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New Uses for Old T-Shirts

8/27/2013 10:10:00 AM

Tags: used T-shirts, Candis Calvert, Kentucky

T-shirts accumulate in our lives through all the usual channels: the impulse buy at a sporting event, the staff shirt from your old summer camp, the badge of honor from each 5k you’ve run, and maybe even the occasional shirt you caught at a parade (or is that just me?).  No matter how they arrived, they’re here now. With only seven days in a week and a boss that may frown upon casual Monday-Friday, how do we get enough wear out of t-shirts we can’t seem to throw out?

Two projects aimed at repurposing these wardrobe staples can help you get your old favorites out of the closet and back into daily life.  These projects are designed for a beginner or novice sewer, with a minimum of tools; stuff your homestead probably already has.

T-shirt bagThe Market Bag

For this project you’ll need:

A sewing machine (or needle and thread)

1. Lay your shirt on a flat surface. Iron if necessary to remove most wrinkles (some are okay).

2. Following the sleeve seam, cut off the sleeves, leaving the seams intact.

3. Cut U-shaped hole, centered on the neck opening, into the shirt. Make this as wide and deep as you prefer. I like about 8 inches wide and 10 inches deep.

4. Turn the shirt inside out. Use straight pins to hold bottom of shirt closed. 

5. Stitch along bottom of shirt following closely to hem.  I used a double zigzag stitch, but your preference is fine.

6. To make handles thicker, fold open arm hole (handle) onto itself, facing inward. Stitch together. This will create a natural pleating, which I left as it folded. For a more finished look you could run a stitch all the way around the handle/arm opening.

7. Use and enjoy at the farmers market, library, carrying picnic supplies or as a great scrap bag for leftover fabric and yarn.

The Bed Buddy PillowT-shirt pillow

For this project you’ll need:

An old bed pillow (standard works best for most shirt sizes)
Sewing machine (or needle and thread)

1. Lay your shirt on a flat surface. Iron if necessary to remove most wrinkles (some are okay).

2. Starting at the bottom of the sleeve, measure a straight line up the side of the shirt. Cut sleeves off on this line to create a (mostly) rectangular shirt.

3. Turn the shirt inside out. Use straight pins to hold sides of shirt closed.  Pin neck hole closed along a straight line just below the collar.

4. Stitch along sleeve line of shirt and neckline. I used a double zigzag stitch, but your preference is fine.

5. Turn shirt, now a mostly closed rectangle, right side out. Stuff with bed pillow.

6. Pin bottom hem closed and sew (carefully) using machine or hand stitch.

7. Sit back and relax with your new fluffy companion. This technique would make an excellent dog bed, too.

Bringing order to your dresser may be the biggest benefit of crafting with T-shirts, but these two projects are just the tip of the iceberg. From market bags to pillow, quilts to rugs, there’s really no end to what you can make with the (seemingly) never ending supply of T-shirts we all have lying around. Pick out an old favorite and give it new life with a 15 minute transformation. Who knows what uses you’ll find for them on your homestead?

Candis Calvert is a (sub)urban homesteader seeking ways to use what she already has to create useful and fun new things. Never content to buy new when old is available; she hopes to wring all the life out of everyday items through creative repurposing.

See more of her adventures at

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