Inside: What fabrics and textiles you can upcycle and lots of upcycling fabric ideas and tutorials for the home.
Just because your old clothes are no longer fashionable or fit, they are unnecessary to be sent to landfills. Think about upcycling your clothes if they are un-donatable and not good enough for the local charity/thrift shop.
Other fabrics in the home, such as sheets, blankets, t-towels and curtains, can also be repurposed and upcycled.
In the article about upcycling, I discuss the benefits of upcycling clothing and fabrics to the environment and mental health.
With this article, I want to give some practical ideas and examples of how to upcycle fabrics and all the beautiful things you can make from them for your home.
From making fabulous DIY pillow covers to handmade rugs and even covering chairs to making decorations for the home.
Many fabric upcycles featured under the letter F in the A to Z of cool upcycling ideas.
What Fabrics Are Good For Upcycling and Crafting
When selecting fabrics to upcycle, consider the weight and texture of the material. Some fabrics may be more suitable for specific projects than others.
Use a seam ripper to remove zippers, buttons, and other hardware from the fabric. These items can be reused for future projects.
- Denim – from old jeans, jackets, and shirts
- Wool Sweaters
- Tea towels
- Cotton shirts and blouses
- Plaid shirts
- Wool blankets
- Cotton Sheets
- Leather belts, handbags and even leather from old sofas
- Old curtains and table clothes
1. Repurposing Old Jeans and Other Denim
Denim has to be one of my favourite fabrics to upcycle. I love all the different shades of indigo that denim comes in. Fabric can be stitched, glued, woven and even some cases, crocheted.
There are exciting bits to a pair of jeans that can add something to a craft and project. One pair of jeans can provide a lot of upcycling fabrics. You can cut up a pair of jeans for crafting in many ways.
The legs can be cut open to provide large pieces of materials. It can even be cut into yarn to make rag rugs.
If even larger fabric pieces are needed, the denim from different pairs of jeans can be stitched together in a patchwork. Denim is a great fabric to upholster with
The seams and waistbands can be cut from the jeans and be used as a decorative element in an upcycle or even woven into mats, rugs and woven pillows.
Jeans pockets are also handy for creating unique storage items for the home.
There is a fun A to Z list of denim crafts here.
Upcycled Denim Ideas
- To cover and re-upholster old chairs and sofas.
- From woven denim to patchwork and no-sew, you can make repurposed jean rugs in many different ways.
- Fabric from old jeans can even be repurposed into some heavy-duty curtains.
- Use the scraps of denim from old jeans to make a quilt
- Denim lampshade made from jeans seams
- Denim storage items, such as baskets and pocket wall organizers.
- Pillows and cushions for your sofa. They are combined with other upcycled fabrics, such as vintage sari trim and wool sweaters.
- Denim Christmas decorations, such as tabletop trees, wreaths, and ornaments, for the tree.
- Valentine’s decorations, such as hearts and even flowers.
- Decorative items such as denim tassels, wall feather hanging and flag bunting.
- Dog toys and accessories
- Denim Key Fobs
- Use scraps to make some cool no-sew fabric bowls.
- DIY denim bracelet
- Fake denim snake plants
2. Sweater Wool Fabric Upcycling
After denim, my second favourite upcycling fabrics are wool sweaters.
What I mean by wool sweaters /jumpers are those with a natural wool content of at least 70% (such as lambswool). These sweaters can then be felted (boiled wool) in the washing machine.
We’ve all done it before, accidentally putting our favourite sweater on the wrong wash setting in the machine, only to shrink and now only fit a toddler.
That is felting, shrinking and matting wool fibres together. You may no longer be able to wear that sweater again due to its tiny size. But it will be great for crafting.
Felted/boiled sweater wool will not fray or unravel like knitted wool, which makes it a good material for crafts and DIYs. No hems or seams are needed; the upcycled fabric can be stitched or glued.
There are many upcycled sweater crafts on my site. Luckily, my parents love to wear bright and colourful sweaters in natural wool and pass me all their cast-offs. Wool sweaters are easy to find in charity/thrift stores.
Also, my friends and families now know that if they accidentally shrink their sweaters in the wash, to hand them straight to me. I will upcycle the felted sweater wool into something extraordinary for the home.
Sweater fabrics are suitable for making repurposed Christmas crafts.
Upcycled Sweater Ideas
- DIY felt rugs – you can make gorgeous felt rugs that look like artwork that belongs on the wall rather than on the floor.
- Sweater pillows and cushions – make plain pillows look like bunnies or even Frida Kahlo.
- Patchwork blankets – sew old sweater scraps into a lovely warm, soft blanket.
- Felted flowers and succulent gardens for some fun home decor.
- Sweater Christmas ornaments using cookie-cutter templates
- Felt tinsel garlands for Christmas – this is an excellent use for tiny scraps.
- Sweater lampshades for your standard lamps.
- Sweater and fabric coasters and trivets for the coffee table.
- Sweater pumpkins for your fall decorations
- Sweater and denim upcycled fabric placemats will look fabulous on your dining room table.
- Upcycled sweater acorn and oak leaf pillows for fall.
- Colourful sweater ball garlands and ornaments.
