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Making T-Yarn from Recycled Tee-Shirts

Posted on June 5, 2009

T-Yarn Ball This is a tutorial on how to make T-yarn from old recycled tee-shirts. T-yarn maybe a new term to you. T-yarn or Tarn is what the yarn is being called that is made from cutting t-shirts into strips for crafting.

The best t-shirts are ones that do not have side seams as you can cut around and around starting at the bottom. First cut off the hem and then with a sharp pair of scissors cut strips about 1/2″ to 3/4″ wide. Cut in one continuous strip as I have shown here.

All photos are clickable to supersize them
T-Yarn1 T-Yarn2T-Yarn3

T-Yarn4
I stopped at the armhole openings as this was the end of my continuous strip that is completely one piece cut in rounds. You can cut off the sleeves and start another continuous strip at this point but it’s not as smooth as the main body because you will have curves in your strip where you have to turn the corners.

T-Yarn5
To create the circular T-yarn, you gently pull on the strip. I found the best way to do this is by taking a short length about 1-2 feet long and stretching it. The stretching causes the tee-shirt strip to turn in on itself thus creating your rounded T-yarn. One important warning is not to pull too hard otherwise the strip breaks. I did have this happen on my first attempts so be advised to gently pull on the strip until it won’t stretch any further. Then you move to the next section of your strand and stretch it again. Continue stretching your strip until the whole long continuous strand has been stretched and is curled as shown in the photo.

T-Yarn Stitching SampleClick to supersize
Here is a small sample of what the curled T-yarn looks like when you crochet with it. It’s smooth to work with and has a nice finished look. You can either crochet or knit with the recycled yarn that has been created. This circular T-yarn would make excellent potholders, trivets and of course is perfect for a recycled tote bag. One large tee-shirt netted about 90 yards of T-yarn once stretched. So grab your crochet hook or knitting needles and experiment with this recycled material to create some wonderful eco craft projects.

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56 Responses to “Making T-Yarn from Recycled Tee-Shirts”

  1. Marie Anne
    Jun 05, 2009

    Oh my, Cindy, this is fantastic! I am going to try this as soon as I can rifle through some things and find an old t-shirt.

    Looks much easier to work with than plarn, and I’m sure just as sturdy. Once it is rolled into itself and then crocheted, does it have any stiffness to it, or is it pretty flexible?

    Marie Anne’s last blog post..Am I Hallucinating?


  2. Marie Anne
    Jun 05, 2009

    Oh yea, I just ‘tweeted’ this link on twitter. Hope it gets you a few hits!

    Marie Anne’s last blog post..Am I Hallucinating?


  3. Cindy
    Jun 05, 2009

    @Marie Anne,
    The yarn created from T-shirts is still soft and easy to work with. It is not stiff and is very flexible. I hope you will try a project with the t-yarn.


  4. Lesalicious
    Jun 06, 2009

    WOW what a great idea. I should totally do that so I can whip up a pillow in a hurry. Great job so far can’t wait to see the finally project.:)

    Lesalicious’s last blog post..Before and After (Couch and Chair Remodel)


  5. Kristy
    Jun 09, 2009

    Great instructions! I just posted on my blog here what to do with the rest of the t-shirt.


  6. […] I just came across a blog with instruction on making T-Yarn or tarn as she calls it. Isn’t that neat? And look at the cute things she makes with it; trivets, […]


  7. Mary Anne
    Jun 21, 2009

    This looks simplier than using plastic bags although I did make a door mat once. I have tons of old t shirts and can pick up more at yard sales for cheap. Great bag patterns too. THANKS!


  8. ValerieAnne
    Jul 02, 2009

    I’m going to try this too. This is really cool. I wonder if the way I cut plastic bags might also cut t-shirts easily. I think it would save time.

    Mary Anne – OMG! yard sales.

