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Recycle Your Favorite Old Tees: It’s Easy Being Green

by Amanda Vida

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T-Shirt Quilt

I love t-shirts, which is good since I work at a t-shirt company. Some of them are memories of events and groups from days past, some of them I’m not even sure are mine…but either way, I accumulate a LOT of t-shirts – too many to wear. I don’t want to be wasteful, so I set out to “go green” by finding a few great — and creative — ways to re-purpose, re-use, and recycle my old t-shirts.

So, if you clean out your drawers only to discover just how many T-shirts you’ve collected over the years, and you want to make use of them (even the ones that are on their last leg), check out these simple ideas…

Make a T-Shirt Quilt:

I love this idea because it is a great way to put all those comfy commemoratives to great use. You can even make themed quilts – one with all the races and charity walks you’ve done, one with all the sports teams you’ve been on over the years, or one with all the bachelor/bachelorette parties and fun events.  Or, you can use all the different colors, logos, and prints to create a one-of-a-kind quilt masterpiece, like the one you see above. We turned a bunch of our “inker” shirts into a comfy cozy quilt. Themed or not, this is a great way to keep the memories and get more use out of your special shirts. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Cut out a cardboard square the size you want the squares of your quilt. I recommend 8′ X 8′ squares. Then you can make a quilt for a twin bed to be 64″ X 88″ inches (8 squares by 11 squares), or a queen at 88″ X 104″ (11 squares by 13 squares).
  2. Place the cardboard square on top of the area of your tee you want to cut, and trace with a pen or pencil.
  3. Cut out your squares.
  4. Sew them together side by side until you reach your desired length and width.

See I told you it was easy! For tips and tricks on how to prepare your tees, check out eHow’s post: How to Prepare T-Shirts To Make A Quilt.

Make a Reusable Tote Bag:

Another simple way to make practical use of your t-shirt memories is to make a re-usable custom tote bag for shopping. It’s a great way to take those special shirts that mean something and display them in a new format. You can use these to carry groceries, gym clothes, etc. You can make different sizes by using different size tees. The best thing is that they are durable, sturdy, washable (which is great if you use them for groceries), and they easily fold up so you can take them anywhere.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Turn the tee inside out and sew the bottom closed.
  2. Cut off the sleeves along the seams, being sure to keep the seams in place.
  3. Cut a large hole where the neck is – using a paper plate create a half-moon shape over the neck, trace with a pencil or pen, and cut along the line.
  4. Go shopping and fill your tote!

Make Your Tee a Work of Art:

Some shirts are just too important to change and some shirts we’ve worn and washed so often we are afraid they won’t last (this can happen after years of being your favorite!) For these special shirts that are too important to toss, and too impressive to hide in your dresser drawers, we recommend putting your t-shirt on display in a frame. Here’s how:

  1. Buy a box frame.
  2. Cut out a cardboard backing that fits inside the frame (or you can use the back of the frame).
  3. Center your shirt over the cardboard (or back of frame) and trace the shirt.
  4. Cut the shirt allowing about 2-3 inches on each side of what you’ve traced.
  5. Stretch the shirt over the cardboard (or back of frame), pull it tight, center it, and tape it into place.
  6. Reassemble the frame and voila!

Fundraising and Donations:

Of course, we only need so many quilts and tote bags, and we only have so much room on our walls for art…so if you have hundreds of tees, you’ll have to do more than these projects in order to use them all. If you are crafty and have the time, you could make quilts and donate them to homeless shelters, or make quilts and totes and sell them in a fund-raising effort. Then, donate the proceeds to your favorite cause. If you’re not that crafty but have some time, you could cut them into rags and have a car wash fundraiser. And, if you have tons of tees, and much less time, you can always donate the tees to your local clothes drive.

There are literally hundreds of ways you can take your tees and turn them into new items. Stay tuned for new ideas and videos from the merchandising team. We love fashioning tees into other useful items and we love making it easy.  If we can do it – you can do it. Some of you may have already. If so, send in your ideas on how to re-use and recycle tees. Go ahead and prove Kermit wrong because it is SO easy being green!

About the Author - Amanda Vida


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Randy Balwin October 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I simply want to say I am just very new to blogs and honestly savored your web page. Very likely I’m planning to bookmark your website . You actually come with superb posts. Bless you for sharing with us your web-site.

Cecille Cornmesser April 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

Tucker March 14, 2011 at 11:44 am

My family recently donated over 30 old tees thanks to your post, thanks for a great suggestion!

Amanda Vida November 5, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Great ideas guys. Keep ‘em coming. I love to hear your stories!

Keri Morgret November 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Ask at a thrift store if they could use the shirts, even the mostly worn-out ones. I volunteered for a thrift store where we accepted those, and sold them off for a couple of dollars. Painters and others in professions where you get dirty and go through a lot of clothes were quite appreciative of a cheap source of shirts, and really didn’t care what design they had.

Chris Wheeler November 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I’ve made several of these blankets – recently, I made one of all my old youth event shirts, and I use it on my church camp bed every summer! I made one a few years ago of old youth event shirts and auctioned it for charity. I am currently working on one for my daughter who left for college of all her old high school t-shirts!

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