Upcycling T-shirts into Toys


Boys can get a little carried away with mechanical-type toys. My son wanted to make a robot, but I'm not very good with electronics and so we ended up making a stuffed toy robot out of old t-shirts. You can try this out with your kids - get them to design the toy they want, choose their colours, and sew something on their own. 

Time taken - two afternoons. You may need to split this into 2 - 3 hour sessions as kids get grumpy after a while.

Tools & Materials:
Freeze paper (available at Cold Storage)
Washable pen or tailor chalk

Sewing machine
Needle and thread

Old t-shirts
Buttons and other decorative embellishments
Old t-shirt scraps, old tights or shredded socks for stuffing.

Step 1 -  Draw out design onto the non-waxed side of the freeze paper. Here's my son drawing his robot. He wanted to draw one from his pajamas!

Tips:  bigger the drawing, the better.  Also, don't draw very thin arms (see above pic) as they are very difficult to sew!

Step 2 - Take out your t-shirt stash and decide on the colours for the toy. Then cut out design from the freeze paper. 

Step 3 -  Using low heat, iron on freeze paper design onto t-shirt material. Make sure the waxed side is facing the material.

Step 4 - With the washable pen or tailor chalk, trace around the freeze paper allowing for a 5mm seam allowance.

Step 5 - Cut along markings made in Step 4. Using this, cut another piece of t-shirt material. You should have two sets of t-shirt material.

Step 5 - Sew on all embellishments

This was the stage when my son got really tired and had enough of the sewing. We took a break and came back to it the next day. 

Step 6 - Using sewing machine, sew pieces together (wrong side facing each other) leaving an opening for the stuffing. We sewed the legs, arms and head first before attaching it to the body. 

Step 7 - Turn pieces right side out and stuff with stuffing. For our toy, we only stuffed the body and head. We cut 4 old ankle socks into strips and used them as stuffing. Sew up afterwards!


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  1. Not that I saw too many ads for them to be donated this pre Christmas time, but charities over in UK frequently ask for shoe boxes to be covered in xmas paper and filled with suitable items for children in war torn or third world countries, that can be distributed at Christmas time.
    They often asked for knitted, quite basic little teddies to be included but little characters could be a fun alternative couldnt they.
    Little colourful squishy plushie characters could almost be considered a more modern gift than knitted teddies, though as lovely as they'd be for a child who has had nothing to call their own and cuddle.
    As long as there are no small items that can be swallowed of course, so guess buttons might be considered dangerous.
    A lovely idea this : )

    1. Thanks, linicat. That's a great idea, and thanks for reminding me about the buttons. Will need to change those to something else like sewn on felt :-)

  2. Brilliant Agy!! I love that your son could design and make this himself - makes it so much more special!!

    1. Thanks, Jill. I would have to say that I had to take over when it came to the sewing machine as the pieces were too small for him to maneuver on the sewing machine. Wish it could have been done in one afternoon though!

  3. Robots are universally loved by boys. Love the robot and love how you've both worked on it together. I didn't ignore the Google+ Hangout invite, Agy. I somehow or another deleted the email and then couldn't find it in Google+. Lots to learn!!!

  4. Wow! You are good with your hands! The robot out of fabric looks 90% the same as what is drawn! Now I have more ideas to deal with the old clothes and socks. Thanks!

  5. Great robot! I love your tips - no skinny arms :) and it's all upcycled! Thanks for sharing! This will be one of the featured posts this week at Retro Re-pin party! Hope you stop by! Thanks for partying with us!