June 06, 2022 6 min read

How many old T-shirts do you have in your closet that you never wear?  We’re probably all guilty of hoarding clothes that we no longer use, but can't bear to throw away because they have sentimental value, or perhaps your eco-conscious mind hates to throw things out.

The best way to give them a new lease of life is to repurpose them! And it’s super easy to do by creating new items from them.

If you have several old T-shirts that you’re not quite sure what to do with, then one of the best things you can do with them is to make them into a T-shirt quilt. Find out how in this article, along with 4 other simple to-do ideas on how to repurpose shirts.

Repurpose Shirts Into a T-Shirt Quilt

One of the best ways to reuse old shirts is to make a T-shirt quilt. You can make your quilt as either a square or rectangle. You can check here to work out how big to make your quilt.

These instructions below use 16 old t-shirts to make a quilt that's 4 blocks by 4 blocks wide.  You can use this same technique to make a smaller quilt for a child or even your pet! If you’re not sure what it’s going to look like, you can see some examples of finished t-shirt quilts.

How the T-Shirt Quilt Making Process Works

Step 1 - Choose 16 T-shirts - if you have lots to pick from, then either choose ones with a color or pattern scheme, or even a selection that has sentimental value to create a  memory quilt.  You can also use any size t-shirt, as long as you can use 12 by 12 inches (30 cm × 30 cm) in size.

Make a paper template to this size, and using a sharp pair of scissors, cut out 16 large squares from the T-shirts from the center of each one. Arrange them into a pattern that you like. 

Step 2- Use iron on interfacing on the back of each of the squares. This helps to stabilize the T-shirt squares when you’re sewing them and also prevents the t-shirts from stretching, sagging, or going out of shape.

Llay your cut square face-down on an ironing board. Cut a piece of interfacing to the correct size and lay it on the square. Iron over it with a cool setting to fuse the two pieces. Repeat this for each piece. 

Step 3 - Tidy up any edges on the squares. You can do this with a pair of fabric scissors, or by using a rotary cutter and a cutting mat. It’s important that all the squares are the same size so that they line up accurately when they are joined. If you’ve had to trim them a little bit smaller, it doesn’t matter. The important part is that they are all exactly the same size.

Step 4 - Lay out the t-shirt squares in the order you want them to appear on the quilt. At this stage, you might want to add a different color. Rearrange the pieces until you’re satisfied. Once you’re happy with the layout, gather them back up in a pile in the correct order. You can also use a piece of chalk to mark a number or letter on them to help remember the order. 

Step 5 - Use a sewing pin to hold the pieces together. Make sure to put the outside of the quilt facing each other (the pins need to go on the back of the quilt). After pinning, you can use a needle and thread to tack the pieces together.

You don't have to pin the whole quilt at once. Instead, it’s better to do it in rows - so pin 4 rows of 4 squares together.

Step 6 - Begin to sew your quilt together. Leave a 1⁄2 inch or 13 mm seam allowance at the edge. Work your way through each of the 4 rows you pinned together so you have 4 long strips. Once you've finished a row, set it aside and move on to the next row.

When you have created 4 long strips, use an iron to press the seams, so that they lay flat on the reverse side of the quilt.

Step 7 - Pin the 2 of the long strips together and tack them in place. Sew the strips again leaving a 1⁄2 inch or 13 mm seam allowance. Repeat this possess to join the other strips together and iron the back of the seams.

Step 8 - Prepare the backing of the quilt by cutting a piece of fabric 2 inches or 5.1 cm longer on every side. Then prepare a large piece of batting of the same size. At this stage, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t exactly the same size as you’ll be trimming them after they’ve been strict together.

Step 9 - Layout the backing, the batting, and the t-shirt quilt surface and pin in place. Sew around the edges to join the layers leaving a 1⁄2 inch or 13 mm seam allowance. When the four edges are joined, trim any excess fabric.

Step 10 - Finish the edges of your quilt by using a decorative binding fabric. Cut it into strips that are twice as wide as the border you want to create. Fold the binding in half and iron it to create a crease in the middle. Then place the binding over the edges of the quilt, folding at the corners.

Pin the binding in place before sewing it to the edges of the quilt. For a neat finish, leaving a  1⁄4 inch (6.4 mm) seam allowance around the edges.

Remove any pins, and trim any excess threads and you’re done!

4 More Ways to Repurpose Shirts

If you don't have enough t-shirts to create a t-shirt quilt then how about some of these other great ideas to upcycle old clothing. These simple ideas are easy to create using your old t-shirts and giving them a new lease of life. 

T-Shirt Yarn Baskets

Not only do these look adorable, but they are also handy for keeping small items in and keeping your house organized or would make a fantastic gift for an eco-conscious friend.

These t-shirt yarn baskets are a great project if you love to crochet. Depending on the look you’re going for you could create your t-shirt yarn from just a single shirt or a mixture of colors.

T-Shirt Bag

This simple idea is a great way of repurposing old t-shirts with zero sewing required. It’s so simple you can create these t-shirt tote bags in less than 10 minutes.

All you need is a single old t-shirt, a marker pen and a sharp pair of scissors. You can use any size t-shirt or if you want to get extra creative, then tie-dye your t-shirts before. They are so simple, that t-shirt bags are a great craft project for kids.

Crochet Rug

A great way to upcycle colorful t-shirts is to create a crochet rug. Your only limitation will be on the number of t-shirts you have available. If you only have one t-shirt you can even make coasters using this method. These rugs are great for use in the home, or as a cute glamping accessory. 

You can find full instructions on how to create this adorable crochet rug here. You’ll need to create yarn from old t-shirts by cutting them into strips. The best designs work when you choose complementary colors - such as shades of blues or grey.

If you’re new to crochet and looking to try it out, this is an easy project to get going with.

Tie-Dye T-Shirt Headbands

This is another great repurposing project to do with kids and the colors and possibilities are endless. You can create wide headbands or get creative and braid different colored strips to create colorful hair accessories.

Cut your old t-shirt into strips using a sharp pair of scissors, then braid them to fit around your head. Use small clear elastic bands to secure the ends.

It doesn't matter the number or the size of t-shirt you will use, so you could even create these by using offcuts from other t-shirt projects.

How Are You Going to Upcycle Your Old T Shirts?

Which project are you going to choose to repurpose your old t-shirt collection? If you’re looking for more information about different types of t-shirt quilts, then Project Repat has more great ideas.

Here you’ll find out more information about how to repurpose shirts into memory and graduation quilts and even sweatshirt blankets, plus they answer all your questions you might have about creating a t-shirt quilt including a useful size chart.