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T-shirts are a rather ubiquitous clothing item. If you’ve ever played sports, attended a concert, joined Greek life in college or participated in a charity walk, you’ve likely racked up a bunch of them.
But over time, they tend to get worn out or just overwhelming in volume. Sometimes, a purge might be necessary. But how can you deal with T-shirts without being wasteful?
We asked the HuffPost Parents and HuffPost Women Facebook audiences what they do with old T-shirts to give them new life. (Pinterest, it should be noted, also has a wealth of crafty tricks to offer in this regard.)
Without further ado, here are 20 ideas for upcycling T-shirts, from the simple and practical to the downright creative.
“I stretched some of my husband’s race tees over square art canvases. They hang in our family room along with my medal rack.” ― Anna-Marie Ward
“I frame my old concert tees in record album frames and then hang them up in my screened porch.” ― Michele N. Lotman
“Put them over canvases to hang on the wall.” ― Karla Marie
“Put into small embroidery hoop for ornaments or large for display.” ― Neelloc Niffit
“Towels for my curly hair!” ― Sarah Beth
“Use them to towel dry your hair, smoother than actual towels so supposed to be less damaging.” ― Soma Chatterji
“Stuffed the leftovers into a travel pillow for the kids. A tad bit harder than I would have liked it, but they don’t seem to mind. Otherwise, they are used for rags and other DIY projects.” ― Sylvia Salas-Brown
“We cut around the T-shirt design and add other fabrics around it to make pillows.” ― Marie Meidinger
“Pillow covers when kids are sick or I’m sweating at night.” ― AnneMarie Greenfield
“Turning a T-shirt into a romper for a child.” ― Heidi Else
“I have a dog who shreds her bedding when she boards so I make dog blankets for her by sewing four T-shirts together. They’re harder for her to destroy and cheaper than dog beds.” ― Melissa Westmoreland
“I have dogs, so anything fabric gets its second life as dog bedding.” ― Melissa Lynserra
“Our Aussie shepherd mix likes to play tug (and rip!) and then sleep with them.” ― Kathleen Wright
“Knot and tie into dog toys!” ― Tara Olivia
“My Key Club uses them to make chew toys for the local animal shelter.” ― Teri Madewell
“Old T-shirts make great surgery recovery shirts for dogs. My dog HATED that stupid cone, but the shirt didn’t bother him one bit!” ― Lauren Olcese-Mercurio
“My friend makes baby-friendly jewelry from old T-shirts ― necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and scarfs, etc.” ― Krisztina Oláh
“Turn them into headbands and jewelery, using braiding, knotting and macrame.” ― Danielle McEwan
“Cut them into strips, braid them into necklaces so my kids chew on them instead of their T-shirt collars.” ― Hortencia T. Benavidez
“Donate them to Rethreaded, an organization that helps people ‘sew a new story’ in their lives. They make and sell items, including various items from T-shirts.” ― Anita Davis Sullivan
“Donate them. I’m not crafty enough to make things, and there are always people who need gently used clothing. Pay it forward, y’all.” ― Erin Hablenko
“I just sleep wearing them and use them in that way until they lose their usability. Best bedroom clothes for me.” ― Natalia Shveykina
“My daughter takes them to wear for pajamas.” ― Wendy Greve
“I cut a bunch of shirts into half-inch strips and knitted a small area rug for our kitchen.” ― Elina Singh
“Braided T-shirt rugs with the pieces left over after doing quilts/pillows and rags.” ― Ashley Edinger
“You can cut them into strips to knit or crochet rag rugs.” ― Kelly McDaniel Whitney
“My kids cut up old T-shirts and make clothes for the Elf.” ― Claudia Reis
“I made T-shirt scarves for my daughters out of their old T-shirts.” ― Kimberly Anderson
“Cut it straight across, right beneath armpits, and create an infinity scarf.” ― Laura Coronado
“I’ve turned one into a macrame lampshade!” ― Danielle McEwan
“Make reusable makeup-removing wipes (soaked in micellar water).” ― Lauren Neiger
“Mine go from T-shirts, to PJs, to rags after that the trash!” ― Brandy Allen-Burgard
“I use them for polishing silver (inherited a bunch, pain in the butt to maintain).” ― AnneMarie Greenfield
“I wear them when coloring my hair and tear them into strips for hair curls.” ― AnneMarie Greenfield
“Give it new details … i.e., cut off the sleeves and give it a different neck.” ― Mish Buonantuono-Rausch
“Re-design to new shirts, bags, skirts … ” ― Rachelle Carrillo
“Garden ties for holding up plants like tomatoes.” ― Neelloc Niffit
“Tear them into strips and use those strips to tie up tomato plants in the garden or other plants/trees.” ― AnneMarie Greenfield
“Recycle them. School has a bin and it raises money for the school.” ― Stephanie Tapia
“I’ve saved all my daughter’s scout, sports and school T-shirts and made her a quilt for college.” ― Della Yurasek Csehoski
