In this post, I’m going to show you how to make t-shirt yarn from upcycled t-shirts. As some of you know, upcycling is one of my passions and I get a little excited about recycling items of clothing, and t-shirts are one of them.
In a previous post, I have shared some different ideas of how to use upcycled t-shirts. and you can find them here. But for now, let me show you how to make t-shirt yarn.
What can you do with T-Shirt Yarn?
Oh, baby, this stretchy yarn is the best! I have been making it for years, and it comes in handy for so many things. You can use it just like you would yarn and twine.
How to Choose the Right T-Shirt for T-shirt Yarn
The best scenario is to find a t-shirt that doesn’t have side seams and is just one continuous piece of fabric. That is ideal, but they’re not as easy to find, but don’t worry because I’m going to show you a really slick way to join the seams and how to cut off that bulky side and make it flow a lot nicer if you have to use a shirt with seams.
I like to find t-shirts that have a little bit of synthetic content and stretch to them. T-shirts that are 100% cotton tend to fray and don’t stretch as well. (It all depends on what you’re using the yarn for).
Don’t limit yourself to just t-shirts. You can use knit dresses and skirts too. Check out this post where I give some helpful tips on upcycling t-shirts.
Materials & Items Needed
- Rotary Cutter/Ruler (optional but recommended)
- Sewing Machine/Needle & Thread (optional)
Using Printed T-Shirt Fabric
TAKE NOTE: If you have a t-shirt that has a cute print that you want to be shown, you’ll need to cut the fabric differently. If you cut the strips horizontally, what happens when you pull the strips to stretch the yarn it is going to curl with the wrong side of the fabric showing on the outside. This is fine if you are using a plain color fabric. But if you want the print exposed, you’ll need to cut the fabric strips vertically.
Most people don’t know this and I don’t want you to be all bummed when you go to pull your strips and the cute print is not visible, just something to consider.
Follow the cutting instructions for printed fabric below. If the t-shirt you are using has a logo or screen print, you’ll want to cut around that as well.
How big should you cut the strips?
You can cut the strips in different sizes, just depends on what you’re going to use them for. I recommend cutting different size strips on a sleeve and then pulling the strips to see what they look like. Try 1, 1 ½, and 2-inch strips. All fabrics will react a little differently.
Cutting Strips with NO SIDE SEAM T-Shirts
Remove the bottom hem. I really like using a rotary cutter because you get a very straight edge!
Flatten your t-shirt out and fold it in half lengthwise, but leave it unfolded two inches. *Something to consider, if the shirt has a logo on it, you don’t want this in your strips, so cut around it.
Cut from armpit to armpit as shown here. Cut the desired width of strips horizontally, BUT DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY ACROSS! Stop cutting just past the fold of the top layer. Continue cutting strips all the way up the shirt.
On the last strip cut it all the way off and remove the top of the shirt. As you can see there’s a section that’s not cut and this is where the magic happens! Slide your arm between the layers and adjust it so the uncut area is accessible over your arm. This makes it easier to cut than cutting on a table.
As indicated on the drawing, start cutting through the single layer of fabric on the bottom strip at an angle to the end of the cut edge. On the next layer cut from one end to the other ON A DIAGANOL! Follow that same pattern until you’ve cut all strips.
Cutting Strips on T-Shirts with SIDE SEAMS
You can follow the same procedure if you don’t mind bulky seams in your yarn. This may be fine for some craft projects, but if you’re crocheting something, this seam will be very bulky. I will show you below how to join the pieces without all the bulk.
If you want to cut strips and sew them together, cut off the side seams and then cut strips to the size you want. Follow the instructions below on how to piece strips together.
Cutting Strips of PRINTED FABRIC
Remove the bottom hem and remove the sleeves. Instead of folding the t-shirt over vertically, fold the bottom edge up to the neckband. Cut off side seams and then cut vertical strips to your desired width. You will need to piece strips together.
How to Piece Strips Together
Before sewing strips together, pull the strip ends that you are going to sew together to see which side curls in. Put the curling sides facing down flatten it out and take the other strip that you’re joining together and place it on top of the strip with the curling side facing up.
Place them at right angles overlapping just about a 1/4 inch at the top and on the side. It doesn’t really matter if it’s more, but it needs to be at least a quarter inch. Sew from notch to notch at an angle using a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Clip fabric and leave a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Clip away the two little ear tags. When you open up the seam it’s at a diagonal and when you pull it, the seam will be tucked inside. You may be wondering why you can’t just sew it at a straight angle. Doing it this way distributes the seam at an angle so it’s tucked inside and less bulky. Pretty cool huh?
So if you can’t find t-shirts without seams, you can join them this way and it works really well. If you really needed to, you could do this by using a needle and thread as well
Pulling Strips to Make T-Shirt Yarn
To finish the strips into yarn, simply pull the strips. When you pull the strips, they’ll curl onto themselves making a nice yarn. Wrap strips into a ball and place them in a cute basket.
Who would have thought that you can make yarn from an upcycled t-shirts! This is such a fun thing and it’s easy to do.
So go through your closets and find some cute colors of t-shirts and make yarn!