How to Repurpose Clothing

Repurposing clothes is a way to get more out of your old, discarded clothes, especially if they no longer fit you or are too outdated to wear alone.

To repurpose clothing means to give it a new or different purpose instead of throwing it out. Anything can be repurposed – from worn or stained clothes to small or torn clothes.

You can repurpose clothing into all sorts of things, from jewelry to new garments or even household decorations. Old fabrics can be used in crafts projects or stitched into reusable bags.

Ways to repurpose old clothes

There are so many ways to repurpose clothing and upcycle your old clothes. If any crafts you want to do call for using fabric, you could even use clothes for those!

Here are just some ideas for how to repurpose your old clothing:

  • Transforming a denim jacket into a grocery bag
  • Cutting jeans into denim shorts
  • Making a purse out of an old coat
  • Turning old jumpers and sweaters into cushion covers
  • Reusing yarn from knitted garments to make new clothes
  • Repurposing your old clothes into children’s clothes
  • Cutting pieces out of clothes into quilts or patchwork curtains
  • Making chokers from strips of fabric
  • Using old t-shirts as rags or dusters
  • Upcycling baggy clothes into dresses
  • Framing old band or football shirts
  • Cutting a t-shirt into a vest or crop top

Before you start, you’ll want to make sure you know enough about sewing to proceed. A sewing machine will help you a lot, so if you can try and batch your sewing projects around the same time you only need to borrow a machine!

There are also libraries and sewing cafes that allow you to use their sewing machines.

How to repurpose clothes that are too small

When your clothes are too small, the first thing to ask yourself is “Is there anybody I can give this to?” Reducing clothes waste by donating or handing down perfectly good clothes is the best thing you can do.

You can ask friends and relatives if anyone wants it or you can post the clothes for a discounted price or even free.

If you can’t get rid of your clothes or you’re attached to them or the fabric, small clothes are perfect for turning into crafts. You can cut the seams out and use the remaining fabric for things like bunting, purses, lanyards, bookmarks, bows, headbands, blankets, bracelets, and more.

Think of your old clothes as leftover fabric scraps and there are hundreds of DIY crafts to choose from!

Some especially great crafts to repurpose clothing include:

How to repurpose clothing after weight loss

Baggy clothes can be a look on their own, but there are all kinds of ways to repurpose clothing after weight loss.

A baggy t-shirt can be upcycled into a dress in all kinds of ways. Some of the best DIY tutorials include:

If the idea of chucking out many clothes is uncomfortable for you, try making a t-shirt comforter instead. Just get all of your t-shirts, some measuring sticks or rulers, fabric for the back of the quilt, and some lightweight fusible interfacing. You’ll also need to iron out the clothes and sew them together.

You don’t necessarily need to use it as a blanket either – maybe you can use it to cover a seat, as a tablecloth, or even a blanket for your pet!

Does shrinking clothes work?

While you can shrink clothes in the wash, the amount of energy it takes to shrink clothes makes it bad for the environment. If you have a batch of t-shirts to shrink it might be worth it, but the results won’t be uniform.

Otherwise, consider making other adjustments to take in the seams of clothes, or use the fabric in craft projects.

How to repurpose a shirt

Shirts are the easiest garment to repurpose because there’s so much versatility with them.

You can make a reusable produce bag out of an old t-shirt or a pillow cover out of your button-down shirt.

The material of the t-shirt can also give you even more ideas. Like old sweaters, anyone with crochet skills can transform the fabric into strips or yarn and begin creating a rag rug or similar craft project.

Even if you don’t know how to sew, you can still repurpose your t-shirt into something useful.

T-shirts can be made into wall art if the design is too great to get rid of or if the shirt holds sentimental value for you. There are a few different ways to do this, so check out:

Turn your old t-shirts into dog toys with just your hands and a pair of scissors. You can do this by cutting the fabric into strips and then rolling and braiding them by hand or practicing your knotting skills with the square knot to make a tough and tight toy.

If your dog is more into tug-o’-war, cut off the sleeves, tie an overhand knot in the middle, and presto!

If none of those options suit you, just chuck the t-shirt into a cardboard box and use them as rags! Keep them clean like ordinary dusters and cloths. You’ll save money on cleaning supplies and save the environment from more microfiber pollution.

How to repurpose pants

You can use most of the above ways to repurpose pants as well as shirts, but pants are usually made from tougher materials.

This makes them ideal for making DIY bags and anything likely to be outside.

If you’re not able to let out the waistband on your jeans or you’ve fully outgrown your old pants, first make sure there’s nobody else in need of them.

Unlike t-shirts and jackets, trousers are harder to repurpose because they aren’t as versatile.

Trousers are also usually more expensive, so handing down pants to your younger relatives and smaller friends can benefit those around you.

Ways to repurpose an old pair of jeans

For repurposing jeans, you’ll need scissors or a rotary cutter and denim needles. Ordinary needles will dull or even break, so make sure you have the right equipment first.

Made from heavy-duty material denim, jeans are great for repurposing into long-lasting purses or accessories. They can even be used to make a DIY draught excluder to keep heat trapped inside.

Turn your jeans inside-out and cut the jeans in half so you have two separate legs, then cut each leg to the length you need for your doorways – give a little leeway for stitching the ends.

Sew one end as needed, then turn the leg right side out and stuff with appropriate stuffing. This could be old pillow stuffing, lentils, rice, or even old clothes like socks. Stuff them as much as possible before stitching up the other end.

Treehugger has a list of 15 great ways of repurposing old jeans, including:

  • Denim headbands
  • Craft bins
  • Corner bookmarks
  • Knitting needle cases
  • Baby bibs
  • Pocket organizers

Can you repurpose jeans into a skirt?

Repurposing a pair of jeans into a skirt is very doable!

Make sure you have a denim needle, seam ripper, and sewing machine on hand.

The Spruce Crafts recommends using a seam ripper to tackle the inseam stitching and trimming off the legs – always make sure to give enough room for the hem. The opening between the legs will need to be filled, so use part of the leftover legs as an insert.

Follow their instructions to create their trendy skirt – with pockets! – but make sure you’re confident enough in your sewing abilities before starting.

Another set of instructions is available from Farmhouse on Boone, which includes trim or ruffle.

Find out more about sustainable lifestyle on our website, such as –  how to make a homemade candle wax, how to make natural dyes for yarn, and much more!

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