DIY: Recycle Old T Shirts into Yarn

T Shirt Yarn - header image

Last night, I became aware that I’d got through the day having made nothing. I’m leaning quite heavily on creative pursuits at the moment to keep me calm and sane. (Do you find therapy in DIY?) So last night I was feeling a bit twitchy and decided to try making some T Shirt Yarn. Little did I know how addictive it would be!

Now there are more than a few tutorials on this out there. I could have just linked to any one of those but a) that would be a boring post for you! and b) there were a couple of  things that I discovered that I wanted to add into the mix, that I think helped me achieve a better result than my first attempt.

 

Supplies:

Old T Shirts (light to medium weight jersey is better)

Masking tape

Scissors

T SHIRT YARN - SUPPLIES

 

 

Firstly lets talk about side seams. Some T’s have ’em. Some don’t…. This one doesn’t and will make smoother/better yarn because of it…

T SHIRT YARN - NO SIDE SEAM

 

This one does so the yarn I make from it will have little slices of side seam in it every 12-20″, depending on the width of the Tee. We can reduce that bulk a little but it will be there nonetheless. The moral is, if this sort of thing is likely to bug you, pick a tee where the body has no side seams and is one continuous tube of fabric

T SHIRT YARN - WITH SIDE SEAM

Other things to avoid are too thick jersey (like sweatshirt  or ponte thick) and anything with print/transfer or embroidery below the chest area as this prevents the jersey from curling effectively.  So now you’ve got the right kind of Tee this is how you do it…

Step 1: Cut the hem band neatly off the tee. Keep as straight and even a cut as possible…

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 1

 

Step 2: Cut straight across the tee under the arms. Again keep it straight and at right angles to the side seams.

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 2

 

Step 3: Remove any care labels in the side seams as close to the stitching as possible without cutting the stitching itself

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 3A

 

Step 4: Now this may prove controversial, but the full bulk of an overlocked seam in my first ball of nice jersey yarn, bugged me. So this time, I trimmed some of it off. Just the bulky edge, about a mm a way from the double row of straight stitch. Note the double row of stitching as I think this could be key. Not all overlocked seams are formed in the same way. If your overlocked seam looks in any way loose or you see only one row of straight stitch, personally I wouldn’t trim it down. It worked great on this tee and the pink one…but the yellow one (they’re all pictured at the bottom of this post) had a slightly different overlock and unravelled and pulled apart in places so I ended up with several lengths instead of one continuous one…so use your best judgment and if in doubt, cut a strip off the bottom & test first…

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 4

 

Step 5: Now fold the tee body almost in half  (side seam to side seam) but leaving about 1-2″ extra of the bottom layer poking out along the top…

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 5

 

Step 6: Cut strips at least  1″ wide (or marginally wider) up from the folded edge. I used masking tape as a cutting guide to keep my widths even (more uses for masking tape here!). Cut straight up, through all layers, at right angles to the folded edge, and cut through the first overlocked edge but NOT the second. Stop 1-2″ before and leave that part uncut…

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 6

 

You’ll end up with one overlocked edge and a bunch of jersey loops hanging from it

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 8

 

Step 7: Slide the uncut edge over an ironing board.  Start with a tapered, diagonal cut from the outer edge to the first slit. Then from the base of the next slit cut diagonally across to the next top slit. ( Not straight across to the one opposite). You can see the first 2 cuts I made, and the next 3 are marked with dotted lines. Do this all the way along…diagonally from the bottom slit across to the top slit….

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 9

 

…and you’ll end up with a continuous strip like this…

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 10

 

Step 8: Working in approx 18″ lengths, stretch it out and it will roll in on itself to form a skinny tube like this. I found that holding the little bits of side seam, one in my left and one in my right hand, and stretching out just one section at a time, avoided putting undue pressure on the seams.

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 11

 

Step 9: Roll it up!

T SHIRT YARN - STEP 12

 

I nipped to the local charity shop this morning and bought each of these t shirts for 50p each so a super thrifty and eco friendly project. (I’ve kept the leftovers for another project) If you’ve got some lurking in your wardrobe even better! ( BTW, Elliott wanted me to tell you that he helped me style this picture 🙂 He also helped me style another where he artistically arranged leftover strips of each colour in the background. For those of you that don’t know, Elliot is my 6 year old son. He’s actually sat looking over my shoulder as I type this, making sure I type this, and let you know that! Give it a month and he’ll be writing my blog posts for me)

T SHIRT YARN - FINISHED

Now I just need to decide on a project. Have you made or used T Shirt yarn? Please feel free to leave any ideas in the comments below!

