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Did you know that each year over 500 billion plastic bags are thrown away by consumers worldwide? And that it can take up to 1,000 years for those plastic bags to biodegrade? Kristin St. Clair, one of the crafty minds at The Martha Stewart Show, came up with a great way to replace those troublesome plastic options and get a new life out of some old tee shirts hanging around your closet.

Check out how Kristin and Martha use a couple of heavy-weight cotton shirts and a SINGER® Confidence™ sewing machine to make cute (and reusable!) tote bags perfect for everything from carting groceries to shopping with friends. Check out our own version of the reusable tote with the Charlie Bag free pattern download!

Now that you’ve watched Martha work her magic, let us know what your favorite upcycling project is for a chance to win a SINGER® 7467S Confidence Stylist! You have until 9AM EST on Monday, January 31st to get those comments in and our winners will be announced on February 1st! Stay tuned for next week’s video and more awesome prizes from SINGER®!

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Tune-in to The Martha Stewart Show, airing weekdays at 10 a.m. ET/9 a.m. CT on Hallmark Channel.

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768 Comments

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    Feb 8, 2011, 02.19 AMby diayag

    I have elastic thread, hand wound bobbins and I have not been able to make the shirred (aka smocked) dress thing work at all. I saw a comment somewhere that for such bulky bobbin threads you have to use a dedicated bobbin with an extremely loose tension, but loosening the tension did not seem to fix the problem, dropped stitches or broken top thread. I just could not make it sew right. Any solutions? BTW am so glad you are online. There is precious little for sewists to watch any more, and PBS does not put their sewing shows online. Thanks much.

    1 Reply
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    Feb 2, 2011, 03.14 AMby bdens2002

    treffic idea will differently use this

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    Feb 1, 2011, 11.03 PMby peacenluv78

    i like to take old t-shirts and rip them into strips. then braid them together to create long ropes. finally i take the ropes and use them to create all sorts of things…my favorite..rugs! my cats love to nap on them!

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    Feb 1, 2011, 12.09 AMby Sonjia Shaw

    i would love to win this to make cute outfits for my 2 little QTS to go with their flowers I have been making for the hair! I would also love a sewing machine to help make prayer quilts at church- My Grandma said only buy singer and she has had hers since she got married a long time ago (hehe)- Would love a chance to win!

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    Jan 31, 2011, 01.00 PMby Imenka Bezprezimenkovska

    catching the last train, as usual… :) my favorite upcycling project has nothing to do with sewing (except some used cloth in the composition) … It’s a mural on the wall next to my bed, medley – style Gustav Klimt – The Kiss made out garbage elements, X-ray images, left-overs from the model of a project for architectural university, peaces of cloth from swim suit and a short but colorful shirt, crocheted elements (which my mother made when she was a girl), beads and reused fly-curtain… and white wall paint and red and yellow colors for mixing in purpose to make the shades, acrylic paint and wooden pencils… it was made 2 years ago, inspired by boring summer and a messy room… and by the love for Klimt’s work! Maybe I should post it as a project here! And I will, although it has nothing to do with this! But I don’t own a sawing machine, so till then, this one is my number one!

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    Jan 31, 2011, 08.51 AMby simplyinterested1

    My favorite upcycling project would have to be using old garments to make small accessories, such as a wallet and using scraps from left over fabric to make a quilt.

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    Jan 31, 2011, 06.42 AMby tnjen

    Another ongoing upcycling project that I do is that I make scrap ‘quilts/fabric panels’ using the scraps of every single sewing project I do. It doesn’t matter what the fabric is, whether it matches, or how much of it I have — if I’ve cut something out of the fabric then it finds a spot on the quilt that is taking it’s own form and pattern as I sew scraps from each project I work on. Hubby even introduced the idea of salvaging fabric from items that were worn out but had a special meaning to us. So far, it’s turned out surprisingly well in terms of looks and I love the fact that it forces me to think creatively.

    It’s also nice that I have no clue as to what the finished product will be. I plan on using my scrap quilt to first make a traditional and very simple quilt and then continue on and use the scrap quilts from the projects to make everything from traditional quilts to pillows and purses (whatever comes to mind really).

    My grandparents grew up extremely poor in the mountains of Appalachia and then lived through the depression (if you’ve heard Dolly Parton’s song about the “Coat of Many Colors,” it’s not just a bible reference. It’s true to how my grandparents did and to some degree even how my mom grew up — Dolly is pretty much from the general area [the mountains of East TN) where they and I grew up) . They saved every scrap (even re-soled their own shoes). What we call upcycling is how they got by so my own ‘upcycling’ is my ode to them as well as my great grandparents. The process itself is a nice way to upcycle but it also forces you to think how to put the pieces together and what to use them for.

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    Jan 31, 2011, 06.14 AMby ruth-zehntner

    i like to use extra large clothes and turn them into dresses or blouses.

