If you’re like me, when you go to clean out your T-shirt drawer in preparation for spring, you end up with a sad rag pile.
Too grubby to donate but too intact to just throw away, these shirts are only fit to dust furniture. But what if you already have an overflowing rag bag? Then it’s time to make T-shirt yarn.
To begin, gather a pile of old T-shirts and either a sharp pair of scissors or a rotary cutter.
If you’re starting with a whole shirt, cut a perpendicular, 1-inch notch up from the bottom hem of the shirt. Then, turning your scissors so they’re horizontal to the hem, cut around the T-shirt in a continuous strip.
When you get close to where you made your initial notch, cut upward and diagonally to keep a continuous piece of fabric. Continue on, cutting until you run out of shirt.
Congratulations, you’ve just made your first T-shirt yarn.
If you’re starting with a flat piece of a T-shirt, the instructions are just slightly different.
In that case, lay out the fabric flat. Beginning at one side, cut a 1-inch strip almost all the way to the other side, but don’t cut all the way through. Then move your scissors up an inch, and make another cut in the opposite direction, again, stopping before you cut all the way through.
Continue making this zigzag cut until you reach the end of your fabric.
Once you have a few T-shirts cut into strips, roll the strips into balls pulling the T-shirt yarn fairly tightly as you do — a little stretch makes it more yarn-like. If you want your pieces to be longer than one T-shirt, tie or sew the ends of the separate pieces together to get a continuous piece of yarn.
That’s great, you say, but what can I do with these balls of T-shirt yarn I just made? The answer is, just about anything that you could make with any other cotton, bulky-weight yarn.
The Internet abounds with patterns for rag rugs and slouchy hats. This stuff also makes the best tomato tie-ups known to man.
Here is a trio of quick projects to get you started.
Chunky summer bracelets
While you can make a cute bracelet just by braiding three strips of T-shirt yarn together, I like the look of a finger-woven bracelet better. To make it, wrap the yarn in and out of the fingers of one hand — in front of your index finger, behind your middle, in front of your ring, around your pinkie, then behind your ring, in front of your middle, and around your index.
It sounds complicated, but once you’re holding the yarn it’s not hard.
Taking the long tail of the yarn across the tops of your fingers, pull the loops on the bottom of your fingers up over the tail to make a new loop on each finger.
Continue weaving back and forth until you’ve woven 3-4 inches. Then pull the loops off your fingers, pull the tail through the loose loops and stretch the weaving out to bracelet length.
Sew or weave the ends together for a casual summery bracelet.
Holding four fingers together, wrap a long piece of T-shirt yarn around them 20 or 30 times.
Gently pull the wrapped yarn off your fingers, and, using a separate piece of yarn, tie it together in the center. You should have something that looks like a bow.
With sharp scissors, slice the looped ends to make a pom-pom.
Hunt down some short, straight sticks from your yard and use the longer, center piece of yarn to tie the pom-poms to the sticks. Pop them in a vase for a cheerful, funky bouquet.
This one requires some minimal knitting skills, but it’s easy enough for even a beginner.
Using chunky needles (size 13 is a decent starting place), cast on four stitches. Knit the next row, and then, for every row thereafter, knit two, yarn over, and knit to the end of the row.
When the cloth is about half as big as you want it, begin decreasing. To do that, knit one, knit two together, yarn over, knit two together, then knit to the end of the row.
Repeat that decrease row until you’re back down to four stitches, and then cast off.