Recycle and Upcycle Old Clothes

You love that old t-shirt or that old skirt. You don’t wear it anymore, or it is beyond patching.  So recycle it like we do boxes and jars!

Old T-shirts are a popular item to re-create!  We have lots of old t-shirts from concerts, from vacations, and even from restaurants, that don’t fit now or are past their prime.  They cost too much to waste, so my first project was turning 2 shirts into a pillowcase.  I simply cut out the center design from the front and back, and measured to make sure they fit the bed pillow or throw pillow.  2 t-shirts make a standard or large bed pillowcase, and 1 t-shirt is perfect for a standard throw pillow.

You can choose similar colors,  2 concerts, or 2 vacation spots to put together.  For my first pillowcase, I chose 2 concert shirts that had different shades of blue.  I used simple straight seams, keeping the seams as close to square as possible.  Tip:  T-shirt material is stretchy, so you need to stitch slowly through the machine, so it doesn’t get stretched too far out of the square shape. Guide the material gently, but don’t pull tightly.

Bed Pillowcase 

Approximate measures for a standard pillowcase – 20″ wide x 30-32″ long

  1. Cut 4 t-shirt squares (front and back of 2 shirts).  Leave plenty of usable space around the designs to allow  for seams.
  2. Lay out and measure pillow length, then pin seams and sew right sides together.  Front and back of one shirt will be side by side now.
  3. Do same for the other shirt and you should now have 2 rectangles.
  4. Re-measure to make sure you still have the length and width you need for the pillow.
  5. Pin one end (short side) of the rectangles together (right sides together), and stitch the closed end of your pillowcase.
  6. Pin each of the long sides together and stitch the sides of your pillowcase.
  7. Turn right side out and make sure all seams are complete.  Then turn wrong side out again to stitch a reinforcing seam 1/4″ away from original seam. Trim excess cloth.
  8. Complete your pillowcase by turning under 1/2″ hem and stitch.  Then turn under once more 1-2 inches depending on your pillow length to make a final top-stitch hem.  You can make this a narrow (1-2″) or wide (5-6″) hem depending on how much material is left and your preference.

Standard Throw Pillow

Approximate square size – 12-18″

  1. Directions are similar to the bed pillow, but you just need one t-shirt (front and back)
  2. There are 2 options – Cut 2 squares and simply stitch 3 side seams and stuff, finishing with a hand stitch or topstitching the open side.  Or, you can leave the t-shirt in one piece and stitch the desired square before cutting the cloth.
  3. For one of my pillows, I measured the length of the square sides, then turned the light blue shirt wrong side out and stitched down the 2 sides.  I then hand-stitched the top collar sides together, leaving the collar on.  I placed my pillow inside the shirt, measured to make sure I knew how much excess cloth to trim, and then stitched the bottom to fit the pillow. The remaining short sleeves were still in good shape, so I hand-stitched them and the collar to the outside, visible next to the design. I used a larger visible stitch with darker blue thread.
Front of t-shirt pillow

Front of t-shirt pillow

Top of pillow, handstitched collar

Top of pillow, hand stitched collar

Back view of top, with sleeves hand stitched

Back view of top, with sleeves hand stitched

4.  Reinforce the strength of the seams by stitching that extra seam 1/4″ from      the main seam.

These pillows and pillowcases are easy to wash and very soft and comfortable!  My next idea may take a lot longer to complete. If I ever have the time, I will be using a few more t-shirts to make a quilt.  Very ambitious for me, and I will probably do it in stages!

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