    Recently I picked up a potholder loop kit to do with my kids. There was a book which had patterns and polyester loops for about 8 potholders. I made more than my daughter made because I was excited to try out the patterns. It turns out those things melt in high heat. I bought a bag of cotton loops and they are very hard to work with but make better potholders. I wonder if old t-shirts could be used somehow…


  9. CrochetDad
    Jul 02, 2009

    OK – you’ve given me another project!

    I’ve got a pile of tee shirts that the whole family uses for nightshirts. That pile is going to get smaller now.

    Thanks!

    CrochetDad’s last blog post..We’re gonig to the Fair!


  10. Deb
    Jul 14, 2009

    Absolutely, fantastic! I’m so excited about this technique. I can’t wait to try this. I was just looking at some t-shirts and thought of turning them into dust rags. But I crochet more than I dust. lol Thanks so much for this lesson.


  11. Crystal
    Oct 24, 2009

    I just made my first ball of t yarn out of a cool colored mismade green t shirt a friend left at my house before he moved away


  12. Polly
    Nov 21, 2009

    I love this! I’m having a hard time finding t-shirts without seams though.


  13. Cindy
    Nov 21, 2009

    @Polly,
    You don’t have to use seamless t-shirts but they do work better. When you cut a t-shirt that has side seams, just go around like you would if you were peeling an orange all in one continuous strip. Try and make the longest strip possible so you don’t have a lot of splices in your t-yarn.


  14. Tina
    Jan 03, 2010

    I’m just now getting into crocheting with ‘tarn’ but wondered if you have any additional ideas on what to do with the top part of the t-shirt. After creating a bunch of balls, I still have a lot of scrap t-shirt fabric left that I would love to reuse in some way!

    Thanks for such an informative blog!


  15. Cindy
    Jan 03, 2010

    Tina,
    I still cut the top of the shirt and the back above the armholes. I do a long strip but going around the outside of the shirt, up around the neck and down the other side. At the corners, I do wide circular turns and trim the edges. This piece at the top isn’t as smooth as the lower portion that is cut and curled but is still usable. I save all the pieces and used them in areas that if the edges aren’t as smooth its not that noticeable. You can also use the top piece for pockets in handbags and as lining for purses. I’ve also used these pieces and the sleeves as dusting rags. Best wishes and thanks so much for stopping by for a visit at my blog.


  16. Cindy
    Jan 03, 2010

    Tina,
    I still cut the top of the shirt and the back above the armholes. I do a long strip but going around the outside of the shirt and at the corners, I do wide circular turns and trim the edges. This piece at the top isn’t as smooth as the lower portion that is cut and curled but is still usable. I save all the pieces and used them in areas that if the edges aren’t as smooth its not that noticeable. You can also use the top piece for pockets into handbags and as lining. I’ve also used these pieces and the sleeves as dusting rags. Best wishes and thanks for much for stopping by for a visit at my blog.


  17. Nita R
    Jan 03, 2010

    What a terrific use for old T-shirts. If any of you has a serger, it is super simple to cut those long strips. Just set your machine without any thread, put on a seam guide if you have one, clip the fabric then continuously feed it through to make a long, even-width strip.


  18. gina
    Jan 09, 2010

    here is a website that uses the t-shirt sleeves for a t-shirt headband.http://zakkalife.blogspot.com/search/label/recycled%20crafts


  19. Susan
    Feb 06, 2010

    Awesome. I’m grabbing my scissors right now and attacking all those t’s I never wear.


  20. […] by just crocheting with traditional yarn. Try crocheting with plarn (yarn made from plastic bags) or T-yarn (yarn made from old T-shirts). You do NOT need a special pattern to crochet with these materials. You can use regular crochet […]


  21. Yvonne Pearsall
    Feb 23, 2010

    Just discovered your page, very interesting! I am from New South Wales, Australia. I will be checking out all your patterns.