 

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41 Comments

  1. Toria February 18, 2015

    Great tips! Looking forward to seeing what you make 🙂 Definitely need a rummage around in my local charity shops!

    Reply
    • portia February 18, 2015

      Thanks Toria 🙂 I shall be trawling for inspiration this evening. Have a couple of ideas…

      Reply
  2. Ginger February 18, 2015

    Suuuuuuper cool! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • portia February 18, 2015

      Welcome! Beware…it’s addictive! Px

      Reply
  3. Redhedhels February 18, 2015

    I’ve been meaning to try this for ages, but still haven’t got round to it. How much yarn (roughly) did you get from your t shirts?

    Reply
    • portia February 18, 2015

      Hi Helen, ah, ok. So this is a tricky one as it depends on the size (width and length) of the T Shirt. The grey one was a men’s XL and yielded a ball of yarn roughly the size of a large orange/small grapefruit. (not very technical I know, lol!). The pink one was a ladies size L and yielded a ball of yarn roughly the size of a small to medium orange. Does that help at all?
      It is possible to calculate, in length, how much yarn your t shirt will yield if you measure it. If you want to know how to do this I can work out a little formula for you! Px

      Reply
      • Redhedhels February 20, 2015

        Thanks. Don’t worry about the formula, you’ve already confirmed what I already knew in my heart! I need to buy a heap of white tshirts and then dye them bright yellow so I can make a rug for my kitchen. Looking forward to seeing what kind of rug you make.

        Reply
  4. Pam February 18, 2015

    I made a bath mat for my son in college, which is great because you just toss in it the laundry with everything else. I crocheted mine.

    Reply
    • portia February 18, 2015

      Thanks Pam! Been thinking about rugs! Picking up my crochet hooks and knitting needles from storage tomorrow! Whoop! Px

      Reply
  5. Sue February 18, 2015

    Yes, I’ve used t-shirt yarn, but a little differently, to make a rag rug – http://fadanista.com/2015/02/01/proggy-rug-from-knit-fabrics/. I have also tried making the continuous yarn from t-shirts, but it didn’t end well. Your tutorial has prompted me to have another go, thanks! What are you going to knit from your yarn?

    Reply
    • portia February 19, 2015

      That rug is fantastic! I am considering a rug but more of the latch hook kind, and probably quite large! But I may have a play with this yarn on smaller projects first…still browsing the interwebs on that…

      Reply
      • ANGEL MCHENRY June 15, 2016

        Portia, I like the idea of using the tshirt yarn for a hooked rug!

        Reply
  6. eimear February 19, 2015

    ha – I did something similar and have 3 balls of white in a bag for the last 9 months looking for a project! I was originally going to just do a bathmat (crochet) or shopper but have not got around to either! looking forward to seeing what you make

    Reply
    • portia February 19, 2015

      I’ve got a little inspiration post planned! Watch this space 😉

      Reply
  7. kay February 19, 2015

    I’ve been looking at t-shirt yarn rugs on pinterest lately, your yarn tutorial is definitely the easiest to understand, thanks, I now have great hopes for part two!! (No pressure there!) I can’t crochet (yet) so please be gentle!!

    Reply
    • portia February 19, 2015

      Yeah I can feel a t shirt yarn rug coming on (don’t tell but I’ve ordered some rug backing already;) But I may try a few smaller projects first!

      Reply
      • jennifer February 19, 2015

        How about a bag, One with those big round wooden handles like from the 1950s beach holdall. Quite bulky as a yarn and you need a lot for a rug but tjree Ts should do a bag

        Reply
  8. Ethel February 20, 2015

    Crochet round rugs about 24 inches in diameter…takes 8-10 tshirts…also made hot pads for table with leftover scraps…Put in church bazaar…everyone loved them…

    Reply
    • portia February 20, 2015

      Awesome Ethel! Sounds like I could pick up some tips from you! Px

      Reply
  9. patsijean February 22, 2015

    It is much easier and faster to make the T-shirt yarn using your serger. One just goes round and round after cutting off the hem.

    Reply
    • portia February 22, 2015

      Wow thanks Patsijean. This method takes about 10 minutes so is pretty quick. The serger idea sounds intriguing though! Can you tell us more?! Do you disengage the threads? Am trying to picture it in my mind…

      Reply
  10. Zoe February 24, 2015

    This is very very cool. Your blog looks soooooo beautiful BTW xxx

    Reply
    • portia February 24, 2015

      Aw thanks hun! It definately feels more me. My technical skills were not quite up to doing it myself so I finally took the plunge and invested some cash. So glad I did 🙂 Lovely to hear from you! It’s been too long…we should catch up! Px

      Reply
  11. Cynthia March 11, 2015

    This is so cool!

