Day 2: T-Shirt Yarn


Supplies: Old t-shirts, scissors, dye (optional), bandaids

Time: About 20 minutes per shirt.  Not bad!

Back in March I screen printed a bunch of t-shirts for the film Zielinski.  Most of them worked out nicely, but there were a few that had little spots of ink where they didn’t belong.  So those poor shirts have been stashed away waiting to be turned into something else.

Shirt pile

Some of them had spots on the sleeves and collars, so I put those aside to be made into bags and whatnot at a later date.  The ones with spots and stains on the bottom half of the shirt, however, will be turned into… T-SHIRT YARN!  I read about t-shirt yarn several months ago and was fascinated, yet skeptical.  But now that I’ve made the yarn I’m really excited to use it (I have something in mind for Friday or Saturday).

All the tutorials I looked at used colorful shirts and I really like how they turned out.  Since I only had white shirts I decided to dye them to make them pretty.  I started the process last night.  Since I didn’t need the whole shirt for the yarn I decided to cut before coloring.

Ready for cutting

I’ll link you to the better illustrated tutorial I used at the end of the post, but here’s my little run down for you.  Start with your shirt laid out nice and flat with the hems lined up as much as possible.  You’ll only need the bottom part of the shirt, so cut a straight line right below the arms, so you’re left with a tube of shirt.


Dying fabric is pretty simple.  Just fill a pot (hopefully bigger than my sad little saucepans) with water and a little salt.

Glug, glug, glug.

Once the water comes to a boil add the dye.  I used liquid Rit, which I didn’t know existed until earlier this year.  It’s awesome!  Use a chopstick or a wooden spoon that you don’t mind turning colors to swirl the dye around a bit.  Then add the fabric and stir it around a little.  You might have to turn the heat down a couple notches if it starts spitting colored water everywhere.

Yellow and blue

So, the process has a tendency to be a tiny bit messy, but hopefully you can avoid this:


In a manner I’m not totally sure of I dumped about half the bottle of blue dye all over the kitchen.  I was just setting the bottle on the counter when it literally leaped out of my hand and threw itself everywhere!  Luckily, I was able to get it cleaned up with my now blue tea towels and some 409.  The curious cat was less than helpful.

giddy-up 409!

Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to dye my robe blue soon.

Good thing those pants are plaid.

I did this whole process last night so I wouldn’t have to pay for the dryer.  I made a little clothes line on my balcony and let the shirts dry overnight.

they were ready by morning

So today I made yarn.  First, lay the shirt out flat on the table and cut off the hem (not sure why I didn’t do that before).  You’ll have two raw sides and two closed sides.  Fold one closed side toward the other, leaving about and inch of fabric unfolded.

all tucked in.

You can fold it over twice if your cutting hand is feeling particularly strong.  Mine wasn’t, so I only folded it once.  Now you’ll start cutting.  This is really just a simpler way to cut the whole thing into a big spiral.  Cut 1/2”-1 1/2” strips of fabric up to the fold line.  Don’t cut through that last inch of fabric!


Then open up the tube.  Put the uncut part over the back of a chair, on your arm, or over you knee or something.  You’ll be cutting it.


At this point you might want to look at the real tutorial, but here’s my attempt at explaining this part.  Start at the first slit on one side of the shirt.  Cut diagonally from that slit to the second slit on the other side of the shirt.  Do that the rest of the way down the shirt and then cut the ends so you have one long strand!

shirt ribbon

Next comes the painful part.  Start at the end and hold a length of the strand in your hands.  Pull the shirt so it stretches and the edges kind of curl under.  Apparently, shirts are not that soft, so they kind of rip up your hands when you tug on it for a long time.  I now have bandaids (and blisters) on half of my fingers, but I think it was worth it.  I ended up with a pile of this:


Roll the yarn into balls and you’re ready to make something cool.  Do you think this is how they make plastic bag yarn?  Someone try it!


That’s it!  If you don’t need to dye your shirts this is a really quick and simple process.  I look forward to finding out how it knits.

Here’s the tutorial I used.

Have fun,



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