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.
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.
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.
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.
Cut across the T-shirt just below the armhole or sleeve.
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.
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
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. 😉
Once you have finished cutting all the strips, unfold the fabric, keeping the uncut seam at the top.
Carefully turn the top seam, so you can see the entire uncut area. I call this the “spine” of the fabric.
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.
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.
Continue cutting each strip on an angle.
The last strip looks like the photo below. Carefully separate the pieces so you can make the final cut.
Cut the last piece on an angle.
You now have one continuous piece of fabric!!!!
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.
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.
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.