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8 More Creative Ways To Recycle Old T-Shirts!

I can’t believe it took me two days…but yesterday I finally had a chance to take my Christmas present from Santa out of the box and try it out! I had so much fun! It couldn’t have come at a better time because today I am appearing on a local television talk show called Good Things Utah. The producers and I decided something on recycling old stuff into new stuff would be fun so I pulled out my bag of old tees that I keep in an old pillowcase on a shelf in my closet and got busy!

recycling tshirts

I was just going to do re-do a few things I’d already done about recycling t-shirts from this former post…but looking around Pinterest and other places on the net, there were so many other good ideas I simply HAD to try some of them out! Besides, I had to break in my new sewing machine SOMEHOW! :-)

As I have a tendency to do sometimes (OK, most of the time) I kind of went overboard. I was going to make just 1 or 2 things and ended up making EIGHT! And I could have make TWICE that many if only I’d had more time. Time certainly is becoming a more and more precious commodity. But that’s another topic…for another day…

Let’s get started….there are a LOT of pictures to go through!

I started with a project I spied on Esty that I thought was so cute and clever and just HAD to try it out!

1. T-Shirt Leg Warmers

recycling tshirts

Cut the sleeves off of a long sleeve t-shirt.

recycling tshirts 3

Make another cut to make the top even with the bottom.

recycling tshirts 4
recycling tshirts
recycling tshirts 5

From the sleeve of another, contrasting-colored t-shirt, cut two strips about 1 inch wide.  Stretch.

recycling tshirts 6
recycling tshirts

Fold over the top edge of each leg warmer about 1/2 inch and sew a seam almost all the way around, leaving a 1/2 inch opening. Using a safety pin, thread the white strip of t-shirt through the channel you just created until it goes all the way around.

recycling tshirts

Turn the leg warmer right side out and make a small slit on the outside of the channel you have just sewn and bring the two ends of the strip through. Now sew the opening on the inside, along the seam, closed.

recycling tshirts

Tie the ends of the strips into bows (or knots) and you’re done.

I apologize for the color on these photos! I’m not sure what happened there. :-)  The shirt I used was actually closer to a RED than a PINK…but whatever. I didn’t have a “model” available to photograph them on, but here is a photo from the Etsy website. Aren’t they adorable with Uggs?!

tshirt leg warmers

The next thing I tried my hand at were a couple of scarves which I’d seen floating around Pinterest that I thought were super cute! The first one is an infinite scarf of sorts and it’s SO easy to make it’s ridiculous!

2. T-Shirt Infinity Scarf

recycling tshirts

Cut the body of the t-shirt off. (Save the top portion of the shirt for some other later project.)

recycling tshirts

Now cut approximately 1 inch strips horizontally across the body of the shirt, up to about 1 inch from the edge.

recycling tshirts
recycling tshirts

Once all the cuts have been made, gather the uncut edge and the slide your hand down the length of the strands and PULL!  S T R E T C H those strips until you have a VERY LONG scarf, then double wrap it around your neck.

recycling tshirts

You will be AMAZED at how long the strips of t-shirt material will STRETCH. And as they stretch they will also curl in giving them a finished look without any sewing required!

recycling tshirts

Add a t-shirt flower to give it a little more finished look….or just for fun!

recycling tshirts

I think the little flower MAKES it…don’t you? :-)  More on that further down.

Here is the other scarf I made. I love how ruffly it looks without having to make a single ruffle using a sewing machine.  As a matter of fact there was no sewing involved on EITHER of these scarves! (So much for trying out my Christmas present!)

3. Ruffled Scarf

recycling tshirts

Using a paper plate as a template, trace four to six circles on one side of your t-shirt. (I was able to fit four circles on this shirt.)

recycling tshirts

Cut out all the circles through both thicknesses, making sure to trim off any of the pen or pencil on the fabric. You will now have 8 (or 12) circles.

recycling tshirts

Again, cutting through both thicknesses, cut each circle into a spiral. No template needed…just freehand it. They don’t have to be perfect because when they are all uncoiled you won’t notice any imperfections. :-)

recycling tshirts

Uncoil each piece of fabric. Separate into two sections of 4 (or 6) and attach the two sections on one end. You could hot glue them together or stitch them together by hand or with a sewing machine. It only takes a few stitches.

recycling tshirts

And that is all there is to this lovely, feminine-looking scarf.

recycling tshirts
recycling tshirts

To make the cute little white flower that I embellished the scarves with…first I made a ball of t-shirt “yarn”. It’s such a simple idea, I just love it. I actually saw it at a gardening website, where it was suggested to make a ball of “gardener’s twine” for tying plants to stakes that need a little extra support out of an old t-shirt. The Spruce Crafts has a post to show you how it’s done, making a long strip by cleverly cutting the t-shirt.

