Transforming T-Shirts Into Useful Things

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  Besides donating t-shirts, you can quickly upcycle them into useful bags or scarves. And because the fabric is machine washable the items can be cleaned and used again transforming your t-shirt into something useful. 

Besides donating t-shirts, you can quickly upcycle them into useful bags or scarves. And because the fabric is machine washable the items can be cleaned and used again transforming your t-shirt into something useful. 

No matter how often I cleanout my closet, I always seem to have lots of t-shirts. There are a few plain ones, but most have colorful graphics to commemorate events I’ve attended. After wearing the t-shirt once or twice after an event it’s folded up and stored. Instead of having the a t-shirt taking up space in a drawer, I’ve decided to transform them into something even more useful. Following are quick instructions to transform a t-shirt into a bag, scarf, or gift-wrapping.


For all of these types of transformations, a t-shirt with no seams on the sides is highly recommended. When the t-shirt is laid flat, there should be no seams on the far left and right sides under the sleeves. You’ll also need a good pair of scissors to cut soft fabric. None of the crafts mention require a sewing machine! If desired, use a ruler and marker to draw straight guide lines. For best results, work on a flat surface like a kitchen table or craft table.


• Reusable Shopping Bag from a T-shirt: Surprisingly sturdy, these reusable bags can go to the store or carry your things at the pool. Bonus, they’re machine washable! You’ll need one t-shirt per bag. The smaller the shirt, the shorter the bag will be. Spread out the t-shirt on a flat surface and begin by making the handles and opening for the bag. Cut off both sleeves just past the seams. Fold the shirt in half to make sure the sleeve holes are even and trim as needed. Spread the shirt out again and cut off the collar just past the seams. Fold the shirt in half and cut either a U-shape or square where the collar was. This will be the opening of the bag.


Lay the shirt out flat again. Starting at the bottom hem, cut vertical strips half an inch wide and about four to 5 inches long all across the bottom of the shirt. Go back and vertically cut the first and last strips in half. Starting at one end take a strip at the top of the shirt and tie it to strip below it on the back of the shirt using a double knot. Continue knotting the top and bottom strips all the way across the shirt. Fill your shopping bag with produce or other goodies. If you have a sewing machine, you can sew the bottom of the shirt shut instead of cutting the strips or fringe.


• Fringe Scarf from a T-shirt: A fringed scarf requires just one t-shirt and can be very trendy. A tee with no logos is best. Lay a t-shirt out on a flat surface with the front facing up. Cut off the top of the t-shirt, collar and sleeves, by cutting from underneath one sleeve straight across to the other sleeve. You’ll end up with a rectangular tube, all one piece. 


Starting at the bottom, where the hem is, cut vertical strips, about one third of the way up, all the way across the t-shirt. Using a large t-shirt, my strips were about six inches long. When done, hold the end of each strip and pull towards you to curl up the edges. Place it around your neck and fluff the fringes. For a double fringe, cut vertical strips at the bottom and the top of the shirt, making sure to leave a solid portion in the middle. 


Watch a video with instructions on how to make two of these crafts on Recycling Ben’s YouTube Channel, Click on Reuse It Fridays, then Reusable Shopping Bag from old T-shirt, and Circle Scarf from old T-shirt.


• Alternative Giftwrapping: Is a towel, dishcloth, blanket, or t-shirt part of your gift? Use fabric items to wrap presents using the Japanese folding technique called Furokoshi. Here’s how to make the basic wrap: If the fabric you have is not square, first fold the fabric into a square shape.  Place the remaining gift or gifts in the center of the square. Take the bottom right corner, and the top left corner of the fabric and tie them together with a single knot. The knot should lie on the top and center of the gifts. Then, take the opposite corners, the bottom left and the top right, and tie a second knot on top of the first. Gently pull and make adjustments making sure the gift is covered up. Take the edges of that second knot and make another knot with them so you have a double knot on top. Now you have a paperless gift wrap that is creative, and a simple way to waste less.