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Tshirt Yarn Bib

By Stefanie Japel

I can’t claim to have invented Tshirt yarn.  I’ve seen it listed for sale on Etsy and used in other peoples’ Ravelry projects, but  I hadn’t really seen a place for it in my own life until my husband and I were packing to move into our new house.  I was packing up our closet and found probably 30 white Hanes Tshirts in varying stages of wear. I don’t think he’s thrown out an undershirt since he was in high school.  Luckily he’s a painter so he has used for them as rags in his studio, but he had so many that I couldn’t see how he could ever even use them all as rags in a lifetime!

tshirt bib

The more of these Tshirts I packed up, the more convinced I was that they need to be something OTHER than old tshirts taking up space in my new house!

So, I started looking around on line, and found a bit of instruction as to how to turn the shirts into yarn, patterns for hot pads, placemats, shopping bags, but no patterns for wearables.  I’m all about wearables.  The challenge for me was to find a way to use the Tshirt yarn in projects that I’d actually be proud to wear myself, and to give as gifts.  I cut up a bunch of shirts, started experimenting with big-needle lace, and developed a class around how to not just REcycle the shirts into yarn, but to take it a step further and UPcycle the shirts into pretty accessories and clothing.

The difference between recycling and upcycling is that when you recycle, you simply turn one item into another.  When you UPcycle, you turn that initial old item into something BETTER. It’s like the difference between just being moved to a new office at work and being promoted.  SO, using the techniques that I’ve developed for creating the yarn, dyeing it to add color and create visual interest, and the patterns that I’ve designed…it’s really possible to turn something that’s been destined for the rag box into something that you and your kids can wear and use.

Upcycling these old shirts really fits in with how we as a family are trying to green-up our lifestyle.  Now that we have two daughters, it’s important to us to raise our girls to be responsible environmentalists.  We recycle everything that we can in our area, and even our 2-year-old knows that cans, milk jugs, and cardboard don’t go into the trash.  We recycle with our daughter and now, with my online class and this new Petite Purls knitting pattern, we UPcycle with her as well.


To Create Yarn: You’ll need 1 old Tshirt. 

Needle: Needle size will depend on the weight of your yarn.  I used a set of US13 straight needles.

Gauge: Gauge will depend on the weight of your yarn and your needle of choice. I achieved approximately 2 sts and 2.5 rows per inch with my yarn and needles.

Notions: darning needle for weaving in ends, scissors for creating your yarn.

Abbreviations: kfb: knit into both the front and back of next stitch on needle.  Increases one stitch.
K2tog: knit next 2 stitches together. Decreases one stitch.

Swatching: After creating your Tshirt yarn, work a gauge swatch (or several) to determine the appropriate needle size for your yarn.  You want to use a needle that creates a fabric that feels like it would be comfortable to wear.  The fabric should be pliable, but not have such an open weave that it appears lacy.

Video Tutorial: Making Tshirt Yarn

Pattern Instructions

This is another gaugeless patern.  It’s written to be used with any gauge yarn.  The larger the yarn and needle used, the larger the bib will be.  To create the colors in the bib, I dyed my Tshirt before cutting it into yarn using a Tulip brand tie-dye kit.

Cast on 13 stitches
Row 1: knit
Row 2: kfb, knit to last stitch, kfb
Row 3: knit
Row 4: kfb, knit to last stitch, kfb
Rows 5 – 17: knit
Row 18: knit 6, cast off center 5 stitches, knit 6.  place 1st 6 stitches on holder to be worked later.

Strap: worked on 6 remaining stitches.
Row 1: knit 6
Row 2: k2tog at neck edge, knit to end
Row 3: knit 5
Row 4: k2tog at neck edge, knit to end
Row 5: knit 4
Row 6: k2tog at neck edge, knit to end
Rows 7 – 26: knit
Row 27: k2tog knit 1
Row 28: k2tog
Cut yarn and pull tail through last stitch on needle to bind off.

Button tab:
Place 6 stitches from holder onto needle.  With strap at right hand side, continuing to work in garter stitch, and beginning at neck edge…

Row 1: k2tog at neck edge, knit to end
Row 2: knit 5
Row 3: k2tog at neck edge, knit to end
Row 4: knit 4
Row 5: k2tog at neck edge, knit to end
Row 6: knit 3
Row 7: k2tog at neck edge, knit to end
Row 8: knit 3
Row 9: k2tog
Cut yarn and pull tail through last stitch on needle to bind off.

NOTE:  No button hole is worked while knitting because the stitches are large enough that the spaces between them can be used as a buttonhole.  If your gauge is too tight to pass a button through, use a length of yarn to create a loop and attach it to the end of the button tab.

Weave in ends
Attach button loop to button tab if necessary
Attach button to strap

Stefanie Japel

Stefanie Japel is the author of two books, Fitted Knits and Glam Knits and has been blogging since 1999. She has recently set up an Online Knitting Studio in which she teaches several classes including, "UPcycled Tshirt Yarn Class" "How to Fit Your Knits" and "Design Your Own Shawl" among others. Stefanie is also the work-at-home-mother of two little girls, Mazie (age 2) and Olive, who is just 3 weeks old.

Pattern & images © 2010 Stefanie Japel. Contact