Upcycled T-Shirt Yarn – Photo Tutorial

Turn old shirts into yarn using this free photo tutorial for upcycled t-shirt yarn. Go green in your quarantine with this easy DIY craft.

After being trapped inside for like three weeks, I started to clean out my closet… but then I got distracted making t-shirt yarn with the old shirts I had in the trash pile. And then I crocheted two color-blocked potholders. Sooo, my closet isn’t clean, but y’all are getting two shiny new posts! That’s a win, right?

Blue ball of t-shirt yarn with a crochet hook

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I originally posted a tutorial for how to upcycle shirts to make t-shirt yarn on my old blog (Thrifty Below), back in 2014. Since Thrifty Below is no more, I’m re-posting this t-shirt yarn tutorial with some new pictures.

Plain white t-shirt and scissors on a hardwood floor


  • Old t-shirts
  • Scissors

Note: In a normal world, you could totally buy cheap tees at the thrift store, but the goal of this post is to help you social distance by upcycling shirts you already have. Now go! Look through your drawers and dig out those college bar crawl shirts or those undershirts with the weird armpit stains.

T-Shirt Yarn Tutorial:

white t-shirt with the bottom seam being cut off by black and green scissors

Step 1: Lay out your tee and cut off the bottom hem of the shirt.

white t-shirt with the sleeves being cut off by black and green scissors

Step 2: Next, cut straight across the chest, right under the armpit seam. If your t-shirt has weird deodorant stains, cut a little bit below the armpit seam in order to avoid stains in your t-shirt yarn. You should now have a tube.

folded white t-shirt with the sleeves cut off

Step 3: Fold one closed side of the tube (previously the side of the shirt) almost to the other side, but leave a gap of ~ 1 inch. You should have a rectangle, with the open edges on the left and right sides.

white t-shirt being cut with scissors

Step 4: Begin cutting 1-inch vertical strips in your shirt. You will cut through the closed edge on the top layer, but not the bottom layer.

white shirt being cut into 1-inch strips of fabric, scissors on top

Step 5: Keep cutting strips, leaving ~1 inch of uncut fabric at the top. The 1-inch strips should still be connected to the t-shirt.

tee being cut by hands and scissors, with markings to show how to cut

Step 6: Open up your t-shirt tube, which should look a little bit like a ribcage. Begin cutting diagonally across the joined portion, from one strip to the other. This will give you one continuous piece of yarn per t-shirt.

pile of white fabric strips being stretched into t-shirt yarn by two hands

Step 7: Finish off your t-shirt yarn by gently pulling it. This will help to roll in the sides and make it look less like fabric strips and more like yarn. I rolled mine into a ball, but you can store your t-shirt yarn however you choose.

If you’re making yarn for a small project, you’re done! If you’d like to make a large amount of one color of yarn, keep reading to learn how to join your t-shirt yarn.

Joining T-Shirt Yarn:

Note: it’s easier to join a new piece of yarn if it isn’t wound into a ball yet.

collage of white t-shirt yarn being joined together

First, cut a small slit (~1/2 inch long) in each piece of t-shirt yarn. Push the slit end of the new piece through the slit on the original yarn.

Push the end of the new yarn through the slit in the new yarn. Finally, pull the whole piece of yarn through the slit and pull the knot tight.

white bowl on a round wooden cutting board with three balls of t-shirt yarn in blue, white, and navy

That’s it! Super easy, right? Now you can go forth and craft whatever you want! I crocheted two color-blocked potholders with my t-shirt yarn and used it for the straps on my homemade face masks.

Comment on this post or tag me on Instagram (@youshouldcraft) and let me know what you’re making with your new yarn!

collage of balls of t-shirt yarn with crochet hooks, wood, and the words "free photo tutorial: upcycled t-shirt yarn"