When you discover the world of custom T shirts, you realize there is literally no end to the possibilities of what kind of shirts you can own. Even before you go custom, you probably experiment with printed T shirts that have awesome prints and quotes on them.
Why ever wear a plain T shirt again once you realize the amazing artistic (and comedic) potential of this long neglected piece of clothing? There really is no reason to go back to boring old bland T shirts.
But still, you might feel a little guilty tossing out bags full of old T shirts. It’s not their fault they belong to the silent generation.
So if you aren’t quite ready to part with your old T shirts just yet, give them new life and new purpose by using them to do some of these 5 awesome and easy craft projects. Most don’t require a crazy amount of skill (but there are a few that ask you to sew).
Project #1 T Shirt Flower Hair Clips
Make adorable little flowers out of T shirts that you can clip into your hair (or sew onto your headbands). You will need a T shirt, scissors, elastic thread, a sewing machine, a hot glue gun, felt, and clips or a headband.
- Cut your shirt into strips. The length and width will depend on how big you want the flowers to be. You don’t need to be exact.
- Load your machine with elastic thread. You are going to “smock” the T shirt strip.
- Smocking is when you start at one corner of the strip and sew a zig-zag, going diagonally across back and forth all the way to the other end of the strip.
- While sewing, make sure to stretch the fabric flat the entire time. If you aren’t stretching it as you sew, it will crinkle up. You also want to do a pretty wide zig zag so it doesn’t roll up.
- Heat your hot glue gun.
- Tuck and fold one end down and glue it in place.
- Start winding, tucking, and gluing at the center to form a flower shape. Check out photos for help here.
- Continue until the flower is as big as you want it or you have reached the end of the fabric. Make sure you glue the end to the bottom side of the flower.
- If you have a green shirt or any green fabric, you can cut out a couple green leaves to glue to the bottom of your flower.
- Cut out a piece of felt that is big enough to cover the bottom side of the flower without being visible from the top.
- At this point, either glue this to a hair clip or a head band.
- Let it dry and then try them on!
Project #2 T Shirt Dog Toy
If you’ve got a dog, don’t leave him out of the fun. Use old T shirts to make toys he can chew on and play with. All you need is an old T shirt, a pair of scissors, and a tennis ball.
- Cut 5” to 6” off the bottom of your shirt.
- Cut another 5” to 6” piece off.
- Finally, cut a 2” piece off.
- Lay the two wider strips diagonally across each other to form an X.
- Place the tennis ball in the center of this X.
- Gather up each end of the X and twist them.
- Use the 2” strip to tie a tight knot that holds the wider strips together just at the base of the ball.
- Take one of the 4 wider strips and separate it from the rest.
- Cut it into 3 sections and braid it.
- You can tie off the end using clipped pieces of extra fabric from the thinner strip you tied onto the top.
- Do this for each of the 4 wider strips until you have a sort of 4 legged (tentacled?) octopus.
Project #3 T Shirt Blanket (No Sew)
This project (and the one below it) will give you awesome T shirt quilts. Perfect for you own use or to give as a gift. Are there any women in your life expecting? Because this would be a super creative and unique baby blanket!
You will be the queen of the baby shower with your personal and handmade gift. If you happen to have an overabundance of T shirts with prints on them (maybe a bunch of worn out band shirts), those will also make great quilt squares.
You could use the quilt to tell the story of every concert you ever went to—from that first boy band concert you’re embarrassed to mention through to that last awesome local band you saw in the basement of a coffee shop.
The instructions here will create a blanket that has 28 (12”x12”) squares. You can add more or less depending on the number of shirts you have and your attention span. Note that you can get more than one square out of a shirt by using the back as well. With that said, here are the supplies you need:
- T Shirts—enough to make 28 (12”x12”) squares
- A (12”x12”) piece of cardboard
- 5 yards of plush material (you can also use an old blanket or any other base material).
- Permanent marker
Now for the instructions:
- Lay a T shirt out on a flat surface.
- Place the cardboard square on top of it. If you have an oversized shirt, you might be able to get 2 or more squares out of one side so try to fit as many squares as you can onto each side.
- Trace the cardboard with the permanent marker.
- Repeat this as many times as you can on both sides of the T shirt.
- Cut along the lines you drew to get your squares.
- Repeat this on all the T shirts you are using.
- Arrange the squares on a large flat surface in the pattern you want them to be in. Here is where you can play around and experiment with different arrangements until you find one you like.
- Take the first 2 squares of your quilt and lay them on top of each other. If there are prints on them, make sure the prints are facing each other.