4. T-Shirt Yarn

recycling tshirts

5. T-Shirt Flower

recycling tshirts

After I made the ball of t-shirt yarn..all I did to make the FLOWER was to roll the yarn up into a flat circle (adding drops of hot glue as I went along to keep it together).

recycling tshirts

I then hot glued the entire flower to another piece of t-shirt material and cut it out.  I attached the flower to the scarves with a large safety pin.

At this point, after seeing how nicely the scarves and the flower turned out…I was on a roll!  I couldn’t stop!  Next I decided to make our grandpuppy Milo, who we were baby sitting for the day, a TOY! Probably the EASIEST thing I made all day…and that’s saying a lot, because they were all pretty easy! But most importantly, Milo thought it was great and it kept him entertained for at least a few minutes! :-)  9 month old boxers have LOTS of energy!! whew!!

6. DIY Doggie Tug Toy

recycling tshirts

Once again, start with an old t-shirt. This one sadly was stained beyond repair by some mystery substance. I also used the body of the red t-shirt that I cut the sleeves off of for the leg warmers.

recycling tshirts 27

Cut 10 strips of each colored fabric approximately 20 inches long (stretched out).  Alternating colors, lay the strips altogether in one bundle. This photo shows two…but you only want one. :-)  Tie a double knot in one end of the strips, leaving several inches extra on the end. Below the know, separate into 3 sections and braid approximately 6-8 inches down, then tie another double knot.

recycling tshirts

Be sure the knots are pulled VERY tight. These make great chewing for puppy. :-)

recycling tshirts

Here is Milo guarding his new toy with his life! He thought it was pretty great!  It’s he the cutest!? :-)  OK…I’m a bit prejudiced.

Next up is the project which gave me the most trouble because I really STINK at tying knots! But I just love the looks of this Josephine Knot used as a headband (like I did) or as a bracelet and I was determined to figure it out.

7. DIY Knotted Headband

recycling tshirts

I was planning on taking pictures of how this was done, but forgot in the frenzy to get these done before the show. However, there is a good video tutorial of how to make this knot here. Just fast forward the video to approximately the 2:30 minute mark. It took watching this section of the video 4 or 5 times before I FINALLY got it…but now that I’ve done it…it’s VERY easy!  Can’t wait to make more! I will take pictures when I do.

Once again, I was lacking a “model” for this (darn houseful of BOYS!), but trust me, it’s really cute ON! :-)

The last recycled t-shirt project I decided to tackle was one I’ve done before…but this method I found at Between The Lines was so much EASIER than the one I did…I had to give it a try!

8. T-Shirt Grocery Bag

recycling tshirts

Cut the sleeves and neck off of an old t-shirt. I also cut a deep scoop where the neckline was and cut the armholes bigger and longer. This makes for longer straps on your bag. Turn the t-shirt inside out and sew the bottom opening shut. Just one long seam. (Or if you don’t sew….get out the handy dandy hot glue gun.)

recycling tshirts

Now fold the bottom of the bag/shirt up approximately two inches and make a 1/2 inch slits with your scissors at regular intervals all along the fold. Mine were approximately 1 1/2 inches apart.

recycling tshirts

Fold the bag/shirt up another two inches and repeat the process, spacing the slits in between the previous row.

recycling tshirts

Continue to fold up and make slits in the bag/shirt until you reach a few inches from where the armholes begin.

recycling tshirts

At this point you can call it DONE, or you can add a few other touches if you feel so inclined. I decided to braid the handles. All I did was cut the handles at the shoulder seam of the t-shirt, and then cut both sides of the strap into three strips. Stop cutting down the strips when reach the top of the bag. Braid both halves of the strap and then sew back together at the top where the original shoulder seam was. Trim any uneven edges after sewing.

You’ll also notice that my bag is slightly gathered on the bottom.  All I did to achieve that effect was to sew a gathering stitch along that one seam we made on the bottom of the shirt. After I gathered the fabric a little bit, I sewed one more seam along that gathered fabric. That’s it.

