Upcycled Clothing Quilts

Creating Quilts from Upcycled Clothing

Every year, the United States generates 17 million tons of textiles, but only about 14.7% of them get recycled. This leads to a significant amount of waste that takes hundreds of years to decompose and contributes to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. As quilters, we can contribute to protecting the planet by finding creative ways to reduce, reuse, and upcycle fabric for our quilting projects. By transforming old garments into unique keepsakes, we can promote sustainability and give new life to items that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Key Takeaways:

  • Upcycling clothing for quilting is a sustainable approach to repurposing textiles and reducing fabric waste.
  • By transforming old garments into quilts, we can create unique keepsakes with a personal touch.
  • Quilting with upcycled clothing promotes sustainability and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Exploring creative ways to transform garments can inspire new ideas and designs for quilting projects.
  • Joining the sustainable quilting community provides resources, support, and inspiration for upcycling clothing in quilts.

Now that we understand the importance of upcycled clothing quilts for sustainability and transforming garments into unique keepsakes, let’s explore some practical ideas to get started on our sustainable quilting journey.

Reduce and Reuse with a Scrappy Quilt

When it comes to reducing and reusing fabric, creating a scrappy quilt is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to do so. Instead of buying new fabric, why not make use of the fabric you already have in your stash? Not only does this help reduce fabric waste, but it also adds a unique and personalized touch to your quilting projects.

If you don’t have enough of a single fabric to create a quilt, don’t worry. You can always turn to your scraps and create a scrappy quilt. Consider using scraps that are roughly in the same color family or mix solids and prints of the same color to achieve a cohesive and visually appealing design. By mixing and matching different fabrics, you can create a quilt that is full of character and charm.

When working with scraps, it’s important to sew smaller scraps together to create larger pieces that fit the size you need for your quilt. This allows you to make use of even the tiniest fabric remnants, reducing waste and maximizing your fabric resources. Whether you’re piecing together squares, triangles, or strips, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating a beautiful and unique scrappy quilt.

To illustrate the beauty and creativity of scrappy quilts, take a look at the vibrant example below:

This stunning scrappy quilt showcases the use of multiple fabrics in a harmonious color palette. The mix of solids and prints adds visual interest and texture, resulting in a quilt that is both visually captivating and environmentally friendly.

By reducing and reusing fabric through scrappy quilting, you not only make a positive impact on the environment but also create a one-of-a-kind quilt that tells a unique story. So gather your scraps, unleash your creativity, and create a scrappy quilt that reflects your personal style and values.

Evaluate Old Clothes for Quilting

Before discarding old clothes, take a closer look at the fabric and read the tag. If the item is made from 100% cotton, you can salvage it for your next quilt. Items like button-down shirts, chino pants, or printed cotton skirts are excellent sources of sturdy cotton fabrics for quilts. Keep in mind that cotton fabrics with stretch may be trickier to work with, so focus on sturdier cotton fabrics.

salvage fabric

Repurpose Those Teeny Tiny Scraps

Don’t throw away those itty-bitty fabric scraps that result from trimming fabric. Instead, save them in a jar, bin, or bag near your cutting table. When you have enough, use them to repurpose fabric scraps into other useful items.

Confetti-Looking Scraps for Festive Decor

If you have a collection of colorful, confetti-looking scraps, why not create festive decor? Fill clear glass ornaments with these tiny fabric pieces, and hang them on your Christmas tree or use them as decorative accents around your home. They add a whimsical touch and give new life to even the smallest fabric scraps.

Create a Pincushion for Your Sewing Projects

A pincushion is a practical and fun project to make with those fabric scraps. Choose a small container or sew a simple fabric pouch, fill it with the scraps, and you’ll have a convenient pincushion always within reach during your sewing sessions. Plus, it’s a great way to showcase your favorite fabrics!


Make a Cozy Throw Pillow

Transform your fabric scraps into a unique and cozy throw pillow for your living room or bedroom. Choose a simple patchwork design or get creative with different shapes and sizes. The variety of fabric scraps will add texture and color to your decor, making it truly one-of-a-kind.

Create a Comfy Dog Bed

Your furry friend deserves a comfortable place to rest too! Sewing together fabric scraps can create a soft and cozy dog bed. Mix and match different patterns and colors to make it extra charming. Your dog will love their personalized bed, and you’ll love repurposing those fabric scraps in an eco-friendly way.

