Categories
DIY projects

HOW TO cut continuous t-shirt yarn

T-shirt yarn (tarn) is quick and easy to make. It can be used in an endless array of projects. Try to using it in crochet, weaving a bath matt, or making a trendy scarf. I’ve used it to create a macrame throw.

In the macramé t-shirt throw tutorial I recommend cutting multiple strips from t-shirts. This gives you strands that are shorter and thus easier to work with, but there’s a tradeoff. As those strands get shorter you have to attach new strands. The point of connection will leave you with a less finished look. Cutting continuous t-shirt yarn, is an optional technique you can use to make your macramé t-shirt throw a bit more finished.

If you use a longer strand you’ll have less of these connection points. Working with longer strands will still be more cumbersome than working with short strands, even if you spool them. You’ll just have decide what’s more important  having more consistent knots or having strands that are easier work with. Just so you know, I went with shorter stands for the throw I made for Nate Berkus and used the single stitch joining method.

Supplies

  • 1 cotton jersey t-shirts
    To make this a true upcycling project use shirts that can’t be worn or donated to charity. You can start the throw with 1 t-shirt, but you can add more t-shirts as you acquire them to make the throw bigger.
  • 1 ruler
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • rotary cutter or X-Acto knife

How-To

  1. Fold your t-shirt, by bringing the right edge of the shirt, which is closest to you, towards the left edge of the shirt, which is farther from you. Don’t bring them together all the way. Leave about 2″ of space between them.
  2. Smooth out your shirt as much a possible. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but large creases can give your strips jagged, inconsistent edges.
  3. Cut off the bottom hem.
  4. Cut 1″ wide strips. Starting the cut from the right edge of the shirt down to the folded side. Notice the strip is still attached, because we left a 2″ allowance between the right and left sides of the shirt.
  5. Continue cutting out the rest of the strips.
  6. When you reach the sleeves. Start your cut from the left edge of the shirt this time to fully separate it from the remaining portion.
  7. Open up the shirt and insert your hand through all the loops. Notice the right slit and the left slit.
  8. Cut towards the left slit diagonally from the outer edge.
  9. Now starting from the right slit cut diagonally towards left slit.
  10. Repeat this until all the left slits have been cut.
  11. For the last cut, start from the right slit and cut towards the outer edge.
  12. Stretch the t-shirt strand to curl in the edges. Be careful to make sure the edges curl in evenly. To ensure, this untwist the strand before stretching.
  13. Stretch the t-shirt yarn a second time going in the opposite direction to ensure it’s fully stretched and curled.

Useful tips

  • This technique can also be used with plastic bags to make plarn or plastic yarn, with the exception that you won’t need to stretch the plastic bag to finish it.
  • Not sure what else to make with your tarn? Here are a few projects you can try.

Special thanks to
Doris, Scott, Sara

128 replies on “HOW TO cut continuous t-shirt yarn”

That’s great, Lindsay. I’m so glad your old tees are getting put back to work! Thanks for visiting!

Hi Zoe. I’m so glad you found the video it helpful! Thanks for taking the time to visit and write. Happy tarning!

Thanks for the video tutorial! I’m a crocheter who is getting into yarn dyeing, and I’m doing this with my two kids today during the snow. I’ll be having them fabric paint a bunch of old white shirts before I cut them into yarn. 🙂 I have previously made plarn tote bags and look forward to making some stuff from colorful recycled t-shirts.

Hi Jen! Using fabric paint on the old shirts is a very clever idea. You’re a genius! Thanks for visiting and taking time to give us that great tip. Stay warm!

Dear Bao,
I would like to use your method for making t-shirt yarn. But all my t-shirts have seams at both sides. Does it work with that kind of shirts? Or will the yarn fall apart?
Thanks for your answer.

I’m left handed and directions often look backwards to me. I’m having the hardest time getting the end cutting part correct – and have messed up twice now. I’m not going to give up though. I have watched two of the tutorials – with two different people doing it & thought I had it down, but the second time I had lots of circles instead of a long “string” of fabric! I did loop the circles together and made a ball with them & I will do something with it anyway.

Hi Patricia. I think the reason why you are getting a bunch of loops instead of one long “string” of fabric is that you are skipping the first cut. You need to cut from the outer edge of the shirt to the first slit. Here is the link to the video starting at the step that I think you are missing (http://youtu.be/V3xJ_W6vYN4?t=2m25s). So if you are left-handed and have your right hand inserted into the loops, cut from the outer edge to the right slit.

Please don?t hesitate to write if you have more questions. Thanks for taking the time to visit the site, watch the video, and write, Patricia.

The video on joining two pieces of t-shirt together (with a single crochet method) does not play. How can I get instructions to join two pieces of t-shirt that are ready to crochet with?

