Ultimate Guide to Recycled Pants Crafts

Too many pants crowding your closet? You could recycle them to make decorative pillows or a fun bag.
Too many pants crowding your closet? You could recycle them to make decorative pillows or a fun bag.
iStockphoto.com/Dan Moore

Ever outgrow a pair of pants, but just don't have the heart to give them away? Or maybe there's a pair that's been hanging out in the back of your closet for so long that current trends have left them behind, even though you can't seem to do that just yet. It's an inevitable aspect of life that many items of clothes are meant to spend only a few short years in your closet. Luckily, there are ways to hold on to those treasured trousers and use them for other means in your life.

Recycled pants crafts have been a common trend for arts and crafts lovers for a while now, but the need to recycle a favored piece of clothing is now becoming a more common occurrence for the average person. In the recent boom in sustainability and recycling, using old clothes to make unique items has hit the market and spawned numerous advocacy groups.

Creating new items out of recycled clothing is smart and economical since the cost doesn't go much beyond your time, as you've already got the materials in your possession [source: Daniels]. Though you might find your time limited, in a struggling economy, finding new uses for recycled clothes can be very worthwhile.

Who needs a fancy pillow that costs $100? And why spend double that amount on a Gucci purse? With simple and quick steps, you can turn your favorite old pants into a new pillow or purse that will fit your personal style. The best part is that when somebody asks you where you bought it, you can reply with a simple, "It's an original, one-of-a-kind by a new designer."

Take off those slacks and get ready to craft -- read on to learn how to make a recycled pants pillow.

Recycled Pants Pillows

So your favorite trousers are no longer trendy, or maybe you've outgrown that perfect pair of pedal pushers. Either way, you have a spare pair of pants that you bought because you loved the feel of the fabric or its bold design. Instead of trashing those cherished chinos, try this.

A common craft that can be created from recycled pants is pillows, and depending on the style of pillow you are looking for, pants can be the perfect material.

While pants pillows can be created in a variety of shapes and sizes using all sorts of materials, you don't need to be an expert or have advanced tools to create some basic, square pillows successfully. All you need are the pants, some matching thread, scissors, a sewing machine and some polyester fiber filling or chopped foam.

To make a square pants pillow, first decide how big you want your pillows to be. Cut two even squares from the fabric, leaving a half-inch (1.3 cm) margin around the size of the pillow for the seams. Align the fabric squares on top of each other. Make sure that the sides of each square of fabric you actually want to see when the pillow is finished are facing each other. Think of it like an inside-out pillowcase. Sew around three edges of the squares. Be sure to use a half-inch (1.3 cm) seam allowance, which is the space between the seam and the edge of the fabric. Next, sew only half of the fourth side of the squares -- you need this "hole" to turn the pillow right side out and stuff it. Once you've turned your pillow right side out, start stuffing. Don't try to cram a large wad in all at once, instead insert small clumps and try to blend those clumps together inside the pillow form as you go. The more stuffing you insert, the thicker and harder it will be. Once you've reached the desired level of firmness, hand stitch the rest of the pillow cover closed, and be sure to tie a tough knot that will not come undone [source: Rollins].

Once you have square pillows under your pillow-making belt, you can branch out to shapes that are more creative by using patterns. The process of actually making the pillow will be basically the same. You can also try dressing up your pillows by embroidering designs on the pants fabric or embellishing the fabric with beads or fabric paints.

Now that you have enough throw pillows, you might need something more utilitarian. Continue reading to discover a multi-room use for your pants.

Recycled Pants Rags

While making pillows from recycled pants is a resourceful skill, some people are perfectly equipped with pillows galore. So what is one to do with those surplus slacks? Turn your riches into rags -- recycled pants rags, that is.

While some people may go the old, ordinary route of cutting up a pair of pants to make irregular-shaped cleaning towels, there are new means to get the house clean and to do it in style.

