What to Do with T-shirt Scraps: DIY Projects Repurposing Old Shirts into Quilts, Bags & Home Decor

What to Do with T-shirt Scraps: DIY Projects Repurposing Old Shirts into Quilts, Bags & Home Decor

What to do with t-shirt scraps piling up in your sewing room? With some creativity, those fabric pieces can be repurposed into all kinds of DIY projects – from pet beds stuffed with t-shirt scraps to braided t-shirt yarn scarves and upcycled tote bags made from t-shirt backs. This article will explore craft ideas to give t-shirts new life.

Why We Should Repurpose T-Shirt Scraps

Repurposing t-shirt scraps reduces textile waste and environmental impact by giving used cotton material extended life in new forms. Old t-shirts and fabric remnants can be a sustainable and creative source for crafts and DIY projects.

T-shirt scraps, the leftover cotton material from worn or damaged t-shirts, can be repurposed into functional and decorative items like tote bags, pet toys, quilts, and cleaning rags. This creative reuse promotes sustainable fashion practices and personal expression.

There are many good reasons to repurpose t-shirt scraps:

  • Reduces fabric waste ending up in landfills
  • Prevents additional resources needed to produce new items
  • Saves money by using what we already have
  • Allows creativity in designing and making reused products
  • Results in unique pieces through upcycling
  • Promotes sustainable and circular fashion values

Repurposing t-shirt scraps is beneficial for both personal fulfillment and broader environmental goals. What to do with t-shirt scraps opens up great possibilities for green crafting projects.

What To Do With T-Shirt Scraps (DIY Reuses)

What to do with t-shirt scraps is repurpose the soft, stretchy material into DIY projects like tote bags, rugs, pet toys, headbands, or cleaning cloths, empowering individuals to reduce textile waste through unique creations. The versatile scraps in all sizes, textures, and colors offer crafters sustainable materials for beginner to advanced items.

Tie Scrap Strands for Rugs

Recycling t-shirt scraps into woven home goods like rugs, wall hangings, and pet mats keeps usable cotton material out of landfills through creative upcycling. Tying strands together into durable fabric items is satisfying, eco-friendly, and enables self-expression.

  • What kinds of items work well?
    1. Rugs – absorbent, fun colors/patterns, withstand feet traffic
    2. Baskets – breathe well and contain humidity for produce storage
    3. Wall hangings – lightweight to decorate bare walls in any room
    4. Pet mats – easy to spot clean, resistant to claws/chewing
  • What are the recommended sizes for strands?
    1. Length: 4-6 inches works well for manageability
    2. Width: 0.5-inch strips add texture but stay sturdy
  • The technique enables endless creativity through colors and textures for functional, affordable art pieces that tell a story with reduced environmental impact.

Cut Strips for Scrunchies and Cuffs

Breathing new life into t-shirt scraps by transforming them into stylish hair ties and wristwear reduces needless fast fashion waste while allowing creativity in accessorizing. The stretchy, soft cotton knit strips lend themselves well to braiding and scrunchie sewing.

Upcycling tired t-shirts into fresh hair scrunchies and wrist cuffs aligns with sustainable values and self-expression. Customizing accessories enables unique looks from recycled materials otherwise destined for landfills if not artfully repurposed.

  • What width strips work best? 2-inch wide strips are optimal
  • How long should strips be cut? 10 inches provides ample braiding length
  • What fabrics hold up over time?
    1. Cotton blends maintain stretch and structure
    2. Avoid 100% cotton if prone to loosening
  • How to create the braided texture? Simple 3-strand braid pattern
  • Finishing techniques for longevity?
    1. Secure braided ends tightly
    2. Double stitch scrunchie seam

Shred into Cleaning Cloths

Turning faded novelty t-shirts into functional cleaning rags gives soft, absorbent cotton scraps renewed purpose while reducing reliance on paper towels and chemical-laden wipes. Upcycling shirts otherwise headed for textile waste streams inject sustainability into household cleaning routines.

Crafting reusable t-shirt cleaning cloths aligns environmental values with functionality. These eco-friendly rags pick up dirt, dust, spills, and more without creating added landfill waste once dirty.

  • What types of rags work best?
    1. Larger pieces for general wiping down
    2. Thin strips for detail cleaning like blinds
  • Preferred construction for durability?
    1. Knit t-shirt blends hold shape well
    2. Avoid more delicate woven fabrics
  • Easy to care for between uses?
    1. Machine wash warm with towels
    2. Air dry to prevent shrinking
  • When to retire overused rags?
    1. Toss when stained or threads loosen
    2. Avoid excessive fraying on surfaces

Whip Up Stretchy Headbands

Both practical and cute, headbands crafted from old t-shirt scraps lend themselves well to accenting casual hairstyles and keeping hair back comfortably. The soft knit cotton material ties functional haircare with eco-conscious values by finding renewed purpose instead of adding textile waste.

Upcycling worn shirt scraps into accessories aligns creativity with sustainability. Adding feminine touches like a knotted bow or floral accent provides personality.

