How To Upcycle Old Socks

Socks live in everyone's draws, we all seem to have lost a brother sock magically in the washing machine, or have that sock with a single hole that we hold onto just in-case-of-an-emergency. So we've decided to put them back to work.

Earlier this year we asked our audience what their toughest sustainability questions were. One question that was notably popular was what to do with old items.

One question was what to do with old bras? When it comes to upcycling old clothing, there are factors that will impact what you can and cannot do with certain items.

This time round we decided to look at socks, unlike bras, socks affect the whole family, and they seem to have a sneaky way of leaving their brother somewhere, in spite of all precautions.

The textile industry is responsible for 11.1 million tonnes of landfill each year. Decomposing clothing releases methane gas that directly impacts global warming.

Read next: How to upcycle plastic shopping bags

Not only does the methane speed up the heating of our planet, often the clothing is treated with dyes and chemicals that leach into the soil contaminating both the surface and ground water.

And while 95% of clothing can be reused or recycled, items such as socks are more likely than not to be thrown straight into the bin once they've reached that 'I-can-feel-my-toe-strangling' point. Our lack of textile recycling is partly due to convenience and also at fault of poor infrastructure.

Upcycling is the buzzword in the sustainable world and for good reason. In the office, we're always finding problems and seeing if we can solve them with planet strong and creative solutions, and old socks are no exception.

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DIY sock bun

Want a perfect ballerina bun without the fuss? This DIY project will take you around 4 minutes, and last a lifetime.

What you need:

1 old sock - you're not going to see it, so you can use a pretty old one. Just give it a soak in 2 parts vinegar 3 parts cold water overnight if it has a slight stale foot smell to it.

1 elastic band


1.Cut the toe off your sock to make a tube.

2.Roll your sock into a doughnut.

3.Make a ponytail in the middle of your head.

4.Put the ponytail through the middle of your sock doughnut and start. rolling your hair around the sock moving the sock down towards your. head, spreading the hair around the full outside of the sock.

5.When you've reached the base of your ponytail (your head!) and the hair. is completely wrapped around the bun just gently move the hair around. double-checking you've hidden the sock entirely and viola!

Image Source: Mr Kate

Phone Armband

Possibly the easiest DIY on the planet, a sock phone armband is very useful and you don't need to have any actual skills (except perhaps be able to cut an almost straight line).

Great for listening to music on a run this little number is comfortable and practical.

What you need:

1 long old sock (best for a sock with toe holes, that still has its elasticity, perhaps a husband or brothers old sock.)


Your arm

A phone

1.Cut the sock at the ankle so you have a tube.

2.Turn the sock upside down, pull up your arm with the cut side up.

3.Place your phone with the headphone cord coming out the top.

4.Fold the bottom edge up.

5.Go for a run.

Tip: if your sock is a little loose around the elastic, use a mini safety pin to keep it tucked in.

Image Source: The Art Of Doing Stuff

Read next: How fast fashion is destroying developing countries

DIY heat pad

A great DIY project for the cooler months, not only are you upcycling old socks and divesting waste from landfill, but you're saving energy by leaving the heater off and popping a heat pack or two in bed instead.

What you need:

1 long sock- for this project the sock can't have holes so perhaps use that ugly pair of socks a relative gifted you, or one who magically came out of the washing machine without his pair. The longer the sock, the better!


A needle and thread (optional)

  • 1.Fill the sock with rice, leaving around 3 centimetres at the open end.
  • 2.Either tie the end up (really tight) or use your needle and thread to sew up the opening.
  • 3.Place in the microwave for 60 seconds and enjoy up to an hour of warmth.

Tip: if you want something a little fancier (perhaps a low-waste Christmas gift) try this DIY heat pad that requires a little sewing

Image Source: One Smiley Monkey

While upcycling can be a fun and practical way to divest your waste from landfill, it is not the only option when it comes to avoiding textile waste.

Do some research in your local area to see what recycling options are available in your community, often, even garments like socks can be collected by big businesses and reused as couch stuffing, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets.

You can even give composting your old fabrics a go (making sure you stick to natural fabrics such as cotton and bamboo) you check out this guide first, to protect your compost.

When it comes to cutting down on waste, try this: every time you're about to throw something away think "could this have another purpose?" you might be surprised by what you create.

Watch next: John Oliver Slams the Fast Fashion Industry

Paloma Brierley Newton Former Content Creator Suggest an article Send us an email

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