Every closet and dresser holds worn and forgotten clothes. They take up space and produce cobwebs in your mind. What if you found interesting ways to use those old clothes? It would not only clear out the cobwebs, but would also make you feel like a very clever recycler. The number one obvious use of old clothes is to hand them down to younger siblings or contribute them to thrift stores and shelters. It shrinks your family’s clothing budget, helps those in need, and reduces the world’s energy footprint. However, sometimes old clothes are too worn to be worn. Sometimes they have too much sentimental value to let go of them. Admit it! You keep some of those T-shirts at the bottoms of your drawers because every time you look at them you think about someone or something in your life that was fun or special. When old clothes can’t be passed along, consider these quirky ways to keep them in your life:
1. Turn shirts and pants into pillows
This is a cool way to get those special clothes out of the drawer or off the hanger and put them where you see them every day to spark special memories. Cut square or rectangular pieces from the clothing strategically, and cover an old, ugly pillow. Or simply sew a covering from your shirts and pants, then stuff it with fiberfill or old, unmatched socks. You can also tear your not-so-special old clothes into strips and use them for stuffing. Preserve the most interesting parts of clothing items for the face of the pillow: T-shirt designs, zipper and button plackets, or decorated pockets. If the clothing is not big enough to cover the pillow size you want, patch pieces together.
2. Seal shirts into hanging holders
Have you seen those fabric diaper holders that drop from a hanger? You can make your own hanging storage by simply sewing up the bottom of a shirt and hanging it on a hanger. Place items inside to store them for use later. If you use a shirt with buttons or a zipper, you’ll have easy access to whatever you put inside. Use it for diapers, towels, fabric for sewing, newspapers and more. You can even use your hanging storage to collect other old clothing you plan to recycle into useful things. Simply unbutton or unzip the front to browse what’s inside. If you do this with T-shirts, you’ll have a handy opening at the top, but the solid front of the shirt will securely contain small things, such as wadded up plastic grocery bags, recyclable cans and plastic soda bottles, bottle tops, or other clothes you eventually take to the Goodwill. If you need bigger shirt-storage to hold more, add a rectangular piece of fabric to the bottom, which also allows you to stack items horizontally.
3. Cut patches or rip strips to make fabric crafts
Some old clothing isn’t nice enough to keep hanging around, but it provides a useful resource. Clothes, after all, are made from fabric—and old clothes can provide a crafter’s smorgasbord. Cut pieces to make patchwork crafts, including quilts, hot pads, curtains and chair covers. Or rip the fabric into narrow strips, then use a large hook or needles to crochet or knit into hats, scarves and rugs. Rag crafts are perfect for old clothes without memorable features that would make them suitable for pillows, but with unique colors that spark memories. Thicker strips can be used to make casings for hockey sticks, fishing rods and other long, thin artifacts. Twist casings made from stretchy fabrics into colorful headwraps. The possibilities are endless!
4. Turn fabric riches to rags
Worn old clothes often make the best cleaning rags, because sizing has been completely washed out and the fibers are soft and absorbent. T-shirts make awesome head rags for people with curly hair when over-absorbent towels cause excess drying and make hair fuzzy. Old flannel shirts are the best for polishing glass, dress shoes and high-sheen metal, such as the chrome on your car.
5. Quirky quilted memories
It’s likely you are keeping an old pair of jeans or an 80s shirt or dress because it’s one-of-a-kind, and you know you’ll never see it again. Take it out of the dark and turn it into a family heirloom quilt that will bring you pleasure for the rest of your life. Cut pieces from the clothing that include special, memorable features, such as blinged-out jeans pockets, button plackets with funky buttons, or even worn patches on knees. If the fabric has worn all the way through, you can back the patch with a random piece of fabric before sewing it into a quilt. Quilting from old clothing works great when you use items of the same kind. For example, make a family quilt from one or two pairs of worn-out jeans from each person in the family. Consider embroidering each person’s name on the pants they wore!
6. Give it up to packing
After some time, items of clothing that once held memories lose their appeal. The memories fade, or later events turn the positive memories into negative ones. Perhaps it’s time to give those pieces a second life in an even darker spot than your drawers: memory boxes in the attic. Old clothing wadded up into soft, squishy balls of fabric make awesome packing for delicate mementoes. Use natural fabrics without chemicals that might harm your heirlooms.
7. It’s a strain to keep it
Select one shirt with a loose weave to use as a strainer in the kitchen. Simply cut a square of the fabric and place it over a bowl or jar to strain tiny particles out of liquids. On jars, use a rubber band to hold the fabric in place; before securing, poke the fabric down into the mouth of the jar to create a small well to hold the debris you strain out. If you want to strain liquids into larger vessels, such as bowls or pans, sew the fabric into a small bag. Hold it over the bowl or pan and pour the liquid into the mouth of the bag.
8. Hand it down to pets
When it’s really cold outside, even pets need a little extra help keeping warm. Use infant and children’s T-shirts and coats as-is on your pet’s upper body. Turn sleepers and pajamas into pet jumpers for all four feet. Don’t forget to cut a hole for your friend’s tail. If you don’t want to dress up your cats and dogs, use old clothing as winter-time bedding to keep them toasty. In fact, consider sewing up a big old shirt at the bottom, tucking the arms inside and loosely filling the inside of the resulting bag with other clothing. Lay it down flat, and invite Fido or Sylvester to cuddle up. What other uses can you think of? Part of the fun of reusing and recycling is coming up with uses of your own to fit your unique life. Don’t let those old clothes linger in the dank, dark corners of your home any longer. Pull them out, and rip, stitch or wad them into handy new uses!
Featured photo credit: Girl Writing in her Moleskin Diary/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com