Repurpose Round-Up: A new life for your tired old t-shirt

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Last week we celebrated Earth Day, which gave us an important opportunity to reflect upon the impact that our lifestyles have on the natural environment upon which we depend. Earth Day is an important reminder for us to reflect upon our impact. But I am of of the camp who firmly believes that every day should be Earth Day. It is a valuable practice for us to reflect upon our needs and desires, our habits and our luxuries on a regular basis and constantly question what small changes we can make to our lifestyle now to reduce our lifetime impact on the environment. I make it a practice to identify one or two small changes I can make, and then try to integrate those changes into my lifestyle. Let’s be honest, sometimes it takes a few setbacks before I get there, but once those changes have formed a new habit, then I look for one or two more changes that I can make. You’d be surprised how much these small changes can add up to a huge difference over the course of a year or two. An example of this is that when I was pregnant I decided to go chemical free for my beauty routine and I slowly changed all of my products to natural ones. Now I am working on making as many as possible myself to reduce the amount of packaging I consume. You can find inspiration to do this yourself through the Slow Beauty section of the blog.

When I started on this sustainable fashion and sustainable living journey I began to notice the throw away attitude I had to old and worn items. My jeans have holes in them, I’ll throw them out. That t-shirt is faded and worn, in the bin it goes. These shoes have a hole in the sole, I’ll buy a new pair. But most things can still have a useful life, if only we start to view them as a precious resource, rather than an easily disposable item. We have been so easily removed from the reality of the waste we create, and so influenced by our consumer-driven culture than even when we care about these issues, we so easily fall into the trap of simply throwing something away rather than fixing or re-purposing it.

That was a rather long introduction to today’s post, but it sums up the importance of re-purposing our clothes. The longer we can extend the useful life of our clothes, the lesser our impact on our environment. Today I have curated a collection of DIY tutorials for mending and re-purposing your old t-shirts.

1. Find creative ways to mend your t-shirt

If you find a hole in your t-shirt, but the rest of the fabric still looks quite good, you can extend the life of your t-shirt by mending the holes in your t-shirt. The first way you can do this, is by simple mending with a needle and thread. This video tutorial How to mend a hole by With Wendy.

If your t-shirt has a larger hole, a tear, or a stain, or you just don’t think that you could mend the hole without it being obvious, you can use applique techniques to patch the hole. The trick to this is to find a creative design that you can make a feature of the t-shirt, as a patch will be very obvious on your t-shirt. Here is an example of using reverse applique to mend a torn t-shirt.

Photo credit: www.makezine.com

Photo credit: www.makezine.com

One of my absolute favourite books, and a must buy for anyone interested in learning hand-stitching techniques for use in making their own clothes, is Alabama Studio Sewing + Design written by slow designer Natalie Chanin, founder of Alabama Chanin. This book provides comprehensive instruction of embroidery and applique techniques for use with jersey (t-shirt fabric), which is a great resource for you to find creative mending techniques for your t-shirts. This video is also a great example of how embroidery and patches can be used to mend holes in a t-shirt. I have a backlog of clothes with holes that need mending, so stay tuned for some more creative mending inspiration up on the blog in coming months.

2. Re-purpose t-shirts for new uses

If the t-shirt is faded or just looking a bit too tired as it is, there are a myriad of ways that you can re-purpose the fabric to give the t-shirt a new life. This tutorial for a DIY slasher scarf found on A Beautiful Mess is a great example.

Photo Credit: www.abeautifulmess.com

Photo Credit: www.abeautifulmess.com

You could also try making the produce bags pictured below, with this easy tutorial by Delia Creates.

Photo credit: Delia Creates

Photo credit: Delia Creates

3. Make t-shirt yarn

T-shirt yarn is easy and simple to make, and it offers enormous versatility for finding new uses for your t-shirt. Here is an easy tutorial for making t-shirt yarn by Eco Karen which shows you how to do this.

Depending upon how many t-shirts you have to re-purpose, whether they are one colour or many, and whether you can knit and crochet or not, this will influence your choice of project. This simple beaded necklace a great idea beginner idea that requires no sewing, knitting or crochet skills. Another example of a no-sew t-shirt necklace is pictured below.

Photo credit: www.pureandsimplelife.wordpress.com

Photo credit: www.pureandsimplelife.wordpress.com

If you can knit or crochet, or you are willing to learn, you can make baskets, mats, rugs dishcloths…….there are numerous examples out there. I love this t-shirt yarn rug I found on Pinterest.

Photo credit unknown

Photo credit unknown

My World of Wool  has a great tutorial for how to crochet rugs that guides you through how to make circular rugs with t-shirt yarn.

If you find that these projects have you excited, but you don’t have any old t-shirts to cut up, there are a number of companies that make t-shirt yarn by recycling the fabric waste from clothing factories. As this yarn is finding a use for the waste from fast fashion industries, it is also a sustainable option for your crafting. There are numerous brands available, check your local craft store, or do a search for “buy t-shirt yarn” to point you in the right direction.

4. Cut up and use of cleaning

Old t-shirts are also perfect for cutting into dishclothes, and have the added bonus of saving you from buying plastic-based dishcloths. This may only save your $5-$10 over a year, but it is worth it alone just to know that you aren’t buying plastics unnecessarily. You can also use the old t-shirts for polishing your shoes and for other cleaning purposes.

I hope these tutorials and suggestions give  you the inspiration, techniques and knowledge you need to make re-purposing your clothes a new habit. There are many, many more examples. Too many to share here, but I collect my inspiration on my Pinterest board Repurposed Threads and Mend and Make Do. It is well worth a visit to find more inspiration to find uses for your old clothes. If you have old jeans than need a new life, check out my Re-purpose Round up on prolonging the life of your jeans. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for more re-purpose round ups in the future. If you have an article that you’d like me to feature, leave me a suggestion in the comments section.


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