You can’t see the slits in the bag very well in this picture…but they are there to allow produce to “breathe” when used as a grocery bag. Such a great use of an old t-shirt that would normally be thrown away!

Wow! That was a lot of pictures! No wonder it took me all day (and night)! I really need to learn to stop myself when I start getting carried away with ideas. :-)  Hope you enjoy!  Happy recycling!

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • […] found a post on One Good Thing By Jillee that had directions for two types of t-shirt scarves. I made 3 ruffle scarves, and one infinite […]

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  • I have loved you since I discovered your blog and all the amazing ideas – but when I saw the picture of Milo and found you are a boxer person too – I fell more in love :-) (not in a weird, stalker way though). Unfortunately my house is too small for boxer energy in a boxer size body, so I compromised with a Boston Terrier (basically a mini boxer – same energy and personality in a MUCH smaller body – she just knew I was talking about her and came to demand my attention lol).

  • Hello, thanks for the nice ideas!

    I actually have a bag full of old, ripped men’s t-shirts that my husband has bought as souvenirs from our honeymoon and other vacations. They’re so poor quality that they didn’t last many years in use but I’ve saved them for the prints, they’re full of great memories. I’ve been trying to figure out how to repurpose them so that I can save the prints.

    These ideas were mostly for unicolored shirts, I wonder if you’d come up with something as fun for print shirts.

  • […] Host a book swap • Repurpose old t-shirts into scarves, leg warmers or even quilts • Gather and recycle used electronics, games and DVDs (via services like […]

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    • The directions state: “You can’t see the slits in the bag very well in this picture…but they are there to allow produce to “breathe” when used as a grocery bag.” I would imagine that you could leave the slits out if you did not want your bag to “breathe.” Good luck!

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  • I use tshirts to make dog chew toys, too, but I use the old embroidery floss bracelet “4 braid”… Where you kind of make a backwards 4 when braiding (googled and found this image to explain http://www.etsy.com/listing/103698639/medium-navy-blue-and-orange-embroidery) they’re much more durable, you can wash them, you can soak them in water and freeze them in the summer and if they destroy them, they were already technically trash! I use the shirts my old washer ruined with bleach stains!! We sold out of these at the rescue’s homemade goods sale this year – didn’t make too many, but should have! I also braid skinny braids, then braid them together to make things a little more durable.

  • Just made the Infinite Scarf, but it wasn’t as long as I would like it to be. No problem though, I used your tip on “unshrinking clothes” and got it t stretch to just the right length! Thanks for all you do!

  • Thanks for the update, Friend! Soooo fast with those instructions! I hope our excitement to do the projects didn’t put you under pressure. Now please sit back, prop your feet up and relax! We want you to be HEALTHY, HAPP Y & PEACEFUL! I know it must take a lot out of you to be so Awesome every single day!! God Bless You & Keep You!!

  • For warmer leg warmers use SWEAT SHIRT FABRIC—these are also great for little crawlers scooting around on cool floors and can be worn by them and not add the bulk of a second pair of pants to diapered bottoms! You can also up-cycle thick socks for these!

    I saw a cute T-Shirt produce bag with NO SEWING–instead of sewing the bottom seam just cut the bottom area into strips going UP the shirt a few inches. not too wide you don’t want stuff falling out! –stretch and DOUBLE KNOT. You can use this with or without the slits for ventilation. With the ventilation you can also use them hanging in your pantry or out of the way spot for onions and potatoes and other root veggies and such. Also good for beach items that might need to dry and get de-sanded!

    IF you want a nice beachy tote you can also make a casing and use a piece of ROPE threaded thru the neck–fold over the neck scoop and make a casing; tape the end of the rope to make it easier to pass thru and use a big safety pin or the special tool made to thread drawstrings thru clothing. To REALLY “Upcycle THAT take a small scrap of leather and fold it over the rope in the middle and stitch the top edge by hand—these sell for bunches of money but are really easy to make.

    For many more ideas check out INSTRUCTABLES—from no-screen-needed-screen-printing to knitting and more–all out of T-shirts! Also a great place for dog toys esp the “monkey fist knot” ones that cost a small fortune to buy (for either your pups or as a decor item and or doorstop!) but take only some rope and a short amount of time to DIY. One of my fave spots on the web next to Jillee of course!

  • Oh my gosh the scarf idea is great! A group of us get together and do Christmas for a nursing home and these scarf would be the perfect gift for the ladies next Christmas!I can’t wait for you to post the instructions.Keep up the great ideas I’ll be waiting!

