How to Make T-shirt Yarn
How to Make T-shirt Yarn
Got a pile of old T-shirts that you’re tempted to toss or donate? STOP! You may miss out on the coolest trend in crafting since, well, bedazzling? Upcycled T-shirt yarn is the pinable craft trend of the day. And, it performs like the real thing, but better. T-shirt yarn is washable and stretchy, making it perfect for knitting, crocheting, braiding, knotting, weaving or winding. You can use it for soft accent rugs, hair accessories, boho fabric jewelry, on-trend infinity scarves, or anything else you can dream up. The best part: You can make T-shirt yarn in 30 minutes or less without spending a dime. Not bad, right?
What makes this DIY craft so popular is its simplicity. You’re basically slicing up the body of the shirt in order to create a continuous strip of fabric or “yarn” that you roll into a ball for crafting. And things really speed up when you pull out your OLFA® Rotary Cutter, Frosted Acrylic Ruler and self-healing cutting mat. Follow these five steps and you’ll be T-shirt yarn crafting in no time.
BEFORE YOU START
- Use cotton or cotton-blend T-shirts so the material will curl when you pull the strips to turn them into useful yarn. Other fabrics, like linen or Lycra, don’t curl as well.
- Solid color, tie-dyed, patterns? They’re all good! Shirts without side seams are best.
- Jersey pajamas and jersey bed sheets work well, too.
- What won’t work? Ribbed tees or new shirts with designs or embroidery. These don’t curl as evenly after cutting and result in funky, hard-to-use yarn.
- The trick to using a rotary cutter on stretchy fabric is to pull the fabric in the direction you’ll be cutting first. Check after each cut and clean up shaggy edges.
- Ensure straight cuts by smoothing and avoiding creases.
- If you have a big project that’ll use a lot of the same color of yarn, use XL or larger T-shirts.
TOOLS AND MATERIALS NEEDED
- Place your T-shirt on the cutting mat. Stretch the material in direction you will be cutting and smooth the fabric for clean cuts. Fold the T-shirt just about in half lengthwise, leaving the bottom fabric layer about 1″ to 1-1/2″ longer. (NOTE: DO NOT line up the top and bottom layers together, you’ll need the overlap in order to differentiate between the top and bottom layers in the later steps).
- Use an OLFA Frosted Acrylic Ruler as a guide and a 45mm Rotary Cutter to completely remove the bottom hem of the T-shirt with a straight cut.
- Line up the straight-cut edge (where you removed the hem) with a guideline on your OLFA cutting mat. Continue to make 1/2″ or 1″ cuts across the fabric, STOPPING after cutting all the way through the top fabric. DO NOT CUT all the way through the FOLDED EDGE of the bottom layer of fabric. This is critical to eventually forming one continuous piece of yarn. (NOTE FOR SUCCESS: Use the frosted ruler as a cutting guide and the gridlines on the mat to keep cuts uniform, and do not cut all the way through the folded edge!)
- Continue to make uniform 1/2″ or 1″ cuts across the T-shirt, stopping so you don’t cut the folded edge completely, until you reach the armpits. Then cut all the way through both layers, removing the top of the T-shirt completely (collar, sleeves, etc.). Toss the top.
- Unfold the material so that the connected portion of the T-shirt is open flat on the cutting mat. Here is where you will create one continuous strip of fabric.
- Starting from the outside edge of one end, use a rotary cutter or scissors to cut diagonally from the outside edge to your first cut strip. Then cut diagonally to the second strip, and then the third, and so on until you make diagonal cuts for every strip. By cutting diagonally, the fabric stays connected as one long strand. You will now have a single strand of 1/2″ or 1″ fabric.
- Finish the T-shirt yarn by stretching the fabric a foot or two at a time, down the entire length of yarn. The cut edges of the T-shirt fabric will curl together when stretched, creating the useful T-shirt yarn.
- Roll your T-shirt yarn into a ball and use for your favorite fabric crafts and projects!
TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
- How much yarn can you get from one T-shirt? It depends on the size of the shirt and the width of the cut strips. A men’s XL shirt will typically yield about 25-30 yards. That’s enough for a simple scarf or a bunch of crocheted coasters.
- Once you’ve got the hang of it, experiment with the cut width of T-shirt strands. Wider cuts yield more bulky yarn that works for home décor, like a braided rug or a crocheted basket. Narrower strips are best for more delicate objects including necklaces, bracelets, belts and knotted hairpins.
- If you have a particularly project in mind but lack shirts in the right colors, it’s time to customize. Use laundered white tees and fabric dye to create the perfect tones for your DIY project.
- Need to join T-shirt yarn strands? Cut a slit 1/4″ from the edge of each strand to be joined and thread the un-slit end of the first strand through the slit in the second strand. Then slide the un-slit end of the first strand through its own slit to create a loop. Slowly pull the first strand all the way through the slit until it is tight and a small knot has form. Now you can continue!