    Reply
    • portia March 11, 2015

      I love it Cynthia! I’m obsessed!

      Reply
  12. Kathy March 13, 2015

    in step 4 you suggest doing a test strip from the bottom of a t-shirt if yo are unsure about trimming the stitching to reduce bulk —I suggest doing a test strip from a sleeve as the same stitching will have been used!
    Great tutorial and pictures!

    Reply
    • portia March 13, 2015

      Great idea! Thank you Kathy 🙂

      Reply
  13. Kathy March 13, 2015

    I just finished reading the entire post and comments and thought of a wonderful way to brighten up white t-shirt yarn —-while it is rolled you could drip dye on it and let it dry then re-roll and do another colour and so on!!! Oh the colours that one could create!!!

    I have a daughter who has terrible hand dermatitis/eczema and I will use the yarn to knit her fingerless gloves!

    I also thought that keeping the content tags with each ‘yarn’ roll might be a good idea too!

    oh my! my brain is in overdrive!!!

    Reply
    • portia March 13, 2015

      Dip dyeing the yarn ball would be awesome 🙂

      Reply
  14. Vivian allen March 23, 2015

    I’ve never seen this idea before ! Have printed out instructions and do plan to make something when I am good enough ! Just learning to crochet but this has inspired me !
    Thanks so much for this super information.

    Reply
    • portia March 23, 2015

      Vivian, hi! You’re very welcome but be warned….highly addictive! 🙂 Px

      Reply
  15. Nancy March 23, 2015

    Thank you for this much easier tutorial, than others I’ve read. I will be using mine to make a round crocheted rug.

    Reply
    • portia March 23, 2015

      Ooooh, that’s on my wishlist too Nancy! You’re very welcome 🙂

      Reply
  16. Jan Somers April 6, 2015

    Super idea. To make cutting faster, try folding the T-shirt toward the top (Step 5) as many times as your scissors will cut through. You’ll only have a couple inches to cut instead of the full width of the T-shirt, easier to keep a straight line and retain consistent width of the strips. Putting a ruler along the top of the shirt where you’re not cutting will also ensure strips of consistent width as well as preventing you from cutting all the way through the top seam.

    Reply
    • portia April 6, 2015

      Nice tips. Thank you Jan 🙂

      Reply
  17. Barbara Flaxman April 11, 2015

    My husband who is a Wheelchair bound Disabled Veteran took a weaving class (Rigid Heddle)to help pass the time during the winter Now he weaves all the time. One day instead of the fiber from our Alpacas or Angora Goats I suggested using some of his old Tee shirts that he didn’t use-Ted made me a set of beautiful placemats! They wash well, look terrific and cost nothing!

    Reply
    • portia April 12, 2015

      How fantastic Barbara 🙂 I love that he weaves and that you have your own wool source too!!

      Reply
  18. Catherine January 19, 2016

    Thank you so much – I have always wondered how this was done, and I have a trunk full of T-shirts that I haven’t been able to part with and can now repurpose!

    And BRAVO ELLIOTT! You did a great job and have a very bright future ahead of you!!!

    Reply
  19. Sandie March 21, 2016

    As a recent follower, I found this article a real inspiration. But one thing puzzles me – how do you join this type of “yarn”. Surely knotting it would be too bulky? Have you any inspiration on this?

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie March 21, 2016

      You can sew it together with a zig zag or stretch stitch Sandie. Or by hand if you don’t have a machine. 🙂

      Reply
  20. ANGEL MCHENRY June 15, 2016

    I have been making and using Tshirt yarn for a few years now!
    — I Do have a few suggestions:

    1. To make the crocheting easier, cut the strips at about only 1/2 inch wide.
    (- I use a rolling cutter, mat & quilting ruler… comes out perfect everytime!
    2. Use polyester/jersey or poly cotton blend Tshirts. . . makes the hook or needles slide over the yarn better… To me, 100% Cotton is sometimes tough to manage.
    3. I use the largest crochet hook possible probably a M crochet hook (and picture this– I cut the strip at only 1/2 in.
    4. Also at 1/2 in. wide strip, you will net more yarn to play with!

    I only use shirts with-out side seams. . . no matter what I tried, they always came apart at the seams when I stretched & rolled it. . . I had to knot it back together to use it.

    I have been working off & on making a rug to go beside my bed. . . Next project will be placemats– Thanks to the one you mentioned it!

    You can do basically the same thing with plastic shopping bags!! Its called “Plarn” (plastic yarn). . . great for bags, sleeping mats (say for camping, etc.)
    — I once read about a project group that made Plarn Sleeping mats & handed them out to Homeless people!

    Have fun everyone! Keep Crafting!
    Lady Angel

    Reply

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