How to Make T-Shirt Yarn

Learn how to make T-shirt yarn to make your own creative, useful items.

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by Nissa Brehmer

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.

two balls of purple 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.

illustration showing a t-shirt folded in half with the sleeves overlapping

2. Fold in half width-wise–put the side edges of your T-shirt together and the sleeves together.

illustration showing a ruler and a rotary cutter making lines across a folded t-shirt

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.

illustration showing fabric rings made from cutting t-shirt

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 drawstrings, packaging details, and headbands.

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

Method 2: Continuous

illustration showing a tshirt with the sleeves cut off and dashed lines above the bottom seam and right below the sleeves

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.

illustration showing a fold made over one solid side of a t-shirt body

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.

illustration showing a rotary cutter making partial cuts across separated t-shirt body

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!)

illustration showing cuts made in t-shirt fabric and dashed lines indicating where to cut to make a continuous thread

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.

illustration showing to pull cut t-shirt fabric to form it in to a tube

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.

illustration showing the end of a strip of yarn made from t-shirt fabric with a slit made in it

1. After cutting all of the strips to the desired width and length, make a small snip cut on both ends.

illustration showing a strip of yarn being fed through a slit made in another strip of yarn

2. With 2 strips at hand, take a strip (yarn B) and pass it through a slit in the other (yarn A).

illustration showing a strip of yarn fed through another strip of yarn and arrow showing the fed strip going through another slit made on its opposite end

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

white book cover with gray shirt in the center with dashed lines leading to cloth crafts

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.

  • Updated on Nov 29, 2021
  • Originally Published on Apr 17, 2021
Tagged with: crafts, diy, fabric, recycle, upcycle