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How to Make T-Shirt Yarn for Knitting or Crafts

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Natasha is a writer, artisan, and recent graduate with a Master of the Arts in Teaching.

t-shirt-yarn-how-to-upcycle-old-t-shirts

Is your closet full of oversized freebie t-shirts or shirts you never wear, but you just can't bring yourself to get rid of them? Making t-shirt yarn is the perfect way to upcycle an unwanted t-shirt. This yarn can be used to make a variety of cute and trendy items, such as bracelets and headbands, or used in place of chunky yarn in almost any project. Making t-shirt yarn is simple, as long as you follow a few basic steps.

What You Need

  • Unwanted t-shirt
  • Sharp scissors
  • Ruler

Step 1: Cut the Hem and Fold

  1. First, lay your t-shirt flat on your cutting surface. You can use a table, cutting board, or even the floor. I frequently use a craft mat because the grid lines help me cut straight strips for the yarn.
  2. Next, cut off and discard the bottom hem.
  3. Then, you can either cut below any design (if you do not want bits of color from the design to show on your finished project) or you can cut straight across under the sleeves.
  4. Next, fold the t-shirt as shown. Do not fold the shirt directly in half. Instead, offset the fold so the upper edge sticks out an additional inch or inch and a half. Both folded edges of t-shirt (what used to be the sides of the shirt) should be up, and the cut edges should form the sides of the rectangle.
t-shirt-yarn-how-to-upcycle-old-t-shirts

Step 2: Cut Strips

  1. Place your ruler below the t-shirt and line it up along one edge, use a cutting mat, or just guesstimate.
  2. Next, cut strips up the t-shirt. You can make the strips as wide or as narrow as you like, but I like cutting strips that are 1" wide, or even less. I learned (the hard way) that 1.5" strips can look bulky and strange, and anything wider than 1.5" should be avoided. When you cut your strips, make sure not to cut the top edge. To see what I mean, look at the picture to the below.
t-shirt-yarn-how-to-upcycle-old-t-shirts
t-shirt-yarn-how-to-upcycle-old-t-shirts

Step 3: Unfold the Shirt and Cut the Edge

  1. After cutting all the strips, unfold the t-shirt. It should now consist of bands of fabric connected by a (roughly) 2" strip in the middle.
  2. In order to transform these strips in to one continuous ball of yarn, cut the far left edge at an angle, as shown, so the outside edge has a direct line to the right side of the first strip. You do not need to draw lines on the t-shirt as I did for the photo of the white shirt, but you may if you find them helpful.
  3. Proceed across the shirt, cutting at an angle, so the yarn is cut in one continuous strand.
t-shirt-yarn-how-to-upcycle-old-t-shirts
t-shirt-yarn-how-to-upcycle-old-t-shirts

Step 4: Ball Your Yarn

  1. Once your cutting is complete, all that remains is balling your new yarn. I like to start by taking the yarn around two or three fingers a couple of times. Then I slide the yarn off my fingers and use these loops as the base for my ball.
  2. If you do not feel comfortable balling yarn, you can simply coil it or make it into a small skein. It doesn't matter what it looks like for storage or use, as long as the yarn does not become tangled!
T-Shirt Yarn

T-Shirt Yarn

Step 5: Create Your Project! (And Remember, This Yarn Is Stretchy)

There you have it: your very own t-shirt yarn. You can use it to make bracelets or headbands—or even to knit or crochet basically anything. Unless you stretch it out yourself before using it, t-shirt yarn is stretchy, so bear this in mind when designing a t-shirt yarn project. It also tends to be fairly bulky. These qualities are perfect for a cute hat or bright scarf, or even a reusable duster, but are less than ideal for other projects.

I hope you enjoy your new t-shirt yarn, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

Recycled Tee Projects

Comments

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on March 18, 2015:

Amusingly, I just made some t-shirt yarn the other day and it had been so long I had to really stop and think about how to do it!

Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on March 08, 2015:

Wow, I've been doing this the hard way for years!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on August 12, 2014:

I think you'll get the hang of it! Practice first on a sheet of folded over paper if it's confusing - that should help.

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on August 11, 2014:

What a good idea. I think we all have t-shirts we can use. I will have to figure it out a bit though, I think once I start I will probably understand better.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on December 18, 2013:

It's pretty fun and easy. I was just thinking about a tshirt yarn knitting project earlier today!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 18, 2013:

What a great recycling project! I'll have to try it when I clean out my T-shirt stash. :)

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on September 19, 2012:

Thank you, daisydayz! Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping by.

Chantele Cross-Jones from Cardiff on September 19, 2012:

What a great idea, better than chucking all those old t-shirts! Helpful hub thanks!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on June 12, 2012:

Thank you, carozy!

carozy from San Francisco on June 12, 2012:

Very creative. Voted up and useful.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on June 09, 2012:

Cool! I tried cutting the t-shirts straight across, but cut the loops in the middle. I quickly learned It is a poor way to make yarn. It's cool there are projects you can do that way, though. Thanks for stopping by!

RoxiM from West Virginia on June 09, 2012:

Thanks for such a great explanation! I've always wondered how these were done. I recently used t-shirts cut into loops (straight across the shirt) to make a hula-hoop rug with one of my classes. I'll have to think of a project for t-shirt yarn for next year.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on June 05, 2012:

Thank you, That Grrl. I guess this is what happens when you love to make stuff and don't have much of a disposable income. I enjoy it, though, and I'm glad others do, too.

Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on June 05, 2012:

I remember reading this idea before, years ago. I'd forgotten all about it. I really like your upcycling and repurposing posts.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on June 04, 2012:

Excellent! I'm very glad you found it useful and hope you enjoy crafting. Thanks for stopping by.

penguinforsale from Kentucky on June 04, 2012:

This is a great tutorial- I've had my eye on some Pinterest projects that use T-shirt yarn, and now I know how to "harvest" it, for lack of a better word. Thanks!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on June 01, 2012:

That's true - sometimes things just aren't donation-worthy! I end up with lots of unworn shirts, though, because giveaway shirts are always, always far too large for me. As long as you don't mind the writing bits showing through, ad-covered freebie shirts have lots of fabric and are great to turn in to yarn.

Dianna Mendez on May 31, 2012:

This is a great way to re-cycle those old T's. I usually donate them or toss them (they are pretty beat up after years of use). The more colorful ones would make interesting designs. Great idea and one that helps people go green.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 31, 2012:

Thank you for the votes! And have fun with the t-shirt yarn.

summerberrie on May 31, 2012:

Natashalh, this is just too cool! I am definitely giving this a go. Thanks. Voted up and useful!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 31, 2012:

Awesome. Thanks for stoping by, randomcreative!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 31, 2012:

What a neat idea! I may need to search for some t-shirt yarn projects now.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 31, 2012:

Excellent! Glad to be of service, dirt farmer. Thanks for the votes!

Jill Spencer from United States on May 31, 2012:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was just considering turning a pile of old t-shirts into cleaning rags, but this sounds much better. Up and awesome!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 31, 2012:

Maybe...but reusing t-shirts to make yarn you can then turn in to gifts for birthdays, holidays, etc is a great way to give something personalized and a low cost without just buying more stuff.

T-shirt hoarding is way too easy a trap to fall in! When I reuse them, I can justify not having them in my closet any more.

Thanks for stopping by, Just Ask Susan and Audiogeek. It's nice to see some differing openions!

Audiogeek on May 31, 2012:

Susan, I think donating clothes is much more rewarding...

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 31, 2012:

My husband is a t-shirt hoarder and I was going to go and donate them all, but I think I'll start cutting them and making shirt yarn out of them now.

Very useful and creative!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 31, 2012:

Yes, you can make a pretty cool looking rug with t-shirts, but I don't have that many!

Thanks for all the votes and the share, Global-Chica! I'm glad you like my DIY efforts.

Anna from New York, NY on May 31, 2012:

I love your DIY projects, Natasha! They're always so inspirational, including this one. Looking forward to trying this out. I'm sharing this and voting it up and useful :)

DragonflyTreasure from on the breeze......... on May 30, 2012:

I'm collecting tshirts now to make a rug with! ?

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Thanks! I'm glad you took the time to vote and comment, carter06!

Mary from Cronulla NSW on May 30, 2012:

This is a pretty cool idea Natasha, and clearly instructive...you are so creative...well done & up and awesome...

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Yes, sheepsquatch, I agree! I have made things, but I want to make a tutorial hub on a couple different projects. Unfortunately, where I live has been very cloudy and rainy (and flooding), which does not lend itself to photo taking. I will definitely add more pictures as soon as possible!

Sheepsquatch from Springfield, MO on May 30, 2012:

Have you tried making anything with the the shirt yarn. If you have you should definitely import pictures of them into your hub.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Thanks. Now that I've finally discovered thumbnails, I love them!

Karen Lackey from Ohio on May 30, 2012:

Awesome and informative! Great use of the thumbnail pictures, too! Up and useful! Great job.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Thank you. I really appreciate the votes and the share! I love it when sharing brings new commenters and interesting "new" hubbers to check out!

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on May 30, 2012:

Very neat idea you got here Natashalh! Thanks for sharing. Voted Useful.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Thank you, Cheds!

Heather Henley from Buckfield, Maine on May 30, 2012:

Love seeing people reuse. Nice hub!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Thank you! I've used old shirts as rags, too.

hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on May 30, 2012:

I usually use my old t-shirts as cleaning rags, but this is a great idea too! Voted up and useful.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Hahaha. I do know a lot of people out that way, including some family, but it's way too cold for me! Thanks for the offer, though.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 30, 2012:

I almost missed this hub; again, no notification email. Great idea! You are so talented! Are you sure you don't want to move to Washington and meet my son? :)

Great job my young friend!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Yes, colorful t-shirts would make a nice-looking rug! And sometimes you can find sheets very inexpensively at a thrift store.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, anusujith!

Anoop Aravind A from Nilambur, Kerala, India on May 30, 2012:

Useful hub. Thank you sharing this new idea. If you have enough length you can make bathroom carpets by tying this back to back. for enough length we can use old unused bed sheets.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Thank you! I really appreciate the complements, and thanks for stopping by. =)

stessily on May 30, 2012:

Natashalh, This is so simple and so creative! Your presentation is clear and helpful, and your obvious enthusiasm is inspirational. I love your creative projects which rescue and transform.

Kind regards, Stessily

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2012:

Thanks so much for the votes and comments!

Yes, jellygator, it confused me at first, too! I tried just cutting it in a huge spiral. It was an awful looking mess.

jellygator from USA on May 30, 2012:

Aha... I see now how people do this. I had a project I wanted to do last year that called for t-shirt yarn, but I couldn't figure out how to make it into long enough strips.

Melissa Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on May 30, 2012:

Wow, this is a brilliant idea!! I have so many shirts taking up room in my closet!

Voted up and awesome!!

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