Upcycle Men’s Shirts

5 Creative Ways to Upcycle Men’s Shirts and Reduce Waste

Upcycling men’s shirts is both fun and useful. As it goes through cycles of wearing and washing, your favorite t-shirt may lose its good looks and become less than presentable, but that doesn’t mean it’s done for!

Don’t throw it out just yet! Whether you really love the design on your graphic tee or the soft jersey knit has many memories woven into it, you can give your old shirt a new life even if it seems unwearable.

T-shirt fabric is high quality and incredibly durable, and you can easily reuse it even if you don’t know how to sew. Here are a few ideas on how to upcycle men’s shirts!

Why Upcycle Men’s Shirts?

Upcycling is a growing trend for a great reason. We can’t afford not to do it.

    • Human kind creates incredible amounts of trash every year, and most of it ends up polluting our land and oceans. Loose trash doesn’t only look bad, it directly affects the chances of survival of innumerable plant and animal species.
    • We tend to throw out our material goods before they reach the end of their lifecycle. That means that we need to manufacture tons upon tons of new goods every single day. Manufacturing processes don’t only deplete raw materials, they also increase air, water, and land pollution.
    • Many mass manufacturing plants (especially in fast fashion) are guilty of unethical working conditions for their workers. That includes paying unlivable wages, inhumanely long working hours, and using child labor. The only way to discourage these practices is to buy less from these companies.

When you choose to reuse rather than throw out, you make a small contribution towards a better tomorrow. When you upcycle, you create less trash and buy fewer products.

Besides, upcycling is always a creative process. Getting a creative hobby will boost your well-being and improve your mood (even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as you want it to).

With all of these reasons, the real question is – why NOT upcycle your shirts?

5 Creative Ideas for Upcycling Old Men’s Shirts

1. Sleep Tight on an Upcycled T-Shirt Envelope Pillowcase

Upcycle mens shirt
Image source: Unsplash

We all have those special t-shirts with graphics that we absolutely love. Whether that’s the logo of your favorite band, a witty message that resonates with you, or a beautiful drawing, you can reuse it in a great way. If you want to keep the memories alive, but can’t wear that shirt anymore, turn it into a comfy pillow! Throw it on the bed to give personality to your bedroom or add a nice touch to your living room couch!

Turning an old men’s t-shirt into an envelope pillowcase requires basic sewing skills. It’s a great beginner project if you’re just learning how to use your sewing machine!

Here are the instructions:

    1. Measure your pillow. Square throw pillows are ideal for this project.
    2. Cut the front of your shirt to dimensions. Make sure the graphic is in the middle of the square.
    3. Cut the remaining fabric into two rectangular back pieces. Each rectangle should be the same width, but somewhat shorter than the square. When combined, the two rectangles need to be longer than the front piece. For example, if the front piece measures 20 x 20 cm, each rectangle should measure 20 x 15 cm.
    4. Hem one edge of each rectangle with the straight stitch.
    5. Place your front piece facing you. Then place one back piece along the top edge, and the other along the bottom edge. Make sure that the right sides of your front and back pieces touch. The two back pieces should overlap in the middle.
    6. Sew the pieces together with a zig-zag stitch to allow for some stretching when you put your pillow in or take it out.

Voilà! Your envelope pillowcase is done and rocking a great graphic look!

2. Eliminate Plastic with an Upcycled Men’s Dress Shirt Tote Bag

We all know where plastic bags end up. Next time you’re grocery shopping, skip the single-use bag. Bring your unique upcycled bag instead, and make your contribution to saving the oceans!

If you own a dress shirt that simply doesn’t look good anymore, you can use the highly durable material to create a grocery shopping bag. Yep, you can even upcycle a men’s button-up shirt if you use your fabric in a smart way!

Men’s button-downs are usually made of poplin or twill, both of which are durable and not too stretchy, making them ideal for bags. After all, you don’t want your bag to sag under the weight of groceries!

Here’s how to do it:

    1. Cut off the sleeves and the collar – the sleeve holes will serve as handles
    2. If you’re using a button-up shirt, sew along the placket
    3. Sew the bottom of the shirt together (alternatively, cut it into slits and tie them together)
    4. Hem the raw edges to help the fabric retain its integrity

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hey7TfWnHjU  (embed)

If it turns out nice, who knows – maybe you can start your own business and sell upcycled tote bags on Etsy! Everybody needs one, after all. But first, you’ll need custom brand labels!

3. Give Cotton a New Chance at Life: Make T-Shirt Yarn

You can make beautiful things with t-shirt yarn. The thick cotton strips can be crocheted or knitted into colorful, sturdy objects like bags, baskets, and rugs.

Even if you don’t know how to crochet or knit, you can make your own t-shirt yarn, get your custom branded hang tags, and sell it to other creative people.

To make a sizeable jersey yarn skein, you’ll need a couple of large men’s t-shirts of the same color. Alternatively, you can make multi-colored t-shirt yarn.

The process doesn’t require any sewing at all. All you need to do is measure, cut into 1-inch strips, and stretch the fabric. Remember to remove the hems before you start cutting!

4. Repurpose a T-shirt into a Scarf that Keeps You Warm

Upcycling mens shirts project
Image source: Instagram

Infinity scarves are so practical. The never-ending loop can be wrapped around your neck in no time, and it stays put the whole day. No need to readjust.

You don’t need to buy new to rock a practical, warm, and stylish infinity scarf. You can simply upcycle an old t-shirt into one – no sewing necessary!

There are a few ways to approach making your own infinity scarf out of a t-shirt. Choose the best project complexity depending on how much tailoring experience and time you have on your hands:

Project Complexity Instructions
Simple Lay your t-shirt flat. Cut a straight line across the shirt, just under the sleeves. Pull the sides to stretch the fabric, and that’s it!
Medium Lay your t-shirt flat. Cut away the bottom hem. Cut the shirt horizontally into several strips, each strip about 1” – 1 ½” wide. Stretch all the pieces and make them the same length. Tie the loops together with a scrap piece of fabric. You can braid a few loops together for a nice effect.
Sewing Required Cut several shirts into rectangular parts. Combine the pieces and sew them together. The result is a quilt-style scarf, and you can choose between making an infinity and a regular scarf.

Making an infinity scarf out of a t-shirt is so easy because you already have all the seams in place. All you need to do is cut out the middle part of a soft t-shirt, and it’s ready to wear. For extra style points, go for a shirt with a colorful pattern!

5. Upcycled Men’s Shirts into Baby Bibs – Daddy Style

Babies are the pride and joy of their parents. But there’s so much that every child needs that the price adds up to sky-high amounts if you’re not resourceful.

One of the great ways to cut down on baby equipment costs is to upcycle. Upcycling old men’s shirts into baby bibs is one of the great ways to give the things you own an entirely new purpose in life.

If you know how to use a sewing machine, you can make a baby bib out of a shirt in about 20 minutes. The process is really quite simple:

    1. Double layer the fabric and cut it into shape.
    2. Sew the pieces together wrong-side up. Leave a small opening to flip the fabric around once you finish sewing.
    3. Flip the fabric inside out.
    4.  Sew a top stitch around the edges of the bib to help it retain its shape through wearing and washing.
    5. Stitch two pieces of Velcro or a snap button on the ends of the bib for practical fastening.

Run it through the wash and your or your friends’ child will have a brand new bib. The best thing about it is that you merely upcycle a men’s shirt into a new, useful thing at zero cost and zero waste!