Reuse Old Sheets & Throw Blankets

When it comes to quilting, don’t underestimate the potential of your old sheets and throw blankets. Basic sheet sets, especially those made from 100% cotton with a low thread count, can be excellent sources of fabric for your quilting projects. Smaller sheets can be cut apart, providing you with a variety of quilting fabric, while larger sheets can be repurposed as a full quilt back.

furry and fleece throw blankets

But it’s not just sheets that can be reused. Take a look at your collection of throw blankets, particularly those made from soft, furry, or fuzzy materials like fleece. These can also make great quilt backs, adding warmth and texture to your finished piece.

Keep in mind that to obtain a workable piece of fabric from a throw blanket, you may need to carefully take apart the front and back layers using a seam ripper. Once you have the raw fabric, you can incorporate it into your quilt design, creating a cozy and unique piece that combines the nostalgic comfort of old sheets and throw blankets with the artistry of quilting.

Make Frankenbatting

If you don’t have a large enough piece of batting for your quilt, there’s no need to rush out and buy more. Instead, you can easily create your own frankenbatting by stitching together smaller scraps of batting. This ingenious technique allows you to make the most out of your batting scraps and achieve the desired size for your quilt.

To make frankenbatting, start by lining up two pieces of batting with their edges flush. Choose a neutral thread color and use a zigzag stitch to sew across the two pieces, securing them together. Repeat this process with additional scraps of batting until you have a larger piece that suits your quilting project. With just a few simple steps, you can transform your batting scraps into a larger, usable piece of batting.


By using frankenbatting, you not only save money but also reduce waste by repurposing materials you already have. This sustainable approach to quilting allows you to create beautiful quilts while making the most of your resources. So, don’t let the size of your batting scraps hold you back—sew them together and unleash your creativity!

Sustainable Quilting and Sewing

Sustainable quilting and sewing practices have gained significant traction within the maker’s community, fueled by the increasing desire to minimize our impact on the planet and reduce fabric waste. As the resurgence of upcycling clothing and quilts takes center stage, sewists and quilters worldwide are actively sharing innovative ideas and participating in global sustainability communities. The essence of sustainable sewing lies in creating in a way that leaves behind a minimal impact on the environment, while also promoting the repurposing of textiles and the reduction of waste.

By adopting sustainable quilting techniques, such as repurposing old clothing, repurposing fabric scraps, and utilizing discarded materials, the quilting community can contribute to a more eco-friendly approach to their craft. Sustainable quilting involves embracing creative ways to reduce fabric waste and making conscious choices that align with the principles of environmental responsibility and resourcefulness.

One way to promote sustainable quilting is by prioritizing the use of upcycled or repurposed fabric materials. Instead of solely relying on new materials, consider exploring second-hand stores or repurposing garments, bedsheets, and other textiles that might otherwise end up in landfills. By breathing new life into these items, you not only reduce fabric waste but also infuse your quilts with unique character and history. Additionally, incorporating sustainable practices into the quilting process, such as optimizing fabric utilization and minimizing scraps, can help minimize the need for excess resources and contribute to a more environmentally conscious approach.

Joining the global community of sustainable sewists and quilters allows for inspiration, knowledge-sharing, and support. By connecting with like-minded individuals through social media platforms, online forums, or local quilting groups, you can access a wealth of ideas, resources, and techniques that can further enhance your sustainable quilting journey.

Through sustainable quilting and sewing, we can collectively work toward minimizing our ecological footprint while indulging in a fulfilling and creative craft. Let’s create beautiful quilts that not only bring joy to our lives but also demonstrate our commitment to the well-being of the planet.

sustainable quilting

Quilting as a Form of Upcycling

Quilting has a rich history of upcycling, with quilt makers traditionally using old clothing, flour sacks, and other remnant fabrics to create functional and purposeful quilts. This practice of repurposing materials not only adds a unique charm to quilts but also contributes to the sustainability of the craft.

upcycling in quilting

Today, upcycling in quilting continues to inspire sewists and quilters to transform textile waste, second-hand fabrics, and even sentimental clothing into beautiful quilts. By breathing new life into these materials, quilters can create one-of-a-kind pieces that tell stories and hold sentimental value.

Quilting as a form of upcycling provides a wonderful opportunity to incorporate personal histories, memories, and emotions into each stitch. The fabric from old clothing can evoke nostalgia while preserving a connection to the past. Quilts made from remnant fabrics and upcycled materials carry a sense of uniqueness and character that cannot be replicated with new, store-bought fabrics.

