35 Free Crafty Ideas For Upcycling Unwanted Stuff Into Cute and Useful Items


Don’t you detest throwing things away when they might still be useful? Making new things out of old saves money, is good for the environment, and helps us preserve precious memories. Here are 35 fun and easy ideas for upcycled sewing projects you might not have thought of. After reading this, you’ll probably be heading to the thrift store to pick up any of the upcycling materials you don’t already have!

Easy No-Sew Sock Gnomes

Photo credit: Gluesticks

I’m swooning! And running to search my orphan sock basket for socks that I can turn into sock gnomes. This might be the number one upcycling idea ever.

Pretty Vases from Yogurt Bottles

Photo credit: Sum of Their Stories

Turn empty yogurt bottles into beautiful vases. Julie teaches how to make real pressed flowers and use them to make these delicate and one of a kind home flower vases. They are truly special.


Photo credit: Easy Peasy Creative Ideas

Don’t toss that too-small sweater! Make yourself some cute slippers. Learn how with this free tutorial.

Fandom Art Upcycle

Photo credit: Sum of Their Stories

I’m geeking out about these upcycled art pieces and totally planning to make these for Christmas gifts this year. Won’t my kids die to see Star Wars ships in a Florida landscape painting? I’ll be hitting the thrift stores weekly to find the right pieces to use.

Denim Wine Tote

Photo credit: A Spoonful of Sugar

Everyone loves to upcycle jeans because denim only looks better with age! Spoonful of Sugar shares how to make this darling upcycled denim wine tote, but I think the tote would be great for lots of other things too.

Jean Quilts

Photo credit: VOLGAVOLGA / Shutterstock.com

One of the most popular materials for upcycling projects is fabric from used jeans! To lots of people, jeans only look better with age and wear. But what can be made from the fabric of jeans that no longer fit or have gone out of style?

How about a quilt? Denim quilts are warm and durable. They are also beautiful and easy to sew. To eliminate frustration, remember to use a denim needle. Denim needles are stronger and sharper than the average sewing machine needle.

Kids Travel Game from Plastic Container

Photo credit: Mary Martha Mama

When my kids were little, they loved having games to make road trips go by faster. Cat has an awesome idea to turn a Chick-fil-A container into an I-spy travel game. You probably already have everything in your house (except the container) to make this. Don’t forget to hot-glue it shut!

How to Sew a Cat Bed from a Fleece Hoodie or Sweater

Photo credit: Swoodson Says

Brilliant! You won’t believe the clever way Stephanie turns a fleece sweater into a cat bed. Everyone with a cat needs to try this.

Candle Jar Pincushion

Photo credit: Sum of Their Stories

It always seems a shame to throw away a perfectly good candle jar. Now I won’t! This upcycled pincushion is beautiful and something I would totally use.

Shirt Cuff Button Pouches

Photo credit: Heather Handmade

Look at the cute button pouches you can make from shirt cuffs! This is a great tutorial for teaching kids to sew. They’ll have an adorable pouch when they’re done, and no one has to sew a buttonhole or attach a button!

Cute Tote with a Jean Pocket

Photo credit: Netrun78 / Shutterstock.com

We all love the pockets on our favorite old jeans! The pocket can be removed with scissors or a seam ripper and sewn to a different item, like a bag. This project works with inexpensive new canvas bags or a bag that you make yourself from a simple bag tutorial.

Upcycled Magazine Rack into a Doll Bed

Photo credit: Patchwork Posse

I don’t do very many furniture upcycle projects, but here’s one that’d definitely my style. After turning an old magazine rack into a darling doll bed, I would have so much fun sewing the doll bedding!

Glitter Pencil Pouch

Photo credit: See Kate Sew

Use leftover vinyl from a package of bed sheets to make this sparkly glitter vinyl pouch! All you need is the upcycled vinyl, a zipper, and your favorite glitter!

Nostalgic Quilts and Soft Toys from Baby Clothes

Photo credit: Rodica Vasiliev / Shutterstock.com

Precious baby clothes that were outgrown too fast have so many uses! Cut hearts out to make an applique baby quilt. You can also use hearts or other shapes to make soft plush toys.

Upcycle a Tee Shirt into a Backpack

Photo credit: Heather Handmade

This upcycling project is perfect if you are learning to sew. Turn an unwanted tee shirt into an incredible drawstring backpack. Kids, teenagers, and adults all use them!

Sweet Smelling Sachets from Fabric and Potpourri

Photo credit: Oleksandr Rybitskiy / Shutterstock.com

Cut small, pretty pieces of fabric in simple shapes like circles and hearts. These can make sachets filled with fragrant potpourri.

T-shirt Tote

Photo credit: Gluesticks

Did you know you can make a bag from a t-shirt with very little sewing? Learn how to make a 5-minute shopping tote or book bag in this tutorial.

