Trying to be more conscious about what and how much you are buying is good—only purchasing sustainable clothing is even better. However, there is one thing that can’t be overlooked (and often is): the clothes that are already sitting in your closet, gathering dust. You know the ones—that old shirt you never actually liked. This one jumper that never fit properly. The jeans you last wore, what, five years ago? While buying less certainly benefits your carbon footprint, we encourage you to go one step further and, after a thorough Kon Mari moment, actually repurpose your old clothing that sparks nothing other than a fit of sneezes. All you need are some quick and easy ideas to get you started, so we declared that our mission! Read on to discover seven DIY ideas for upcycling clothes.
Cotton shirts to makeup removing pads
Have some cotton shirts that you just aren’t wearing anymore? Don’t throw them away! There’s an easy way they can replace single-use cotton pads in your daily beauty routine. Just cut same-sized rounds or squares out of old cotton fabric you find, and sew them together on the outer edges. It doesn’t need to look nice or be precise—as long as the stitching can endure the washing machine. There are tons of easy tutorials to be found online. After use, you can simply pop them into your next load of washing alongside your towels and bed sheets, and use them again and again and…
Old clothes to reusable food wraps
Foil? Plastic wrap? They are so yesterday. Any kind of old clothing can become your partner in crime when it comes to food wrapping and covering up leftovers. All you need is a piece of fabric of the desired size and shape and some produce of our fuzzy little friends, the bees. You can purchase beeswax pastilles or grated beeswax at your local grocery store or pharmacy. You simply melt it in a measuring cup set in a saucepan along with some jojoba oil and pine resin (to give your cloth that customizable texture) at home, and apply the melted mixture evenly on your fabric with a dedicated paint brush. Here is the exact recipe, including a bee-free version for our vegan readers. Simply hang your completed wrap to dry in a cool and dark place before first usage, and then bend it to your liking as you wrap up a sandwich for takeaway or cover yesterday’s veggie lasagna!
Last year’s favourite patterns to cushion covers
Had a crush on polka dots or florals last year that you now wouldn’t be caught dead in? There are some patterns we like to wear, and others we’d rather decorate our living room with. Maybe that applies to an old shirt or jumper you found in the back of your closet! In another great DIY for upcycling clothes, why not turn them into unique cushion covers? Five minute instructions are not hard to find, and come with simple videos on how to turn old clothing into something cute and practical. It would even make a great present, and better yet, zero sewing skills are required.
Stretched t-shirts to headbands
Cute hair accessories are everywhere to be seen at the moment. And if you’re really clever, you don’t even have to purchase them new. There are a lot of different ways to turn worn out fabric into headbands. All you’ll need is an old t-shirt and a small amount of time to transform something you are not loving anymore into something that’s fun to wear again. No downsides!
Any old fabric to reusable tissues and wipes
Let’s face it—once in a while everybody gets sick, and a cold is normally a big waste of tissues. In the kitchen, we use paper towels for small spills and cleaning. Thankfully, it is actually very easy to avoid this wastage. This might be the easiest yet most sustainable way of upcycling clothes: simply transforming an old t-shirt! We use tissues, wipes, and paper towels so often in our daily routine that we tend to not even think about it twice. But with this smart and simple idea, you can make space in your closet and become leagues more sustainable with a simple change to reusable wipes and tissues. Go for it and become a sustainability superstar!
Tees to reusable grocery bags
Upcycle your old tees and turn them into grocery or produce bags for food shopping or harvesting. Why bother buying them in store when they are so easy to make at home? Pop your fruit and veggies in your homemade bags to save money and avoid single-use plastic bags at the same time. Who knows, they might even taste a little better coming out of such ecologically and sustainably made bags.
Clothing swap with friends, family, and neighbours
Last but not least: Sharing is caring! We know, it sounds cheesy, but it’s the simple truth. What you don’t like anymore might be a treasure for someone close to you. So invite friends and family and even your neighbours for a little clothing swap, and let everyone bring what they can spare from their closet. It’s not only a super sustainable tip for upcycling clothes, it’ll also bring a smile to everyone’s faces as sharing, swapping, and exchanging is always loads of fun. And second hand rocks!
These are just a few of the endless ideas you can find out there on how to repurpose and upcycle old clothing. Take these tips as some inspiration, especially if you think that you don’t have the skills, time, or resources to turn your old clothing into something with a new purpose. Always keep in mind that small changes in daily life speak loud, and upcycling the clothing we once loved is a big part of sustainable living.
Author bio: Hannah Lang is an anthropologist working in the non-profit international development sector. She is passionate about intercultural communication, human rights, and policies for a more sustainable and inclusive future. You can find her on LinkedIn.