3. Upcycling Clothing T-Shirts
T-Shirts are a great fabric to upcycle. Unlike denim, t-shirt material doesn’t fray. You can cut and use the cloth without the need for hemming.
That is why old t-shirts can easily be repurposed into yarn for knitting. It’s a great way of upcycling plain boring t-shirts that have seen better days.
However, the thing about t-shirts is that they often have a sentimental element. My son, who wears nothing but t-shirts, has some favourites he is reluctant to part with, even when they have seen better days or are getting tight as he grows.
It’s slogans and graphics on the t-shirts that he is particularly attached to. One way I persuade him to part with these treasured items is to upcycle them into something for his room. You can frame the t-shirt and turn them into pillows or even quilts.
Here are some of the best ways of upcycling fabrics from old t-shirts for the home, which use a mixture of techniques, from sewing, no-sewing, crochet, weaving, knitting and macrame.
Upcycled T-Shirt Ideas
- Repurposed t-shirt bag – (this is a no-sew upcycle)
- T-shirt yarn Plant pot/vase holder
- Pillows and cushions from old T-shirts
- Patchwork t-shirt quilt – A great way of preserving memories, especially if you use band t-shirts, sports shirts or t-shirts from holiday destinations.
- T-shirt rag rugs can also be made by weaving or crocheting t-shirt yarn.
- Colourful potholders
- Crochet t-shirt yarn into a footstool
- Turn t-shirts into a pom pom decoration
- T-shirt yarn storage baskets
- Handmade dishcloths from old t-shirts
- Grocery bag dispenser
3. Upcycling Fabrics – Cotton fabrics
There are so many cotton fabrics that you can upcycle in the home, from old bedsheets, t-towels, shirts and blouses.
Unlike felt and t-shirt fabric, cotton does fray. It needs to be hemmed. Or you can glue the edges of the material to stop them from fraying.
Cotton does have the advantage of coming in a beautiful array of fabulous prints and patterns, especially old shirts and blouses.
I love giving old, pretty printed blouses a second life by upcycling them into something for the home.
Often, cotton fabric on printed shirts is thinner than other upcycling fabrics. This means the material can decoupage furniture and other objects and sew them into new items.
If you coat thin cotton fabric in Mod Podge and let it dry, it can be cut and decoupaged like paper without fraying.
Old cotton sheets also tend to be thin. This makes an excellent fabric to print on, using your home printer for smaller crafts and DIYs. Or, if you’re lucky, you might have some lovely patterned vintage sheets.
When looking for small amounts of fabric for your crafts and DIY, why not check out your wardrobe for old clothes to upcycle first? It’s always better to repurpose and upcycle clothing and fabrics before buying new ones at the fabric store.
Using old shirts and blouses also gives your handmade item a personalized touch.
Upcycling Cotton and Woven Fabrics
- Upcycled bed sheet fabric flowers won’t wilt and die.
- Fabulous fabric mushrooms art display – this tutorial shows you how to print onto cotton using your home printer.
- Repurposed bandana pumpkins for an edgy fall decoration.
- Flannel shirt reusable hand warmers
- Flannel shirt rag wreaths
- Decoupage upcycled fabric mirror to add colour to your walls. Or an upcycled vase for your mantle
- Upcycled T-towel apron
- Vintage hankie (or bed sheet) quilts
- Vintage bed sheet table runners
- Upcycled flannel shirt coasters
- Patchwork flannel shirt draught excluder
- Tartan Christmas trees – also have a touch of denim.
4. Upcycling Fabrics – Leather
I keep all my old handbags when they have reached the end of their useful life, as I love to upcycle leather fabrics too.
The leather from old handbags is excellent for upcycling, and leather belts are also fun to use. I’ve even cut the leather from a sofa/couch destined for the dump.
I have crafted with both genuine leather and faux leather. Both are just as good for upcycled crafts. You can paint leather and even print on leather.
Leather is another fabric that won’t fray, so stitching hems is unnecessary. The material can be sewn, glued and fixed with eyelets and rivets.
Upcycling Leather Ideas
- Boho Style Leather Vase – this was made from some of the sofa fabric
- Leather pen pots paint the leather for a relaxed look.
- Upcycled leather bag with paint and vintage images
- DIY leather mail organizer – made with old leather belts
- Leather belt shelves are an alternative to brackets
- Macrame-style leather recycled hanging planter, no complex knots, just clever cutting.
- Repurposed leather strap into drawer pulls
- Leather pillow made from old couch leather
- Patchwork scrap leather rug
- Leather pennant wall hanging
Next time you need fabrics for a craft or DIY, see if there is some clothing or other material you can upcycle. I keep all my family’s old jeans, jumpers, colourful shirts and belts for crafting. Before starting these projects, you might want to ensure you have many upcycling and craft essentials.
My extended family and friends also pass me on their old fabrics to add to my upcycling stash. It means that many of the crafts and DIYs I have in my home are affordable, as they’re made with upcycled fabrics. Even if you only have small fabric scraps, you can still make many things with them.
Reusing fabrics is environmentally friendly as you repurpose and upcycle existing resources.
Also, many of these fabrics have a history and a story behind them. Not only do I save money, but I often add a personalized element to the DIY.
Let me know what fabrics you upcycle for your home.