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Don’t toss that T-shirt

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05


Special to The Prospector

Before throwing away an old T-shirt, consider repurposing it as a laptop sleeve. Every piece of the shirt can be reused as make-shift pockets for extra accessories.

For a China-made T-shirt to make its way into the U.S., it must first travel 10,359 miles, according to a study by Business for Social Responsibility. That mileage makes up one percent of the T-shirt’s green house emissions. The rest of the green house emissions, from a T-shirt, whose average carbon footprint is 2.34 kg CO2e, comes from its manufacturing, up-keeping and farming.

Megan Nicolay, author of “108 ways to transform a T-shirt” equates this energy, in the making of a standard 3-ounce T-shirt, as being able to power a standard light bulb for six days.

To keep all that energy in them from going to waste here are seven easy ways to repurpose old T-shirts.

Tote bag

First, cut off the T-shirt’s sleeves (the holes will serve as handles). Then cut a deeper neckline along the collar. Turning the shirt inside out, sew the bottom above the hem. Turn shirt right side out and you’ve a got a tote bag good for carrying books, groceries and just about anything else.

Pillow case

To make a pillowcase out of a T-shirt, turn T-shirt inside out and sew the sleeves shut along the hems. Also, stitch the collar together. Turn right side out, stuff through the bottom (leave unstitched to remove pillow for washing) and you’ve got a pillowcase. The shape of the pillowcase can be cut differently if desired.

Wall art

T-shirts with decorative graphics or nice patterns are perfect for decorative art pieces. First, the principal design of the shirt is cut and stretched above a frame or canvas. In the back of the frame, the shirt can either be glued or stapled. The piece makes great wall decoration, especially in pairs of contrasting colors and patterns.

Laptop bag

Much like making a pillowcase, cut out the shape and size of the laptop and sew from the inside edges of the three sides. Pockets can also be added for decoration.

Spaghetti scarf

To make a spaghetti scarf without the need of sewing, cut horizontally the top part of the shirt (just below the sleeves) to leave a square. Then, fold the shirt in half leaving about an inch of extra fabric in one side. Cut horizontal strips along the shirt (1 inch) without completing the cut all the way. Then stretch each of the strips to curl them.

Pocket Squares, Nicolay’s website, suggests taking an old t-shirt and making a pocket square with poetry written on it. As geeky as it sounds, April is National Poetry month and on April 26 the Academy of American Poets sponsors Poem in Your Pocket Day. Printing a poem in cloth and carrying it as a pocket square is probably not what they had in mind but all is well in proper verse, or free verse. Your choice.

Book sleeve

For those a little handier with the sewing machine a book sleeve made out of an old T-shirt can prove a fun project. First, cut out the shirt to the shape of an open book, leaving an excess of 3 inches all around. Then, the task becomes much like gift wrapping, sewing instead of taping. Fold accordingly and sew the bottom and top to fit the book covers snuggly.

For more information about recycling T-shirts and for more projects visit

Andres Rodriguez may be reached at

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