It’s funny, I always assume that everyone knows what t-shirt yarn is, but when I post a picture of my projects, I get a ton of questions asking what it is and how do I create it. Upon a quick Google search, there was an absolute ton of pages linking to blogs, pictures, YouTube, showing how to make it. However, every time I look at these blogs and the patterns that follow, I always feel there is something missing.
What is T-Shirt Yarn?
T-shirt yarn, sometimes referred to as Tarn or Zpaghetti yarn, is super-bulky, usually 100% cotton, and made with either new shirts from your local superstore, thrift store shirts or any t-shirt that’s just lying around the house. I usually use plain, but shirts with patterns, screenprints, or tye-dye on them will make for an insanely unique yarn – so don’t be discouraged if you have twenty shirts, all completely different. If you can’t quite part with any of your shirts just yet, you can go over to the Dollar Tree and get some XLs for $1 a piece – my recent investment cost me $9 for 9 XL women’s pink plain t-shirts, and gave me over 200 yards. Wow, is 200 yards enough? Yes. Yes it is. Stay here and in a bit, I’ll show you what one t-shirt can make.
Making the Yarn
So let’s get to it. What do we need? A t-shirt and a pair of scissors, preferably a pair of sewing scissors.
Once you are finished with the cutting, you’ll have a pile of one continuous strip, as shown in the second to last picture. As you wind it into a ball, tug on the yarn to stretch it. This will make it curl under and it’ll be sturdier. If you hear or feel light tearing, don’t worry about it. Once it’s stretched, it won’t tear. Some people join the yarn and wrap it into a giant ball. I get impatient and just plow into the project, ball by ball. As much as I hate weaving in ends, I feel that not joining the balls beforehand makes the stitches even without a goofy knot or unraveling ends hanging out.
Working With the Yarn
Working with this super bulky yarn may be a little trying for those with arthritis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc. Make sure to do your stretches regularly, keep your wrists and arms loose when you have your yarn created and are ready to dive into your project. Once you figure out your own personal way of working with it, it’s a breeze, but when I first started, the yarn was so bulky, I wasn’t sure how to hold it. I couldn’t weave it into my fingers like I did with even bulky wool for tension. Honestly, though, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of. When knitting or crocheting with Tarn, use size Q crochet hook or size 15 needles, metal if you can get them. As I said, once you figure out how to hold the yarn, creation of your project will be easy, but it does get a little tight, so watch your tension if you’re aiming for a nice, loose stitch. Weaving in the ends is a little trying; I recommend using a metal tapestry needle with a big eye, or even a smaller crochet hook, and weaving the ends in one stitch at a time. If you weave in the ends through more than one stitch at a time, it gets really tight, the needle will get stuck and you’ll have a hell of a time pulling the needle out with the yarn.
There are plenty of patterns out there for baskets, purses and rugs, to mention a few. Some have been known to create super bulky cowls and shrugs. The uses for Tarn are almost unlimited. This basket is one full ball, plus a couple yards of another. It’s an original pattern, a half circle basket for the bathroom. I’ll publish the pattern once I make another and write it out. Baskets made with Tarn don’t usually need to be blocked, shaped and stiffened, but I like to do it to ensure the structure and shape.
Going to AllFreeCrochet.com or AllFreeKnit.com doesn’t produce a lot of patterns for this yarn (in fact, I only found one or two). However, a quick Google search will give you quite a few links to choose from. My top links are here:
- Crochet in Paternoster – This woman has amazing looking rugs for t-shirt yarn, and I highly recommend checking her out for ideas and inspiration, as well as patterns.
- Molly Makes – A magazine and website based out of the UK, Molly Makes has some really addicting articles and patterns. This link will take you to a nice, basic rug pattern that you can use to get your feet wet when working with Tarn.
- b.hooked Crochet – I’m all about bowls and baskets. I just have way too much stuff, and could always use an extra container. This T-Shirt Yarn Bowl pattern is absolutely perfect for learning the ins and outs of Tarn basket making. This is good stuff here.
- Eilen Tein – A T-Shirt Yarn Cat Nest. THIS one is great. My sister fell in love with this and put in an order for two. The website is in Dutch? Swedish? I only grew up with German, French and Spanish, so I can’t tell at the moment, but keep scrolling to the end of the blog post for the English translation.
- Wool and the Gang – A company based out of London, WatG doesn’t just sell the kits in this link provided. You can get the patterns by themselves. The Tarn they use is Jersey Cotton, a 90% Cotton, 2% Elastine blend, which makes for a good, stretchy yarn to work with. If you bypass making your own from regular 100% cotton shirts, WatG has cones of Jersey Be Good (187 yards each) for $12. A good investment, to be sure, but if you’re a newbie, try making your own first before getting a cone. I recommend it not just to save you money, but because it’s good to know how to do.
T-shirt yarn is so incredible to work with, and whatever aches and pains you have while or after making it are well worth it. It produces a wonderful, sturdy project that you will definitely show off. One of the joys of this yarn (or basically, any yarn), is knowing that once you get the hang of working with it, you can substitute this yarn for almost ANY home decor pattern: pillows, trivets, baskets, Swiffer pads, dusters, rugs, cat nests, you name it. (Don’t forget, when you do substitute this yarn in a pattern, make a quick 4″x4″ swatch to determine the gauge).
Are you inspired? Believe me, I know the feeling. I scoured my apartment, grabbing t-shirts from my husband’s goodwill bag so I could make this stuff. Be sure to keep track of this and my facebook page, I’m creating a how-to dye t-shirt yarn to get the colors you want. Get those creative juices flowing and post pics to your projects! Comment below with any questions you might have. Thanks for stopping in!