Recycle Sewing: What to Sew With Old Clothes

The days of disposable fashion are behind us. Gone are the times we’d throw anything old, saggy, baggy or grey away with the trash… if this year is about anything, it’s sustainability, and when it comes to fashion, what could be more sustainable than re-purposing your old clothes into new clothes, or patchworks quilts, or laundry bags, or, well- you get the picture.

Sewing Old Clothes Into New

If your closet is groaning with the weight of clothes that have seen better days, there are a million different ways you can breathe new life into them. All it takes is a little imagination (or, in some cases, a pattern and a sewing machine).

Sewing Projects With Old Clothes


Wondering what to do with all those old clothes taking up valuable closet space? Then wonder no more. The options for repurposing old clothes are almost limitless: disguise rips with some nifty alterations, fashion them into pieces of artwork, or simply use the material to make a brand-new piece of clothing.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of these awesome ideas.

Old Socks: if your socks have more holes than a sieve, consider turning them into some cute Sock Monkeys or coffee cozies.

Old Sweaters: got a motheaten sweater languishing in the laundry basket? Then why not fashion it into some cozy sweater socks, a beanie, or boot cuffs?

Old Flannel Shirt: if your flannel shirt is looking more down and out than lumberjack, turn it into a warming scarf, a quirky tote bag, or even a country-chic table runner.

Old Bra: a few sneaky embellishments can quickly transform your old bra into a brand new cropped cami top. If it’s too dingy to be seen in public, simply cut out the cups and sew into a dress for a handy “built-in bra”.

Old Tights: If your tights have more runs than your average chicken coop, a few twists, turns, and stitches can transform them quickly and easily into a stylish hairband.

Sewing Projects For Old Jeans


If your jeans have sagged at the knees or developed more rips than public decency will allow, consider re-purposing them with one of these great ideas before consigning them to the trash can.

Jean Napkin Set

As long as the jeans are made of a soft denim, you’ll find these casual napkins a great, fun alternative to their linen alternatives.

What You’ll Need

  • Jeans
  • Terry Cloth
  • Basic Sewing Equipment

What You’ll Do

Step 1

Cut your jeans into squares measuring five inches by five inches (each napkin will need 4 squares so judge how many squares to cut according to how many napkins you want in the set).

Step 2

Sew the squares into pairs, allowing a quarter inch seam allowance.

Step 3

Iron the seams open, then sew the pairs into sets of 4 (again allowing a quarter inch seam allowance).

Step 4

Lay the four squares onto the terry cloth and, using the squares as your template, cut out four squares of terry cloth of equal measure.

Step 5

Pin the terry cloth and denim right sides together along the edges.

Step 6

Sew around the edges of the napkin (which should still be wrong side out), leaving a hole of around 3 inches. Use the hole to pull the napkin right side out.

Step 7

Quilt a quarter of an inch of each of the seams before tucking the terry cloth in at the gap.

Step 8

To finish, sew around the full perimeter of the napkin (including the gap).

10 Ways to Transform Your Jeans


Jean napkins not your thing? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of other things you can do with your old Levi’s:

  • Quilts: denim is easy to wash and soft, making it a great choice for quilts.
  • Rugs & Floor Mats: the options here are almost limitless: rag rugs, braided rugs, woven rugs… basically, if you can think of a rug type, you can probably make it out of denim.
  • Place Mats: for casual dinner settings, smaller strips of denim make cute ’n’ quirky placemats and runners.
  • Pillows: denim patchwork is a classic: whether you want a traditional western look or a contemporary, punky style, there’s plenty of options to try.
  • Pet Beds: thanks to its durable quality (not to mention how easily it washes), denim makes a great cover for your pet’s bed.
  • Poufs: if your jeans are made from a tough denim, consider repurposing them into a pouf or floor cushion.
  • Coasters: if you don’t want to go to the effort of sewing, simply grab your old jeans and some fabric glue to make some creative spiral-shaped coasters from the seams.
  • Bags: want a handbag that’s easy to customize, strong, and just a little bit different? Then hunt down a pattern online (given how popular they are among crafters, you’ll be spoilt for choice), and get sewing.
  • Aprons: denim makes a great alternative to cotton aprons. As an added bonus, it’s comparatively resistant to stains and a breeze to wash.
  • Baby Bibs: with its soft, washable qualities, denim makes a great choice of fabric for baby bibs.