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    Jan 31, 2011, 05.41 AMby tnjen

    There are several upcycling projects I do. I absolutely love making old tee-shirts into girl sized tee-shirts, using men’s dress jackets and ‘shrinking them down to size’ to make womens jackets (if they’re unusable harvesting the sleeve heads and shoulder pads), making tote bags out of just about any old pair of men’s pants I can find, turning stained or ruined linen shirts into linen handkerchiefs, harvesting any and all fabric (ok I’m a pack rat), and making plain old dress shirts for both men and women into couture items (one of my absolute faves is taking a plain men’s dress shirt and adding fancy contrasting cuffs and fine collars to them).

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    Jan 31, 2011, 12.18 AMby tievoli

    i have not done too many upcycled projects except alterations to clothing people have given me. I have attempted to entirely remake a feww items, but the end result just didn’t work. I really admire the people who can pull that off! Tievoli

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    Jan 31, 2011, 12.06 AMby deliab

    I love turning old clothes from goodwill into new renovated outfits.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 08.57 PMby lanamarie6

    My fav upcycled project I’ve made: I had all these small swatches leftover from school projects- I sewn them all together into a long rectangle, folded it in half and seamed up the sides, added a strap,lining and a zipper- made a cute lil purse I gave to a friend as a going away present :)

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    Jan 30, 2011, 08.51 PMby Frokeytwin

    My latest upcycling project is to take my wool trousers that moths have nibbled upon and use the fabric that doesn’t have holes to make small handbags. I’ll then give the leftover scraps to a friend who makes wool flower hair accessories.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 08.31 PMby vbugge

    My favorite project thus far has been a crochet rag rug. It was very quick since you are working with fabric strips and a huge crochet hook, so almost instant gratification.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 08.02 PMby mich22

    The two things I like to upcycle is to use tshirts or any fabric from an old garment to make yoyo flowers…they are really easy and you can do a bazillion different things out of them. The second is to use old sweaters to make those really trendy cowl neck loop scarves. You just cot off the arms and neck and hem it straight and use the already ribbed bottom of the sweater as the top of the cowl….obviously I don’t knit or I would just knit one…this is faster:)

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    Jan 30, 2011, 07.54 PMby lwood

    Turning old hankies into sachets or small gift bags makes an original gift without a lot of cost.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 06.45 PMby alana23

    I love making skirts or tank tops from old oversized tees.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 06.29 PMby RetroDivaSSC

    I once up-cycled my favorite polka-dot dress that unfortunately shrunk in the wash. Well, I separated the bodice from the skirt and I had a adorable polka -dottty skirt.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 05.51 PMby paperbackmummy

    I like to take clothes that i’ve worn to bits and turn them into something totally new; a patchwork blanket, framed as art, pants into a skirt, etc.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 05.09 PMby leonx

    i love making bags out of old out dated tshirts! its really fun,plus it saves money so i dont have to buy more material.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 02.37 PMby Lucia Rusnáková Domorádová

    I like to use my husband t-shirts or shirts for my little one. He doesnt like it but I think its cute to see my son in his t-shirts.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 06.55 AMby 5294sandras

    When I have left over scrap fabric from my projects I cut them into 8 1/2 by 11 pieces. When I need to make a bag or have a small project I sew pieces together and make what I need. Examples: grocery bags, sewing machine covers, pocket notions holder, etc. KEEP THOSE SCRAPS!!!

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    Jan 30, 2011, 05.20 AMby pgf

    I like to felt old wool sweaters and make accessories for the home-oven mitts, tissue box covers, keyboard cover. etc- anything to brighten up the home.

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    Jan 30, 2011, 04.27 AMby alexandraa

    I love to use old materials and create something new out of them. It is a very good idea, thank you!

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    Jan 30, 2011, 01.07 AMby shorne89

    I have learned how to make old tshirts into scarves! I cut them into strips and sew them together and connect it all to make a circle scarf.

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    Jan 29, 2011, 11.07 PMby aslimir

    I cut the pants pocket and pasted at the knee.

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    Jan 29, 2011, 10.54 PMby MMaggie

    I always use linen bags not plastic bags for my shopping but I have to be honest never fought about making one from a T-shirt – really great idea! I’m going to make one! It’s going to be with my lovely towns’ logo.

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    Jan 29, 2011, 09.31 PMby daiyami

    My favorite upcycling: I’ve got a bunch of those dresses from the ‘90s, that were pretty chiffon patterns over stretch jersey. Remember those? So I cut them off, took in the side seams to make them tanktops, and turned the left over skirt into a pretty scarf. I’m about to do the same thing with some skirts.

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    Jan 29, 2011, 05.38 PMby Christi Woglemuth

    I think to get clothes from a thrift store because I like the pattern and I turn it into something new.

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