  • I used T-shirt ‘yarn’ for tying up my tomato plants last summer. Worked like the stretchy garden tape, but had to tie the bits instead of sticking to the….well, whatever it’s supposed to stick to that doesn’t. This next summer I will use a GREEN t-shirt so it blends in. ;)

  • I will be waiting impatiently for the instructions. And Jill, you aren’t alone on the ideas. You may have to start just writing them down. That is what I do when I can’t get them done. =)

  • thank you so much jillee!!! i made the dog toy out of the leg of a pair of old fleece pants for my 2 great danes and they loved it! it wasnt quite as long as i would have liked for them so i have an old worn king top sheet that i’m gonna use to make a longer one with. i’m one of those people that give my dogs presents on their b day and my oldest girl will be 1 yr old next month and i had planned on buying her one of these toys BUT thanks to you, now i dont have to spend all that money! dog toys ae very expensive, especially for large dogs (trust me i know cause they had a good Chritmas ;p). you inspired me with this and i’ve been looking up diy dog toys today and can’t wait to make some more! thanks again :)

  • Love the post! Upcycling gives me such a great level of satisfaction, especially in this disposable world in which we live. Love the T bag and have a couple thoughts about it. A sweatshirt can also be used (without slits for ventilation) and can hold heavier items. Also make a liner from a t shirt for the child’s seat part so produce doesn’t touch the basket; this also eliminates the need for all those plastic produce bags. I do this because of a article I read about the unsanitary conditions of those seats (mostly leaky diapers). As soon as that bag gets home I toss it with laundry.
    A side question– I have been trying to read your posts from beginning to end and there doesn’t seem to be an easy systematic way to do this. What am I missing?

  • Oh I love these ideas. Any chance you could add the “pin it” button to your posts? I would love to be able to pin each one of these or pin the whole post. Something to consider. I follow you on pinterest but I didn’t see these on there (except the dog toy).
    Will wait for instructions!
    Thank you!

      • Missy is correct! There is also a “Pin It” button at the bottom of all my posts. You might want to add the “Pin It” button to your bookmarks bar so you can pin things from websites that don’t have the button.

  • VERY cute ideas! Can’t wait to read the step-by-step instructions, Jillee. And, why don’t you model the stuff yourself?? You are plenty pretty enough to be modeling this stuff!

  • As I sit here in my cold PC room and reading your post this morning, I am going to go find an old long sleeve t-shirt and make me some leg warmers. I forget I have a blanket wrapped around my legs and trip every time I get up from the desk, so leg warmers will be perfect. (Don’t know why I never thought of them myself). Love the other ideas too and have been wanting to do them and are no on my 2013 bucket list. I decided to put my bucket list in writing, that way maybe I will get some of them done. Nice feeling to check something when done. Take care, Happy New Year!!

  • Hey!! I got the same exact machine for Christmas and I also only just had a chance to take it out of the box yesterday! Lol Your T-shirt ideas are perfect timing. Woohoo. :D thanks.

  • Great ideas, i’ve only used them as cleaning rags, i’ll try making the scarves today( i’m so excited) will patiently wait for the how to on the grocery bag, thanks Jillee, will be looking for your appearance online, (hope I find the broadcast), have a great day…

  • You are just amazing! Good luck on your show and thanks for being a bright spot in my day every morning as I look to see what brilliant thing you have to share that day

  • I made no-sew t-shirt bag just the other day! It was so easy, only took a few minutes to do. I think maybe 10 minutes from start to finish. I am really wanting the instuctions, I am already thinking of things to make from the t-shirt yarn!!

  • Awesome! Can’t wait to get started on some of these! Bring on the instructions – when you can. =) Some are easy to figure out because of your photos. I’m not quite sure how to put the ruffle scarf together. It looks like you only used the 4 circles. (I can wait for the how-to) It is soooo cute. I have been wanting to make an infinity scarf and low & behold- there it is- I’m doing it today!! I hope. I actually made an awesome t-shirt flower! Jillee, you must give it a try. It takes a little time but the result is soooo worth it. It looks like a real rose. I did some with a beautiful red colored t-shirt. They really are nice! I gave a few to special friends this Christmas and for me too! I found the instructions here: emilys-little-world.blogspot.ca from pinterest. (sorry I don’t know how to put the website on there so you can just click on it, my genious son is asleep!) God Bless You!

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