Upcycling is so much more than just turning old junk into “new” usable products. As a process of maximizing the embodied energy of objects, upcycling teaches us to be more practical, resourceful, creative, and mindful with respect to our waste.
While the culture of modern consumerism makes it difficult for many to get into upcycling, I hope that more people realize that we really don’t have to keep buying new things to be happy. To do this, we have to recognize the potential of the things that we already have, and to turn these objects into something better and more useful.
We have to learn to be more thoughtful about what we throw out because what we think is “our” waste isn’t just ours. Sure, it may seem like cutting up old shirts won’t teach you all of that, but it’s the accumulation of these little projects and decisions that changes the way we do things on a grander scale.
I recently cleaned out my closet and apparently I have over 25 oversized org and school shirts. Even if it’s way past summer, the days have still been very hot, way too hot to wear these shirts as they are.
So I’ve decided to cut up most of my shirts and share this project, and hopefully convince some of you to make full use of your things as well. (There’s a male version of the tank top too, which I show at the end of this piece.)
- Oversized shirt (I used my old P.E. shirt)
Time: 15-20 minutes
- Cut away the crew neck and bottom hem (put this away because you’ll need it later). =)
- Cut away the sleeves.
- Fold the shirt in half (vertically).
- Decide how thick you want the strap to be and cut down from there.
- Cut straight until the chest area (I didn’t do this in the second photo so I had to fix it).
- Curve until you cut the sleeve off
- Clean up the edges & make the necessary adjustments (ex. lower neckline, larger armholes, thinner straps, higher hemline, etc.).
- Flip the shirt over and cut a deep V for the racerback.
- Take the bottom hem that you cut off and cut the seams.
- Stretch it like crazy (I didn’t do this so it ended up too thick).
- Knot the string about 2-3 inches above the bottom of the V.
- Wrap the string all the way down and back up to knot the two ends together. Cut off the loose ends.
- You may also choose to wrap the string all the way down and double knot it there (don’t go back up to meet the first knot).
And here’s the “douche edition” of the tank top, for all the dudes!
1. Old shirt
3. Pencil (optional)
Remove the crew neck. Since this is a men’s tank top, you won’t want to cut the back part too deeply. So you’ll have to cut the front and back part separately:
- Start by cutting at the stitch where the front and back part of the crew neck meet (see photo).
- Cut off the front part of the crew neck.
- Cut off the back part of the crew neck.
- Cutting off the sleeves:
- Fold the shirt in half and make sure the sleeves are aligned (see photo).
- Start cutting straight down from the top.
- Only start curving when you reach the chest area.
- Adjust the neckline & strap width if necessary.
- (Optional) Cut the bottom hem of the shirt.
Tip: You may want to try on the tank top & use a pencil to mark the adjustments before cutting.
And that’s it!
Sam Dizon (@dizoncommasam) is a part-time sustainability researcher, part-time blogger, and full-time lover of the world. She firmly believes in small acts of kindness, world peace, cheap dates, and the efficiency of bullet points. Follow her side-street adventures here: samthingtodo.wordpress.com.