How to Reuse All Your Old Clothes

Su-May/flickrStop! Were you about to toss that t-shirt into the trash? And those shredded jeans too? Step away from the garbage can! Stained work shirts and threadbare jammies and even worn out undies? Don’t you dare throw them away!

Listen, our landfills are landFULL. Filled up. Overflowing, even. Enough! We need to do whatever we can to keep as much as possible from landing on that pile. And old clothes, my friends, are an excellent place to start.

So what to do with those raggedy or too small or too big or too passé or just plain “over it” garments? Well first, don’t forget that you can always restyle or upgrade your items with a bit of ingenuity (and an awesome Internet tutorial). This could include altering or resizing, dyeing, patching, or completely re-making. But if you’re not the crafty type, please consider donating them to charity (i.e. dropping them off at the thrift shop). Or if you’re feeling festive, why not do a bit of frock swapping? Alternately, you can always recycle them. And finally, if the clothing is too far gone to be given away, it’s probably compostable. Yes really! Anything is better than the landfill.

But let’s say you are feeling crafty, and looking to transform your old clothes into new, useful items. What then?

Here are a few dozen ideas to get you started.

The Solo Sock: Make a hacky sack. Use all your single socks as packaging padding the next time you ship something. Use socks to cover the outside of shoes while you store them – it keeps them clean and dust-free! Make a sock jar cozy. Slip it over your hand and use it as a dusting mitt (works great, I clean with socks all the time!).

The Lonesome Mitten or Glove: You can fashion un-fingered mittens into adorable little drawstring bags to hold marbles, dice, your collection of beach glass, or any other trinkets. Or use it as an iPod cozy (again, un-fingered only). Make a mitten duster (same idea as with the sock, but this one works well with a glove for getting into all the cracks and crannies). Keep one mitten in your glove box so that you’ll always have it on hand (pun intended!) to scrape the ice off your windshield.

T-Shirts (an abbreviated list; there are as many ideas as there are craft blogs on the Internet): T-shirts make great baby gear because they’re already so soft and worn in. Make bibs, booties, easy dresses and even entire onesies. For adults, you can cut off a cool logo or image and turn it into a patch (for a skirt, a backpack, or, again, a baby onesie). Make cloth wipes to accompany your cloth diaper system. Make nice soft cloth rags for cleaning. Make your t-shirt into a tote bag. Fashion a fashionable accent pillow. Crochet a rug with old t-shirts. Also, tees make the best toys! (Both dog toys and kiddie toys.) Speaking of dogs, why not make a cool cape for your pooch? I once used t-shirts to make a patchwork slip cover for my dog bed. Super cute!

Skirts/Blouses/Trousers: Use fun fabrics and interesting patterns to assemble awesome accessories like headbands, bracelets or belts. Make use of a bright pattern or a cool image, and sew a fun funky pocket onto the inside of your favorite coat. Use a large skirt or a number of complimentary clothes to make a cool kid's bean bag chair! Make a fabric book cover. Make a fabric picture frame. Make a fabric lamp shade. Give your boring cork board a makeover. Make simple curtains. Sew easy drawstring bags to use as gift or wine bags. Make a festive fabric wreath for any holiday. Make placemats and/or napkins. Make fabric roses to embellish any and everything. Make homemade sanitary napkins (flannel is best for this!).

Spoiled or Shrunken Sweater: Make an easy beanie. Then make matching mittens. Make no-sew leg warmers. Whip up an awesome scarf.

Jeans/Denim: Use this sturdy material to make super heavy-duty cleaning or buffing rags. Remix them into a purse or tote bag. Steal the pockets (use a seam ripper) to sew onto other items, like canvas bags or khaki skirts. Make potholders. Make coasters. Make super adorable denim placemats. Make a denim rag rug. Make an amazing knitting needle case. Use the scraps to make stamps!

Even the Underthings: Steal the elastic out of underwear for use in other sewing projects. Use the undie fabric to make a small sachet and fill it with potpourri – put it in your underwear drawer!

Inspired yet? I sure hope so. Now hit your closet, and have at it!

Sayward Rebhal writes for

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