How to: Make Your Own T-shirt Yarn


According to the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia clothing is the fastest growing household waste in Australia. It is also the cause of much pollution and drains natural resources. Astoundingly it takes 2700 litres of water to produce the cotton for one t-shirt. Far from being a throw-away statistic, this number is significant. There are 663 Million people worldwide who don’t have access to safe drinkable water – that’s approximately 1 in 10.

For women especially, water scarcity is a deep and complex issue. In developing nations girls under 15 are twice as likely as boys to be the responsible family member for fetching water, with 64% of households relying on women to get the family’s water when there is no water source in the home. This takes valuable time away from educational opportunities and many young women are forced to drop out of school. This then has a trickle on effect as research has shown that for every 10% increase in women’s literacy, a country’s whole economy can grow by up to 0.3%

What can you do?

When it comes to fashion and helping the environment, simply reducing your consumption of clothing is the best possible action you can take. On average women wear only 20 to 30 percent of their wardrobe so most of us could make-do with considerable less by making better choices. Imagine how organized your wardrobe would be with less stuff too!

Upcycling clothing is a fantastic way of extending the life of the textiles you have. T-shirts are made from jersey fabric, a type of woven material that doesn’t fray when cut and often curls after being stretched out depending on what the fabric is made from. This makes it perfect for making into yarn and creating new items that will last.


Step 1. Find a new spot for your fluffy friend to rest whilst they oversee your activities.



Step 2. Use a pair of scissors to cut straight across under the arm-holes as well snipping off the bottom seam.


Step 3. For the moment, put aside the top and bottom sections leaving the middle section. These can be used to make other items. Then use your scissors to slice parallel cuts into your fabric, leaving around 2-3cm at the end of each cut. These should be approximately 3cm apart.


Step 4. Put your arms through the body of the t-shirt then lay it back down so that the area that hasn’t been cut through is in the centre. Start by cutting off the end length closest to you at a 45 degree angle to create the beginning of the yarn. Then follow this strip around and cut so that it follows in a continuous piece.

*Note: Once you have got the hang of the technique, I find it easier to put the my arm through the centre and have the yarn fall off as I go but this is a clearer way to explain it while you are learning.


Step 5. Use your hands to stretch the yarn bit by bit so that it lengthens and curls up.


This is how your yarn should look at this point.


Step 6. Roll your yarn into a ball and plan your first T-shirt yarn project.

How to make your own upcycled t-shirt dog toy


Your dog will adore this upcycled toy made from your old clothes. It’s a fabulous way of extending the life of an old t-shirt that in the best case scenario might end up as an industrial rag or be shipped overseas, and in the worst, will go to landfill.


I’ve made several of these for my dog Maya and they have all lasted well despite her vigorous play and the many adventures she has taken them on.


Fashion waste

Fashion waste is thought to be the fastest growing household waste in Australia with $500 million worth of clothing being taken to landfill in 2013. Imagine the impact if each of us both reduced our consumption of new clothing and upcycled our old clothes.



One single t-shirt takes 2700 litres of water to produce which is particularly significant given that only one percent of the world’s water supplies are clean and accessible. Farming used for cotton production is extremely energy and chemically intense, and takes up agricultural land that could alternatively be used to produce food for local communities.


Donating to charities

If clothing items are unsuitable the charity incurs a disposal cost in taking them to landfill. Some charities sell on some clean and absorbent textiles for industrial rags and other textile by-products but you will need to check with the individual charities before donating.



Upcycling is a great way of prolonging the life of textiles by giving them a whole new purpose and delaying their trip to landfill. While it doesn’t solve the problem of textile waste, it does reduce the volume of materials needed for making new products. The process also gives us some time to think about the waste we are producing instead of simply placing it in a charity bin and walking away.


Making your upcycled t-shirt toy

These are really easy and quick to make. You can also use flannette from old pyjamas, fabric from tracksuit pants and tops, and even denim. I usually start by placing the knot between my knees.


Step 1: Find two old t-shirts. While there will be enough fabric in a t-shirt for an entire toy, a contrasting colour looks great. And this way you can also give one away to your dog’s best pal.


Cut four lengths of fabric from the t-shirts that are approximately equal in width and length. Do this by cutting across the t-shirt horizontally. Cut in a spiral if you need some extra length.

Depending upon what has been available to me I’ve made some quite small toys and also some chunkier ones that would suit a larger dog.


Step 2: Lay the lengths out on a table and tie a secure knot at the end.


Step 3: Position the knot in the middle of the table with the strips coming out into the shape of a cross.


Step 4: Pick up strips A and C and create a loop with each before taking them to opposite ends of the table.


Next gently pick up the two loops with your hand. Trust me, once you’ve done a couple of knot layers it’s a cinch!


Step 5: Wrap B over C then under A.


Step 6: Pick up D, wrap it over A, then under the loop made by C.


Step 7: You’ve now completed your first knot layer. Pull each strip to tighten it and make it neat and even.


Step 8: Continue creating the next knot layer by taking two opposite strips to opposite ends, then thread the remaining two strips over and under. Alternate between using the two different colours to start the layer.


Give to your furry friend and enjoy a game of fetch or catch. Maya also likes to take hers to bed and snug up to it. I think she might find it comforting because it smell like me.


Have you made an upcycled toy for your dog? If so, post a picture below.