How To Help Save The Planet By Making Yarn Out Of T-Shirts

Learn how to turn your old t-shirt into yarn.
Did you know that it takes 400 gallons of water to make 1 basic t-shirt? Did you know that you could make your own cotton yarn by upcycling your old t-shirts? Follow this easy step by step tutorial on how to make cotton yarn out of your old t-shirts and help conserve water.

Have you heard of the term “upcycling”? It’s pretty much the fancy way of saying that you have repurposed something that you own into something new. Or maybe you’ve heard the term “zero waste” living being tossed around.

Both of these terms serve the same purpose. They are both based on the philosophy of reusing what you have to create something different or to reduce the amount of waste that we are putting in the environment by using reusable items instead of plastic or paper products.

What does this have to do with making your own yarn? This tutorial is going to show you how to make your own cotton yarn out of your old t-shirts.

If you are an avid crafter, like me, and you care about the environment, then making your own yarn makes sense.

Plus I saw a ball of yarn in Micheals, Lion Brand Re-Up Yarn, that is made from recycled materials. It’s nice to see that even the big brands are getting on board with the upcycling trend.

While this yarn wasn’t expensive ($2 a ball), why drive all the way to store to buy recycled yarn when you can make your own cotton yarn from t-shirts you already have at home.

Are you ready? Let’s make some yarn.

To make your own cotton yarn or t-yarn you will need the following supplies:

Supplies needed to make t-shirt yarn: t-shirt, rotary cutter, cutting mat, scissors, and a ruler.

This post contains affiliate links which means that I may receive a small fee, at no additional cost to you, when you purchase items using the links provided. As an Amazon associate I  earn from qualifying purchases.

  • 100 % cotton t-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Self-healing cutting mat (optional)
  • Rotary cutter (optional)
  • Washable marker(optional)

Selecting The Right T-shirt

The best t-shirts to use for this project are 100% cotton t-shirts without side seams and with minimal designs. If you use a t-shirt with print on it, then the yarn will not be a uniform color and if the design is vinyl you will not be able to stretch the shirt properly to turn it into yarn.

For this project, we are making a continuous ball of yarn. If the shirt has side seams you will have to remove the seams, which will prevent you from making a continuous ball of cotton yarn.

The amount of yarn that you will make depends on two factors.

  • Shirt size (bigger is better)
  • Strip size

How to Make T-Shirt Yarn (T- Yarn)

Step 1: Cut Your T-Shirt

Lay your t-shirt down on a flat surface (right side up). Using your ruler as a guide cut a straight line across your shirt underneath the sleeves. Set aside the top half of the shirt.

You can either use a seam ripper and take out the bottom hem or cut the bottom hem off. It’s up to you. I cut the bottom hem off.

Clear ruler placed underneath the arms of a t-shirt.
Cur off the bottom of the shirt.

Step 2: Line Up The Edges

Turn your shirt sideways so that the side of the shirt is at the top of your workspace. Fold the bottom half of the shirt up to the top. Leave an inch gap between the bottom edge and top edge.

Fold the edges of the shirt up leaving a 1 inch gasp.

Step 3: Cut Small Strips

Using your ruler and scissors cut the t-shirt into 1-inch strips( if you want thinner yarn make ½ in or ¾ in strips).

DO NOT…I repeat DO NOT cut all the way to the top. Stop cutting 1 inch away from the top of the shirt.

T-shirt cut into 1 inch strips.
Only cut to the inch mark.

I prefer to use my rotary cutter and ruler for this part just because it makes my strips more uniform in size. (I struggle with cutting things in a straight line.)

Your shirt should look like this:

Cut strips of yellow fabric.
Unfolded strips

Step 4: Make 1 Continuous Strip

Put your hand inside of the shirt to separate the strips. Find the uncut part of the shirt and lay it flat on your workspace (as flat as you can). This is the tricky part so take your time.

Kinda looks like a skeleton rib cage.

Starting at the middle of the first strip you are going to cut the strip diagonally to the first cut. Then you cut the next strip, starting in the middle, cut diagonally to the next strip.

Honestly, I had to use a marker to create a guide so that I knew where I was supposed to be cutting. Once I got the hang of it I didn’t need the guide anymore.

Cut each strip diagonally to the next strip.

You should end up with one long continuous strip.

Continuous t-shirt strip.
Continuous t-shirt strip.

Quick note: try not to cut the middle pieces too thin or else the t-shirt will break when we start to create the yarn in the next step.

Step 5: Pull

Now, the easy part.

Take the end of your t-shirt and stretch it. As you stretch the shirt you will notice that the strip will get thinner and that the raw edges will curl in on themselves.

Continue this process until you’ve finished the whole strip.

Pile of completed t-tarn.
Stretched t-shirt

Then wrap it up into a ball.

yellow ball of t-shirt yarn with a metal crochet hook.
Ball of T-yarn

Congratulations! You’ve just made your first ball of t-yarn and helped the planet.

How does making your own yarn help save the planet?

drop of water
Photo by Pixabay on

According to the Lion Brand website,” It takes, on average, 20,000 liters of water to make 1 kilogram of cotton. By using one 70 gram ball of Re-Up you are saving 1,400 liters of water.”

A ball of Re-Up Yarn will give you 114 yd (105 m) of 4 medium weight yarn.

Depending on the size shirt you used you can easily get 150+ yds of yarn. Plus you didn’t have to drive to the store, which reduced your carbon footprint for today.

You’ve also kept a t-shirt from going to the landfill

Did you know:

  • It takes 1,800 gallons of water to make 1 pair of blue jeans.
  • 400 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make 1 plain cotton t- shirt. (

What Can I Make With T-Yarn?

If you made 1-inch strips you can use a size 5mm crochet hook or larger on your yarn.

You should be able to make anything that requires a 5mm crochet hook and cotton yarn.

If you are interested in using all of your t-shirt to make yarn check out this youtube tutorial on how to make t-yarn using the whole shirt.

Need some crafty ideas on what to make with your new yarn? Check out this list of Top 20 t-shirt yarn projects by Sustain My Craft Habit.

If don’t want to make your own t-yarn you can buy t-yarn on Etsy.

What are some other ways that we could upcycle a t-shirt to help reduce waste?

Share your ideas in the comment section. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe to my newsletter.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro

8 thoughts on “How To Help Save The Planet By Making Yarn Out Of T-Shirts

  1. Whats up very nice website!! Man .. Excellent .. Superb .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…I am glad to search out so many helpful info right here within the publish, we’d like work out extra techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  2. Hey! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

    1. I’ve never tried purchasing shirts from Old Navy before! I’ll have to look into that. I usually go to the thrift store to get them. Making rugs and baskets sound like a great idea!

  3. Thank you for posting this. I have used a couple of your links to develop a binder of “Using Yarn” projects for a rural, low income, high school Textiles course in a Family and Consumer Science classroom. Often, a student or a few finish a class lesson early and are eager to use the yarn or fabric in the class for something else.

    When I saw this as a substitute teacher, I decided to create and give them a binder of easy ‘lessons’ and DIY resources to not only fill their extra class time, but to also give them a lifelong love of creating things without spending a lot of money (that simply is not necessary and awesome for our planet).

    Love your website’s information and the fact that it is not overwhelmed by ads. Hope the kids do, too. I shared your link! Thank you.

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