5 Things to Do With an Old Shirt




Introduction: 5 Things to Do With an Old Shirt

About: I like to DIY and I hate to waste anything.

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.

Step 1: 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

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

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

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.

Step 5: Upcycle 4: Carry Case

I trimmed the front pocket, leaving the back intact. I left a section of cloth above the pocket about 6 inches in length.

The pocket flap can be folded back and sewn, loop and hook added for closure. Or you can just leave it plain and use the extra fabric as a flap. 

I chose the easy route and just left it plain and flipped the fabric down for a quick flap.

We used it as a carry case for a camera. The case is not padded but it will protect the camera from dust, dirt and has enough room for an extra battery or two or some gum. It is easy to slip in a purse or pocket.

UPDATE: The bag was child embellished with fabric flower petals, sequins, jewel dots and a ribbon handle. Also, hook and loop tape was added to the flap and bag for closure. Can't tell by this blurry picture but it came out really cute!

Step 6: Upcycle 5: Headband

Cut the collar apart by removing the "wing tips" and leaving the band intact with the button and button hole (see picture below).
Add a pony tail hair band (the cloth covered kind) to the button hole. Slip the pony tail holder back on itself to form a loop.
Slip the loop over the button. This will close up the hairband and allow it to stretch for comfort and function. It will make it one-size-fits-all.
Put on your head!

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    10 years ago on Step 6

    Nice....thanks for share


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    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.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Since it's 100% cotton, you could turn it into some handmade paper (more involved project, but very cool results).


    12 years ago on Introduction

    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: www.joliebarbie.com


    12 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Some great ideas there.

    I also reuse clothing, mostly for barbie doll clothes, but you could also use shirts for patchwork or applique too.