How to turn old t-shirts into yarn 1

…but first, let’s answer the burning question on everybody’s minds: why the hell would you?

Cutting up old t-shirts and turning them into yarn is definitely a labor of love. It takes quite a bit of time and effort, and the end result is never going to come out as slick and professional as mechanically produced yarn.

But then, all that is kind of the point.

To me, the value of t-shirt yarn is not the flawless end result when you make something with it; it’s the fact that the love, time and effort you put in are visible in the end result. The history of the fabric – the t-shirt – is visible; you didn’t erase it, you just restored it to life in a brand new form. How cool is that? I think it’s really empowering that you can take a shirt that you’ve loved for years, and instead of throwing it away, you give it a new purpose so that it can be loved again.

monstrosities‘Hug me or else’; a little monster I made out of one of my own old shirts and gave to my friend’s newborn son.

cosyleft‘Tee-cosy’; a tea-cosy I made for my friend Ronald. The white is from a shirt Ronald’s kids wore as babies!

I hope I made you look differently at that pile of old t-shirts hogging the top drawer of your closet. And if you’re a cold-hearted, shrewd, thrifty thrillseeker – consider this if nothing else: t-shirt yarn is free, and IRREGULARITIES AND MISTAKES ONLY ADD TO THE CHARM.

Hm. Should’ve started with that, shouldn’t I?

Anyway, whatever your reasons, if you want to turn your old t-shirts into yarn, here’s how to do it!

Turning old t-shirts into yarn, the Recoverista way
Hallucinating floor courtesy of Mark, a friend I’m catsitting for at the moment.

Step 1) Spread the t-shirt out on a clean floor and straighten it as much as possible.

tshirtsidestart tshirtsidecutStep 2) If you have a seamless shirt like this one, simply cut into one of the sides and go all the way up to the armpit. If your shirt does have side seams, cut both of them of.

tshirtstraighten tshirtfoldStep 3) Fold the shirt in half, make sure that the edges align, and straighten as much as possible.

tshirttopoff tshirtedgeoff

Step 4) Cut the top part of the shirt off (from the arm holes up) and also cut off the bottom edge.


tshirttechniqueStep 5) Starting at the bottom, cut horizontal strips of about 1cm/0,4 inch off the shirt. It helps to stretch the fabric while cutting (photo 2). It doesn’t matter if all the strips aren’t exactly the same width of if they’re not exactly straight. Remember: irregularities add to the charm. This will from now on be your mantra for everything from ironing to filling out tax forms. You’re welcome!



Step 6) Keep going and going until you have a pile of strips and no t-shirt left. This is kind of a tedious process. I recommend soft music or hard liquor.

tshirtstretchStep 7) Stretch the strips you want to start with by pulling on the ends.

tshirtstartknot tshirtslipknotStep 7) Grab the ends of two strips and fold them over each other twice, creating a reef knot. Tip: check that both of the ends on one side come out ‘on top’, and both of the ends on the other side come out ‘on the bottom’. Here, for example, the right side ends both come out on the bottom of the knot, and the left ends both come out on top.



Step 8) Cut the ends off the knot, leaving you with a small, nearly invisible bump. Because t-shirt fabric is quite coarse and stretchy, the knots don’t often come loose.
Now go ahead and do this for the other gazillion strips of yarn, too. (Deep breathing! Soft music! Hard liquor!)

tshirthandstart tshirthandiwork Step 9) When you have quite a bit of length, you can keep one end rolled around your hand while you work, to prevent the yarn from getting tangled.

tshirtyarnStep 10) When you’re all done, roll everything into a ball. Step back and admire from a distance. Optional: more soft music and hard liquor to celebrate.

That’s all, folks! I hope this was helpful to you, and if you make your own t-shirt yarn, let me know how it goes, okay?

Now if you want ideas for what to MAKE with this t-shirt yarn…stay tuned until next week! (hint! hint!)

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