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So my wife tells me that I have too many t-shirts (she is not wrong) as I don't wear them all fast enough before they get washed. Since I wear my favorites more often some just never see action.

Naturally I will give some away but I have been fascinated with the idea of making my own crafts from that material e.g. yarn. I suppose I would just need scissors to cut it up but what can I do to make the longest strands possible?

What is a good way to determine if the cuts are too thin or not? I ask because the thinner I make it the longer strands I will get but the trade off might be strength. Too wide and it wouldn't make for good yarn.

Does the thickness of the shirt matter? Not all shirts are made from the exact same material thickness. Is this limited to just jersey knit fabrics (That is typically what you see pictured with t-shirt yarn)?

  • Might attract more attention with something like "Make yarn from fabric?" and then specify T-shirts in the question. – user24 Jul 9 '16 at 23:07
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    @CreationEdge fabric seems very broad though. The only thing that I could change is tshirt > jersey fabric. The material matter part should likely be removed. – Matt Jul 10 '16 at 0:26
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It depends on what you're making with it. When you're dealing with seamless T-shirts, I'd start at the bottom. Cut the hem off, then go around and around cutting about an inch (2.5cm) in one continuous strip. You can put a little mark on your finger to indicate the measurement so you don't have to draw all those lines, and it won't need to be absolutely exact. Don't bother with the neck and sleeves. If you want some uniformity, you'll need to play with different widths. You'll need narrower strips for heavier fabric. Maybe make some test strips with the sleeves and make some samples before you start into the body of the shirts.

The fabric is going to curl onto itself to form a strand instead of staying a flat strip if you stretch it at all. If it's thin it will probably just do that anyway. And that might be a good thing.

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Three sources of T-shirt stretch - fiber, yarn, and fabric construction. In the case of a cotton T-shirt, the most significant stretch comes from fabric construction (knit), yarn is second, fiber third.

The thinner your strips, the stretchier they will be, and the more loose yarn and fiber that will "shed." Also, the thinner your strips, the more impact of the knit unraveling during handling, wear, and care.

Before you cut up all your shirts, I suggest testing different widths for strength, stretch, and fiber/yarn loss. If you plan to knit your strips, give that a test too. You can increase strength somewhat by washing and drying before you cut. You might also test the benefits of cutting with pinking shears. This is a great "repurposing" idea!

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What do you want to do with the yarn eventually? Just like any kind of yarn that comes in different thicknesses, you can cut your T-shirts in any size you like. So decide on the thickness based on your project, or on the thickness of the (crocheting/knitting) needles that you'll use when you work with your T-shirt yarn.

As for the strenght of the yarn: when you've crafted your project, it's unlikely that one single thread will have to endure a lot of force. And just like your T-shirt didn't fall apart because it has been made of very thin threads, it's unlikely your project will. So you can go as thin as you want, although I don't think it will be easy to find a beginning/end of the original thread and end up with a lot of sewing thread. :-)

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  • cut your T-shirts in any size you like. I don't think that is true. That fabric would not behave as certain widths. Do you think I could cut it as narrow as I want? – Matt Jul 10 '16 at 19:49
  • As long as the thread doesn't break, you're fine. The thread of -say- a cotton shirt will be more stretchy than a cotton thread of the same thickness because T-shirts are made of very fine knitted fabric, but other than that, I see no problems. – Ji Ugug Jul 10 '16 at 20:01
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    Technically, a thread is a yarn, which is made by spinning fiber. In this case the stretch "system" is fabric>yarn>fiber. Each step of manufacture contributes property variables that multiply with each manufacturing step. The reason a T-shirt yarn typically doesn't break has at least as much to do with the mechanics of the yarn structure as that of the fabric construction. The primary contribution of the fabric construction is that it allows displacement of stress across the fabric, i.e., a stressed yarn can roll and move and adjust to stress, thus "sharing" the stress with other yarns. – user1798 Mar 27 '17 at 17:11
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I would mark and cut strips 1cm width on the bias ( so diagonally when the t-shirt is laid flat. Alternatively, you could cut on the horizontal to minimise wastage but the yarn produced will not be as stretchy as that cut on the diagonal. Have you any idea what you want to make?

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