  22. Teresa
    Mar 13, 2010

    I love the idea of using TARN . . .but I worried I won’t be able to cut all the strips the same size. Does that even matter?


  23. Cindy
    Mar 13, 2010

    @Teresa:
    I like my t-shirt yarn narrow about 1/4″ wide and I try and cut it about that wide. I cut it laying on my lap and across my leg. I cut my strips up about a foot up and then move my piece and continue. The width really depends on what you are doing. I find the narrow tarn easier to crochet with.


  24. Clare
    Mar 28, 2010

    Good information Cindy,
    I had hesitated cutting my t-shirts that narrow thinking that it would just shred away. Obviously they don’t.
    I am glad to read that you use the top too, but I thought there must be a more efficient method than the one I already use. Do you ever have problems with the surged shoulder seams giving away. (I haven’t but I worry everytime I wash something I made with shirts.)
    Thank you
    Clare
    PS My husband thinks that there should be a better name than Tarn.


  25. Cindy
    Mar 28, 2010

    Clare:
    Cutting the t-shirts thin makes the material more manageable when you crochet or knit with it. You do have to be careful when you stretch it not to pull too hard as it will break but the finished project is strong and is very durable to craft with. As for the seams, I cut along them and cut the strips only around each section if the t-shirt has side seams. I personally like referring to the yarn created from t-shirts as t-yarn but many people use the term “tarn” so it’s whatever you prefer to use when identifying this reclaimed material.


  26. Elaine
    Apr 15, 2010

    How do you recommend joining strips? is knotting too lumpy to work into the piece?


  27. Cindy
    Apr 15, 2010

    @Elaine,
    You can use knots which I do sometimes if I can hide the knot easy in my project so it doesn’t show. You can also splice strips together by either hand or machine stitching the ends together.

    Another method that doesn’t require sewing the strips together is to make a small slit hole at the end of the two strips you need to splice together. The slit should be cut lengthwise only about ½ inch from the end of the strip and should only be big enough to allow the next strip to pass through it. Hold the two strips with the holes together then take the uncut end and lace it through two holes. Pull the strip completely through the holes and pull tight to make the splice as small as possible.

    One other method is to just overlap the two strips as you crochet but again it depends on the project if you can get away with hiding the overlapping area. Hope this helps. Best wishes and happy crafting to you.


  28. Elaine
    Apr 15, 2010

    I like the splice with the cuts in the ends – sounds like it would be a smoother join. Thanks for all these super ideas!


  29. Cindy
    Apr 15, 2010

    @Elaine,

    Glad I could help. You might take a look at this t-shirt yarn tute on how to join. It shows how to do the joining with t-shirt strips.


  30. Samantha
    Apr 24, 2010

    I love this, and linked to you from my own fledgling blog :)
    Thanks so much for explaining it so clearly!
    .-= Samantha McNesby´s last blog ..Fun with Leftover Socks =-.


  31. Sharry
    Jul 02, 2010

    I make T-shirt quilts from my son’s favorite but outgrown or worn out shirts. This is a wonderful way to use the rest of the shirt (although it requires more piecing since the center of the front of the shirt is cut out).


  32. Ed
    Aug 23, 2010

    What a genius you are! I want to do my part to recycle and what you are posting is exactly the answer! I am so gonna get started on it :D


  33. supermollys mom
    Aug 28, 2010

    If you happen to have old cotton jersey sheets (maybe I’m the only one who loves those…), you could (theoretically) fold it in half lengthwise, and stitch up the other long side with a narrow seam (overlock it, if you can), creating a tube that could be cut in a continuous length, a al plarn from shopping bags… you’d get several hundred yards once it was stretched….


  34. Cindy
    Aug 28, 2010

    @SuperMolly:
    I am actually cutting up a jersey sheet right now that I got at a thrift store for 25 cents. It’s making hundreds of yards of t-yarn. I’m cutting it in one continuous strip about 1/2 inch wide and then curling it. Working with t-yarn is heavier than plarn so you don’t need or really want the double strand of “yarn.”


