So lately I’ve been upcycling a lot of t-shirts, making primarily pillows & quilts. Most of my customer’s don’t want their scraps so I throw them in a bin which starts to overflow after a few projects. Here is my t-shirt scrap bin:
I like to cut them up and use them as yarn. That yarn can then be crocheted or woven but I’ve also used them as stuffing for pillows, borders for blocks in quilts, etc. This tutorial will walk you through making t-shirt yarn and weaving a rug. Now if you don’t want a rug they also make great coasters, place mats, baskets, etc. Pretty much if it can be made from yarn or fabric you can use this. Now t-shirts are great materials for home projects, the material is stretchy, soft and super duper durable. It’s also easy to wash and dry (no fancy smanshy dry cleaning crap here). There’s not a lot of sense in making something to use if it won’t last a lifetime, right?
- Cotton T-shirts! I use scraps but there are plenty of tutorials out there on how to cut t-shirts into a continuous ball of yarn. For weaving I prefer not to have a really long piece, it’s too much to work worth but there’s a lot of joining involved. I don’t use the Lycra or spandex blend, just good old-fashioned 100% cotton. This can be made from a jersey, knit, blend, etc but this specific tutorial uses cotton.
- Scissors or rotary cutter. I also use a mat and ruler. Just quicker this way since I already have the tools but plain old scissors work too.
- Safety pins. I use my quilting basting pins, they have curves in them which I find easier for this project. These are the ones I love! Makes life easier pins!
- Thread and Needle. This is optional and I only used it to keep the beginning from unraveling.
Super secretive tips & tricks!
I made lots of mistakes and ripped out several times to get mine “right”. So if you wanna waste a lot of time and get pissy then, by all means, skip this section and get straight to the meat and potatoes!
- I sort my t shirt yarn/scraps by color family. Blues and greens, grays and blacks, reds and pink, etc. I find this helped me more than rummaging through my box.
- I cut all mine to the same width, which for this project I used 1 1/2″. Length is really dependent on what I’m dealing with but I like to only deal with a foot or 3 at a time.
- I use 4 strands for this project so it is an almost no sew project, after the initial start.
- I hand sewed the begining. The first time I knotted but it added so much bulk to my project I wound up ripping it all out and sewing the top.
- I used the rule of 3. Every third row I increased every third stitch once I got it to the right size. Again I ripped out a fairly large rug because it was “curling” up. Now had I been making a basket that woulda been ok but it is a rug and, call me crazy, I wanted it to lie flat!
- If you’ve ever crocheted “in the round” you know a pattern isn’t perfect. I sew, weave, macrame, crochet, EVERYTHING, too tight! What works for me may be too different for you. It’s ok to rip out, I do it EVERY DAMN TIME! My rule is pretty much if I’m “reaching” for a stitch I add another stitch to the current one. If I’m getting bulk I skip a stitch.
- I don’t cut the joining slit or join strips together, I do it as I go. Firstly, I put my safety pin in the bottom and if there’s a slit it gets distorted and if you pull too hard it can rip all the way down (TRUST ME!). Secondly, you’re pulling the “tail” through the stitch so it gets stretched AND you have to pull too much through, it’s frustrating. You’ll see what I mean as we get started.
- I cut a shit ton of scraps! Now keep in mind I’m not cutting up whole t-shirts because I’ve already used most of it in other projects, these are the leftovers, the sleeves, necks, that awkward portion that I trimmed off. So I cut up a whole bunch. If it has interfacing ironed on it I pull it off after I cut my strips. The interfacing helps stabilize it for cutting. I pick out the seams for less waste. If it’s got a a design, wording, ink stain, whatever I just use it, it is a scrap project after all. So let’s get started!
- First lay out your scraps flat and cut them. If it needs ironing iron it. Now cut your strips. I cut mine to a width of 1 1/2″. Once stretched it makes a nice size tube, not too big, not too small. Length doesn’t really matter but most of mine were a foot or two in length, some were about 7 feet in length!
3. I forgot to take a picture of this part but basically you use 4 strands. I chose 4 contracting strands then knotted them together at the beginning. I then took a needle and thread and sewed them together then cut off the knot. I didn’t do this at first but after getting my rug about 2 feet wide it was just too bulky in the middle so I ripped it all out. No knot means the center lies flat, which is what we want. Unless you like lumpy rugs?!? If so, you’re strange but whatever! Once it’s sewn (or knotted..psycho..)the pattern is basically under, over, under, under. The last under is through the previous round. Hopefully the pictures show it better than I can explain it. So Take your curved pins & attach one to the bottom of each strand and let’s weave!
4. Under, over, under, under. That’s our pattern. So take your first four that are sewn together at the top(not knotted hahahaha)and do your pattern. Then do it one or 2 more times. This will be your base. Once you can curl it onto itself then you’re ready to start the weaving! Now this should go without saying but curl it so that it lays flat! So the grey/green piece was my working strand. I went under the black, over the yellow, under the red then under the stitch in the previous row which was grey.
5. Keep going, and going and going. When you need to join it’s pretty simple. Cut a small slit near the bottom (I like to leave and inch or so) of the one you’re working with. Then cut a small slit near the top of the strip you’ll be joining it with. Slide the new strip (the end with the slit) through the slit of the old strip. Slide it all the way through and pull tight! Hopefully the pictures show it better!
6. Keep going in this manner, under, over, under & under, joining as you go. Add stitches when needed, skip them if needed. The first round is always 2 stitches in each stitch from the previous round. Third round it 2 stitches, one stitch, 2 stitches, etc. Continue increasing this way until it starts to curl then adjust. Sounds vague and very “fly by the seat of your pants” but it is! Different tensions, thickness of strand, etc. all affect the pattern. I also find ironing and starching every few rounds helps it to lay flat as well.
7. Now pick a series to watch on Netflix and GO! I weave in all the “tails” from the joins every couple of days, I don’t really worry so much about the underneath though.
I’ll post the finished project and update when it’s done. I’m not sure how large I want to make it so this may be another project I work on for a few years until I get it the size I want it. If you try this leave me a comment or have a question. I’d love to hear from you!!