3 years ago

How to make your own T-shirt Yarn

I know in his heart, my husband praised Jesus when he saw me cutting up my old high school and college t-shirts which have become threadbare and covered in holes.

There’s just nothing like a good cozy t-shirt, right? But when it starts falling apart, it’s really gotta go.  But to where? The trash? A land fill? Because Goodwill doesn’t even want that.

I had a box full of gross ones.

During one of the oft midnight wakings, I fell through the Pinterest hole in search of DIY kitchen rugs as I nursed Collin back to sleep. Of course I got side tracked looking at yarn, and that’s when I stumbled upon this amazing, thick yarn called Zpagetti (affiliate link), for $34/skein. This yarn was made out of t-shirt material.  Thick, sturdy, cotton-y. Then I found patterns for rugs, baskets, potholders and all sorts of crochet-y stuff using this wonder yarn.

The next thing I know, I’m searching for how to make my own t-shirt yarn, because $34 for a couple yards of one color (when I want many colors) is for the rich and famous in Svelltown, which I ain’t.

I found a few tutos, and combining the best tips from each, I dun it.

And now I share the wealth!  Enjoy!

property of Carolyn Svellinger

What you’ll Need:

  • Old t-shirts.
    How many?
    –Depending on the size of each shirt + the size of the rug you want to make, you’ll need about 14 for a small kitchen or bathroom rug.
          I had mostly size small t-shirts, which produced between 12-18 yards each.
          I cut up a raggedy maternity top which produced roughly 22+ yards
         A few of Craig’s old size L tees which were shrunken and stained got me more yardage.
         Yikes, Carolyn, your hoarder is showing. layoff me.
    If you don’t have that many, browse through Goodwill!
  • Scissors – preferably fabric, but I used culinary scissors.
  • Some cardboard – or any cereal box-sized, sturdy material to cut on top of, and to fit inside of your t-shirt.
  • A big daddy crochet hook (size 10 or so) I found mine at Hobby Lobby in a duo pack with a size 15 hook, and I’ve seen the same large hooks at Walmart.

Step 1

Turn your t-shirt inside out, and lay on top of cardboard or otherwise sturdy surface. Cut off tags if present. Turning it outside makes it easier for you to cut through the side seams of the t-shirt, if present.

Step 2

Trim off the hem at the bottom of the shirt. Unless you’ve got the wherewithal to take that sucker out yourself.  (Don’t discard it! I saved mine for a weaving project) See pic in Step 3.

Step 3

Starting at the bottom of your shirt, and working up toward the neckline, cut strips about an inch and a half apart– but stopping about 2 inches before you reach the other side.  You’re creating a margin: the key part of making this into a solid strand of yarn.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Keep a water gun handy to shoot off small children. Occupy larger children with strips of scrap paper and kiddy scissors.

I’m aware this shirt is not inside out. I started snapping progress pics before I realized turning it inside out produced better results. Do as I say, not as I do. Also, does this make my rug a designer rug, since I used a few Ralph Laurens?

Step 4

Get your M. C. Escher on.  You know, the piece with the two heads? No? Only me? ok.
Here’s where you really need your cardboard or, in my case, a cutting mat (which I love to death).

Place the board inside your shirt, and twist shirt around so the margin you created is laying flat, in the center, like so:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Yes. Culinary scissors. No, no trendy gold cutie pies in this house, however sorely I desire.


Step 5

Following a diagonal direction, begin cutting at the bottom first notch. I drew dotted lines on the image below to help clear up confusion. Don’t worry if you cut a little crooked or inconsistent in thickness.


Property of Carolyn Svellinger


Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Voila! M. C. Escher! Get it now?

Step 6

Take your now very long piece of t-shirt and st r e t c h it out by pulling firmly throughout the entire piece.  This will cause your strand to curl inward, thus creating your yarn!  Note: some of the shirts I cut up were so worn out or a mix of synthetic material that they didn’t curl up at all- That’s okay!  It just adds interesting texture to your rug.

property of Carolyn Svellinger
My boys loved this part of the process because I tossed the fabric as far across the room as it would go as I stretched it out.

Step 7

Roll it up into a ball! Post a pic on Instagram, and chuckle (or gag) when someone who’s set up an account for their cat Likes your photo.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Your yarn is a wonderland.



DONE!  You may now create whatever your heart desires, while patting yourself on the back for the sustainability of your garments.

 If you want to crochet a rug:

Use your big fat needle and begin crocheting in the round with your color of choice, changing colors as you wish. If you don’t know how to crochet, it’s easy. Easy I tell you– especially crocheting with big, thick yarn, it moves fast.  Youtube has a trove of How To videos.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger


Property of Carolyn Svellinger
minor details
Property of Carolyn Svellinger
I promise this is much better than a foot selfie.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Did I clear off my counter for this photo? You betchya I did.


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  1. I love this tutorial and I haven’t even tried it yet! I like the pictures and the tip about water gun. (I’ll pass that on to my kid, who has a nosy kitten.) It looks so easy. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi, Carolyn,

    Your tutorial was so clear cut and easy to follow that I decided to invest in some t-shirts and take a flyer. I found the whole process easy, fast and fun. There’s only one question I have. When I curled the fabric the strips turned themselves inside out so the backside of the t-shirt material was showing. Is that what’s supposed to happen or did I mess up somewhere? Is there another way to curl the strips so the right side of the fabric is showing?

    Thanks so much.


  3. Have you ever tried making “plarn”? It’s plastic yarn made from all those thousands of plastic grocery sack we seem to accumulate and never remember to take to the recycle bin. Instead of throwing them away, cut them up and make plarn. If you’re lucky enough to find colored bags instead of just the ugly gray from our favorite “big box” store, you can come up with some really cute patterns. Smooth the bags out on your table or counter, trim off just the very edge of the bottom and right under the “handles” on top. Then cut the plastic into 2 inch strips. It’s gonna take a lot of bags, but you can be proud of yourself for “going green”. Take two strips and loop one thru the other and then back thru itself, pull snug and you’re on the way. You can make rugs for the bath room, door mats for outside, and I even crocheted a bag for one of the older ladies at church who had to use a walker and couldn’t manage her purse, bible, and walker all at the same time.

  4. Do you cut the other side the same way or am I just asking a stuPid question?
    And do you throw away the neckline and sleeves or just cut them as part of the t-shirt yarn?

    1. Not a stupid question! If you cut leaving one margin, on only one side of the shirt, there won’t be another side to cut.
      The spare parts, you can save or you can make more out of the sleeves. cheers!

  5. This is so bat-shit-crazy-cool that I just want to try it! I think the idea of a rug made out of it sounds wonderfully cozy and soft. And I’m a crocheter too so I’m putting this on my long list of things I wanna do if I ever get the time. You’re a smart cookie Carolyn!

  6. Ha! I love this so much but I will probably never do it, because I don’t do crochet. We are not friends, Crochet an I. ;) But I love the yarn balls.

  7. Awesome tutorial! Clear and precise instructions. You my dear, have become quite the crafter! If only I could bring myself to part with my t shirts I could then create something so nifty.

  8. Perfect timing! I was just trying to convince my husband to hand over his shorts so I could crochet some baskets for him (the baskets are actually his request). I can’t wait to try making my own T-shirt yarn. Thanks!


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