Picture of 5 Things to Do with An Old Shirt
The following instructable is a simple demonstration of how to upcycle an old shirt.

This is a good project to do with children. It is easy, quick, zero cost and fun. It also has the added benefit of teaching kids the skill of upcycling and creative thinking.

Upcycling is a better use of an unwanted piece of clothing versus donating (there is a glut of used clothing going unbought, unused and unwanted) or throwing into the trash.

I also feel that upcycling is a better choice because it can save money and resources that might have been used to make the items the shirt will turn into.

And so this old shirt will be upcycled into the following five items; a headband, doll clothes, napkins, spare buttons and a small carry case.

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Step 1: Assemble Ingredients

Picture of Assemble Ingredients
100% Cotton Shirt, washed
Sharp Scissors
OR rotary cutter w/cutting mat (optional)

The pattern of this shirt (a small plaid) made cutting very easy. I just followed the lines.

I used a man's size Extra Large,long sleeve, button front shirt for this Instructable.

Step 2: Upcycle 1: Buttons

Picture of Upcycle 1:  Buttons
Remove all the buttons from the shirt, except those on the cuffs and the collar band. 

Save buttons in your button jar for later use in another project.

Step 3: Upcycle 2: Doll Clothes

Picture of Upcycle 2:  Doll Clothes
To make a skirt for a doll or stuffed animal, cut off one sleeve at mid-forearm. The cuff will become the band of the skirt.

Other pieces you can turn over to your creative child and let her/him tie, sew, pin to make doll clothes of their own design.

Step 4: Upcycle 3: Napkins

Picture of Upcycle 3: Napkins
Cut the shirt into rectangles or squares for use as dinner napkins.

I was able to get 8 napkins from this shirt. (The napkins I ended up with were not uniform in size and shape but who cares? They will work fine, even if they don't match perfectly.)

Trim away collar, double seams, etc.

Napkin edges can be hemmed or left frayed. They can also be cut with pinking shears if you want a zig-zag edging. For a fancy edging you can add crochet trim or use ribbon.

I left mine plain.

Ainaa73 years ago
Nice....thanks for share
patmac3 years ago
For Christmas I used the front and back of several shirts and made square throw pillows. I ran a seam down the front placket leaving the buttons on and left the pocket in tact, which made a cute holder for a gift card. They looked like squared shirts and were a big hit. Thanks for all of your ideas.
I forgot to mention that these wash up very easily so are a healthier fabric than some bags given/sold by grocery stores.
sparkleponytx (author)  recyclegrandma4 years ago
That's a great suggestion. Thanks!
I've taken old shirts and made them into shopping bags by stitching the front closed and then cutting two 17" or 18" squares across the front and back. You need to cut enough above the highest button so you have room to turn the top edge down or you can stitch a contrasting inner top border. Cut the mat'l for the handles 17" X 3". These get a chuckle when the person packing them at the grocery check-out realizes it used to be a man's shirt. Leave the pockets on the front.
Since it's 100% cotton, you could turn it into some handmade paper (more involved project, but very cool results).
I do the same! I love it. I recycle any old clothes ans sew plenty of doll clothes with them. Here's where I get my inspiration:
acepilot325 years ago
You could always make into a personal PFD by tying the sleves up and buttoning the whole shirt up. Then when your in the water you put the bottom open end of the shirt over your head and slam it into the water so it catches the air, sort of like how you open a garbage bag to open it all up and it makes that balloon type effect.
sparkleponytx (author)  acepilot325 years ago
Ahhh. Ok, I guess.
Nettiemac5 years ago
Some great ideas there.

I also reuse clothing, mostly for barbie doll clothes, but you could also use shirts for patchwork or applique too. 
sparkleponytx (author)  Nettiemac5 years ago