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You might already be familiar with upcycling, the art of repurposing old or used items into something else that’s just as useful and just as—if not more—aesthetically pleasing. Common upcycling strategies give new life to furniture, disposable containers, and especially fashion! Upcycling enthusiasts use all kinds of methods to reinvent old pieces from their own wardrobes or thrift stores. You can even use your old shirts to make t-shirt yarn, which can then be turned into something else! It’s kind of the ultimate in upcycling.

Curious about how to upcycle your t-shirts into yarn? Keep reading to learn more. 

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What Is T-Shirt Yarn?

yarn basket
Finished rolls of T-shirt yarn. 

You may have heard it described as jersey yarn or tarn, but t-shirt yarn is, quite literally, yarn made using the fabric from old t-shirts. Because of its origins, it’s chunkier than other types of yarn, which makes it better suited to some projects than others… but we’ll get to the projects later. 

The good news for craft enthusiasts is that t-shirt yarn is soft and easy to work with for knitting and crocheting. The good news for the environment is that it cuts back on manufacturing and pollution—plus, it gives you something to do with your old clothes instead of getting rid of them. 

T-Shirt Yarn Step-by-Step

Upcycle T-Shirts Into Yarn!

How to Make T-Shirt Yarn

Making your own t-shirt yarn is a pretty easy process. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • T-shirts: You can’t make t-shirt yarn without the t-shirts! Gather a few washed and dried shirts that you don’t wear anymore. The ideal shirts for this project are pretty simple, without side seams or sewn-on appliques. Bigger shirts tend to work best. 
  • Fabric scissors, which you can find at any craft store. 
  • A ruler or yardstick, which can be helpful but isn’t necessary.

Step 1: Prepare the T-Shirt

cutting tshirt
It will only take a few minutes to get a shirt ready to be upcycled into yarn.

Flatten out your t-shirt on a clean, even surface, and smooth as many wrinkles as possible. Use your fabric scissors to cut off the lower hem of the shirt. You can get rid of the hem (or use it for another project). 

Step 2: Cut the Shirt Into Strips

cutting tshirt
Let the t-shirt yarn begin! 

With the shirt still laid out in front of you and a steady hand holding the scissors, begin cutting the fabric into strips, starting at the side closest to you and running parallel with the removed hem. Don’t cut all the way across, though. (If you do have a ruler handy, setting it across the opposite edge of the shirt will remind you to stop before you go all the way.) 

tshirt cut in strips
It’s starting to look a little more like yarn. 

There’s no need for things to be super exact, but as you work your way across the shirt, the strips should be of roughly equal width, approximately one inch thick. Stop cutting when you hit the bottom of the shirt’s armholes.

Step 3: Expose the Uncut Side 

cut up blue shirt
Before you can put the finishing touches on the t-shirt yarn, open the shirt up. 

Open up the t-shirt so you can see the section of fabric that’s been left uncut with cuts coming in from either side.

Step 4: Cut Intro Strips

cut blue shirt
Let’s make some yarn! 

Starting at the right-hand edge of the shirt, use your fabric scissors to cut on an angle, stopping at the first strip. Cut from the first strip to the second strip, from the second strip to the third strip, and so on.

Step 5: Create a Continuous Loop

cutting shirt
It’s all coming together.

Make these angled cuts continuously across the fabric until you have a continuous loop of fabric.

Step 6: Pull and Tug

tshirt yarn
It’s the last step!

To turn that long loop of fabric into yarn, hold it by one edge and tug it gently with the other until you have a smooth edge. Continue down the length of the fabric until you have something that looks and feels a whole lot like yarn!

What to Make With T-Shirt Yarn

Now that you have your DIY t-shirt yarn, it’s time to put it to good use! Here are a few of the projects you can make with your handmade yarn.

Plant Pot Cover

blue knit basket
Use a small plant pot cover like this one to store your favorite houseplants.

Most t-shirts will turn into the perfect amount of yarn to make a crocheted cover for your favorite potted plants.

Macrame Wall Hanging

macrame wall hanging
Brighten up your space with this DIY project.

T-shirt yarn won’t look like traditional macrame, but you can still use it to make a one-of-a-kind wall hanging. Choose a t-shirt that matches the color palette and style of your space.

Plant Hanger

macrame plant basket
Give your plants a whole new look. 

You don’t need a lot of yarn to make a plant hanger. With a few strategic knots, your t-shirt yarn can provide a lovely home for your greens.

Scarf

knit scarf
You can even turn your t-shirt yarn into a scarf! 

If you collect enough t-shirts to turn into yarn, you can put them all together and create a homemade scarf!

Give Your T-Shirts a Chance to Shine! 

Don’t give up on your old t-shirts just yet! Converting them into t-shirt yarn is a simple process that can yield so many fun results. The DIY options are practically endless.

T-Shirt Yarn + Living a Zero Waste Lifestyles

Learn to Make T-Shirt Yarn as Part of a Zero Waste Lifestyle