“I made a blanket from old band T-shirts when I was pregnant to give to our son when he gets older but I’ll probably never really let him have it, it’s too cool!” ― Ali Walter
“Turn them into a reusable bag. Cut fringe and tie along the bottom, cut off sleeves to turn into handles.” ― Teri Lynn
“A no-sew reusable bag! So easy and I still get to see the cool shirts I’ve collected from races or fundraisers every time I use them.” ― Cari Cowling
“We host Family Service Fairs (where families do good for local nonprofits), and used old T-shirts to create reusable grocery bags to help get plastic bags out of the environment. The organization that inspired the station is called Boomerang Bags.” ― Doing Good Together
We can work with an assortment of record writes with regards to illustrations and fine art. We’ve seen everything; we even still get a fax or snail mail outline once and for a short time. We attempt to make it as simple as workable for you to make the ideal custom tee for your next occasion, however there are a couple of ways that will make the procedure faster and more proficien
Never MS Word
There’s always one troublemaker in the group. While MS Word is the most common program, it is not ideal for the screen printing process. We’ve encounter many problems when customers submit Word documents. For one, Word does not hold format from version to version so when we open the file it could look different from when you sent it.
There is also the issue of different versions and different computers will have different fonts. There are just too many variables that waste time, and after all we are Rush Order Tees. If you don’t have design software, you can still create your layout in Word, but then save it as a PDF and submit that. As we’ve mentioned PDF’s work well and hold your design’s format well.
If you have any questions about file types or designs, give our Project Specialists a call, they will work with the Art Assistance team to ensure the quality of your design.
Vector files are also popular and efficient files to use. These are great because the graphic is built with mathematically created curves and lines that translate well into screen printing designs. The most common vector file types are EPS, SVG, AI, and PDF files. When using Adobe Illustrator (AI) files you need to remember to send us all the linked files and fonts associated with the design because we won’t be able to recreate or edit them.
PDF files are great and provide our Art Assistance team with a quality image that is also editable. One of the drawbacks of certain graphic files is that you can’t change it or edit text so if you find a misspelling or want to change something, it could take a little more time. PDF’s hold formatting, so no matter where an artist opens it, they still have the ability to enhance or adjust the artwork during the design process. It is also one of the most universal and easiest file types to create. When creating a PDF for your custom tees remember to export it at a high “print” quality. If you export the design for “web” it will scale down the design.
JPG / PNG
These are two industry standard design files. They provide formatting and give the designers a clear idea of the graphic. When dealing with these two file types, you need to remember to submit file with proper resolution. To give you a better idea, we export designs for screen printing at 3500 pixels. Anything less than 500 pixels will not transfer well because the pixels will stretch too much.
One major issue with these files is that we can’t adjust the text. So if we find a spelling error in the proofing process you’ll have to resubmit the design or we’ll have to recreate it. To avoid this we recommend using our fonts paired with your graphic so we can adjust any text issues.
Show you care (in style)
Borrow from the boys
Liv Tyler flaunts her rock-royalty status by making the hard-rock guys’ go-to look—a band tee, jeans and a blazer—all her own. Hint: It’s her sexy heels, tight-fitting jeans and tiny clutch that keep it girly.
Let a solid tee highlight totally glam makeup
Wear it like a blouse
Leave it to the almighty Kate Moss to put a fresh spin on the most classic wardrobe item ever. You hardly notice that she’s wearing a super-basic T-shirt thanks to the beyond-stylish mix of shorts, tights, knee-high boots and a little cropped jacket.
Have fun with it
There’s a reason why the T-shirt has been a weekend essential since, um, forever: Comfy and colorful, it’s the kind of thing most of us can’t get away with wearing during our normal 9-to-5. So when you’ve got the chance to rock the low-key look, really go for it, like Ellen Page does. Caught on an offscreen day—yet looking every bit the indie gal we loved in Juno—Page wore a bright green tee with a printed flannel, checkered scarf and some worn-in kicks.
