Do you have T-shirts stacked up in your closet that take up so much precious space, but you can’t seem to get rid of for whatever reason? If the answer is yes, this blog post is for you!

You can have your cake and eat it too! How you ask? Recycle, Upcycle, Repurpose! Simple right? Seriously, it’s simple. I find recycling to be like exercising. It’s hard to start, but once you do, it’s addicting. When you see how much money and time, you’ll save simply by recycling and repurposing “old junk” in your house or purchasing second-hand and recycled items, you’ll never go back to Target or Costco (for non food items that is, for now) again.

Today I’ll be showing you a few different ways to upcycle and recycle cotton T-shirts.

You’ll need:

  • scissors
  • old T-shirts
  • yarn and decorations of your choice, such as beads or buttons or anything else you find in your jewelry box.

We are starting with a simple V- neck woman T-shirt that needs a little upgrade :

The first thing you want to do is find a board that is about the size of your T- shirt, so you can stretch it comfortably. This will help you once you start braiding the T-shirt or painting it.

1. Get a board                2. Fold 1/3 of  T-shirt   3. Cut stripes

DSC_0588       DSC_0590       DSC_0591

DSC_0592        DSC_0593

Now, you can leave the T-shirt as is or you can braid the back:


1. Start braiding from the top down

2. Take first stripe; take second stripe and cross them leaving second stripe under the first one. Pull second stripe over the first one.

3. Take third stripe and pull under and over the second one

4. Keep going until you reach the bottom.


5. Turn the board upside down and start braiding from the top down. Do not lose the stripe you ended up with. Loop it and keep braiding down ( which would be towards the neck of the T-shirt this time)

6.  You should end up with something like this (picture 1) You can leave the T-shirt as it is and just finish the other side the same way or you can keep braiding until that gap closes. Heads up, closing the gaps will make the T-shirt tighter and shorter on the back.

Picture 1 (Two column braid)

    DSC_0598 DSC_0601   
 DSC_0602 DSC_0603 
7. When you are done braiding at any point you can cut the loop stripe you end up with in half and just tie the ends together as shown here.
8. Now that the left side is all done, do the same for the right.
You should end up with two braided columns on each side of the spine area which will    create folds and make the back much shorter than the front. If you don’t want this effect, stop braiding after the first or second braid. This should leave the T-shirt looser.
DSC_0605 9. Now would be the time to use that yarn you had hidden in the house or the one you got from that old sweater you don’t wear anymore.  If you don’t have any of those, ask around. You’ll be surprised what people have in their houses and would be glad to get rid of.
10. Tie the middle  of the T-shirt and start wrapping the yarn around it until you reach a desirable thickness then tie the two ends together twice. The idea is to create a shape like a sports bra and a bow in the same time.
There are many options from here. You can tie the left and right side of the bow the same way you did the middle or….
    DSC_060811. You can take it to another level and add different type of yarn and finish the look like this. I always like to take my designs one step further than what’s out there and look for different take on an old favorite.  After all, we want to be original and express our own creativity and visions!
DSC_0611        DSC_0614
You can wear this sexy T-shirt/ Tank Top with a maxi     skirt or jeans, on the beach or at the club! This is what I’m   talking about! Versatility! And it all started with an “old” T- shirt!
Look around your closet guys! There are treasures hidden there, you just have to look close enough and not be afraid to experiment.
I bet you’ll love the shirt you made more than the one you bought from the store. There are certain things money can’t buy as we know and imagination and pride in your work would be just a couple of them!
If you don’t have the time to craft, another idea would be to give your old T-shirts and clothes to someone to recycle them for you, instead of buying them new from the store or second option, donate them. Ask around your community. Artists are everywhere! You would be surprised :)
Here are a few other ideas using the same braiding technic I showed you above.
1.Cut stripes and Braid  2. You can adjust place of braids to your liking.
      DSC_0618      DSC_0620
DSC_0644      DSC_0645
I moved the braids more towards the middle and braided the little stripes in the two ovals. You can add yarn and decoration (maybe some buttons?) as perviously shown or just leave it as it is. The more you stretch the stripes when you braid, the looser they would be. This is how you can control the fit and size of the T-shirt. I would suggest start with a T-shirt your size (loose fit) or one size bigger.
1.Cut T-shirt in tank top shape  2.Fold sides and cut stripes
3. Braid sides
DSC_0623 DSC_0641   DSC_0649
You can also braid the back to make it smaller or even more interesting.  For this design I would recommend using a Large or Medium size T-shirt, if you want it to fit looser.
You can wear this beautiful top with jeans and a tank top or even long sleeve blouse. I would also add a belt :)  Make it in any color you want! The possibilities are endless. Simple way to spice up your outfit, but not break the bank!
And last but not least…
To finish the look I decided to use the sleeves that I cut out of the T-shirts I redesigned. Don’t trow them out!
Just stretch them so they fit your head comfortably, not too loose, not to tight (you don’t want a headache).
Pick colors
1. Fold one loop over the other
2. Pull left loop under right
3. Tie together
4. Fold at the knot and wear
 DSC_0635  DSC_0636
If you want to see more designs and ideas on how to recycle your old T-shirts, visit my shop and look around.
Lots of recycled and upcycled pieces to choose from and get inspired by!
Feel free to contact me, if you have any questions!
Thanks for reading!
If you happen to make some T-shirts yourself, please share with us! We’d love to see them!
Have an artsy day everyone!
~ Rali

How to Recycle/ Upcycle your old T-shirts

2 thoughts on “How to Recycle/ Upcycle your old T-shirts

  1. that’s interesting. I like the orange one with the side braiding best.

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