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18 Upcycled Men’s Shirt Ideas

If you follow the blog on Instagram you may have heard about my the personal challenge I set myself to upcycle two of my husband’s old dress shirts.  

It turns out there is a lot of fabric in two men’s shirts! (He’s neck size 16.5.  So he is a big guy, but not the largest either!)  

So it took me quite some time and quite a lot of projects to finally say I had fully upcycled a men’s dress shirt (well two).  I had so much fun finding creative ways to use all this fabric, even down to the thin strips left over. 

men's shirts for upcycling
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Here is what I made with them:

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Tote Bag

This is where the idea for this personal challenge of mine started.  

I decided to make a tote bag using two of my husband’s old ill fitting dress shirts.  

Before I started the tote bag I assumed it would take up most of the fabric of at least the stripy shirt.  

But when I was finished I still seemed to have an awful lot left – so I thought ‘I’ll challenge myself to use up ALL of the rest of these two shirts….

Little did I know then just how long this challenge would take me!

Or just how many things you can actually make out of a man’s shirt!

Upcycled Men’s Shirt:  Teddy Bear

upcycled mens shirt teddy bear
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Next I decided to make a little Teddy Bear.

I didn’t have a pattern or anything but I found a bit of clipart online of the outline of a bear and printed it out on A4 paper.

I used that as my ‘pattern piece’ and cut out 4 pieces – two pieces of the stripy shirt and two pieces of fusible interfacing.

I then improvised the other shapes. So for example using the outline of a little container I keep safety pins in to cut out the blue fabric for his tummy.

upcycled men's shirt teddy bear
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

I added the eyes (buttons), ears and nose (embroidery thread) before I put the fabric right sides together and sewed  a straight stitch along the edges (leaving a gap to turn him inside out and stuff him (I used some stuffing from an old cushion I don’t like anymore).  Then I stitched up the opening by hand. 

I asked folk on Instagram and Facebook to name him for me.  I got a number of great suggestions one of which was Eric – so that’s his new name:  Eric the Bear.

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Pouches

upcycled mens shirt zippered pouch
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

I’ve been practicing making different kinds of pouches lately (I’m just newly back into sewing after about a decade’s break – can you tell?).

So I made one zippered pouch (using fusible fleece to give it some shape) and one smaller button up pouch using the wrist area of the stripy shirt (so the little button that closes the sleeve above the cuff is what closes it.)

upcycled men's shirt loyalty card pouch
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

The button up one is a bit floppy if I’m honest as I didn’t reinforce it with anything but it’s okay for keeping loyalty cards that I don’t use often in one place and not bulking out my wallet!

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Ladies Collar Accessories

upcycled mens shirt collars
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

So it’s pretty obvious which bit of the shirts I made these from!  This is a great way to use the collars by decorating them with faux pearls and some left over lace.  I think they will look nice as an accessory with a plain black top or dress.  What do you think?

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Bow Tie Bracelet

bow tie bracelet from a man's shirt cuff
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

I made this super simple Bow Tie Bracelet out of one of the stripy cuffs.

To make it you just pinch the centre of the cuff together to form the bow tie shape and secure it from behind with a few stitches.

I think it’s pretty cute and I love how quick it was to make!

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Baby Bib

baby bib from a man's shirt
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

I still had plenty of fabric left at this point, so I decided I needed to make some bigger things.

I thought it would be really cute to do a little bib for my youngest son that looked like a shirt and tie. I didn’t use a tutorial though and the project suffered for it because the proportions were totally off.

It looks vaguely like a shirt and tie but not so much like a bib! It’s found it’s way into the dressing up box though!

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Kid’s Apron

How to make a kids apron from a mans shirt
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

I used the sleeve of the blue shirt and some scraps of the stripy shirt to make this apron for my 3 year old. I was really happy with the end result of this upcycle project and you can find step-by-step instructions in the full tutorial here.

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Macrame Style Wall Hanging

diy macrame wall art
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

The next project I tackled with my never ending pile of men’s shirt scraps was a Macrame Style Wall Hanging.

I used strips of the shirt and a branch from my garden to make a simple version of those lovely wall hangings you see everywhere these days.

You can find the full tutorial here.

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Bookmarks

I made two different kind’s of bookmarks with the material from the shirts.

I made some corner bookmarks from the cuff of the blue shirt and I made a fabric scrap bookmark with the stripy one.

corner bookmarks from upcycled men's shirt cuff
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

They were both pretty simple to make. See the image above for how to make the corner bookmarks.

You can visit our new sister blog – Scrap Fabric Love – for the step-by-step tutorial on how to make Scrap Fabric Bookmarks like the blue stripy one above out of teeny tiny scrap fabric trimmings.

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Key Chains

keychains made from men's shirts
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

These probably aren’t my best work, but I was basically playing around with different scraps and making a few keychains. There are some much more impressive scrap fabric keychains in this article here.

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Chapstick Holder

men's shirt chapstick holder
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

With the other blue cuff, I made a little chapstick holder. Not the best sewing job but a cool idea and it fits a chapstick fine. I’m either going to attach it to a key chain or possibly attach it on a loop to the inside of one of my purses. Saves hunting around at the bottom of mybag!

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Pot Holders

pot holders made from upcycled men's shirts
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

I made four scrappy pot holders out of smaller scraps of the two shirts.

None of them are exactly square but I think they turned out okay and they gave me a chance to try out the new walking foot I just bought for my sewing machine.

I used insul-bright for the inside along with some cotton batting.

Upcycled Men’s Shirt: Statement Necklace

statement necklace

This last one was made in desperation at the end of my personal challenge to myself when I was thinking to myself ‘how do I still have scraps left over!’!

I started with a slightly tarnished collar shaped necklace that I’ve had for ages. I always liked the shape of it but because it was just costume jewelry it wasn’t looking its best anymore.

I took my scraps of fabric and wrapped them around the existing necklace pieces and sewed them to the back. Very similar to how I made these fabric wrapped bangles.

Reflections on my Personal Challenge

There were times when I was making all of these projects when I thought to myself – will I ever get to the end of this?!

But now that I’m out the other side I feel like it was a really good exercise to remind me, and hopefully you too, that we really can do so much with what we already have in our homes.

I am by no means the most eco-conscious person but I do really hate seeing anything go to waste without having it’s full potential realized….even my husband’s worn out old shirts!

If you liked any of the ideas in this post and you want to save it for later, don’t forget to Pin it!

Top Tips:

  • Try to incorporate as many of the existing buttons and button holes as possible.
  • You can use left over batting to stuff the teddy bear.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where can I find old shirts if If I don’t have any?

If you don’t happen to have any old shirts you can surely find old clothes at a garage sale or thrift store.

What other old clothes can I use?

You can give new life to a little girl’s dress, women’s blouses or any old shirt you can find.

upcycled men's shirts

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