Upcycling clothes: how to upcycle clothes and give them a second life 

Woman holds up a beige garment, looking at it closely.

You’re staring into your wardrobe and at that trusty pair of jeans that have been with you through thick and thin. Each stain, graze, cut and crease remind you of misadventures gone by. Remember that summertime walk when your jeans became armour against the wilderness and its many bramble bushes?  Now they’re tattered round the ankles and not quite fit for purpose. But worry not. By upcycling clothes, those jeans can live on! 

Upcycling clothes is an easy and creative way to give your old wardrobe a second life. It’s also a great example of being mindful of our impact on the planet, and a way to start living sustainably. So, if you’re wondering what to do with old clothes, read on to find out how to upcycle clothes. 

What to do with old clothes

If you're wondering, "What can I do with old clothes?", there are a few things you can consider doing instead of throwing them away. Here are examples of what to do with old clothes: 

Donate them. If you have unwanted clothes that are still in good condition, you can donate them to charity shops or shelters. Pass on the baton of adventure, allowing those clothes to embark on a new life in the hands of a charity shop bargain hunter. Read our article on how to donate your clothes to learn more about it.  

Repair them. If you’re wondering what to do with old clothes that cannot be donated because of wear and tear, for example, you could try repairing them yourself. Sometimes, a simple repair can make some clothes wearable again. That’s right, it’s time to revamp your clothes with some at-home tailoring — if your old jeans have a rip in the back pocket, sew them together with some coloured threads and make a whole new design.  

Swap them with your loved ones. Organising clothes swaps with friends, family members or with members of your community is an opportunity to keep clothes circulating to care for the planet, while also sharing fun, sociable moments together! Imagine turning your living room into an impromptu runway where friends strut their stuff in a mix-and-match fashion show. Model glamorous dresses with hiking boots, or sport vintage hats with workout fits, sloshing splashes of red wine on the carpet as you go – they all just add splashes of colour to the memories!  

Sell them. Online marketplaces are great for selling clothes that are still in good shape.  

Recycle them. Can you recycle clothing? The answer is, yes! You can drop the clothes you don’t wear anymore at clothing and textile recycling points, where they are then sorted for recycling, to help care for the planet.1

Upcycle them. Last but not least, upcycling clothing is a good way to give your old clothes a second life and incorporate sustainability in your daily life. Who’s to say your favourite torn jeans can’t become your new fashionable handbag? Without further ado, discover some upcycling ideas for clothes! 

Upcycling clothes: what is it, and why should you upcycle your clothes?

When you upcycle old clothes, you "upgrade” them into something more valuable, or transform them into a different item, that serves a new purpose.2 You can upcycle clothes into different pieces of clothing, use the fabric to create accessories, stuffed animals, and more. 

Upcycling clothes presents several benefits for you, and for the environment: 

  • It reduces the need to produce new goods, and the CO2 emissions along with pollution associated with it.3,4
  • It reduces waste that goes into landfills.3,4
  • It saves you money. No need to purchase new things when you can upcycle your old clothes! 
  • It gives your wardrobe a unique touch. When you upcycle, you’re free to personalise your clothes the way you want to, or create new, original items. 
  • It’s a fun and creative activity. You can even upcycle clothes with loved ones as a crafty and wholesome bonding activity. Don your old gardening gloves, and start squeezing those dye bottles (with more enthusiasm than accuracy). You’re all sure to be giggling as vibrant splashes of colour land on fabrics, faces, and maybe even the odd curious pet!


Getting covered in glitter, paint and splashing dye on the floor is all part of the fun. And whether it’s a little or a lot, with Plenty Flexisheets, you choose what you use, so you’ll always have the perfect amount of kitchen roll to mop up the remnants of your creative endeavour. Winner of Product of the Year 2024*, Plenty Flexisheet rolls are 50% longer**, meaning more sheets per roll. Save more, waste less. What’s not to love!

How to upcycle clothes

Repurposing and upcycling clothes is easier than you might think. You don't need to be a sewing expert to get started! Here are some simple upcycling ideas for clothes:

1. Transform your t-shirts

Old t-shirts can be upcycled into all kind of items, from crop tops, to dresses, to pillow cases, and even tote bags! Here’s our easy step-by-step guide to upcycle your t-shirts by turning them into tote bags (no sewing needed!): 

  1. Turn your t-shirt inside out. 
  2. Cut the sleeves off. 
  3. Cut the neckline area. This will form the straps of your tote bag. 
  4. Cut the bottom of your t-shirt into fringes. 
  5. Tie your fringes into a first row of knots. Tie them by pair – knot your first and second fringe together, then your third and fourth together, etc.
  6. Tie your fringes into a second row of knots. The first row will leave some holes, that need to be closed. To do so, knot the sets of fringes that have already been tied into knots, together. Do it until all of the strands are tied. 
  7. Flip your t-shirt back, and there, you have it! A tote bag made of an old t-shirt.

2. Upcycle old jeans

Are you looking for more upcycling ideas for clothes? Jeans are a fantastic material for upcycling. You can turn them into stylish denim bags, patchwork shorts, use them for home decor projects... Or why not make a fashionable pencil case out of it? Here’s how to make a denim pencil case, to upcycle old jeans: 

  1. Cut out two rectangles in your jeans measuring roughly 10.5 x 5 inches (or slightly longer than the length of your longest pencil!). We recommend cutting one of your rectangles where the back pocket of the jeans is, to add a stylish extra pocket in your pencil case! 
  2. Sew the two rectangles together, but keep one side unsewn, to form a pouch. Make sure that you sew it inside out. 
  3. Flip the pencil case from inside-out to hide the stitches. 
  4. Either sew a zipper or a button or two to the open side, depending on your preferences, so you can open and close your pencil case. Your denim pencil case is done!

What to do with unwanted clothes: give them a makeover!

Do you have an old sweater, or a pair of trousers or shoes that don’t match your style anymore and that you don’t want to wear? Would giving these clothing items a makeover change your mind? Accessorising unwanted clothes with embroideries, acrylic paint and glitters, or by sticking gems onto them with fabric glue can give them a brand-new look, and a second life! And hey, if you’ve accessorised the floor, your hands, and the kitchen table in the process, don’t sweat it. Your newly bejewelled kitchen table actually looks quite... cool?


Ask the kids in your household to help you accessorise the clothes! They are guaranteed to enjoy this creative upcycling activity. And make sure to have some Flexisheets at hand to wipe off any splashes of glue, paint, or glitter.

Repurposing and upcycling clothes isn’t just about saving money or being fashionable – it's about taking responsibility for our planet. By engaging in repurposing clothes, we are striving to achieve a sustainable lifestyle, and taking one step further towards a sustainable future. Small actions can make a difference, so let’s all do our part, starting with giving our clothes a second life! Wear those stripes of technicoloured paint, gloopy glue, glistening glitter and vibrant dye as medals won in the fight against fast fashion!

*Winner General Household Category (Survey of 8,000 people in UK & ROI). 

**Length of roll when compared to Plenty Original. 


1 Recycle Now, “Clothing and textile”

2 Habitat for Humanity, “What is upcycling?”

3 Comfort, “Upcycling clothes”

4 Heal the Planet, “Upcycle”

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