Upcycled Lined Drawstring Gift Bags + How to Cut up a Button Down Shirt

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Happy Thursday! I have a fun pair of upcycled lined drawstring bags to share today! Plus a little how-to on cutting up a button down shirt.

A couple weeks ago I picked up two button down shirts at the thrift store. They were half price, so they were a bargain. I knew I wanted to turn them into holiday gift bags, so I picked out two that felt festive. I ended up with a red and white stripe and a muted green.

I was inspired to make drawstring bags with shirts by Leigh. She made a bunch of drawstring bags using thrifted shirts (see them here) and I just loved the idea!

I wasn't sure exactly what I'd do until I cut up the shirts, but I'm so pleased with how they turned out! I decided to use the pockets on the fronts of each bag, as an extra spot for a gift! I cut around each pocket leaving about an inch of the background fabric. Then I used the method outlined in the lined drawstring bag expansion pattern to center the pockets and figure out the borders needed to create the bag exterior.

This is the Project size bag, and I featured the stripe fabric as the main exterior fabric. It was a little fussy working with the stripes, but I think it looks pretty good!

For the second bag I featured the green shirt fabric and made an Artist size. Both bags are lined with Essex linen and have natural cotton twill for ties. I interfaced all the shirt fabric with a woven interfacing to give it a little extra weight. The green fabric probably would have been fine without it, but the stripe was pretty thin.

The backs are plain! There was enough fabric from both shirts that I could have made them plain on both sides. It's such an economical way to make gift bags. These sizes are available in the Lined Drawstring Bag Pattern.

Now, for a little how-to on cutting up a shirt! There are many different ways to go about cutting up a shirt for fabric, this is just the way I did it. I knew I was going to use this fabric for drawstring bags, so these steps made the most sense for the project I was making. Think about how you're going to use the shirt fabric before you start cutting so that you can get the most out of it.

First, find some shirts! Use up shirts that have stains, holes, or were headed to the thrift shop. If you don't have any on hand, stop by your local thrift store. I started in the men's shirts, working my way from the largest sizes to the smaller sizes. I choose shirts that were discounted, which means they had been there for a while.

Once you've got your shirts, give them a good wash and dry!

Cut away the collar and button bands down the front of the shirt.

Next, cut away the bottom hem.

Cut the sleeves off at the shoulder seams.

Cut off the cuff from each sleeve.

Cut off the seam on each sleeve.

Cut the side seams off of the shirt body.

Cut each front panel from the yoke at the shoulder seam. Cut the shirt back from the yoke.

Cut the sleeve seams from the front pieces and back piece.

Here is the shirt all cut up! You'll end up with two front pieces, a back piece, and two sleeves. Plus a bunch of leftover pieces that were cut off like the cuffs and collar.

Happy Sewing!


  1. Love what you made from these shirts! Your bags are beautiful! So pretty with the two prints contrasting on each.

  2. It is also handy to use the front of a shirt for a back piece of a throw pillow case. That way, one won't have to sew in a zipper because one can just button up the opening needed for the pillow.

  3. These bags are really beautiful. I am making a quilt out of shirts right now. There is so much life left in things we tend to throw away.


Thanks for keeping this blog a positive place, I appreciate the time you are taking to leave a comment! I will answer any questions here in the comments section.

All comments are moderated to filter out spam. Your comment will appear after it has been approved.