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.