The video cleared everything up for me but one piece. When you fold the bottom to the top ( I can’t remember if it was left to right or right to left) I understand that I leave a 2 inch gap and that I cut right to the beginning of that. What I can’t see, is whether or not I will cut through the seam on the bottom side. I know that the far top side needs to stay intact until all of the slices have been made and then I’ll cut those with scissors as you demonstrate. But do I have to cut what would be the other seam in the shirt as I’m making those slices? This will make or break my success with cutting t-shirts, so I hope you understand what I’m asking!!

Hi! I you’re completely correct about the far top side needing to stay intact. You will need to cut through the seam on the bottom side. That’s an excellent question. Please don’t hesitate to write if you have more questions. Thanks for taking the time to visit the site, watch the video, and writing.

[…] Therefore, I decided to use old t-shirts instead. I also liked the idea of upcycling them, so I started collecting my old t-shirts, but it took several months until I finally had enough to start a rug. I cut them up following this tutorial. […]

Please note that this technique works best on tshirts that don’t have seams at the sides. Some tshirts are continuously knitted like a sock, and some are pieced and so have seams. Ones with seams will leave a bump in the yarn

That’s very good point, Joann! I just think of those bumps as slubs. 😀
Thanks for visiting and taking the time to give us that very helpful tip!

Hi there!
Wonderful tutorial!!
Just wondering if you have a technique to join the ends of the t-shirt yarn seamlessly, instead of knotting?
Also, in your video, you cut the strips 1 1/2 inches (if I remember correctly). After stretching, do you have an idea on what gauge yarn that would roughly correlate to?
Thanks so much!!!
Ann
Glamour4You

That’s wonderful! I so excited for you to put that tarn to use. Thanks for stopping by and writing, Lauren!

Hi, Brandi. You sure can! I wouldn’t make the strips thinner than 1/2 inch, cause the jersey could unravel when you stretch the strips to finish the tarn. Thanks for visiting and writing! Tell me how it goes!

Thank you for sharing this wonderful tutorial. I just had a thought that might add something. For those of us who want an even longer piece of yarn, I bet it would be smart to take the flat cut t-shirt fabric and sew it to another piece of cut up t-shirt fabric _BEFORE_ stretching it. You could do this until you have one big seemingly endless ball of t-shirt yarn to knit or crochet with _WITHOUT_ having to attach yarn during knitting or crocheting – meaning there’s a less noticeable join point. My mom used to do that with rags that she cut up for making rugs on a loom. I had no idea how to create t-shirt yarn before your tutorial – thanks so much – I see a tunisian crocheted bathmat might be sturdy and soft!

Hi, Lynn! That’s definitely a great idea! For many projects sewing two long strands together before stretching would be the best way to get the seamless join. Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to offer up this helpful tip!

Bao, THANK YOU! This was so easy and I look forward to starting my new project: a crocheted throw rug out of my husband’s old t-shirts. Thanks again!

Gosh, Mrs. RD! I’m so excited for you! I’m sure the rug will be beautiful! Thanks so much for visiting and writing!

I have great ideas for t-shirt yarn. Unfortunately, I can’t get the video to play, it is simply a big black box with nothing to click on! Where can I find photos of the steps to cut the shirts?

Hi, Vicki. I’m so sorry about that. Technology can be such a pain sometimes! I’ll draw a diagram for you and post it on the page. Thanks for taking the time to write to me!

Finally, a better use for my husbands worn work tees than rags or the trash can. I see a new kitchen rug in our future.

That’s wonderful, Eden! Yes, worn out clothes can definitely be turned into nice decor! Thanks for taking the time to write!

Hi, this tutorial is so smart..I love it!! I am making a carpet to the living room with this amazing idea.Thank you so much, greetings from Chile

Awww, gosh! You’re too kind! I’m so glad you like my tutorial. A carpet for your living room sounds amazing! I’d love to see it when you’re done!
Muchas gracias por escribir y me visita!

I’ve just come across you on the great, bit World Wide Web and I’m thrilled to have done so. I love your ideas which are so original. This t-shirt yarn is very clever 🙂

This has just given me thousands of ideas! Thank you so much on a thorough explanation! It’s always hard to find good instructional videos =)

Will definitely attempt to make a throw, I have so many t-shirts to get rid of!

Even with the sound off on my computer, your video was still very clear and concise. Thank you for your video, i appreciate you sharing with everyone!

Hey YankeeGirl! Thanks for the visiting and commenting. Tarn is so fun to use. I can’t wait for you to crochet with it!

I use paper towel rolls to wind my yarn and make center-pull balls, but this really wonderful tip! Thanks for sharing, Christina!

You ROCK! I have avoided tarn because the idea of dealing with strips was way too much of a pain! This is incredibly easy and I can’t wait to try it out! Thank you…

Hi Andy! Oh yeah, dealing with individual strips can be a drag. I’m so glad my tutorial helped. I so excited for you! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to write!

This is a very clear tutorial, one of the best I have stumbled across. Once I’m done with wedding crafting, I’m going to get back into the habit of knitting, and I think I’ll make a project with this T-shirt yarn. Also, thank you for buying a tripod–I get so frustrated when people post tutorial videos online and they are so shaky that it’s impossible to watch!

