20 Crafty Ways to Upcycle Denim and other Old Clothes

Imagine how much more space you’ll have in your closet if you get rid of clothes that have outlived their usefulness. It seems like a no-brainer to simply sell, donate, or throw away old stuff that are no longer wearable or fashionable, right?

However, the dilemma starts when you actually look at your pile of ‘useless’ clothing and realize that they still spark joy. The good news is that you don’t have to rip your heart apart bidding these worn-out pieces goodbye when there are tons of ways to keep them around the house (and out of the storage basement) by giving them a new lease of life!

Here are 20 clever ways you can upcycle denim and other old clothes.

1. Make denim quilt

Old, thick jeans make perfect warm quilts, and the best thing about this upcycled craft is that it makes use of the full length of your jeans, so no part of it will go to waste from the pockets down. It is best to use denim pants of different colors (acid washed, medium, and dark hues) to create a gorgeous, ombre effect. If you’re worried that the rough texture of jeans won’t feel nice against the skin, then you can sew old cotton shirts or flannel for its underside.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to make a denim quilt from It’s Always Autumn.

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2. Wall organizer from denim pockets

A great way to save space in your flat is by creating vertical wall organizers to store accessories, stationary and even shoes.

Noelle O Designs has a great tutorial on exactly how to do this with a variety of jean back pockets. Cut a range of jean back pockets and arrange them in a grid. Overlapping some of the pockets will allow you to create narrower holders which may be useful for stationary.

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3. DIY denim coasters

There are several ways to make coasters out of any scrap denim you might have lying around.Simply cut out the cloth to whatever shape you might want your new coasters to be and jazz it up by fringing the sides.

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You may also roll up the hems and waistbands to create artisanal coasters. Check it out at My Recycled Bags.

4. Make your own makeup pouch

Tired of your liquid cosmetics spilling and leaking through sheet pouches and making a horrible mess in your bag? A thick, denim pouch might just do the trick. For this craft, you would also need a zipper, which you can easily source from an old dress or jacket that you no longer want.

Here’s a video tutorial you can refer to:

5. Gadget protection sleeve

Laptops and other gadgets are vulnerable to scratches when you simply stuff them in a backpack with all your other stuff. Luckily, you can use upcycled denim to sew together a sturdy protective sleeve, using an old fleece blanket as the padding.

Here’s a detailed instructable on how to make your own laptop sleeve.

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6. Tote/produce bag

If you’re trying to live sustainably, then a reusable tote bag could help you do away with using plastic or even paper when you go grocery shopping. Of course, you can use any material you have lying at home for this, but for an aesthetically pleasing two-toned bag that’s also sturdy enough to carry produce, check out this EasyToSew tutorial video and the Reusable Tote Bag from upcycled jeans below.

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Reusable Tote Bag

7. Denim shoes

One of the amazing things that can be made from recycled denim unbelievably, is shoes. For outdoor shoes strong soles will need to be sourced or recycled from old sneakers. However, for denim house slippers a simple piece of cardboard will be sufficient to form the sole.

Here is a video to give you a headstart:

Alternatively you can download a pattern here.

It is a fact that baby shoes are not only expensive but that they will be outgrown in a matter of months. So if there’s a baby in the family, it’s a good idea to make shoes from upcycled denim. This might seem like a challenging craft, but with a little patience and these printable patterns to help you, you can nail this handicraft and save quite a few pennies along the way. Baby shoes are expensive!

8. Make an adorable plushie

Denim teddy bears are the best. They’re unique, timeless, and durable enough to be passed on from one generation to the next. It’s also a great way to upcycle the stuffing from any defective pillow you may have at home.

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Denim Teddy Bear by Doshi Sewing Machinery

Letting your child design his/her own plushie and allowing them to help in their own way, like letting them stuff the toy, is also great family bonding time and will ensure that they love the new stuffed toy they helped make!

Check out these variations on Fab Art DIY

9. Jazz up your bobby pins

A deep clean of any home that has a female resident in it will indubitably yield a mound of bobby pins that have long been forgotten. To breathe new life into these trusty accessories, you just need to break out the glue gun and anything you can use to decorate the hair pins, like loose pearls from a broken necklace, old ribbons from gift boxes you can’t throw away, cut outs from old, patterned clothes that are no longer your size, or even bottles of glitter you hoarded but never got to use in school.