Creating recycled pants rags can be done in many ways, and some are more complex than others are. The simplest is to cut sections from a pair of pants, and then sew them together to form a double-layered rag.

For those wanting to spice up the cleaning process, follow these quick, simple steps to produce a pant rag that will be the envy of all your friends and neighbors (OK, maybe not all of them …):

  • Cut the pants fabric into long, thin scraps -- about 1 inch wide (2.5 cm) by 6 inches long (15.2 cm).
  • Braid or crochet the scraps of fabric together to make a rag [source: ThriftyFun].

Making recycled pants rags is quick and easy, and you can even get the kids to join in on the fun. Since they'll be working with scissors, you'll want to supervise the children closely as they cut strips of fabric for you to braid or crochet, or cut large squares for ready-made rags. And who knows, they may be so excited about their new creations that they'll even chip in with the house cleaning.

Now, what about a recycled pant craft that you can use outside the home? Read on to learn how to make a craft you can take with you.

Recycled Pants Bags

Designer handbags are expensive -- face it, not everyone can or wants to spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on something that's basically a fancy tote bag. Seriously, a fabric grocery sack will do the same job. But of course, it won't be as stylish. For those of you who do care about personal style and the environment, here's a solution for you -- try your hand at creating an original handbag out of an old pair of pants.

Recycled pants bags have been around for years. Countless young girls can be spotted daily sporting denim purses. But old blue jeans aren't the only material that can be used to make pants bags. And this project is simple, so even a beginner can create something worth carrying.

In order to make a pants bag, you will need a pair of pants (or more, if you're being super creative), a sewing machine, matching thread and a pair of scissors.

To create the purse, start by cutting off the pant legs directly across the crotch area. Turn the pants inside out, and then sew up the area you just cut, leaving the waistband open. Make sure to leave a half-inch (1.3 cm) seam allowance. You can cut strips from the leg area of the pants to make the straps for the bag, or you can use fabric from another pair of pants for the straps. Sew the straps about 2 inches (5 cm) from the top of the pants, so the straps are sewn tightly into the bag. When you have the straps sewn the way you want, turn your bag right side out and enjoy the masterpiece you have created [source: Daniels].

To add some personality or flare, you can decorate your bag. The options for decorating are almost limitless. You can attach glitter, patches, decals or decorative pins to the bag itself. You could embroider a pattern on the bag or straps. Or you could use ribbon, yarn or strings intertwined around the straps of the bag. Getting creative gives the bag a signature look, and distinguishes it as a one-of-a-kind.

Whether you're looking for unique decor, a way to spice up spring-cleaning or want to hit the town in style, recycled pants crafts will get the job done for you. Just remember that outgrowing a pair of pants doesn't have to be dreadful, especially when the recycling can be so much fun.

For more recycled crafts ideas and projects, check out the links on the following page.

Related HowStuffWorks Links


  • Daniels, Donna. "Make Cloth Bags from Recycled Clothes." Associated Content. 3/6/09. (Accessed 4/5/09) http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1525489/make_cloth_bags.html
  • DIY Network. "Crafts: Clothing." (Accessed 4/5/09)http://www.diynetwork.com/diy/cr_clothing/
  • Pattern Review. "Sewing Tips and Techniques." (Accessed 4/5/09) http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/review/readallreviews.pl?ReviewType=t
  • Rollins, Gray. "Learn How To Make A Pillow." All Free Crafts. 2008. (Accessed 4/5/09) http://www.allfreecrafts.com/sewing/pillow.shtml
  • Sewing. "Sewing Tips." (Accessed 4/5/09)http://www.sewing.com/site/techniques.aspx
  • Thrifty Fun. "Recycled Clothing Crafts." 11/22/06. (Accessed 4/5/09) http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf693151.tip.html
  • World Wide Visions. "Sewing." (Accessed 4/5/09)http://www.wwvisions.com/craftbb/sewing.html