T-Shirt Yarn, part 2: Cutting T-Shirts to Make Yarn

Part 1 of this series demonstrated dyeing t-shirts.  Once the t-shirts are dry, it is time to cut them into yarn.

1) Lay the t-shirt out flat.  Since we cut off the unusable parts in part 1, the t-shirt is now a tube.  Lay it out with one of the closed sides facing you.

2) Fold it up for faster cutting.  The top layer of the fold should stop an inch below the bottom layer of the fold.  We are not going to cut that top inch of fabric.

3) Cut strips that are about one inch wide, stopping when you get to the top of the fold (one inch below the top of the bottom layer).

When the whole t-shirt is cut into strips, there will be a one-inch piece at the top connecting them all.

4) Open up the t-shirt, with the uncut section in the middle.  Now the t-shirt looks like a spine with a bunch of circles attached to it.

5) Under the first circle, cut the spine at an upward angle, so that one end of the circle will be severed from the spine.
 It will look like this after it is cut.

6) Cut off the pointy end.  This will be one end of your long strip of t-shirt yarn.

7) At each point where a circle meets the spine, cut at an upward angle, so that you make a continuous strip.  Make sure you cut diagonally rather than straight across.  You don't want any of the strips to be cut in half.

When you are finished cutting the spine, there will be one long continuous strip of yarn.

8) Cut off the point at the other end.

9) Roll the yarn between your fingers so it curls into a tube.

10) Roll the yarn into a ball.

Now my drawer of t-shirt yarn is more colorful.  I will definitely be doing more dyeing in the near future.

T-Shirt Yarn, part 1: Dyeing to Get the Color You Want

A few years ago I heard about t-shirt yarn, and I started saving old t-shirts.  After a while, I noticed that my collection of homemade t-shirt yarn wasn't living up to my color expectations.  More than half was plain white, and of the colored yarn, most were dark colors.
I asked my husband if he could start buying colorful undershirts instead of white.  Since that wasn't a possibility, I got the idea to dye some of them.  This post will explain how to dye the t-shirts, and part 2 will demonstrate how to cut a dyed t-shirt into one long, continuous strip of yarn.

Most t-shirts are cotton, and for plant fibers you need to use sulfate dyes.  (Animal fibers need acid dyes; and dyes can also be made from nature.)  I found these dyes (and dye fixative) at Walmart, in both the laundry and sewing aisles.
Old t-shirts
Sulfate dyes and dye fixative
A kitchen scale
Gloves (that you don't use for cooking or cleaning)
A pot/bucket (that you don't use for cooking)
Hot and/or boiling water

1) Remove the unusable parts of the t-shirt- the bottom hem and everything above the armpits.

2) Weight the t-shirt that you will be dyeing.  Follow the directions on your dye for how much dye to use per fabric weight.  If you are going to dye more than one at a time, make sure that the pot/bucket you will be using is spacious enough for all the fabric to move around freely.

3) Soak the t-shirt in hot water.  This will get it ready to soak up the dye.

4) Fill your pot/bucket with very hot water.  I filled mine halfway with hot water and the rest of the way with boiling water.  The hotter your water, the more colorful your success will be.  (Since I was using a plastic bucket, I couldn't heat it directly on the stove.)  Add the appropriate amount of dye and dye fixative (according to the weight of your t-shirt).  Using gloves, add your t-shirt to the dye bath.  Check it after 15 minutes.  If it hasn't soaked up enough color, then wait longer, up to an hour total.

5) Soak the dyed t-shirt in lukewarm water for a few minutes to take out the excess color.  This will prevent your yarn from bleeding in the laundry later on.

6) Let it dry.

I dyed the yellow shirt by itself.  The two reddish-pink shirts I dyed together.  My bucket might have been too crowded for two shirts, because one of them came out less red than the other.

There was also a brownish-gray shirt that I soaked in the red dye, and it came out with a pinkish tint.

Next, I am planning to make some aqua, bright green, and purple.  I might also try dyeing shirts that I have already cut, although that could become a tangled mess.

Get your t-shirts the color you want, and in Part 2 I will demonstrate how to turn them into yarn.

How to Make Plarn

One knitting/crocheting material that is growing in popularity right now is plarn (plastic yarn).  Plarn is made from shopping bags, something that we all have too much of in our homes.  Some of the common items that crafters are using plarn for include rugs, sleeping mats for the homeless, bags, and baskets.

I just started making plarn this summer.  During our move I fell behind, so one of my Christmas break projects was to bring out all the plastic bags I had been saving and give them new life.  I like to use a rotary cutter with rotary board, but scissors also work.

1) Lay a bag out flat and make it smooth.

2) Cut off the top and bottom.

3) Gather the scraps to recycle at your local store.

4) Your bag is now a big tube.  Unfold the sides and smooth it out.

5) Cut the bag into strips that are approximately 1 inch wide.  Make sure you cut from one of the sides, not from the top or bottom.
Each strip is a circle.  This makes them stronger than if they were just a single layer.

6) Join the strips together by knotting the loops.  Be careful when you pull the loop tight.  Sometimes the plastic tears.

Here is another look at the knotting.

7) Once you have a long chain made, you can wind it into a ball, but you don't have to.  Plarn does not tangle like yarn does.  In the chain below, I doubled the loops to make bulkier plarn.

8) Knit or crochet with it.  I started a crochet chain.

You will have to contend with some static cling, but you can use that to your advantage.  Because they cling to each other, you can stack several bags on top of each other and cut them all at once.  It will be faster this way.  Just keep a hand on top of the pile.

I now have a big pile of strips that need to be looped together.  It might be a good movie-watching activity.  I just wish my local stores would make their bags more colorful.

