How to Make T-Shirt Yarn

T-shirt yarn can be used in a number ways, from knitting throws to adding embellishments to other projects. Learn how to make t-shirt yarn to make your own creative, useful items.

December 2015

By Jenelle Montilone

The Upcycled T-Shirt 

Take the first steps to help change the world armed with a pair of scissors and a pile of old, unused t-shirts. The Upcycled T-Shirt (Stash Books, 2015) by Jenelle Montilone is full of inspiration for repurposing your t-shirts into reusable household items, repurposed wearables and more. Learn how to make t-shirt yarn with the following excerpt.

balls of t-shirt yarn

Method 1: Easy Way

1. Spread a T-shirt on your cutting mat. Flatten out any creases, as they’ll create a jagged inconsistency in your yarn. 
fold shirt in half
2. Fold in half width-wise—put the side edges of your T-shirt together and the sleeves together.
cut shirt hem
3. Place a straight-edged ruler just above the bottom hemline. Cut completely through all 4 layers using a rotary cutter. When you pick up this fabric it is a loop that you can cut to the desired length.
create yarn strips
4. Measure up from the last cut to the desired width of yarn you’d like. I prefer to cut mine 1-1/2–2 inches; this general size, after being pulled taut, is the perfect diameter for draw- strings, packaging details, and headbands.

TIP: For the best T-shirt yarn, use T-shirts that have no side seams.

Method 2: Continuous

cut t-shirt  1. Lay out a T-shirt on a work surface. Cut a horizontal line directly under the sleeves. Also cut off the hem on the bottom of the shirt. You need only the middle section for this project. Put the top and bottom pieces into your scrap pile. 
fold cut edges
2. Place the shirt section on your table with the open edges at the left and right and the folded edges at the top and bottom. Fold 1 side edge of the T-shirt toward the other, leaving a 2-inch space at the top. Smooth the T-shirt out. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but large creases can give the strips jagged, inconsistent edges. Original side edge folds.
cut t-shirt strips
3. Without cutting the space at the top, cut the fabric into strips of desired width. Be sure to cut completely through the 4 layers of material, stopping just after the side edge that you’ve folded up. (In other words, you do not want to cut the 2-inch space at the top!)
unfold and cut diagonally
4. Carefully unfold the T-shirt so you can see the separate strips. Begin cutting the strips diagonally across at the top 2-inches that are still connected. Starting at the first strip, cut diagonally to the second strip. Repeat across.
strip of cut t-shirt yarn

5. Now that you have a single strip of T-shirt yarn, pull it through your hands to create the tube shape. This enables the edges to curl.

6. Keep pulling until it is all tube-shaped.

One men’s size Large T-shirt yields about 14 yards of T-shirt yarn in 1-1/2–2 inch strips.

Joining Yarn Strips

I created a single strand of T-shirt yarn using a series of slipknots from short scrappy strips.

cut slit to join  1. After cutting all of the strips to the desired width and length, make a small snip cut on both ends. 
put yarn through slit 2. With 2 strips at hand, take a strip (yarn B) and pass it through a slit in the other (yarn A).
build yarn chain 3. Take the beginning end of the yarn B strip and feed it through the slit in the opposite end of the yarn B strip. Pull tight.

More projects from The Upcycled T-Shirt:

Unpaper Towels
DIY Dusting Mitt
Reusable, T-Shirt Produce Bag

Reprinted with permission from The Upcycled T-Shirt by Jenelle Montilone and published by Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing Inc., 2015. Cover courtesy Stash Books. Instructional photos by Diane Pedersen. Style photography by Nissa Brehmer.


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