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13 unique ways to reuse old clothes

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Fancy giving your wardrobe a new lease of life without spending money on clothes? Here are the best ways to reuse old clothes (and help the environment) with effective upcycling ideas.

Everyone knows fast fashion (constantly buying new, cheap clothes) is bad for the environment and society.

It takes an estimated 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans. So anything you can do to make your clothes last longer and avoid buying new ones is worth it.

Selling your clothes is a great way to keep your wardrobe fresh and earn some money. But if there's stuff you're attached to or your clothes are too old to donate, then upcycling is the way forward.

There are lots of creative reuses of old clothes. If you get it right, you could upgrade your clothes into things you love even more than before. Here are our top upcycling ideas for inspiration.

If you want to try upcycling without the risk of ruining your favourite outfit, check out charity shops. Or see if there are any vintage kilo sales in your area (where clothes are sold by weight – we kid you not!).

How to reuse old clothes

Here are 13 creative things you can do with old clothes and the best ways to repurpose them:

  1. Make your own glitter trainers

    DIY glitter trainers

    Credit: Love Maegan

    If you've got a scruffy pair of Converse that you can't bear to part with, then Love Maegan has the solution. Give them a glow-up by covering them in glitter.

    All you need is heaps of (environmentally friendly) glitter and some fabric glue. Your best bet is to mix the glitter with the glue when you apply it. Next, add an extra layer of glue on top to keep everything in place. The last thing you want is to leave a trail of glitter wherever you go.

    You can also dye your laces to match, or even switch them for sparkly ribbon instead. Your new trainers for a night out are sorted!

  2. Turn your favourite t-shirts into a duvet cover

    It's a shame when you collect tour t-shirts from your favourite gigs or festivals, only for them to end up being used as pyjamas. Or maybe you're holding on to some seriously ragged clothes that you never wear, yet have real sentimental value.

    Either way, a great way to avoid chucking these out is by turning them into a magnificent duvet cover – an idea from Stars for Streetlights.

    This one is a bigger job, and you'll need something called lightweight fusible iron-on interfacing fabric to stop the t-shirts from stretching. Don't worry though, it's cheap to buy.

    If you don't have access to a sewing machine, it might take a while to get all the sewing done, but the extra effort is definitely worth it.

  3. Cut a t-shirt into a halter neck top

    If you've got an old baggy t-shirt that you never wear anymore, why not give it a new lease of life by turning it into a halter neck top?

    This method by Versace My Body is super easy to follow and can be done by pretty much anyone.

    Again, a sewing machine will make this much easier, but you can hand sew if you've got a bit of extra time (and patience). Other than that, you'll just need some paper to plan out your pattern, some scissors and pins.

    If you want to repurpose some of your old clothes for summer, this is the perfect solution.

  4. Turn old jumpers into cushion covers

    You can turn pretty much anything into a cushion cover, so this works for old t-shirts just as much as jumpers. Old fluffy jumpers are perfect for making cushion covers that will make your room look much cosier.

    You'll need some of that fusible interfacing we mentioned above. This will ensure the jumper material maintains its shape and doesn't stretch.

    This method is super easy to do, and you can make the covers in minutes. Hallmark Channel has a straightforward method to follow.

    And if you're looking to make a bit of extra money, cushion covers are one of the best things to make and sell.

    Bonus tip: Try this out with any university hoodies you have and you'll have a nice souvenir after graduation.

  5. Put your favourite T-shirts in a frame

    Wondering how to reuse old clothes without sewing? If you have any old band t-shirts, football strips or sentimental hoodies, you could turn them into art.

    If you use At Home with the Barkers' method, you can get this done in seconds. Simply buy a smart new frame and use it to plot out a matching square on the t-shirt.

    Cut out the square, tape it to the inside of the frame to keep it straight, and voilà.

  6. Use old clothes to decorate frames

    Speaking of frames, you can use your old clothes to bring an extra pop of colour to your living space.

    All you need to do is measure the frame and then cut the fabric slightly bigger. Afterwards, apply fabric glue and carefully place the fabric over the frame making sure to smooth out any wrinkles.

