how to make patterns, create basic stitches and get that old sewing machine up and running.

Besides the national events, daily projects and advice can be found at a gamut of sites including, Threadbanger and Sewing.org, where there are endless resources for the newbie or the seasoned veteran. So, have fun, dive in and get ready for some reuse.

Keep In Mind…

Some of the below suggestions are going to need shirts that are up to the challenge, so rips and holes might not be the best. For others, you’re just using small sections of the shirt or strips of the material so the more worn in the better.

Need More?

Still not sure you can do it? Check out this quick tutorial from Threadbanger for a simple T-shirt redesign that takes about 15 minutes. It stars Megan Nicolay, author, self-proclaimed “obsessive DIYer” and creator of Generation-T.com. This is a perfect example of how quick and easy some of these projects can be.

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  1. Great ideas. I made a t-shirt quilt several years ago from my old high school t-shirts. I love it. It’s a treasured keepsake I get to enjoy. I often reuse old t-shirts (primarily my husband’s) as dust clothes/rags. Can never have too many dust rags!

  2. Nice tips Raquel. I like the rag route because I’m not good at sewing, especially if they’re gray because that absorbs a lot of dirt.

  3. this is a really great article!

    I work at a thrift store that has an emphasis on reducing environmental impact on all levels. It is really, really, really cool. We have tons, literally tons of T shirts come through each year. We do fabric recycling and sell some items. These ideas are totally cool and I am going to take liberties with them… just so you know! I LOVE fashion, especially E-fashion!

    I have played with interesting clothing items in the store, but never the plain jane T shirt. I never really thought outside of the box on that idea… and we all know that buying into the boxed ideas is old school these days, not that old school isn’t good… its just that sometimes even if it isn’t new there isn’t anything quite like it and that’s really really cool in my opinion.

    peace and light!!!

  4. We travel in third world countries occasionally, and we usually take old (but in good shape) t-shirts to share with people there. My husband traded a Morro Bay Yacht Club shirt for a nice shell in Indonesia, and we have a great photo of a small man wearing a very large t-shirt. Sunglasses and hats are also appreciated.

  5. And maybe this sound silly, but I’m going to go ahead and say it–NEVER feel bad about not donating your old “Awesome Event ’99” t-shirts. So many people donate those t-shirts and they’re just no good to anybody.

    Then again, maybe we could all encourage the people who organize such events not to even make t-shirts. They’re such a waste!

  6. Hi,

    Several places in Madison, WI that take clothing donations will end up sending old clothing that they cannot resell to be recycled or it is baled and shipped overseas for reuse. There is a thriving resale market in many poor nations for our rejected clothing. A good example are the tee shirts that are printed to give to the winners of major sporting events to waer as soon as the gaem is over. Now, the have to print shirts for both teams and don’t want the losers shirts in circulation in the USA. In Africa, it is not uncommon to see shirts like Tampa Bay 2008 World Series Champs.

  7. T-shirts and other clothing in good shape can be donated to organizations like Goodwill and Planet Aid. Your T-shirt may take a trip to Africa or South America where it will be worn until it wears out by someone who cannot afford new clothes. Re-using clothing instead of manufacturing new clothes saves lots of resources.

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  11. I was just looking for some unique project for our local sewing group and these would be perfect – a little something for everyone and we all have a ton of spare t-shirts hanging around. Very nice! Thanks, Erin

  12. Very cool ideas. This could keep my family and I busy for days. Thank you for the gigantic list of t-shirt recycling ideas. The quilt idea I had heared before but the 100+ you have refered me too is outstanding. Thanks again, very cool stuff.

  13. I got a big ink stain on one of my favorite t-shirts once. Nothing could get it out, so I just embroidered a flower over it and added a few others here and there to make it look planned. Thanks for the tips. very good idea, Kamala

  14. What a great idea — T-shirt quilts! Many quilts are family heirlooms, many more are memory quilts where each block represents a particular memory. With a T-shirt quilt you literally see what you were wearing when something happened! Plus you can add your own touches to the shirt’s artwork.

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