How to make fabric yarns

t-shirt yarn ecokaren

You know one of my 2010 resolutions was to simplify my life.

I finally cleaned out the closets and drawers and came up with four piles.

1) keep
2) dump
3) donate
4) re-purpose

Ahhhh…it feels so good to de-clutter.

One of the things I made with t-shirts from the “re-purpose” pile was fabric yarns. I always wondered how I could make yarns out of them – continuous yarns, that is – to make those funky trivets or gorgeous baskets or mats or rugs.

Well, I figured out how. And I wanted to share it with you so that you can use your old t-shirts to make something gorgeous. Even if the shirts are stained, who cares because they will be hidden once you make something out of them or they will become part of the design. How great is that?

You’ll need:

  • Old t-shirts, pillow cases, sheets, duvet covers, etc….as long as it can be changed into a tube, meaning, two closed ends and two open ends. T-shirts without side seams work better but it’s not mandatory. If you are using bed sheets, fold in half lengthwise, sew the long ends together so that it becomes a tube.
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Sewing machine and thread (optional) – for making a tube out of bed sheets

1. Cut the shirt across the chest in a straight line and the bottom hem to make a tube.
2. Lay the shirt flat with the openings on the left and right.
3. Fold the shirt from the bottom up twice leaving about an inch at the top.
4. Start cutting the strips, from the bottom up to the top, about 1/2 inch wide through all the layers and stop before you reach the top edge. The strips don’t have to be “perfect” but they should be about equal widths. Widths less than 1/2 inch might become unstable and break.

5. Cut the strips across the tube to the end.

6. Shake out all the strips while jigging your hips left and right – you just made a hula skirt! End of the tutorial.
Just kidding.

7. Slide your hand into the tube to separate the front and back of the shirt and then lay it on the floor to cut.

8. This is the most important part. Are you paying attention? Cut the strips diagonally, from the first piece to the second piece, as shown, until the end.  If you don’t cut the strips diagonally, you’ll end up with a bunch of circles…kinda like those fabric necklaces…..which is kinda cool in itself but if you are planning to make one long continuous yarn to knit or crochet, you don’t want to cut this into circles. So, connect the first slit to the second slit like this.

And then, once you cut all the way across the tube, you’ll end up with this on both ends.

9. Then, cut the end strips as shown.
how to make fabric yarn

10. Voila! There you have it – one continuous, re-purposed, gorgeous fabric yarn. Tell me this is not cool. Huh? This Men’s Large shirt yielded 39 yards. Imagine that? 39 yards of valuable yarn from a t-shirt no one wanted?
Wooooo, the endless possibilities……

how to make fabric yarn

One last thing you have to do is to pull … pull … pull and s-t-r-et-c-h- the yarn.

how to make fabric yarn

You can make fabric yarn out of just about anything…old t-shirts, tops, sheets, pillow cases, anything you can make a tube out of. You can make trivets, pot holders, coasters, rugs, bowls, and so many pretty and functional items with them. If you don’t have enough of one color from one shirt, save it in a ball until you have more yarn to add to it to create something wonderful later. I’ll post a tutorial on how to add two pieces of yarns together without tying or sewing tomorrow.

What a great way of re-purposing old t-shirts that are so old that you’d be embarrassed to even donate. And how about shirts with old spaghetti stains? Who’d want that?

So upcycle them into a yarn!

If you don’t know how to crochet, you can braid it too.

fabric yarn trivet


  1. Jenn Morandi says

    Great tutorial, I feel like I could actually do it!  (And, I haven’t a crafty bone in my body).  
    You lost me on the cut diagonally part, though.  
    Nice T-shirt, btw.  :)

  2. Tenshii says

    I guess i was confused about the cut diagonally part because i got a couple different pieces. heh.

  3. Amy says

    I made the yarn as gifts for friends. (I’ll give it to several of them tonight. VERY late Christmas gifts – since we’ve had a hard time getting together.)

  4. says

    Christine: can’t wait to see what you make with them.

    Amy: Yes, they are fun. What have you made with your t-shirt yarns?

    Sinclair: I like your method too! You can probably make thin yarns with this method and braid them like you did. Very pretty rug!

  5. Amy says

    I love making t-shirt yarn! I’m glad you shared this tutorial – it’s a great eco tutorial that’s simple and fun!

  6. says

    What a great tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing this. I have a whole tub full of “repurpose” clothing items, and this would be a great way to do something with them.

Leave a comment!