March 3, 2011

t-shirt yarn: a tutorial

With all this closet clearing (one and a half down, three and a half to go) I'm starting to amass a pretty substantial Goodwill pile. Mostly of t-shirts that have stretched and shoes that no longer fit growing feet, the usual. But I feel like every time I go through and do one of these big clear outs and haul all of our cast offs away, a week or so later I'm digging though our closets looking for an old shirt to use for this or that. But of course at that point there's nothing left to use as a painting shirt or as some make shift stuffing or a sweater to felt. So this time, as I go, I'm trying to pull out things that I might want down the road for a project or two. I've salvaged a wool skirt, a few of Will's dress shirts and some colorful t-shirts to tuck away (probably in the closet, sigh).
The T's are already being put to good use. Briton is constantly asking me for yarn or rope for projects. And while I would happily give him some yarn for an actual knitting/weaving/sewing experiment, more often than not he's really looking for something to tie things to trees or secure Playmobil men to the train track during an adventure gone wrong. So the good yarn is off limits but t-shirt yarn is perfect.

The first time I made t-shirt yarn I'll admit, I was really just looking for something to have rolled up in a bowl on my dining room table. Something colorful and out of the ordinary. So I bought some blue t-shirts and turn them into yarn balls. But once I'd made the first skein of the stuff, I realized that for kid yarn, it's perfect. It's actually perfect for a lot of things. I sported some as a stringy scarf for a while and made a necklace out of some more and I have great plans to one day crochet a rug, rag rug style, out of all those blues for the kitchen floor. But as art project fodder, it really shines.

This is a super simple procedure and only takes about 5 minutes to make, max. Plus the stretching part is pretty fun and I always have a willing helper when I get to that stage. T-shirts without side seams are really best if you are making something that needs smoothness, but for play yarn, any old t-shirt will do.

T-shirt Yarn

You'll need:

T-shirt - any adult size
Fabric Scissors
1. First cut the shirt off at the armpits to create a rectangular loop. Set the top half of the shirt aside, you won't need it here but it makes great dusters. Cut the bottom hem off of the loop as well.
2. Turn the rectangle so that one of the folded edges is up, we'll call this the top edge from now on. Fold the bottom edge up so that it lies one inch down from the top edge.
3. Fold the new bottom edge up to the same place. You should now have thick pile of jersey with a band at the top where it's just the original two layers.
4. Use your ruler to mark the folded area into 1-inch wide strips and trim any excess off the sides.
5. Cut along each strip through the thick layers of the t-shirt but not the thin band at the top.
6. Open up the fabric so that you can lay the uncut area flat (or flattish, some of the strips may be in the way, just adjust as you go)
7. Cut at a diagonal from the end of the first strip to the beginning of the second strip. Continue to do this all along the shirt. You'll end up with a weird loop at the beginning and will need to cut straight through at that one. This will give you one long, thin piece of jersey. You're almost done now.
8. Starting at one end, stretch the fabric tightly, this will cause it to roll up and create a yarn like shape. Work along the strip, pulling as you go, until you've reached the end. Then just roll it up like regular yarn and you're good to go!

Yay recycling!

Now I just need to figure out what to do with those old dress shirts, surely there's something fun that can be remade from them. Any ideas?