T-Shirt Yarn – Upcycled Weft For Your Next Weaving

T-Shirt Yarn – Upcycled Weft For Your Next Weaving

DIY T-Shirt Yarn Tutorial

Welcome once again to Earth Month! Actually, today is officially Earth Day! Happy Earth Day! Let’s make something!

Every week in April we have been discussing how to have a more sustainable studio practice for you and for the planet. It’s time to take that sustainable ambition and put it to use.

One great option for a sustainable weft solution is using fabric! You can weave with any fabric you can cut or rip into strips. Most people have some old t-shirts laying around that they probably wouldn’t donate due to holes or stains. Or do you have an old t-shirt that doesn’t fit anymore that you have a sentimental attachment to? T-shirts can make a fun stretchy weft that is great for many different projects.

There are a few different ways to prep a t-shirt to become the weft for your next weaving, but the best option is to find the way that results in the longest strips.

How do you cut a t-shirt into one long strip and turn it into t-shirt yarn?

Glad you’re here.

Let’s take a look.

t-shirt yarn

What You Need

An old t-shirt

Fabric scissors


Time To Cut!

t-shirt yarn

The first thing you want to do is lay out your shirt so it’s nice and flat. With your fabric scissors cut along the bottom of the t-shirt to remove the hem.

Add it to your scrap pile.

Next, cut along the sleeves and straight across the chest.

Set those aside. We’ll deal with them in a minute.

Fold your t-shirt in half so that the sides of the t-shirt are almost touching. You want the edge of the top layer to be about an inch from the edge of the bottom layer. The 1 inch that isn’t overlapped by the top will stay uncut for now. That inch is what will help you to make sure you have one continuous strip.

Turn the t-shirt so that the folded edge is facing you.

In 1 inch strips – cut vertically up to the edge of the first layer.

Do this all the way across.

Create One Long Strip

t-shirt yarn

You should now have a t-shirt that sort of looks like a rib cage. The 1 inch that you didn’t cut before is like the sternum.

On one side of the fabric cut into the t-shirt at an angle until it meets up with a cut slit. This will free up the end of your t-shirt yarn.

Lay the t-shirt flat like shown above so that the “sternum” is exposed. Since you freed the beginning of your long strip, you can now cut diagonally from slit to slit which will keep the fabric as one long strip. If you cut the slits directly across from each other they would just make a bunch of individual loops.

Not what we are going for.

Keep checking to make sure you don’t cut individual loops as you make your way all the way across the t-shirt. This will create the majority of your t-shirt yarn.

For The Sleeves

t-shirt yarn

While the sleeves don’t give you the longest yarn to work with, we’re not wasting ANYTHING!


In that case, lay the sleeve out so it is flat and the widest part is facing you. Cut up the sleeve in 1 inch strips stopping short about an inch from the top. Since the top of the sleeve will be angled, your slits will be progressively shorter (or longer depending on which end you start with) as you make your way across.

Free the beginning of your strip by cutting down from the slit from the top on the front of the sleeve. Work your way across the sleeve alternating cutting from the top and bottom layers.

Do the same thing for the second sleeve.

For The Chest

t-shirt yarn

First, cut out the collar of the shirt and discard it to your scrap pile. Fold the upper part of the chest in half so that the sides touch. Aim for cutting 1 inch strips starting at the folded edge towards the open edge – stopping about an inch from the top.

When you are almost to the collar you can unfold the t-shirt and lay it flat so that the front and back are separated.

Starting at one side of the fabric, cut the strips – alternating sides to create one continuous strip. Go all the way across and up to the collar freeing one shoulder. Continue cutting strips up the other shoulder stopping short about an inch from the edge each time. When you hit the shoulder seam – cut all the way across.

Do the same thing for the back.

Your left over shoulder that didn’t make it into the long strip can be cut into it’s own little strip of t-shirt yarn by cutting across and stopping short about an inch – alternating sides.

Seeing a pattern?

Almost Done!

t-shirt yarn

That should be the entire t-shirt! Round out any of your yarn that has sharp square edges. This doesn’t have to be perfect because it should mostly be covered up in the next step, but it’s important trim off all the excess.

You should now have a large pile of flat t-shirt yarn!


You’re not done yet though.

Starting at one end of your fabric strips – pull tight on the yarn in increments of about a few inches. (Image after next section.)

Pulling on the strips turns them into the rounded yarn that you might be used to seeing. Do this for all of the strips.

The last step is to make your new yarn a little more manageable.

Let’s have a ball

t-shirt yarn

Or make one.

The best way to store your newly created fabric yarn is to turn it into a ball.

Start with one end of your yarn. Fold over the end about an inch 2 or 3 times or tie it into a loose knot. Next, wrap the fabric around the folds or knot a few times. Then switch directions and wrap the yarn around another few times.

Keep doing this while switching directions after every few wraps.

The larger the ball becomes, the more you can vary the wrap positions. Keep moving around the ball until you are done! You can add all of the separate parts of the t-shirt into the same ball or make multiple smaller balls.

Up to you!

When you are all done, just tuck your end into the ball to keep it in place until you are ready to use it.

Using fabric to create yarn for weaving is just one way you can create art with materials you probably already have on hand!

If you have some jersey fabric just laying around, you can take what you just learned and make the most out of your fabric yardage as well.

Similar to how we started out cutting the chest part of our t-shirt above, fold the fabric in half and cut up from the folded side stopping short about an inch. Unfold the fabric and alternate cutting each side of the fabric to make one long strip!

More yarn for weaving!

