Tuesday, July 2, 2013

DIY Tee-Yarn--Making T-Shirt Yarn

We have too many t-shirts in our family. When you think about the years that we've participated in sports, teams, events, conferences, festivals, theatre productions, ballet (yes, I was a Dance Mom and survived), theme park visits, vacation souvenirs--let's face it. The t-shirts add up!

Some you keep, wear, and can't part with (My Elton John shirt from his concert two years ago which was, yes, a highlight of my life). And then there are those shirts that you should have never paid money for them. 

We have all done our own t-shirt tailoring, cutting off sleeves, making slits, turning them into tank tops...and yep, that's fun! It's what my husband does when he needs a mowing shirt. One of my friends can take a t-shirt and with a little added fabric make a whole dress out of it. 

Check it here when my friend made 21 dresses in 21 days. Brilliant!

See here where I made a tank top from two tees.

And then there are t-shirts that made their way into your life, completely free--they were probably from promotions, maybe a drawing, or somebody just unloading. I would say, those are the best shirts to experiment with if you want to try making t-shirt yarn.
"No Mommy! Not this shirt!"

That's right! A whole ball of yarn from a t-shirt. I did not invent this idea, but as a knitter, I had to try it out. I love the idea of knitting something from t-shirt fabric, so I'm on a little quest to create enough skeins of "Tee-Yarn" as I call it, to knit a fun summer tank top.

Keep in mind, there are people who have tried this and failed miserably and even went out and purchased a shirt to do this, and then completely ruined it as they crashed and burned on this project. 

"Bitter! Table for one!"

Don't do that! 1) Only use a shirt you would just absolutely throw away, or turn into a dust rag, to try this for the first time. 2) If you have an old child-size shirt, it would be easier to try this out on a tiny shirt first, which will give you more control and let you figure out what you're doing, because this project can get out of hand very quickly!

I will tell you though, it took me less than a hour to create a ball of tee-yarn, which was fun because I did most of the work while watching a movie. Cool!

Here's how my experiment went--I'll try to guide you through it.

Start with your old shirt laid out. Cut across the top, just under the sleeves. Basically you are cutting off the top of the shirt with the sleeves, and the bottom hem, so you end up with a rectangular piece of fabric. 
Could my cat leave me alone for one minute so I can finish this! 

So now, you've cut off the top of the shirt, and the bottom hem. Fold the shirt in half from shirt-side to shirt-side. (by that I mean what would be the sides of the shirt if you were wearing it)

Cutting the strips in the adult-size tee
Cutting the strips in the child-size tee

Now the two shirt-sides are together on one side. On the opposite end you have a fold which now constitutes four layers, and here is where you start cutting strips, but you leave the top with the two shirt-sides together, uncut. 
Cut strips--but leave a top border

Simply cut the strips--but leave that top border uncut. The top border of shirt-sides will stay attached, and this is what is going to, ideally, turn this whole thing into one long strip of tee-yarn that you eventually wind into a ball.
After cutting the strips, unfold

This looks like a mess!
After cutting strips vertically, you're going to unfold the shirt. This is tricky because all those strips want to stick together and jumble around everywhere, but do the best you can so that you can lay it back down and work with the uncut shirt-sides one at a time. 
The child-size shirt after cutting strips and unfolding

With one shirt-side laid out, cut across diagonally from strip to strip. Do this to both shirt-sides, one at a time.

There were times when I kept the shirt flat, doing this, and sometimes I kind of picked it up a little to work with it. This process is tricky and floppy but eventually you work your way across until you have basically turned this whole thing into one continuous long strip of tee-yarn.

I actually tried this out on a piece of paper before I tried it with an old shirt my husband didn't want. So that helped me kind of know what I was doing--but I was not prepared for how tangled and floppy this part would be. 

It was much easier with the child-sized shirt. All the strips stayed straight, and it was much easier to roll into a ball of yarn in one long continuous strip without getting tangled.

Take the end of the strip and start wrapping into a ball.

Keep wrapping and it will turn into a ball of yarn.


In the end, it worked. And there was a lot of t-shirt dust left on the table!

My beautiful knitting needle roll made by an English rose--Lunch Lady Jan
Now, if you know how to roll yarn into a ball, the next step should be fairly easy. Start wrapping the yarn around your fingers at first, slide it off, and keep wrapping it, changing directions as it starts to form a little ball.

My tee-yarn from the adult-sized shirt got very tangled up when I started wrapping it--I'll be honest. With the larger shirt I had to stop every now and then and untangle it as I rolled it into a ball--and sometimes I had to snip off pieces of strip that had stayed together. One time, my strip disconnected--so I just tied a knot and kept going. And, wallah! Very quickly I had a whole ball of green tee-yarn! 

The whole entire child-sized shirt stayed in one long continuous strip of fun, purple tee-yarn--so nice.

As you wrap the ball, the t-shirt fabric naturally rolls in on itself, which gives it even more of a yarn look.

My next task is to pick the knitting needles! And of course, to keep making skeins of tee-yarn.

Have a good humor about this if you try it. There were times I didn't think it was going to work at first, but it did! And, of course, this was much easier the more I practiced. So if it doesn't work for you at first, and you have some throw-away shirts, keep trying. You'll end up with a whole basket of tee-yarn.

Eat, Write, Dream, Stitch, Knit

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