If you’re going to get wordy, keep it simple
We get it: Some of those super-cute slogan tees are hard to resist. Just make sure what they say is short and sweet—and printed big—like Sarah Jessica Parker’s CHANGE tee. Otherwise you’re just asking for Neanderthal dudes to stare at your chest to, as they claim, “try and read your T-shirt.”
Use it to dress down an outfit
If she’d worn a glittery or skintight top, Charlize Theron’s edgy outfit—complete with chunky jewels, a dressy blazer, leather leggings and peep-toe booties—might have gone, well, over the edge. But with a simple white tee, her outfit looks perfectly hip.
Swap out the ironic tee for something artsy
Through the Portland-based dfrntpigeon, youngsters in danger of vagrancy channel their inventive vitality into outlining clothes– and learn critical business aptitudes all the while.
When she was experiencing childhood in Portland, Olivia, who is presently 22, never made the association between her drawings– first with colored pencils as a rudimentary schooler, at that point moving into funnies in center and high school– and an approach to help herself. Around three years back, winding up in an antagonistic living circumstance and requiring an approach to get out, she understood she didn’t generally know how. “I didn’t know what I could do to help myself,” Olivia, who lean towards not to share her last name, tells Fast Company. “Despite everything I adored making workmanship, however I expected to accomplish something.”
Another activity from the Portland-based nonprofit New Avenues For Youth, which underpins neighborhood in danger kids through occupation preparing and work openings, ended up being precisely what Olivia was searching for—regardless of whether she didn’t know before that such an open door existed. Called dfrntpigeon(“different pigeon”), it’s an attire configuration firm go through New Avenues, in organization with the nearby plan agency AKQA. Inventively slanted youth in the New Avenues program make up the staff, who plan their own particular T-shirts– their first accumulation of 2017, called Identity, was discharged on April 26– and take commissions from nearby organizations with outline needs.
Olivia’s point by point line illustrations finish three of the shirts in dfrntpigeon’s new gathering, which retail for $26. One highlights a progression of hands explaining letters in ASL. For another, Olivia drew a Statue of Liberty with the leader of a pigeon, encompassed by blazes and connected binds; for Olivia, the attracting was an approach to express a feeling of expectation even in the midst of the current wild political atmosphere. Imparting that message to others in such an unmistakable way is another experience for her. “I never thought I’d see something I drew on a shirt, and see another person wearing it,” she says. “It’s stunning.”
As Portland’s economy, driven in expansive part by creatives, began to take off in the late 1990s, a reverse emergency of youth vagrancy started to flourish in the city. Accordingly, a gathering of neighborhood business and network pioneers established New Avenues For Youth in 1997 with the possibility that the nearby economy should prepare for its childhood, rather than keeping them out; since that year, it’s come to more than 20,000 youth. The philanthropic offers workshops and exercises for destitute youth and those in danger of vagrancy, including assets customized to LGBT youth, who make up 40% of Portland’s childhood destitute population (a point-in-time check from 2015 recorded the aggregate of destitute unaccompanied youth in the city at 266). At New Avenues, youth can drop in for three dinners per day; a lodging office will associate them with assets, and they can procure scholarly credits toward their certificate or GED through an instruction program.
The activity preparing program, says New Avenues endeavor executive Sara Weihmann, comprises of workshops and gatherings with business masters, who either coordinate youth toward neighborhood openings, or help them start up with one of New Avenues’ exclusive undertakings. At the point when Olivia first experienced the program, she worked at Ben and Jerry’s through the business’ partnership with New Avenues; through another enterprise, New Avenues Ink, youth learn screen printing and serve a considerable rundown of neighborhood customers.
Before dfrntpigeon propelled around 18 months back as the philanthropic’s third wander, it had quite recently been a casual illustration amass made up of New Avenues youth, Olivia says. Be that as it may, when New Avenues acquired AKQA to conceptualize a few thoughts for how to make an interpretation of the gathering’s inventiveness into a wander, the organization quickly made the association between the screen printing endeavor and the outline capacities of the New Avenues youth.
A year ago, dfrntpigeon propelled its first accumulation of shirts and started to take demands from nearby organizations. Dani, one of the most punctual individuals from dfrntpigeon, designed a shirt for the Portland-based Deschutes Brewery as a major aspect of Portland Design Week in July. Olivia joined dfrntpigeon in the fall, and the group has been developing from that point forward, in number and yield: It’s offered more than 200 long periods of mentorship and workshop direction to more than 40 young people. Weihmann says the program has acquired $15,000 in income since last July, all of which returns into the not-for-profit to help programming.
