How to Make T-Shirt Yarn


Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into yarn! T-shirt yarn is durable, can be machine washed and dried, doesn’t shrink, and best of all – it’s FREE! So start saving those T-shirts and turn them into something gorgeous and useful. I turn my T-shirts into area rugs for the kitchen and bath.

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com |

Step-by-step tutorial on how to make T-shirt yarn

Making yarn is a great way to use old T-shirts – even the ones that are stained or have slight rips or holes. Turning them into rugs (and pot holders) is easy, fun and a great zero waste project!

The resulting yardage will be dependent on the size of the T-shirt. I’ve used everything from XS women’s tank tops, to XXL men’s T-shirts, and even use the sleeves from long-sleeve T-shirts to make yarn.

Below is a step-by-step tutorial on how to turn your old T-shirts into a nice weight yarn for making rugs.

Step 1

Step-by-step tutorial on how to make T-shirt yarn | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 1 – lay the T-shirt flat

Smooth out the T-shirt on a flat surface, and try to line up the seams. Sometimes shirts will want to twist a little. Just try to get it as flat as possible.

Step 2

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 2 – cut off bottom band

Most T-shirts have a hem or a band at the bottom. Cut that off, because it is too thick to work with in the resulting yarn.

Step 3

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 3 – cut under armholes

Cut across the T-shirt just below the armhole or sleeve.

Step 4

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 4 – save the top part for potholder loops

Cut all the way across the T-shirt, but save the top part! You can make matching pot holder loops with that fabric. You can learn how to weave pot holders here.

Step 5

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 5 – fold one inch shy of in half

Fold the remaining T-shirt up toward the top seam. Keep it about an inch shy of totally folding the fabric in half.

A closer look at the fold 

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
A closer look

Step 6

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 6 – use a rotary cutter

Starting on the far left, begin cutting roughly 1″ strips – cut right thru that first  seam, and stop about 3/4″ to 1/2″ from the top fold. DON’T CUT THROUGH THAT TOP FOLD!

Don’t worry about cutting straight, smooth cuts if you are using scissors. An alternative is to use a rotary cutter. The folded T-shirt is fairly thick, so you will have to bear down hard in order to cut through all four layers. Be careful where your fingers are too! You’re going to need those fingertips later on.  😉

Step 7

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 7 – all strips are cut

Once you have finished cutting all the strips, unfold the fabric, keeping the uncut seam at the top.

Step 8

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 8 – find the spine

Carefully turn the top seam, so you can see the entire uncut area. I call this the “spine” of the fabric.

Step 9

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 9 – locate the first row

Locate the first row, and the part of the strip that is at the back. Gently pull it just a bit forward and away from the other strips.

Step 10

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 10 – cut the first row on an angle

Cut the first piece on an angle from the edge, right up to the part where the next strip begins. It’s going to look really weird, and there will be a strange looking “elbow” in the strip. The first one will be the most pronounced, and you can trim it just a little if it is too big and bulky. Once you make the yarn, these weird elbows won’t be a problem.

Step 11

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 11 – cut all rows on an angle

Continue cutting each strip on an angle.

Step 12

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 12 – prep for the last cut

The last strip looks like the photo below. Carefully separate the pieces so you can make the final cut.

Step 13

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 13 – cut last row on an angle

Cut the last piece on an angle.

Step 14

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 14 – one continuous piece

You now have one continuous piece of fabric!!!!

Step 15

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 15 – stretch the yarn slightly

Before rolling the yarn into balls, tug the yarn so it will curl in on itself.

The amount of curl will depend on the T-shirt fabric. Some blends won’t budge at all! However, these blends will still make good yarn. You may have to cut the strips a little narrower than shirts that have Lycra in them.

Step 16

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 16 – ready to roll

Your yarn is ready to roll!

Any bits that have the T-shirt’s side seam are easy to hide while you knit, as are uncurled parts and those weird elbows from the angle cuts.

Step 17

Give new life to old T-shirts by turning them into T-shirt yarn | step-by-step tutorial | www.donnaberlanda.com
Step 17 – done

DONE!!!!! Roll the T-shirt yarn into balls, and you are ready to knit (or crochet) your new project!

I use T-shirt yarn for knitting rugs. The photo at the top of this post shows one I am working on using a linen stitch. And in this post on how to weave pot holders, you can see one (the last photo in the post) I made in a chevron pattern.  Below is a photo of the 4′ x 2 1/2′ completed rug. I find that US size 15 knitting needles work best for the weight of the T-shirt yarn.

What will you be making with your T-shirt yarn?


4 thoughts on “How to Make T-Shirt Yarn

  • Linda Smith

    Love this idea. What a great use for all the t-shirts the kids have acquired from years of sports. What hook size would you recommend for crocheting a rug?

    • Donna Post author

      Hope you try this with all those t-shirts Linda! I’m not sure about what size crochet hook since I don’t crochet very often. Probably one that has a fairly large hook.

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