Don't throw away those old t-shirts! DIY expert Kristin Hackler has step-by-step directions for how to easily upcycle old t-shirts into stylish new creations.
Old t-shirt collections build up quickly. From the tired, stained v-necks my husband wears under work shirts, to the play shirts that my toddler grows out of on a weekly basis, I constantly find at least one or two shirts in the laundry pile that should never see the light of day again.
At least in their present form.
What’s great about t-shirt material is its versatility. If you cut it and tug on it a little, the soft cotton will roll over along the edges and create a neat, no-sew hem. It wouldn't fly as a professional look around the office, of course, but for making casual hanging-out shirts, it’s brilliant.
And when the t-shirts are beyond recovery as clothing, they still have plenty of uses. From 5-minute tote bags to almost-instant aprons, you can make an incredible number of household goods and outfit accessories from this simple cotton material.
The Almost-Instant Apron
There are several different ways to “sew” t-shirt material without using needle and thread. The most common approach is the tie – cutting tabs of fabric and tying them together – but there’s also the weave and lace: weaving a strip of fabric in and out of two adjoining pieces. For the apron, I chose the weave approach as it was quick, simple and left a length of belt fabric on either end to serve as the apron tie.
First, cut the bottom hem from the shirt in one long piece and set it aside. Then cut the shirt closely around the neck and down the sides, removing the sleeves and the back of the shirt. The final piece should look like the blouse-section of an apron.
Next, cut the back material that you removed from the shirt into a simple square for the lower part of the apron.
Folding the bottom edge of the bodice and the top edge of the square lower apron, make small cuts that you can weave the previously removed bottom hem of t-shirt fabric through.
Place the cuts of the lower apron over the cuts of the apron bodice and weave the t-shirt fabric hem through the holes, leaving a length of fabric on either end to serve as the apron tie.
And that’s it! Tug the edges of the cut fabric a little to give it a clean finish and you have an almost-instant apron, ready for use.
The Quick Beach Skirt
Using the same weaving method, you can also make a quick beach skirt from the bottom half of a large t-shirt.
Just cut the bottom half of the shirt off and fold the top edge, making cuts as you did for weaving the apron.
Cut the bottom hem from another shirt and weave it in and out of the holes.
Tie off the hem and cinch. That’s it!
The 5-Minute Tote Bag
The other form of freehand sewing – tying - works well for bags, as it creates a firm finish that can withstand quite a bit of use. This project takes no more than five minutes and results in a reusable bag for everything from grocery trips to toting gear to the beach.
First, remove the sleeves and cut the neck as deep as you like. The neck opening is the main opening for your bag.
Next, fringe bottom of the shirt.
Tie the fringe together and you’re done!
The T-Shirt Pillow Cover
Using the same principle as the bag tie, you can also make fun, fringed pillow covers.
Take a shirt and cut out the front and back in the size of the pillow you intend to cover.
Fringe the edge of the shirt and tie the tabs on three sides.
Insert the pillow and finish the fourth side.
If you’re not in the mood for fringe, however, try using the weave method or lacing it like a tennis shoe.
After a project or two, you probably have a good pile of t-shirt scraps left over. Don’t toss them out just yet! Those sleeves and random t-shirt ribbons can be used to make some old school bracelets to match your new t-shirt duds.
To make a simple t-shirt bracelet, cut several different sleeves into thin strips, removing any hem, and pull them tight. Tie the ends together and weave through a large button. Loop once or twice around your wrist and that’s it!
Or you can break out those old friendship bracelet skills and weave a t-shirt bracelet from the same stretched strips.
T-shirts are easy to experiment with and can be found for close to nothing at local thrift stores. Try your hand at some of the above projects or create your own! Once you have the “sewing” method down, you’ll be surprised at what you can stitch together from some tired old tees.
Kristin Hackler is a freelance writer and children’s book author who covers a wide range of DIY topics for eBay.com, a great place to find cool, old t-shirts to create your own unique look. Follow Kristin at eBay, on Google+ and on her blog Cardboard and Cloth.