The coordinated effort with AKQA has made the program’s connect to Portland’s flourishing imaginative scene much more substantial. Olivia is at present interning at AKQA, where she’s picking up involvement with more parts of the city’s outline network; it’s not all that difficult for her to envision that she could have a future in it, as well.
The name dfrntpigeon, Weihmann says, rose up out of one of AKQA’s most punctual meetings to generate new ideas with the New Avenues’ childhood, when they were portraying to think of a thought for what the venture could be called. “One had drawn a progression of pigeons doing clever, comic things, and AKQA said pause, we should move with this idea,” Weihmann says. “It advanced into this entire discussion about the pigeon truly being viewed as a road winged animal, that they were somewhat this appalling piece of the scene that individuals strolled by without seeing any potential or inspiration.” The young, a large number of whom got a handle on of place in their city or had invested some energy in its lanes, related. By naming the venture “diverse pigeon,” and making work that communicates their personality through their remarkable imaginative capacities, the New Avenues youth are refuting that picture.
Expert advice to get you started in T-shirt design or improve your skills.
Shirt configuration is a gigantically famous outlets for creatives. Regardless of whether you’re an artist, visual planner or typographer, putting your outlines on T-shirts can be tremendously engaging (not slightest on the grounds that you can offer your outlines on the web).
Be that as it may, the procedure can be overwhelming. Here, I’ll stroll through my best tips for outlining custom T-shirt designs and printing your own T-shirts.
(What’s more, on the off chance that you require some illustration tips, go to our How to Draw article.)
01. Source a good printer
So your design is finished and properly artworked, but your tee will only be as ever as good your printer. Try a reputable company like White Duck in the UK or Hey Monkey in the US. You could even give your local screenprinter a call. But it’s important to take time to learn about what type of tee you want to print on.
The weight, sizes, labeling options, cost and so on all affect the end product. This takes a while and will require speaking to various companies, but one thing is for certain: deal with a company that wants to treat your tee as an end retail product and will handle your work with care. Screenprinting is an art.
02. Get educated
To have a good understanding of anything, you need to study it and understand its context. Tees have come out of every subculture phenomenon that has ever existed, whether it’s music, skateboarding, street art, sport or general pop culture.
Find out about them and and have an appreciation for it all. One good book for reference is Vintage T-shirts by Lisa Kidner.
03. Consider your market
This is an important one. Are you designing for male or female; young or old? At the end of the day you’re designing a product that you want people to wear.
Like a good brand designer would do, write down the exact person you want to attract to your T-shirt design – who they are, what they like, what other brands they like and go from there.
04. Keep your humour subtle
If you’re going for a humorous T-shirt design, you don’t want it coming across as a cheap and low-cost joke shirt. Even the most successful loud and in-your-face designs have subtle humour.
I’m not a fan of 99 per cent of humorous tees, but done correctly, humour can turn heads. I’m digging Brad McGinty‘s designs at the moment because he has a good balance.
05. Choose the right colours
Use the T-shirt colour effectively and try choosing complementary colours. If you’re using Adobe Illustrator, turn on Global Colours. It’s an absolute life saver and will save you so much time. (You can get Adobe Creative Cloud here.)
You can also use Halftones to make the most of the restricted colours you’re allowed to use.
06. Imagine the design on a T-shirt
Having worked for both print and web over the years, I know the vast difference between design on screen and a printed piece. Don’t be afraid to mock up your T-shirt design on a photo of a model. Print it out if necessary and place it on an actual tee. Make sure you see your artwork at actual size.
07. Be ahead of the gameBe inspired by what the latest trends are, but don’t copy them. Chances are by the time you’ve seen that T-shirt produced, other designers are moving onto something else behind closed doors.
08. Prepare your artwork properly
Use Pantone Colours when screen printing – your printer will love you for it. They’ll also love you if you outline text and expand any strokes you may have. There are plenty of good tutorials out there, depending on whether you’re using Illustrator or Photoshop.
9. Take time to explore your concept
Sketch your T-shirt design out, go for a walk, create a few variations, have something to eat, do a full brainstorming process. Then sleep on it. And do it all over again. If it comes to you straight away, great. But explore other creative options just in case.
10. Detail is king but keep things simple
Everyone appreciates great drawing ability and attention to detail. There’s nothing better than seeing a really well executed masterpiece on a tee, which you can study for hours.
But, equally, some of the most classic T-shirt designs are the simplest – and get the message across through their simplest form. Anywhere in the middle and you may struggle to deliver a successful design.