Hi Erica! *Whew*! Oh GOSH, Thanks! I’m so glad the video works for you. I actually don’t have a tripod or a dedicated camera. For now I have to make do with my iPhone and a candelabra. I’ll invest in some equipment for better production values later when I get the funds! Have fun finishing up your wedding crafting and enjoy the tarn knitting. BTW, happy belated b-day! Thanks so much for taking the time to write to me.

I’m so happy the method works for you. Thank YOU so so much for visiting, watching the video, and taking the time to write to me. XOXO

Brilliant! Thanks so much for the video tutorial. It was so much easier seeing it done. I love the fact that you can also use this for plarn. The way I was doing it took way too long!

When I first started making plarn (and tarn) I was using a time consuming method too. I was linking the loops together, which makes those little bumps. I’m so glad I was able to help you learn a new technique. I find it to be easier and faster. Thank you so so much for visiting, watching the video, and for writing to me, Cindy! Happy plarning and tarning! 🙂

I’m so glad you find the tutorial useful. What kind of projects do you have planned? Thanks for visiting, watching the video, and writing, Mary! 🙂

I’m so glad you like the tutorial. T-shirt is so fun to use! Thanks for visiting, watching, and writing, Carmen! Much appreciated! Enjoy!

I love this. I am having a problem getting my tee-shirt yarn to curl though. It does not seem to curl at all. I’ve tried several 100% cotton tee-shirts. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. I was also told that the shirt should have spandex in it. Is this true or am I just doing something wrong?

OH NO!! Well, if there are graphics on the t-shirt or some other type of coating it will prevent the t-shirt yarn from curling. I hope you can still use the yarn for one of your projects even if it doesn’t curl.

Make sure to stretch your t-shirt strand lengthwise. That should make it curl. Tell how if it works out.

Thanks for visiting and writing, Sheila!

I have cut a tee shirt in strips and it wants to curl to the wrong side. One side of the shirt is red with designs and the inside is white. I want it to curl to the red side.

I think we’re a bit out of luck on that one. The cotton jersey will naturally curl to side. If you want to force it…you could fold the strips with the side you want hidden inside and then sew it up. It’s a much more work then letting it follow it’s natural curl, but if you’re handy with a sewing machine it would be doable.

So glad you like the tutorial! I’m have to make some t-shirt yarn today too after I find some t-shirts to retire. Thanks for visiting me, watching the video, and writing, Angela! By the way, your photography is wonderful!

This tutorial is awesome! I had read that you need t-shirts without side seams to make the continuous yarn, but your tutorial doesn’t mention that. Did you use shirts with seams? If so, did it impact the curling? I am not sure I have ever seen a t-shirt without seams. Thanks!!!

Hi Carissa. In the video I used an old undershirt which didn’t have seams. You can definitely use t-shirts with seams. I use t-shirts with seams all the time. The t-shirt yarn will still curl, but you’ll have a noticeable bump in the t-shirt yarn. I’ll post a picture of what I do to minimize the bump.

Seams really aren’t that disruptive to proper curling of t-shirt yarns. It’s printed graphics that cause problems, so it’s best to use plain shirts. If you need very consistent yarn it’s best to use plain seamless shirts. Let me see if in can figure out another method to make completely smooth continuous t-shirt yarn from shirts with seams. Thanks so much for visiting me and asking great questions, Carissa!

Im going to try a scarf out of an old under armour t-shirt! That will be perfect for wicking away moisture while doing winter sports!

I’ve never considered cutting up a stretchy Under Armour shirt. Wow…now that’s different! You’ll have to keep me updated on how it goes! Thanks for writing in, Angie!

Thank you so much for this tutorial, which I found through Pinterest. When I read the article, I wasn’t understanding how to start cutting the strips, but the video was very helpful to a visual learner such as I am. I’m now ready to turn my hubby’s old t-shirts, which I have over-dyed, into a large basket for my kid’s toy 🙂

I’m a visual learner too. I’m so glad the video helped.

Wow, that sounds like a cool project! I’d love to see how it turns out. Thanks for visiting me and for writing, Cecilia.

Nice, clear video–thank you for this very complete explanation! I hadn’t thought of the stretch & curl step, which makes all the difference in the final product.

Hi Teaf5! Gosh, you’re more than welcome. I love the stretch and curl step myself. I find it very satisfying, like popping bubble wrap. 🙂 Thank you so much for visiting, watching the video, and commenting! I truly appreciate it!

this is wonderful! it’s going to save me sooo much time on my crocheted tshirt run I am working on for my kitchen.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

YAY! That’s great! I’m so glad I could save you some time! Thanks for visiting me and writing, Sylvia!

OH NO, Cindy! Let’s see if we can get you started! Would you mind telling me where you getting stuck? Check out the video, if you haven’t done so already. I walk you through step by step through the entire process. You can also pause the video at any point to take a closer look. Thanks for writing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *