Have old clothes?? Here’s How to Create Lifelong Mementos with T-Shirt Upcycling!

Children grow up fast. This is a bittersweet fact of life for parents everywhere. The years when our children are with us, cocooned in our home are noisy, chaotic, even crazy at times; but they are also the most wonderful time of life and will always be remembered fondly by both children and parents. As children quickly grow, the piles of outgrown clothes grow too and it can sometimes be hard to keep up. There is the question of what to do with the clothes they have outgrown? There are always hand-me-downs and donations, but if there are some pieces of clothing that hold extra sentiment or good memories, you may want to keep them to look back on. Instead of folding them up and putting them in storage, t-shirt upcycling is the way to go! Here are amazing and creative ways to turn their favorite t-shirts into mementos that your child can continue to use and cherish? Read and learn to create below!

A New Friend for your Child

Children love Teddy Bears, they sleep with them, cuddle with them and drag them on playdates. What if you made your very own teddy bear out of a treasured article of clothing?? This cuddly craft teddy bear can be easily made from your child’s old t-shirt. This works well with t-shirts that have little or no graphics on them, but your child can create their teddy however they want! This craft will need to be sewn, so your child may require some help. One t-shirt may be enough, but two will most likely be needed, depending on how large your child wants their bear to be. For those who don’t know how to create a teddy bear, there are plenty of resources online for beginners. Such as this amazing list of ten unique teddy bear patterns from sprucecrafts. Once your child has chosen the pattern for their new stuffed friend, cut out the pieces of the pattern on the paper. Flip the t-shirt inside out then use the paper templates to cut the t-shirt to the correct shapes and sizes, making sure to cut both the back and front together. Keep the front and back pieces of the same sizes together, then begin to sew each together, making sure to leave a small opening in each. Once each piece is individually sewn, turn them all right side in. Stuff each one with cotton then sew each piece closed. After this, sew all the pieces together to assemble your child’s new friend! Don’t forget some ribbon to make a cute bow tie, and of course, the button eyes!

A Quilt Made from Old Memories t-shirts into mementos

This craft is an excellent idea for especially comfy, worn-in t-shirts and shirts with graphics on the front. A t-shirt quilt would also be an amazing gift for a milestone such as a graduation or a birthday when your child can look back on their childhood memories and find comfort in a cozy blanket too.
To begin this project, you will need a large piece of fleece. The blanket will end up being about five feet by six feet (but can be larger or smaller with modified dimensions), so make sure your fleece is at least this big. You will need about 42 shirts in total- this may sound like a lot but can be accumulated over the years, or just think of those inexpensive summer camp clothes you bought in bulk; (however, this number is truly up to you. If you would like to use less, you can use fleece squares between shirt squares). A piece of cardboard will be needed as a template to make sure all the fabric squares are the same size. Cut this cardboard into a 12”x12” square; if there is any graphic on the t-shirt, make sure it is within the square’s boundaries where you want it. Using sharp fabric scissors, cut the shirt to the correct dimensions using the cardboard square as a guide. Set that aside and do that for all the remaining t-shirts. Once that is done, you will need to cut slits into every square in order to tie them all together. To do this, cut an approximately 1.5-inch long slit into the square’s edge, and continue every one inch until you go around the entire square. Do this for every square. After this, we can begin to tie them together!
Take two squares that you want next to each other and place one on top of the other so both graphics are facing outward. Line up the slits on one of the sides and tie them all the way down one side, and make sure to only tie one side or it won’t lay flat! Continue to add squares by tying one side to the next. For this pattern, we will be doing seven squares in length by six in width. Once all the squares have been tied together to create the front of the blanket, you can lay it face down on the floor, making sure it is flat and without folds or wrinkles. Now, if your fleece is not cut to the correct size, measure the length of the t-shirt material and then cut the fleece to the exact size. Cut the same 1.5-inch slits 1 inch apart around the entirety of the fleece. Place it on top of the t-shirt material and begin tying them together as you did with the t-shirts. That’s it! This is a very easy and fun craft with a super rewarding outcome!

Plenty of Different Pillows

There are two ways to create pillows from a t-shirt. The first option is very similar to how we created the t-shirt blanket. First, take one t-shirt and turn it inside out. Then you can use the same cardboard template to cut the shirt into a square. However, this time you will need to cut both the front and back of the shirt. Make sure both squares line up, then cut the same 1.5-inch slits 1 inch apart around both squares. Tie three of the sides together, then flip the pillowcase right side in. Begin stuffing the case with cotton to your desired fluffiness. Once you are satisfied, you can tie off the remaining side, and your pillow is done!
The second pillow option can use the tie off technique as well, or can be done with sewing if your child is ready to try that! To begin, grab a t-shirt and flip it inside out. If you want to do the no-sew method, cut the same slits as the previous method into the bottom hem, the sleeve hems, and the collar. Then tie the slits to the other side, but leave the collar untied. If you want to sew the pillow, sew the bottom hems together and the sleeve hems together, but still leave the collar untouched. If your child wants to learn how to sew, this can be great practice! Here is an easy and comprehensible video they can watch to begin. Once everything is secure, flip the shirt right side in, and begin stuffing the entire thing with cotton. Once you are satisfied, tie off or sew the collar together to shut the pillow. The pillow should be in the shape of a t-shirt and have the vague shape of a person, which makes it perfect for hugging!

Fashionable and Comfortable Headbands

This is a great and fun craft that will help curly girls add a touch of flair to their outfits while also keeping hair out of their face. Begin by cutting the shirt horizontally into strips from the bottom hem up. These strips should all be the same width and can be anywhere from half an inch to two inches, depending on how thick you want the headband to be. You will be braiding these strips to create the headband so you will need at least three strands for a standard braid, but you can definitely get creative and create lots of different woven patterns. You may also need to trim these strips as they should be about one and a half times as large as the circumstance of your child’s head. Once they are to the correct length, stack them in a neat pile, making sure at least one of the ends lines up perfectly. Sew this end so all the strips are secured to one another (you can also glue them for a no-sew option). This next step is best if you are able to tape the end down or secure it with a clip so it won’t move. Begin pulling at each strand separately until it thins out, stretches and the edges begin to curl—this is known as “t-shirt yarn.” Do this for every strand. Now, braid the strands together into your desired pattern. When you reach the end, sew (or glue) the ends together. Now bend the braid into a circle (at this point you can double-check that the headband is the right size for your daughter), and overlap the ends to the desired size to fit. Sew these ends together to secure the circle. You can now use another small strip of fabric to cover up the sewn ends. You can also use something like ribbon and a bow or anything creative your daughter can think of! This project also works to make bracelets, necklaces, belts, shoelaces, and anything else your child can imagine. The possibilities are truly limitless!

An Easy to Make and Handy Bag

This next craft is as easy as it is useful! For your daughter to create a bag, all they will need is a t-shirt and a pair of scissors. First, lay the t-shirt out flat, then cut off the sleeves, using the seam where they meet the rest of the shirt as a guide. After this, cut slits into the bottom hem of the shirt as we did with the blankets and pillow, about 2 to 3 inches long and about 1 inch apart, all the way across the length. Now you can tie these slits to each other and leave them on the outside to add a fringe to the bottom of the bag, or you can turn the shirt inside out and tie them inside for a neat finish. Either way, make sure the ties are tight and secure so your daughter’s belongings stay safe!

Atara Twersky, Author of Curlee Girlee is a TODAY Show Style Icon. Her mission is to teach girls to embrace the beautiful curls they have with power and confidence. Join us as together we change the “coarse” of curly hair.
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