  • What fabric blends work best? Cotton/spandex maintains both stretch and structure
  • How long and wide should strips be?
    1. Length: 30 inches end-to-end
    2. Width: 2 inches wide
  • What construction methods to try?
    1. Fold the fabric over the elastic casing
    2. Topstitch back seam and edges
  • Which embellishments to consider?
    1. Knotted fabric bow or flower
    2. Decorative buttons or appliques
  • Care recommendations?
    1. Hand wash and line dry
    2. Avoid heat tools

Make Vibrant Floor Cushions

Before relegating well-loved tees with stretched-out neck holes to the donation pile, consider prolonging their visible life as squishy floor cushions. Sandwiching poly-fil stuffing between two shirt scraps sewn together forms a pouf that serves updated environmental and stylistic purposes.

Salvaging old t-shirts and otherwise adding to clothing waste streams injects new personality into living spaces as seating or footrests. The durable cotton knit and stretchy qualities lend well to tightly-packed cushions maintaining structure.

  • What style of shirts work best? Crew neck tees contain evenly sized-holes
  • Preferred construction for durability? Reinforce stress points with embroidery thread
  • How to make cushions lightweight enough to move? Avoid overstuffing
  • What size floor cushions maximize shirt scraps? 18-20 inch diameter forms substantial poufs
  • Creative embellishment options to make uniquely yours? Applique patches or thick stitching textures

Hand Sew a Backpack

Before consigning stained or torn t-shirt scraps to the recycling bin, consider whether they have the durable fabric needed for hand sewing a custom backpack. Choosing tighter knit blends allows for boxed bag corners that hold their structure while softening straps with extra padding cushion shoulders.

Upcycling t-shirts destined for landfills into practical accessories like backpacks marries sustainability with creativity through a satisfying maker process. The reusable carryalls reduce the need for purchased disposable bags for light loads like school or beach days.

  • What t-shirt fabric blends work best?
    1. Cotton polyester prevents overstretching
    2. Spandex adds flexibility and rebound
  • Ideal scrap size for bag panels? Wide/long enough for a flattened back panel
  • How to reinforce and shape?
    1. Box stitch corners for depth
    2. Attach foam or felt padding to straps
  • Closure and lining considerations?
    1. Velcro or buckles help secure the flap
    2. Contrasting t-shirt scraps as accent linings

Larger Scale T-Shirt Reuse Projects

While small DIY repurposing ideas make good use of limited t-shirt scraps, those with an abundance of overstock or damaged retail shirts have ample material for making bulk upcycled goods. With some dedication and likely involvement of crafting groups or third-party production partners, excess t-shirt fabric can transform into desirable consumer products.

Some impactful large-scale apparel reuse concepts include:

T-Shirt Yarn Knitting

Acquire pre-consumer waste streams from apparel production offcuts. Invest in cutting equipment to rapidly spiral bias stretch strips across recovered shirts, transforming scraps into continuous durable yarn skeins.

Develop branding and patterns for knitting scarves, placemats, pet accessories, and more from recycled cotton material. Market the sustainable output through both retail and wholesale channels.

T-Shirt Memory Quilts

Partner with college alumni associations or tourist destinations to source their endless promotional event shirt overstocks. Showcase the shirts’ unique logos, graphics, and regional color stories through quilt kit subscriptions.

Pre-cut uniform shirt pieces for subscribers across the country to stitch into heirloom upcycled creations while reducing community textile waste streams.

Fused Tote Bags

Intercept bales of irregular unsellable vintage shirts from thrift stores and clothing recyclers. Fuse the shirt backs into colorful panels cut and sewn into handy reusable shopping bags.

Provide tote bag blanks to screen printers seeking earth-friendly offerings or sell completed totes yourself on customizable bases.

What to Do With Unusable T-Shirt Scraps

For t-shirt remnants either too tiny or tattered to reasonably transform through sewing projects, there are still eco-friendly ways to handle the cotton fabric waste. Two responsible routes for pieces beyond reuse include composting and donations.

Composting Cotton Scraps

If the composition is 100% cotton, shredded t-shirt scrap particles can break down effectively in compost piles. Chopping the material into small bits allows it to mix within the soil and decompose fully. This prevents shirts from clogging landfills and returns natural fibers to the earth.

Ensure scraps added to compost are clean without chemicals from prints or dyes. Also verify composting protocols in your municipality, as some facilities do not allow textiles.

Donating Scraps

Rather than struggling to find ways to personally process non-reusable swatch leftovers, bag them up to donate to organizations seeking textile waste. Makerspaces, theater groups, quilters’ guilds, crafter collectives, and more often rescue scraps for creative projects.

Align your sustainability values by keeping unusable t-shirt waste scraps circulating rather than sending them to waste streams. Every scrap counts!


Repurposing old t-shirts destined for landfills into unique DIY creations like quilts, rugs, and pet toys or larger-scale upholstered goods breathes new life into the soft, absorbent fabric. What to do with t-shirt scraps comes down to envisioning potential and then actualizing items mixing style with sustainability through scrap usage empowering individuals and businesses alike.


1. Can you legally sell upcycled clothes?

Selling upcycled clothes might infringe on copyright laws, as it involves creating a new work from an existing one, which is a right usually held by the original copyright owner.

2. What is the difference between upcycling and recycling?

Recycling transforms waste into new items by breaking it down, while upcycling repurposes waste without altering its original form. In upcycling, the item’s past and its new purpose are both visible.

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