  35. Dianna
    Sep 17, 2010

    Old t-shirts! Salvation Army is going to love me!!! Can’t wait to get started with this.


  36. Angela
    Oct 01, 2010

    This is such a great idea! To think I’ve been buying yarn to make potholders! I volunteer at my church’s thrift store – now I know what to do with all those old T-shirts that don’t sell!


  37. Debbie J
    Oct 09, 2010

    This is fantastic! I love re-cycling things. I do believe that I will be cutting some shirts soon and may be making me a bag for knitting anc crocheting out of the T-yarn.

    Thank you for sharing this with us!


  38. […] I scavenged a lot of old tee shirts and made yarn out of it (thank you Peter and Kathleen!).  Tee shirts work into yarn very easily.  There are lots of instructions on the internet on how to do this – click here for one. […]


  39. Anita
    Nov 04, 2010

    Cindy, what is the best size crochet hook to use? I’ve seen lots of Tarn rugs and am wanting to try one. TIA!


  40. Cindy
    Nov 04, 2010

    Anita:
    If you cut your tarn real thin you can use a smaller hook like maybe
    a H or J hook. If its wider then use an N (9mm) hook. You can use what feels
    best for you and the stitch size you like.


  41. Doris
    Mar 21, 2011

    Looking at your pictures, thinking what a waste of the top (if it’s in good condition, top + sleeves). Why not turn them into “shoulder-upper arm protectors” to protect against sunburn while wearing a bathing suit?
    Crochet around edges, sleeves, decorate as desired, match swim suits. Could even add a “bottom trim” by using a lacy st (shell?)as many rows as desired.
    Just a thought, that occurred to me.


  42. Cindy
    Mar 25, 2011

    @Doris — Oh I do use the whole t-shirt. I cut the top portion around and when I get to a corner I just do a wide curve in my t-yarn strip. The little tag that is created as just crocheted under when I get to it. It hides real well and you don’t see the curved area in the project.

    I like your idea of using the top for a cover-up too. Great idea and you could add a bottom like you described. Thanks for stopping by and sending me a message.


  43. Susan
    May 10, 2011

    For those who have a cutting board and a rotary cutter, you might want to try my “loopy” method. I do this with my plastic bags, usually 4-5 at a time, just stacked up. Don’t know if the stacking will work w tee shirts.

    Cut straight across the tees, from side to side. Each cut will give you one round. When you’ve got enough, or just got tired, start looping the rounds together. Then just wind all this stuff up into a ball and start crocheting.

    I’ve begun separating the white (or other solid color) rounds from the word/picture/logo/whatever rounds so I can make a solid white bag, and maybe have a yellow stripe around the top, or …..

    There’s no reason why this won’t work with t-shirts as well as bags!


  44. […] old t-shirts and make yarn out of them. Learn more about T-shirt yarn (also called tarn) from My Recycled Bags. We all have old T-shirts that could use a new life so this is a great option for knitters and […]


  45. Nicole
    Jun 02, 2011

    I love this idea! I have some old t-shirt sheet sets that I didn’t have the heart to get rid.
    I can’t wait to try it. I’m not a expert at crocheting but that is definatly give me lots of yarn to practice with. Thanks!


  46. Donna
    Aug 13, 2011

    I love the idea of the ‘tarn’ with the t-shirts. I recently lost a great deal of weight and have been donating my ‘big’ clothes. This would be a great project to do with my old t-shirts. A rug it is. Thank you for sharing your patterns and ideas!!!


  47. Heather
    Aug 25, 2011

    I’ve found that it’s easier for me to cut the strips with a rotary cutter (using a quilting ruler) to keep the widths even. Just don’t cut all the way to the end of one side. Leave 2-3 inches uncut and use scissors to cut the final bit at an angle – so it’s a spiral instead of loops.