- On the right side, cut small strips into the sides of the shirt. They should be about 1-1 ½” long and spaced about the same distance apart. Cut them all the way up the right side.
- Tie the strips into knots so that the squares are now tied together. But leave the first and last strips untied.
- Repeat this with the next two squares in your pattern. Place those two on top of the first two you did.
- If your squares seem to shrivel up as you tie, gently pull at the edges of the knotted side to stretch it out. A ripping sound is normal.
- Repeat this for each row of squares (creating separate piles for each row).
- Now you will cut and tie the rows together. Use the first and last strips of each panel that you left untied to do this.
- You will repeat the same strip cutting and tying process that you did on the sides to the tops and bottoms to attach the rows together.
- Now lay out the plush material on a flat surface. Lay the tied together T shirt squares on top. If the texture of your base material is different on each side, make sure it’s laying so that the material you want to be exposed is facing downward. If the T shirt squares have prints on them, make sure they are facing upward.
- Cut off any excess base material around the edges.
- Cut strips around the edges of the entire quilt (including the base material) just as you had done for the squares.
- Tie the strips together all the way around.
- You’re done! It seems like a lot of steps but it’s actually a really simple and straightforward process. You can find a tutorial with pictures here.
Project #4 T Shirt Blanket (Sew)
This second T shirt quilt project requires a little more skills since you will have to sew. But luckily, it doesn’t take any special technique. As long as you can push it through the machine in more or less a straight line, you’re good to go. The other fortunate thing about sewing a quilt is that a crooked seam isn’t such a big deal.
Not only is it less noticeable, it’s actually a little charming—it gives the finished product that extra personal touch. At least, that’s what you can tell people when you try to convince them it’s crooked on purpose.
The instructions are for a quilt with 20 (16”x16”) squares. Here are the supplies you’ll need:
- T Shirts
- 3 Yards of Fleece (again, an old blanket will also work as long as it is a thick base material).
- About 2 spools of thread—any color you want.
- Fabric scissors or pinking shears
- A (16”x16”) piece of cardboard
- Permanent marker
- Lots and lots of pins
- Sewing machine
Here’s what you do:
- Repeat steps 1-7 from the previous quilt project to get your squares and arrange them in the pattern you like.
- Use the cardboard to trace and cut out an equal number of squares from your fleece material.
- Match up each T Shirt square with a fleece square (making sure the good sides of both are facing outward).
- Bust out your sewing machine and start by showing a diagonal quilt pattern across each individual square. You can find pictures here. You will start by sewing diagonally directly down the middle. Then add additional diagonal lines about 3 ½” apart from each other. Do the same in the other direction to create the crisscrossed diagonal pattern seen on quilts.
- Once finished, place two squares together so that the T shirt sides are facing inward. Sew the right side, leaving about ½ an inch of seam allowance.
- Repeat with the rest of the squares in the row and then sew them all together (attaching the seam allowances together).
- Once you have done all the rows, place two rows together (just like you placed two squares together) and sew across.
- Repeat until all rows are attached.
- Fold each outside edge over about a ¼” of an inch. Then fold that over again. Uses pins to hold it together.
- Sew along this fold to create a finished edge.
- Trim all the straggling threads. You’re done!
Project #5 T Shirt Pillow
You can turn any T shirt into a pillow. You can turn huge shirts into multiple pillows (or one larger pillow). Never buy a pillow again! You need a T shirt, scissors, a piece of cardboard, a marker, pillow fluff, and a sewing machine.
- Turn your T shirt inside out.
- Cut the cardboard to whatever size you want your pillow to be.
- Lay the cardboard on top of the T shirt. Trace it with a marker.
- Cut along the lines. Cut both sides because you will need a front and back to your pillow.
- Line the two pieces together. If there is a print or design, make sure it is facing inside right now.
- Sew along 3 edges.
- Turn it right side out.
- Begin stuffing with pillow fluff until it is as firm as you want it.
- Fold the unsewn edges inward about ¼” or so. Pin the folded edges together.
- Sew along this edge. That’s it!
Using any of these 5 projects, you can give your boring old T shirts a new exciting life. As a T shirts, they may not hold a candle to your new custom or print T shirts. But as a pillow? Well, there’s just no competition there—except, maybe, for all the other pillows, but that’s another story.
Either way these projects help you save money and, more importantly, create a unique item that you know literally no one else on earth owns. What was once a plain old T shirt like any other is now a unique part of your wardrobe or your home decoration.
Plus, these all make super awesome and unique gift ideas! And you can use the money you saved on that gift to buy yourself a cool custom or printed T shirt to add to your collection!