10. Halloween costumes

Skip the pricey Halloween store this year and make the holiday even more special and memorable for the little ones by making your own costumes at home. The best thing about this upcycling idea is that there are no limits to what you can make from old clothes and school/office supplies you can find at home.

The perfect example is a skeleton ribcage t-shirt from a simple old white tee.

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11. DIY scarves from old shirts and sweaters

Another easy way to upcycle old shirts is to turn them into scarves. This is especially recommended if you have old favorites like shirts or sweaters that have patterns or materials you really liked wearing. It’s a great way to hold on to some clothes that may have become to frayed to be worn but you can’t bring yourself to ‘let it go’

Here’s a great list of scarf possibilities.

Sweater Scarf
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12. DIY cat tent from old shirts

Another household essential for homes with furry residents in it are dog/cat tents. It’s almost obscene that a decent pet lounge could easily cost a hundred dollars in a pet store, when all you need to make one are two coat hangers, a cardboard, and an upcycled t-shirt.

It’s pretty straightforward, and here’s a detailed guide on how to make one.


13. Headbands from old shirts

Old, stretchy shirts make phenomenal headbands for the gym. All you need to do is cut a long strip, wrap it around your head, and tie a knot or make a bow. However, if you want to challenge yourself, you can cut three strips from three different strips and make yourself a braided headband that’s perfect for brunch.

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Head bands from old t-shirts on sheknows.com

Also, head over to SugarBeeCrafts.com for their version of knotted headband with t-shirt yarn.

14. Camera strap from old jewellery

An old vintage camera you scored from the thrift store deserves a personalized strap to go with it. Beads, brooches, leather belt and bag straps can provide a lot of character – the more worn out and tarnished, the better for that complete vintage vibe.

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15. Fashionable necklaces or scarfs from old neckties

Sometimes, all you need to spice up an old outfit is a statement accessory. This is where those fancy, once-worn neckties could come in handy. You are encouraged to absolutely do this your way to really give it a personal touch, but here’s one design idea to get you started.

Click on thumbnails for a closer look

Wait, there is more. In the same vein, check out these ruffles for t-shirts and tops made also made from old neckties.

Click on thumbnails for a closer look

16. Stiletto jewellery holder

Don’t you hate it when stilettos absolutely lose their usefulness when half of the pair gets wrecked beyond repair? Well, just take it as an opportunity to live out your princess dreams by making a fancy jewellery holder out of the remaining intact shoe. Not quite sure how to do this? Check out this tutorial on how to make one yourself. Here are some design ideas.


17. Mittens from sweaters

Old sweaters that have become too loose or have simply gone out of style don’t need to go straight to the garbage. Ones that effectively keep the cold out would make perfect winter gloves or baby mittens. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial from Make and Do to get you started.

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18. Framed artwork from old shirts

A classic case of wanderlust and tourist-fever can blind-side you into buying souvenir shirts, which you may realize too late are too tacky and embarrassing to wear when you’re back home. In this case, simply cut out the print design and frame it. This way you can actually keep the souvenir without having to wear it on your back.

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To personalise it further, make a montage of it adding used train tickets, bus stubs even well-handled maps and leaflets that you’ve picked up along your travels.

19. Hair bows from old shirts

Has your young tween fallen head over heels for Jojo Siwa and her larger-than-life bows? Don’t fret; this does not mean you have to spend a fortune to come up with a Siwa-esque bow collection. You can recycle fabric from some old clothes to create these artistic hair pieces. Sew Guide has a great post on a number of different bows that you or your tween can make herself.

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20. Make a crop top

Sometimes, the best way to upcycle old clothes is to simply refashion them into new clothes you’d actually want to wear. A couple of snips around an old shirt can give you a stylish crop top; a worn-out polo shirt can be refashioned into a cool wrap-around shirt, and several tattered shirts can be repurposed as one boho-style dress. Check out how you can create your very own no-sew t-shirt crop here.

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These are just a few upcycling ideas to get your creative juices flowing. In reality, there are hundreds of crafts you can create from old stuff you just can’t throw away for sentimental reasons. So every time you feel like there’s something you need to buy for yourself or for the house, think long and hard first if it’s something you can make yourself – using stuff that may just be collecting dust around the house.

As a final note, remember to have fun while doing these projects – and create something that you do actually want to keep. Enjoy!