Recycling Old Sweatshirts

Recycling old sweatshirts is a craft project that costs almost nothing.  It can give your old sweatshirts a new lease on life or give you a new shirt, tote, pillow or blanket. 
There are several simple ways to keep your old sweatshirt in your wardrobe a while longer. If you have a plain sweatshirt with just a slight stain or flaw, you can make it wearable again.
  • You can sew buttons or bows onto a sweatshirt to embellish it and cover up any flaw.
  • Using scraps of fabric cut out geometric shapes or stripes and sew them in various spots on the sweatshirt. Leave the edges of the fabric raw and when you wash the sweatshirt the edges will fray.  Or you can sew the fabric onto the sweatshirt and then outline around the cut edge with dimensional fabric paint or glitter.
  • Use fabric spray paint and spray paint on the sweatshirt.  With supervision, you can even let the kids do this one.  Use a leaf or your hand covered in a latex glove as a template and spray around it.
  • If you don’t mind the rugged look, just turn the sweatshirt inside out.  I have at least one new sweatshirt made with the fleece side out.
  • Cut the sweatshirt down the center front. Hem the cut edges with decorative trim. If you want a different look, cut off the waistband and sleeve bands and trim all cut edges with a wide strip of fabric.  I once trimmed a red sweatshirt with pieces from an old black velvet skirt.  It was a striking conversion. 

Even if only part of your old sweatshirt is usable there are still many projects you can make.
  • If you have a printed sweatshirt that you just love but can no longer wear, you can make a pillow out of it.  Just cut off the bottom ribbing and most of the sleeves. Sew the cut edges together.  Stuff with purchased filling or with old nylons and then sew the neck edge closed.  Or cut two large squares out of the sweatshirt.  Then sew them together.
  • Old sweatshirts with pictures or designs on them can make interesting blocks for a quilt. Or just cut out squares from different colored sweatshirts and stitch them together to make a quilt front. Use a flat sheet as the back. Or don’t put a backing on at all and just use the front as an afghan.
  • If you have a sweatshirt with sentimental value or a special saying, cut it out and find a picture frame that fits it. Tape or tack the sweatshirt piece to the picture frame cardboard liner. Then hang your memory on the wall.
  • Old sweatshirts make good baby bibs.  Just use another bib as a pattern. Cut two bib shapes out of the sweatshirt for each bib. Place wrong sides together and sew seam binding around the edges. Leave the binding a little long on each side to tie in a bow at the back of neck.
  • If you have a hooded sweatshirt you can cut the hood off to wear on its own.  Either seam the raw edge or sew around the cut edge and let the cut edge roll.
  • You can make reusable tote bags out of sweatshirts.  Cut off the sleeves around the armhole edge.  Cut off the bottom binding.  Lay the sweatshirt flat and draw a U shape around the neck edge but slightly deeper than the neck edge. Cut through the front and back around this line.  Sew the bottom edge shut.  You now have a useable and reusable tote!  If you wish you can sew binding around the armhole and neckline edges but you don’t need to.
  • Cut sweatshirts into long strips about 1 inch wide.  Sew these cut pieces together into a long, long piece and then roll them up like a ball of yarn.  Use a Q crochet hook to crochet a rectangular rug (in rows) or a circular rug (in rounds).  There are various products sold that will prevent your rug from slipping.
  • To make a tough dog pull toy just cut a sweatshirt into thin strips.  Tie an overhand knot at one end.  Separate the remaining strips onto three groups and braid them.  Then tie another knot at the bottom.

Old sweatshirts don’t need to be consigned to the rag bag.  Transform them into beautiful and useful items.  Have fun and save money recycling your old sweatshirts.

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