How to Upcycle Your Kid’s Old Clothes

Eleanor King

Did you know that over 84% of donated clothing actually ends up in landfills and incinerators? While donating your kid’s old clothing to thrift stores might seem like the right thing to do, many stores are unable to handle the massive amount of clothing being donated. There are many other options that produce less waste.

A simple solution is to upcycle your kid’s clothing into useful items that can be kept and used for years to come. If you find that you need to donate your old clothing or other goods, check out our list of environmentally-friendly places that accept donations.

Baby and Toddler Clothes


Many parents know the feeling of having to buy a whole new wardrobe for our kids every time a new season arises due to their rapid growth. Not only can this create a monetary struggle, but it creates even more clothing waste. To tackle this issue practically, start a clothing swap with other parents of young kids. Hand-me-downs can be a lifesaver for many families and keep you from overbuying. You can even swap back and forth multiple times when new bundles of joy join the family. 

Stuffing and Padding


At a certain age, you might find more ripped jeans and destroyed shirts than anything able to be sewn together or truly upcycled. Rather than throwing out these tattered textiles, consider using them as stuffing or padding for practical items. Shredded cloth is the perfect filler for pillows, stuffed animals, pet beds, and more!

Stuffed Animals 


For younger kids, creating clothes for their stuffed animals or even creating new stuffed animals is a great way to reuse clothing that may no longer be able to be updated to fit them. Sew Mr. Bear a new vest, or make him a bear family with patchwork teddies. 

Quilts 


After several years of summer camps, school field days, and special events, you might find yourself with quite the pile of shirts that no longer fit or are no longer worn by your kids. A fun way to upcycle these while keeping some of the memories alive is to make a quilt. Cut out the center squares of the shirts and sew together to make a patchwork of memories, then reuse the extra fabric as stuffing or padding. 

Pillows 


One of the easiest ways to upcycle old shirts and sweaters is to turn them into throw pillows. There are many super simple designs out there to help you create the perfect custom cushion. These can be stuffed with old clothes that have been cut into smaller pieces to make a comfortable and plush pillow.

Hot Pads 


These easy-to-make kitchen must-haves are a great way to use up smaller pieces of fabric from your kid’s clothing. While it’s easy enough to cut up a shirt and layer it, you can get extra creative with weaving hot pads or even creating insulated ones with thicker fabrics.

Decorations 


It’s never been easier to create seasonal decorations using old clothes. Old t-shirts can be turned into a fun pom-pom garland for the holidays, jeans can be made into patriotic pennants, and even skirts can be transformed into festive wreaths. 

Tote Bags


Whether you need more reusable grocery bags or a new set of bags for the beach, creating totes with old clothes is an easy way to have the carrying capacity you need. Take an old t-shirt and make a new crossbody, or create a trendy denim tote using old jeans.

Mom pro-tip: Save the pockets to use as organizer pockets on the insides (and even outsides) of your bags. No more digging for your phone! 

Pet Bed


Make sure your furry friends are comfortable with soft and cuddly pet beds made from old fleeces and sweatshirts. Stuff them with old fabric to make the ultimate cozy corner for your dog or cat. They’ll thank you later with plenty of snuggles and kisses. 

Face Masks 


With the current state of the world, having an ample amount of face masks to keep your family safe is important. Old fabric can easily be transformed into colorful masks that are sized just right for every member of the family. Sew in a filter pocket and wash regularly for maximum protection.