How to Sew Old Jeans Into a Skirt


Who doesn’t love a jean skirt? Create the perennial classic from your old jeans with this easy-peasy pattern.

What You’ll Need

  • Jeans
  • Thread (upholstery thread or embroidery thread works best)
  • ​Sewing Machine or Needle (depending on whether you want to sew by hand or machine)
  • Basic Sewing Supplies (pins, seam ripper, scissors, etc)

What You’ll Do

Step 1

Work out how long you want your skirt to be, then cut the legs of your jeans to the appropriate length, adding an additional quarter inch seam allowance.

Step 2

Grab the seam ripper, flip the jeans inside out, and remove the inseam, taking care not to rip the material as you do.

Step 3

Tear out the front seam up to where the zipper starts. Repeat the process with the back seam, stopping at the same point as you have at the front.

Step 4

Flip the jeans right side out and use the remaining fabric from the cut off legs to fill the gap at the front and back center of the skirt. Make sure the edges are aligned before pinning in place.

Step 5

Stitch the center material in place. You can do this by hand, but as sewing through denim can be tough, you may find it easier to use a machine.

Step 6

Hem the bottom of the skirt to finish.

Sewing Projects With Old T-Shirts


Who among us can say we haven’t got a pile of old t-shirts we’ll never wear again, but are equally disinclined to throw away? If you count yourself among the majority, then don’t worry… there’s more than one thing to do with a t-shirt, and most of them are a piece of cake to make.

  • Fingerless gloves
  • Purses
  • ​Dog toys
  • ​Crochet rugs
  • ​Quilts
  • ​Aprons
  • ​Baskets
  • Scarfs

If none of those options appeals, why not try this easy-to-make, super useful produce bag?

Easy Knit T-Shirt Produce Bag

What You’ll Need

  • A T-shirt
  • Sewing Machine
  • Basic Sewing Supplies (including scissors and rotary cutter)

What You’ll Do

Step 1

Turn the t-shirt inside out. Imagining the hem of the shirt as the top of your bag, draw out the shape to the desired size and cut it out.

Step 2

Using a straight stitch or a narrow zig-zag, sew along the sides and bottom of the bag, leaving the top (i.e. the hem of the shirt) open.

Step 3

Starting four inches down from the top of the bag, draw a series of small lines across the width of the bag all the way to the bottom (if you want to keep things neat, use a ruler to help guide the lines). Using a rotary cutter, cut along the lines. If you don’t have a rotary cutter, you can use scissors instead.

Step 4

Cut a handle through both layers at the top of the bag, and then stretch it out to finish.

How to Sew Old Shirts Into a Blanket


Got a pile of old shirts gathering dust? Then grab your supplies and put them to good use with this super cozy, super stylish t-shirt blanket.

What You’ll Need

  • T-shirts
  • Cotton Jersey Fabric or Fleece
  • ​Fusible interfacing
  • Rotary Cutter​
  • ​Basic Sewing Materials
  • Batting

What You’ll Do

Step 1

Work out how many t-shirts you have to make the blanket. The number of t-shirt you have will determine the size of the blanket. 12 t-shirts will usually be enough to make a throw sized blanket, 20 will be enough for a twin size, 30 will make a double, 36 will suit a queen size, and 42 will make a king size.

Step 2

Wash the t-shirts to remove any stains. Wash the cotton jersey fabric on a cool wash.

Step 3

Lay each t-shirt on a mat and cut out blocks of the required size, leaving a 1.5-inch extra allowance on all sides (e.g. if you want the final squares to measure 12 inches, cut out squares of 15 inches by 15 inches). If the t-shirt has a logo, cut the square so the logo is centered.

Step 4

Cut out squares of interfacing to the same size as your cut t-shirt blocks.

Step 5

Resin side down, iron the fusible interfacing to the back of each t-shirt square.

Step 6

Cut the t-shirt/ fusing squares down to the required size, leaving a 1-inch seam allowance on each side.

Step 7

Layout all the t-shirt blocks on the floor or on a large table and arrange the blocks according to how you want the final blanket to look.

Step 8

Cut out horizontal sashing strips. The strips should measure the same length as your blocks and be 2 inches wide. Pin the strips to the bottom of the blocks with a quarter inch seam allowance. The blocks which will form the bottom of the blanket do not need horizontal sashing strips.