Washcloths from Gently Used Towels

Photo credit: SewCanShe.com

If an unwanted towel still has good fabric in it, cut that fabric into squares, sew a cute piece of fabric to the other side, and you have darling washcloths in any size you want to make! This tutorial shows how.

DIY Reusable Makeup Wipes

Photo credit: sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock.com

Say goodbye to single-use makeup wipes! Use the same tutorial for upcycled washcloths, but cut smaller 4-5” squares to make reusable makeup cloths.

Tee Shirt into a Dress

Photo credit: SewCanShe.com

Any tee shirt can turn into a cute dress with a little bit of elastic for the waist and another shirt, skirt, or some fabric for the bottom of the dress. Get inspiration from this free tutorial.

Sweater Mittens

Photo credit: SewCanShe.com

There are so many uses for used sweaters! One of my favorites is mittens. Throw a sweater with wool fibers into the washer and dryer, and it will become felted. Felted fabric makes warm and water-resistant mittens. Here’s a free pattern for darling kids’ mittens.

Felted Wool Hat

Photo credit: Matagonca / Shutterstock.com

Let’s not forget that you can create other items from wool sweaters that you intentionally (or unintentionally) felted. This includes hats, bowls, and small toys.

Shirt Sleeve into Plastic Bag Holder

Photo credit: Heather Handmade

Does your husband tease you about bags in bags under your sink? Don’t worry! Turn one of his shirt sleeves into a bag holder for a cute kitchen accessory. He will never notice the missing sleeve.

Turn the Rest of the Shirt into a Cute Girl’s Skirt

Photo credit: Heather Handmade

If your husband does happen to notice the missing sleeve, you can turn the rest of the shirt into a cute little skirt for his favorite daughter or granddaughter. It will all be worth it!

Rope Covered Bin

Photo credit: Easy Peasy Creative Ideas

Turn an unwanted bin into a decorative basket with some inexpensive rope. I love how this tutorial helps you turn something unwanted into something usable and pretty!

Portable Pressing Table from TV Tray

Photo credit: Amy Smart / Diary of a Quilter

How many times have you seen those old-fashioned TV trays at the thrift store? Grab one to turn it into a portable pressing table to have next to your sewing machine. Amy at Diary of a Quilter has an easy tutorial showing how.

Patchwork Quilt from Clothing Pieces

Photo credit: VOLGAVOLGA / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes called a memory quilt, a simple patchwork quilt made from meaningful clothing items is a treasure. Here’s an easy patchwork quilt tutorial to get you started.

Patchwork Sweater Quilt

Photo credit: Swoodson Says

Wrap up in a beautiful blanket sewn from sweaters! This would be a gorgeous way to keep everyone warm during holiday Christmas movies.

Bean Bags or Boo Boo Bags

Photo credit: Tack-Ma / Shutterstock.com

When we were kids, our moms made bean bags. Old fashioned bean bags are still in style, they are just called by other names now. A small one is a juggling bag. Fill them with rice, keep them in the freezer, and it’s a boo-boo bag. Warm it up for a therapeutic heating bag. Fill them with a coarser material, like grain, to play cornhole.

Rag Rug

Photo credit: SewCanShe.com

Making a braided rag rug requires many fabric strips. It’s easy to cut or tear these strips from new or old fabric. Sources of fabric that can be torn into long strips include larger pieces of clothing, sheets, or curtains that are no longer usable.

Rope Bowl

Photo credit: SewCanShe.com

A beautiful rope bowl requires shorter strips of fabric that can be cut from sentimental clothing pieces or other items we don’t want to throw away. The only other material required is an inexpensive clothesline rope.

Earrings from a Toothpaste Tube

Photo credit: Mary Martha Mama

No one will know these beautiful earrings came from a plastic toothpaste tube! Cat shares a step-by-step tutorial showing you exactly how to make upcycled earrings.

Sweater pillow

Photo credit: Photoanatomy / Shutterstock.com

Pillows sewn from a button-down cardigan are not only stylish but super easy to sew!

  • Button up the cardigan and turn it inside out.
  • Mark a square on the cardigan the same size as a pillow form.
  • Pin and then sew along the marked lines.
  • Cut away the extra fabric outside of the sewn lines.
  • Finally, open up the buttons to insert your pillow form!

Vintage Lace Scarves

Photo credit: SewCanShe.com

Vintage lace can be beautiful again on so many projects. Sew lace to the ends of a store-bought or handmade scarf.

Burlap and Lace Pencil Roll

Photo credit: SewCanShe.com

Another way to repurpose vintage lace is to pair it with a contrasting material like burlap or canvas that can be recycled from other items. This burlap and lace pencil roll is especially pretty. Use lace on top of burlap to make pretty table runners, pillows, and wall art too!

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Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