No matter how good you are, there will be some “unusable” scraps that result from this process. Don’t throw away those scrap pieces! Remember the post on recycling your yarn? These fabric scraps can be used as a filling for your next three-dimension project.

Looking For More Sustainable Solutions?

I am all about the sustainable studio, but just like recycling – it’s a great place to start, but a bad place to end! Sustainability is important in every aspect of your life. Check out this list of more ways you can celebrate Earth Day everyday without ever leaving your house! The more we do now, the better out planet will be for weaving in the future.

Next week I’ll walk you through how to put your t-shirt yarn to use! We’re going over a few different rag rug weaving project ideas.

Let me know how you’re celebrating Earth Day in the comments!


⇣ Love It? Share it! ⇣

You May Also Like

EPI – What Is It And How Do You Figure It Out?

EPI – What Is It And How Do You Figure It Out?

Plan Your Weaving With This DIY EPI Mini-Loom

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links then I will receive a small commission that helps keep the blog going – at no extra cost to you! Please read our DISCLAIMER for more info. Thanks for the support!

We live in a world of initialisms. Think BTW, UFO, and DIY. You may or may not use those everyday, but there is one you will use constantly in your weaving world : EPI.

EPI stands for Ends Per Inch and refers to how many individual warps you need for every inch of your weaving to achieve the desired type of weaving you want. It can also be called your warp sett or your warp spacing.

Why is it important?

EPI is arguably one of the most important things you need to figure out before starting a weaving.

The wrong warp sett will set you up for the wrong kind of weaving. For the most part, a smaller EPI will set you up for a tapestry or a weft-faced weaving (if you missed it: check out WEAVING TERMS). This is because it allows for more space between each warp and therefore the weft is more easily compressed.

A larger EPI means there is less space between each warp. This creates a tighter weave that doesn’t allow the weft to completely compress. As a result, you will see both warp and weft.

Of course this all can change depending on the size of both your warp and weft. To weave a thicker weft into a weft-faced weaving (tapestry) you will need a smaller EPI then you would need if you wanted to do the same weaving with a thinner weft.

Your warp density matters.


Think Of Your Weaving In Pixels

When you are planning your weaving, specifically an image based tapestry, it’s important to remember that your weaving image will need to be “converted” into pixel-like shapes. That’s because you’re essentially weaving on a grid. Think of it like making an image in any paint program on your computer or zooming into a photograph until the edges of objects are jagged.

Your EPI affects just how many pixels you have to work with. A larger EPI with small weft yarns will allow for a more detailed and less pixelated image.

Well, where does that leave you?

Obviously you should just know the exact warp sett, right?

Don’t worry, no one expects you to.

Although, there is a general rule for tapestry that you will be able to follow successfully a good chunk of time. 6 EPI works incredibly well for standard 8/4 warp and a similar-sized weft. What about those other times though? What if you are using an alternative weft? Or you are wanting a more detailed weaving than the 6 EPI can provide?

Enter the EPI mini-loom.

EPI Mini-Loom – Small but Mighty

Making a mini loom to measure your EPI is a quick way to figure out what sett you need without wasting too much time or materials.

Materials Needed:

Cardboard, chipboard, foam core, or mat board

Self-Healing cutting mat

Pen or pencil

X-acto knife



First, cut your board into a 4 inch square. This will give you 2 inches of weaving space to sample your EPI. In my example below I have used mat board.

Tip: When cutting through a thick material like mat board – make a lot of long shallow cuts instead of trying to cut through all at once. You will save your wrist and create a cleaner line.

On the top and bottom of the square mark each inch with a pen or pencil and cut a notch at the first mark on the top and the last on the bottom.

EPI Loom

Start your warp at the top notch and leave about an inch on the back of the mini-loom. Next, wrap your prospective warp around the loom so that it corresponds to the EPI you want to try out. If you’re trying out 6 EPI then you would make sure there are 6 warp ends in each 1 inch area.

Do this for at least 2 full inches so you get an accurate sample. You could probably get away with doing just 1 inch, but honestly 2 inches doesn’t take that much longer and will give you a better sample. Also, it is important to make sure the warps are evenly spaced, otherwise your EPI will be incorrect! Do this to the best of your ability. It doesn’t have to be perfect – but it should be close.

In this example I have spaced the warp out to 6 EPI which means that I have 12 total warp ends (6 ends per inch x 2 inches.)

Your last warp will end at the bottom notch. You can cut it off at the back at about an inch as shown.

EPI Loom

Now you can weave with your prospective weft!

Is it working?

Awesome! Move onto the actual weaving!

If not, re-warp with a new sett and try again.

Repeat as necessary.

Below is a comparison of 6 EPI and 12 EPI. The warp yarn is the same, but the weave structure is different. In this case, 6 EPI creates a weft-faced weave and 12 EPI creates a balanced weave.

Now that it is already set up you can try out different wefts on the same sample. What happens if you used a thicker weft? Or a weft with a lot of texture? You won’t know unless you try it!

EPI Loom

To take your sample off the loom all you have to do is cut the warps on the back. You can finish them off by tying simple knots or any other finishing techniques you want. Hold onto your samples to took back on the next time you want to use that yarn and EPI or recycle your yarn for something else and just take some notes!

This mini-loom is great because you can keep it in a binder, bag, sketchbook, or pretty much anywhere and it won’t take up any room. Hang onto this and use it whenever you are trying out some new yarn or a new project!

Or you could guess what EPI you should use.

You know, if you like to live dangerously.

What’s your favorite way to figure out your EPI? Have you tried out your mini-loom yet?


⇣ Love It? Share It! ⇣

You May Also Like

Pin It on Pinterest