Not only does upcycling in quilting offer creative possibilities and individuality, but it also contributes to sustainable practices. By repurposing fabrics that would otherwise go to waste, quilters minimize the environmental impact and reduce the need for new production.

Quilters can find inspiration and share ideas on upcycling in quilting through various resources. Websites, social media platforms, workshops, events, and creative forums dedicated to sustainable quilting and sewing offer a wealth of inspiration, tutorials, and discussions. By joining these communities, quilters can connect with like-minded individuals, exchange ideas, and gain insights into different upcycling techniques and designs.

Other Sustainable Quilting Resources

Beyond the ideas and inspiration shared by Amari Thomsen, there are other notable websites and resources dedicated to sustainable quilting. These resources offer a wealth of information, workshops, tutorials, and discussions on diverse quilt and sewing projects.

  • Rianne Doller’s KickAssQuilts.org – Featuring a wide range of sustainable quilting techniques and projects, KickAssQuilts.org is a go-to resource for quilters looking to reduce waste and create beautiful, eco-conscious quilts.
  • Chris English Quilts – Check out ChrisEnglishQuilts.com for workshops, tutorials, and guidance on incorporating sustainable practices into your quilting. Learn how to repurpose materials and discover new ways to make your quilting process more environmentally friendly.
  • Zak Foster’s Sew Sustainable Community – Join the Sew Sustainable Community at ZakFoster.com to connect with like-minded quilters and sewists. Engage in discussions, learn from experts, and collaborate on sustainable quilt and sewing projects.

These resources serve as valuable platforms for quilters and sewists interested in expanding their knowledge, skills, and creativity in the realm of sustainable quilting. Visit their websites for a wealth of information, tutorials, and inspiration to help you become a more sustainable quilter.

sustainable quilting resources


In conclusion, upcycling clothing to create quilts is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to repurpose textiles and reduce fabric waste. By implementing ideas such as making scrappy quilts, reusing old clothes, repurposing fabric scraps, and utilizing old sheets and throw blankets, quilters can contribute to a more sustainable approach to their craft.

Not only does upcycling clothing benefit the planet, but it also offers endless opportunities for creativity and unique keepsakes. By giving new life to old garments, quilters can create quilts that hold sentimental value and tell meaningful stories.

Additionally, exploring resources such as Amari Thomsen’s ideas and connecting with the sustainable quilting community can provide further inspiration, guidance, and support on the journey towards becoming a more sustainable quilter or sewer. Joining workshops, participating in discussions, and following sustainable quilting websites allow quilters to stay updated with diverse projects, learn new techniques, and engage with like-minded individuals.

By embracing sustainability in quilting, we can collectively contribute to a more eco-conscious and responsible approach to our craft. Let’s continue to reimagine, repurpose, and create beautiful quilts while reducing our impact on the environment and becoming sustainable quilters.


How can I reduce and reuse fabric for quilting?

One of the easiest ways to reduce and reuse fabric is by creating a scrappy quilt. Instead of buying new fabric, you can leverage the fabric you already own. Sew smaller scraps together to get pieces that are the size you need for your quilt. Mix solids and prints of the same color to achieve the desired effect.

Can I use old clothes for quilting?

Yes, before discarding old clothes, take a closer look at the fabric. If the item is made from 100% cotton, you can salvage it for your next quilt. Button-down shirts, chino pants, and printed cotton skirts are excellent sources of sturdy cotton fabric for quilts.

What can I do with tiny fabric scraps?

Don’t throw away those itty-bitty fabric scraps that result from trimming fabric. Instead, save them in a jar, bin, or bag near your cutting table. When you have enough, use them to stuff a pincushion, a throw pillow, or even a dog bed. These tiny scraps may be too small to use in a quilt, but they can still be repurposed into other useful items.

How can I reuse old sheets and throw blankets for quilts?

Basic sheet sets, especially those made from 100% cotton with a low thread count, can be great for quilting. Smaller sheets can be cut apart for quilting fabric, while larger ones can be used as a full quilt back. Additionally, old throw blankets made from furry, fuzzy, or fleece materials can also work well for quilt backs.

What can I do if I don’t have enough batting for my quilt?

Instead of rushing to buy more batting, consider making frankenbatting by stitching smaller scraps of batting together. Line up two pieces of batting with the edges flush, and using a neutral thread color, sew a zigzag stitch across them. This technique is simple yet effective in utilizing smaller batting scraps.

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