I have some ideas for what I might make with mine and will post pictures when I have something finished.  If you have made anything with plarn, tell me about it in the comments.

Do You Need a Tech Editor?

I had been knitting for a few years before I first heard of tech editors.  As an English major, I had experience with proofreading students’ papers, so it made sense to me that anything that is written needs to be checked for errors.  Two years ago I acquired Kate Atherley’s book The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns, and it really resonated with me.  After reading it, I found myself critiquing the patterns I was knitting from.

Joeli Kelly has a free webinar for designers where she explains what a tech editor is, why you need one, how to find one, and how to relate to your editor.  One thing that stuck with me from the webinar was that even tech editors who design should hire someone else to edit their pattern.  Even if you are skilled at finding mistakes, it is always more difficult to find mistakes in your own work.  Because you know inside your own mind what you mean, your own pattern is going to make perfect sense to you, but it might not make sense to other knitters.

Everyone needs a tech editor.  A lot of small designers just use test knitters for their patterns, but that can be insufficient for two reasons.  1) A test knitter is less likely to catch issues of style consistency, formatting, and other more technical things.  2) Most test knitters are receiving little compensation for their time, and it is frustrating to them to work from a pattern that is full of errors.  The best practice is to send your pattern to a tech editor before you pass it on to test knitters.

If you are going to charge money for your pattern, then you want to make sure your customers are purchasing a quality product that will be easy for them to use.  Even if it is going to be a free pattern, still consider using a tech editor.  The purpose of having free patterns is to attract more customers to your shop, and you want that free pattern to make a good impression.

I had been wishing for some sort of knitting-related work I could do from home to supplement our income.  After I heard about Joeli Kelly’s training course for tech editors, I realized that tech editing would be the perfect fit for me.  I am very excited to have work that integrates my passion for knitting.

ShawlStar Review

I had the opportunity to review something I was really excited about: an 85-page ebook called ShawlStar.  ShawlStar is written by Elizabeth Felgate and published by Knotions, an online knitting and crochet magazine.  I only heard about Knotions a few months ago.  If you are not familiar with them, you should subscribe to their newsletter because they have stunning patterns.  A few weeks ago, Knotions announced that ShawlStar, which was originally published in April 2018, is being updated and re-released in March 2019.  I am always eager to learn more about knitting construction, and I had been wishing for a resource that would walk me through different shawl shapes.  I jumped at the opportunity to review ShawlStar in exchange for a free copy.

ShawlStar is an excellent resource for designers, tech editors, and knitters.  When I am following a shawl pattern for a shape I have not made before, I like the pattern introduction to explain how the construction works so I know what to expect.  In the case of a pattern that doesn’t do this, ShawlStar would be a very helpful reference to have on the side.  As a tech editor, it is important to be able to visualize the construction of the pattern you are editing.  More and more, designers are experimenting with creative shapes.  If you encounter something that is not familiar to you, consult ShawlStar.

If you want to design shawls, this ebook is invaluable.  The lengthy introductory material covers basic shawl anatomy; sizing; yarn, needle, and gauge choice; and different methods of shawl shaping.  There are around ten different cast-ons discussed, with either photo tutorials or links to online tutorials.  The shawl shapes are divided into seven categories: triangles, rectangles and squares, polygons, circles and half-circles, crescents, hybrids, and special shapes.  The special shapes are completely original and very creative.  The new version of ShawlStar adds three new shapes to the section on special shapes (“Flourish,” “Harpoon,” and “Rainbow”).  The ebook concludes with many border choices (including charts); spine and gusset variations; several bind-offs; blocking guidance; and a list of other shawl books to consult.

Throughout ShawlStar, there are pictures of mini shawls in various shapes, pictures of actual finished projects, schematics, and links to online tutorials.  I do wish there were more pictures.  I think mini shawls are very helpful for visualizing how a shape would work with stitch patterns, and I wish that every single shape in the book had a picture of a mini shawl.

The typical chapter for each shape includes a basic recipe followed by variation options.  It gives guidance on stitch count, explains how the increases/decreases work, and lays out the pros and cons of each shape.  A few of the more complicated shapes even include links to online spreadsheets that will help you with the math.  Even though I wish it had more pictures, there are a lot of schematics.  I definitely feel like I could use this ebook to confidently design my own shawl in a shape I have never knit before.

The updated version launches on March 23rd.  If you buy before then, you will automatically receive the updated version later.  If you found my review helpful, you can use my affiliate link here to purchase ShawlStar for yourself.  Enjoy!

Gwaihir Shawl

A pattern that I test-knitted has just been published: Gwaihir by Lindsay Scarey.  My Ravelry project is here.

I wanted to test-knit this shawl because I love bulky lace.  Also, the shawl is designed to look like the eagle from Lord of the Rings, and I am a big fan of those movies.  This shawl kept us company while we were watching the Olympics last winter.  It is the perfect thing to wrap up in when I'm at home relaxing.
I made two changes to my version of the shawl.  I added a slip-stitch edge (because I love slip-stitch edges).  I also made the shawl smaller by finishing early (skipping chart C).  I did the two repeats of chart B, but on the second repeat I made the triangles of purl stitches look like those at the end of chart C so my smaller shawl would have the same finished look as the larger version.  I then proceeded with the garter border and bind-off as written in the pattern.

One thing to note: the designer wrote this intending for the charts to be read from right to left on both right and wrong sides.  If you will be reading the charts from left to right on the wrong sides, then all you need to do is go to the key and switch the P2TogTbl and the P2Tog.  That will ensure your finished result matches the chart.
If you are new to garter tabs, then my pictures should help.

 I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and this is something I would definitely make again.  Lindsay was great to work with, and I really enjoyed thinking through her pattern and giving input.  This experience has inspired me to become a tech editor.  I will be posting more about that soon.