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Upcycle T-Shirts into Knitting Yarn

Updated on November 20, 2011

What do to with all the T-Shirts?

If you are anything like me (by that I mean a pack rat...) you most likely have a bunch of too big, too small, stained or just plain freaking ugly t shirts stacked up somewhere. I currently have huge tub in my craft room taking up prime real estate that I could fill up with other crap. (I also have about 5 bajillion six pack rings that are going to be something really, really day)

Since I know I am not the only one who saves every tshirt hoping to give it a new life, I knew I had to share this project when I found it!

If you know how to knit or have ever wanted to learn how to knit, this is the perfect use for your stash. Follow this tutorial and you will have all the "yarn" you could ever knit. (or crochet, but I knit!)

Grab your shirt and your scissors!

To get started all you need are scissors and a couple of tshirts. I suggest using a tshirt that does not have seams down the sides, or you will have to attach a bunch of little strips together. No big deal, but a shirt with no seams is easier. I also avoid shirts with printing because they can be a pain to knit and leave bumps in your finished project. But, for a rug or pot holder they would work fine.

Start by cutting off the hem of the shirt and discarding.

(I chop discard pieces like this up into little bitty pieces to use as stuffing for other projects)

Snip away

Now that the seam is off, begin cutting a strip about an inch wide at the bottom of the shirt parallel to where the seam was.

You want to cut one strip in a spiral up the body of the shirt to just under the arms. If you want to use every last bit of the shirt you can cut smaller strips from the sleeves and upper body and then attach with a few stitches.

Don't waste your time measuring and marking as tshirt material curls and you won't be able to tell the difference. Just do the best you can to make clean cuts with no ragged edges and keep the strips around an inch wide. Larger strips are difficult to knit and strips any smaller than an inch will fray and come apart.

Pulling time!

Once you have the entire shirt cut into one strip, gently pull small sections of your yarn. The edges will curl up and leave you with some awesome upcycled yarn!

By the way: you will end up with a bunch of little tiny threads EVERYWHERE! I suggest pulling the yarn outside if you want to keep from having to vacuum.


Roll it up

Roll up your yarn into a ball and get knitting! You can cast on, knit, purl, and bind off just like normal. I do find that using slightly larger needles works better, the smaller sizes can make working with tshirt yarn a bit more difficult.

I am looking forward to making some absorbent bath mats for holiday gifts, but you could easily knit bags, pot holders, or dish towels. Let me know what other ideas you come up with!

Avoid mistakes by reading my blog for more updates :)

If you like this tutorial, I have a bunchof other cool ways to use freebies!


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    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Wow-loving this idea!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Wow - this is a crazy awesome way to use those old T-shirts. I have used t-shirts to do headbands. I really like those. I am however trying to get into crocheting mroe (I have no clue how to knit) I might have to try this to see what I can come up with!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Leave it to you Danielle to come up with this innovative way of recycling t-shirts into yarn.

      I love it! Gonna pass the word along.

    • Laurel Ashton profile image

      Laurel Ashton 5 years ago from Woodstock, Georgia

      Thanks for posting, great idea!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      What a cool idea. I crochet and my mom knits so I think we've got something here. Voted up and useful.

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks simone! Let me know how it works out.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      What a cool idea! I've never seen anyone do this before, but it's so smart! I'll have to tell my knitting buddies about this.

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      it really is and it knits well, too.

    • lady rain profile image

      lady rain 6 years ago from Australia

      What a cool way to make yarn, definitely better than making an old T-shirt into pieces of rags.