Here's how to make your own t shirt yarn from fabrics you may want to recycle instead of throwing out.
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I first decided to use up some t shirt yarn when my lovely dog accidentally walked some poo into the house, smeared it onto the sheepskin rug and then lay on it for extra measure. I was devastated as that was her favourite place to sleep but there was no way I was going to get the sheepskin clean again. I was also short of another £50-£100 for a new sheepskin rug so my only option was to crochet something with what I already had around the house.
I can't be the only person with a long history of different dress sizes, varying tastes in clothing and a box full of old t shirts that were not good enough to sell or give to charity but were still useful. If they have holes in, seams falling apart or are faded and threadbare, they're still really useful for making home decor.
I also asked my Dad to donate some t shirts that are now too big for him. He donated some XXL t shirts and it helped me to finish off my crochet rug in a way that a size 10 women's t shirt or age 5 leggings could not.
It was such a fun project. It's like magic. You take a t shirt, cut it in a very specific way, stretch the strips and wind them into a ball. I'll show you how I did it:
- Good fabric scissors. You'll get smoother edges this way and limited fraying. I used these Fiskars scissors.
- A t shirt or dress made of stretchy cotton jersey.
- A roll such as a wrapping paper tube (optional) or your arm.
- A flat surface to work on.
First take the T shirt and cut from one underarm to the other in a horizontal direction. This frees up a tube or rectangle and you can make some yarn with absolutely no knots.
Cut off the bottom seam or unpick it first and then use it as part of the rectangle.
You need to cut across the t shirt in 1-2in strips depending on how thick you want your yarn to be. I cut mine in 2.5cm/1in strips as I had a 10mm hook but if you are using finger crochet or want to use a bigger hook, by all means go for the larger strip. T shirt yarn is very forgiving so it doesn't matter if your strips aren't symmetrical.
You have to cut across from one end to the next but you do not cut the end instead, you cut to about 1inch from the side seam (or side if you don't have side seams). Keep cutting from one edge to 1 in before the other. You will only cut one side completely.
Next, you need to drape the uncut edge of the tshirt across your arm or a tube such as a wrapping paper roll. This enables you to see the uncut fabric. You will then cut the first top strip on the right diagonal (left leaning). That will be the beginning of the yarn ball.
If you're left handed, work from the left to right, cutting diagonally from the bottom left to the top right.
You then need to cut from the top of the bottom right strip diagonally so it matches up with the top right strip.
Keep cutting the left leaning diagonal strips until there's one strip left. Cut that off completely just as you did with the first strip. That is the other end of the yarn.
Don't worry if you make a mistake here and end up with smaller strips. Just tie them together. The knots can be hidden under stitches.
How to wind it into a ball
At this point you can give the strips a little stretch. This just gives you more mileage out of the yarn and evens it out as it folds over on itself like bias binding does.
Can I use the rest of the t shirt?
You can but you won't get as much fabric as you did with the body and there will be knots. I'll pop another blog post up soon to show you how to do that but if you're happy with the yarn that you have, why not just use the top parts as cleaning rags? They're much more eco friendly than microfibre cloths as they don't release microplastics when washed.
Can I cut up other fabric?
Yes. I used some of my daughter's holey leggings too. I checked to see what direction the fabric was stretching in and I had a choice between cutting across the leg horizontally (just like with the t shirt) or cutting up the leg lengthways into strips. The latter method does result in pieces that need tying together but you're never going to get away with that.
I also used a stretchy maternity dress as t shirt yarn. I just used the exact same method as I did with the t shirt. It was jersey knit fabric so it works absolutely fine.
You can also cut up fabrics that are not stretchy but these will not be as forgiving to work with so you might want to use a larger hook.
Here's how to cut up your yarn using the whole tshirt.