    End by folding the edges over and glueing the fabric down. From there, quickly trim off any excess and then you're done. Easy!

  7. Make your own chokers

    girl wearing DIY choker

    Credit: Wildfire Charm

    Chokers have made a huge comeback. But, you don't need to fork out cash to buy them on the high street.

    Making them yourself is really easy to do (no sewing required) although you will have to invest in some materials to get started.

    Track down a fabric shop in your local area, and choose your favourite ribbons and lace. Velvet is a timeless classic and easy to work with, but you can use pretty much anything.

    You can also buy some charms to hang on to the front of the choker if you want some extra embellishment.

    Once you've measured and cut your ribbon, get yourself some press buttons and glue these to either side. This will enable you to clasp the necklace at the back.

    If you make high-quality upcycled products, you could try selling them online. Platforms like Depop and Etsy are great for this and could help you make some extra income while you study.

  8. Cut jeans into shorts

    jeans cut with scissors

    Credit: Maryia_K – Shutterstock

    Don't know what to do with your old jeans? Simply grab a pair of scissors and turn them into shorts.

    Try them on first to make sure you get the right length. Then you can either fold up the edges or leave them loose to fray.

    To personalise them further, grab some scrap patterned material and use it to make (or cover) the pockets.

  9. Use material scraps to make hand warmers

    This is a great option for any unwanted clothes that are made of strong material without much elastic to them. T-shirts and jumpers won't work for this, but shirts will, as will some skirts and dresses. They also make excellent birthday and Christmas presents.

    Cut the material you have into roughly 5" x 5" squares and some extra squares the same size in a simple flannel material to double up and make the packs extra strong.

    Once you've sewn the squares together and filled them with uncooked rice. Blast them in the microwave for 30 seconds and you've got a great little hand warmer for those cold mornings.

    You can also create longer packs out of trouser legs. These can be placed along the bottom of your bed to keep your feet warm during winter. Check out Bee in my Bonnet's full tutorial for details on how to get started.

  10. Turn a baggy t-shirt into a dress

    If you've got a t-shirt that's too big for you, or a family member is trying to get rid of one, try experimenting with ways to upcycle it. With all the extra material to play around with, there are loads of options.

    There are tonnes of tutorials online, so get searching on YouTube and check out Pinterest for some great how-to guides and pictures. If they're extra big tops, they can double up as jersey dresses, for instance.

  11. Make reusable napkins

    Napkins are ideal things to make from upcycled textiles. By creating reusable ones out of old clothes, you can save money and cut down on waste.

    To make napkins, cut the fabric into squares of the desired size, fold and press down its edges to create a hem and then sew it into place on each side.

    If you like, you can use a mix of fabrics to create patchwork napkins that will look super cute on your dining table. What a way to impress your guests!

  12. Craft fabric bookmarks

    Alternatively, you can use the same method above to create fabric bookmarks. All you need to do is cut them into smaller (and thinner) rectangles instead of squares.

    If you like, you could then add additional trims or decorations to spruce up your crafts. If you're big into reading, this is the perfect use of your old clothes!

  13. Get crafty by making tote bags

    Tote bags come in handy all the time, especially when you're heading to lectures. With plenty of space to store your notebook, laptop and books, you can never have too many!

    But there's no need to buy them. You can easily make a tote bag (or five) at home. All you need is some spare fabric, scissors and sewing equipment.

    From there, cut some fabric (or old clothes) into two rectangles for the front and back and two strips for the straps. Sew the front and back panels along the sides and bottom, leaving the top open.

    Fold and press the top edge of the bag to create a hem. Sew the hem in place, leaving openings for the straps. Attach the straps to the inside of the bag and sew them in place.

    Although you can do this much faster with a sewing machine, it's easily done by hand. They're a lot of fun to make.

If you're planning to buy some new clothes, read our list of the best sustainable fashion brands.

Jessica Murray

WRITTEN BY Jessica Murray

As an Editor of Save the Student, Jessica Murray has written extensively on student money news and money-saving tips. She was co-host of our podcast, No More Beans, and is now a journalist at the Guardian. Her tips and insights range from fun guides for freshers, to information for graduates entering the workplace.
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