  48. Cindy
    Aug 26, 2011

    Heather,
    Thanks for sharing your method of cutting. I haven’t tried a rotary cutter yet as I usually cut my t-yarn outside so the bits can shed outside. I just eyeball my width but try to keep it as uniform as possible as I cut. If the width gets off a bit, it’s okay as it works itself out as you crochet the item. If my t-shirt material has corners, I usually work an oval shaped cut at the corner and then just stretch and trim any edges as appear. This allows my t-yarn to be a continuously long piece of material.


  49. Mrs. Mobunny
    Jan 18, 2012

    I have a big t-shirt rug I am working on. I live near a thrift store that has t-shirts for a DIME every day. I have been cutting them and it causes big knots…..but after seeing the way you did grocery bags, I did the t-shirt the same way. Cut thin strips while keeping the *circle*…..and pulling them together and it turns into a ball of t-yarn! I’ve been struggling with the t-shirts up until NOW! I am SO glad I came to your blog today and learn a new trick. I get the t-shirts at such a good price, it’s hard to NOT buy them. ( I also buy the largest ones possible! they’re not for wearing, but for cutting!) Thanks.


  50. Anne-Marie
    Aug 21, 2012

    Love all the helpful information. Guess it just made the light come on for me. Rather than cutting with scissors by hand those of you who have a serger just take out the needles and use the blades to cut your strips. Easy on the hands for those with arthritis or other hand/wrist issues that cut down working time. Not as environmental conscious as hand scissors [no hydro] but still helping to keep items out of the land fill.



Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I just came across a blog with instruction on making T-Yarn or tarn as she calls it. Isn’t that neat? And look at the cute things she makes with it; trivets, […]

  2. […] by just crocheting with traditional yarn. Try crocheting with plarn (yarn made from plastic bags) or T-yarn (yarn made from old T-shirts). You do NOT need a special pattern to crochet with these materials. You can use regular crochet […]

  3. […] I scavenged a lot of old tee shirts and made yarn out of it (thank you Peter and Kathleen!).  Tee shirts work into yarn very easily.  There are lots of instructions on the internet on how to do this – click here for one. […]

  4. […] old t-shirts and make yarn out of them. Learn more about T-shirt yarn (also called tarn) from My Recycled Bags. We all have old T-shirts that could use a new life so this is a great option for knitters and […]

  5. […] costs while in grad school I started turning Hawkeye and my extra t-shirts into t-shirt yarn, aka tarn, and crochet granny squares. This month I did manage to cut up 5 more t-shirts and crochet 5 more […]

  6. […] showing how to make yarn from plastic bags.  Then there’s t-yarn (made by cutting up an old t-shirt), VCR tape yarn, old sheets (and other fabrics) yarn and […]

  7. […] a colored t-shirt cut just as thin as possible. Make sure you stretch your t-shirt strips to create curled t-shirt yarn. Crochet the cuff using the colored t-yarn to complete the […]

  8. […] pulled to curl the t-yarn or tarn in two colors if doing the 2-color hat as shown. Click here for my T-Shirt Yarn making tutorial for recycling old shirts into […]

  9. […] T-Shirt Yarn Tutorial:http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2009/06/05/making-t-yarn-from-recycled-tee-shirts/ This tutorial will show you how to turn that unloved t-shirt into awesome yarn!  Your project will […]

  10. […] cut my t-shirt yarn using this tarn-making tutorial. My strips were cut thin as this helps make the material easier to crochet. Using t-shirt yarn […]

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About Me

Hello, I’m Cindy or aka RecycleCindy. I love to learn and share information about crocheted and other items crafted from recycled materials. This is a green, eco-friendly website that is dedicated to recycling and crafting.
This blog and my life have taken on a new journey when on March 10, 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have added a special area on my blog in which I chronicle my journey into the pink.
Thank you for stopping by to visit and for your interest in My Recycled Bags!

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