Step 9

Start assembling the quilt by pining the block into columns and sewing together, keeping to a quarter inch seam allowance.

Step 10

Cut out 2-inch sashing strips that measure just slightly longer than the length of each column. Sew one sashing strip per column, placing the strip just to the right of each column.

Step 11

Sew the columns together with the same quarter inch seam allowance we’ve been using throughout the project.

Step 12

Measure the length of the columns and the width of the rows. Add 5 inches to each measurement: these will be the lengths of your border. Cut out the border to the requisite lengths, with each measuring 25 inches wide. Pin the border to the blanket.

Step 13

Cut a layer of batting to the same length and width as your blanket and lay atop the quilt.

Step 14

Using a rotary cutter, cut out a piece of jersey fabric/ fleece to measure the same length and width as the quilt. Lay the fabric wrong side down on top of the batting. Stich around the perimeter of three sides of the quilt leaving a quarter inch seam allowance.

Step 15

Pull the quilt right side up through the unstitched side. Turn the edges of the open side under, pin, and hand stitch to close.

Step 16

To finish, hand stitch down the sashing of the quilt to keep the batting and quilt blocks in place.

Sewing Projects With Old Sweaters


Got some old sweaters you need to find a use for? Then look no further:


If your sweater is 100% wool, wash in a very hot cycle and then dry in the dryer on an equally hot temperature. The fabric you’re left with should look like felt. Cut out mitten shapes, then simply stitch around the perimeters to create a pair of snuggly new mittens for winter.

Hot Water Bottle Cozy

What could be more useful or cozier than a hot water bottle cozy made from your old sweaters? Blissfully easy to make, all you need is an old, 100% wool turtleneck sweater and some sewing essentials (including fabric scissors, tailor's chalk, a handful of yarn scraps, a yarn needle and some pins).

The Method

  • Felt the sweater by washing on an intense, hot wash and drying it on the highest setting of the dryer.
  • With your sweater laid out flat on a table, place the hot water bottle on top with the neck of the bottle aligned to the top of the turtleneck.
  • ​Trace the outline of the water bottle onto the sweater with a 0.5-inch seam allowance all the way around.
  • ​Following the outline, cut through both sides of the sweater.
  • ​Pin the front and back of the cut-out material together, right sides facing, and sew together with a 0.5-inch seam allowance. Sew all sides except the turtleneck part (this is where your hot water bottle will go in and out).
  • To finish, trim the seam and pull the cozy right side out through the turtleneck hole.

Sewing Projects with Old Ties

Thanks to the vivid colors and cheerful patterns ties usually come in, they can make a great addition to your next sewing project.

Decorative Tie Pillow

To Make: Lay the ties side-by-side horizontally. The square they create should be the size you want for the pillow top. Going from one end to the other, weave a new tie over and under the rows you’ve already made. Repeat until you have an interwoven square. Pin to hold, then stitch all around the perimeter. Make a second square using the same method. Stich the two squares together on three sides, stuff, then seal the open side to finish.

DIY Necktie Cellphone Case

To Make: Cut a necktie 13 inches from the wide end. Fold the cut end under by ¼ inch, then fold again by a further ¾ inch. Pin in place, then hand sew to seal. Fold the tie in half (keeping the wrong sides together) so that the bottom of the folded edge reaches just a fraction below where the tie starts to narrow into a triangle. Hand-sew the side seams through the upper layers of the fabric, taking care not to sew the front and back together. Add a Velcro closure (the one side should be at the base of the inner triangle, and the 2nd should be about ¾ inch down from the edge of the rectangle). Voila!

Other Upcycling Sewing Projects for Clothes


Looking for even more ways to upcycle your old clothes? The check out some of these great ideas…

  • Give your old jeans a brand-new vibe by stitching 1-inch strips of velvet up both outside lengths.
  • Use an old scarf to create a fashionable wrap skirt.
  • ​Create fun pompoms from old t-shirts.
  • Turn your old flannel shirts into a gorgeous quilt cover.

As we’ve seen, the possibilities for upgrading and repurposing old clothes are almost endless. Hopefully, you’ve taken away enough inspiration from what you’ve read to turn those old rags into something fabulous. If you know of anyone else looking to breathe some new life into their old clothes, feel free to share the post.

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