Two green and one blue ball of t-shirt yarn n a wicker bowl

A bowl of three balls of t-shirt yarn.

Creating yarn from old t-shirts is a great way to give new life to old clothes and to get free yarn in the bargain!  Look for t-shirts with little or no printing as the printing usually interferes with the making of the yarn.  In the picture at right, you can see three areas (including the Canadian flag) where there is printing and the fabric did not roll properly.

Black strand of t-shirt yarn with a Canadian Flag screen printed on it.

Piece of t-shirt with a little Canadian flag on it.

There are several methods for creating t-shirt yarn and I use several of these, depending on what my raw material is like and what I want my finished yarn to look like.  I even use more than one method with a single t-shirt to maximize the yarn that I am able to get out of the fabric in the shirt. Cut off portions of the shirts (cuffs, hems and seams) make great ties for the garden or other purposes. I even use these cut of segments to assemble backstrap looms which are used in turn to weave cloth from the t-shirt yarn.

There are two major steps to making t-shirt yarn: cutting the strips and pulling the yarn.

You will need to examine your shirts:

  • Do they have side seams? If not, you can use the continuous method for the body of the shirt. If there are side seams and for the non-tube portions of the tube knitted shirts, you can use the glued strips, the maze or the tied methods to create lengths of yarn.
  • How thick or thin is the fabric?
  • How wide do you want to cut your strips? I have read of people using ¼” strips, but I found that for the vast majority of fabrics, this is too thin and weak for my taste. Because I prefer a lighter yarn, I tend to cut most fabrics into ½” strips. In general, the thinner your fabric, the thinner you can cut your strips. With a heavy weight knit, cutting ½” strips will create a weak yarn.

You may want to cut a small section of the shirt (perhaps on one sleeve) into various widths of strips, then pull them to make the yarn and test which you prefer. You may even want to knit, crochet, braid, weave, macramé, or whatever a sample of fabric with the yarn to determine the best strip width. Read the directions completely before making your sample so that your sample is completed the way it will be when you make your yarn.

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