Monday, April 22, 2013

A Needle Pulling Thread - My T-shirt Yarn Article

 I don't think I will ever get over the excitement of seeing my name in print.  I have an article in A Needle Pulling Thread this month and I thought I would reproduce it here with all my pictures for you to read!
Repurposing T-Shirts Into A New Yarn
By Carmi Cimicata

My grandmother raised her children during and after World War II.  My Mom told me that when any of her siblings outgrew a sweater that my grandmother unraveled it and then knit something new.  She did this out of necessity.

Necessity is not a word you hear as often today.  It seems like recycling, reusing, repurposing, and recreating are the words that most explain what my own generation is doing.  We try and re-use something because it is the right thing to do.  

This is why I think the movement to repurpose old t-shirts is a great one.  It shows my own and the younger generation what my Grandmother was doing.  Taking clothing that no longer fits or is needed and turning it into something useful gives you a great feeling.
T-shirt fabric is very interesting.  It has some pull and give.  When it is cut into strips and stretched on purpose it will roll into a yarn like strip.  T-shirts are universal and I think you would be hard-pressed not to find one in every closet, drawer and cupboard in North America. With so many t-shirts in existence, we need to find a good way to keep them out of the landfills.  Allow me to introduce you to “tarn.”  T-shirt strips stretched into a yarn equals tarn.
It really is simple to do.  I cut strips of t-shirt fabric a little less than one inch wide.  I take about six inches of the strip and stretch it between my two hands.  Magically, it curls and rolls into itself.  I stretch and curl yards of t-shirt strips until I have a ball of tarn.  (In the on-line world you can see many demonstrations of this activity on both Youtube and on websites by simply googling the words t-shirt yarn)

After I made my first ball of Tarn I knew that this magical new stringing material would be a favorite.  I have seen many knitters and crocheters turn their tarn into placemats, carpets, coasters and many other useful household items. 

I took one look at a strand of tarn and saw jewelry.

Tarn is soft and a pleasure to wear.  The older the t-shirt is that I repurpose into tarn, the softer my wearable becomes.  Plus, I have the added benefit of knowing I am wearing something I made and recycled like my grandmother would have.  It is a luxury for my generation to repurpose simple to make something pretty. It is however a small contribution to the green recycling movement.

So let me tell you about my T-Shirt Yarn (TARN) necklace.  I have been making kumihimo braids with interesting fibers for a year now.  I love the classic eight-strand braid and was certain I could use my kumihimo disk with the tarn if I was careful.  (tarn is much thicker than traditional kumihimo cords)
I used four 72 inch long cords to make my necklace.  These four cords were folded in half making the eight strands necessary for my braid.  One of the cords was pink tarn, two were teal tarn and the fourth was some interesting thick yarn.  I wanted the fuzzy yarn to add more colour and softness to my final necklace.
I was able to use my kumihimo disk like usual.  I didn’t push my tarn into the disk slits as quickly as I normally do. The disk is made of foam, so I didn’t want to tear it.  Surprisingly, the disk performed beautifully and I can still use it for my regular kumihimo projects.
My kumihimo braid is thick and soft.  I finished my ends by gluing on an interesting end caps and some jewelry finishing components.   
I also made a pendant featuring tarn flowers.  To make a tarn flower I simply roll the cords into pleasing small circular shapes.  A little hot glue keeps the shape intact.  My pendent showcases the versatility of tarn.  

I hope you are inspired to turn one of your own t-shirts into a ball of tarn.  I have many tarn how-tos on my blog for even more great ideas.


  1. Yes, it is exciting to see your name in print, isn't it? I have my very first published article in the same magazine -- Flora, the CQ Bear. We're both recycling, just in different ways.
    Grovenore Flato

  2. I love the way you've used the tshirt yarn, the rolled roses are the perfect finishing touch

  3. I love re-cycled items and so creative. I can hardly wait to finish one kumihimo braid and start another. It is so much fun experimenting with different fibers and beads. You certainly come up with one of a kind jewelry projects. One of my students made herself the most amazing belt with 2/0's and rat tail. It reminded me of the 60's fashion. Groovy man!

  4. Kumihimo is definitely the rage with my students. Works up quickly and is wonderful for using re-cycled materials and fibres. One of my students made a belt with the rat tail and 2/0 seed beads, reminds me of the 60's - Groovy Man!

  5. I am ready to make and use some tarn, thanks to your article! But how do you find the big end caps? The normal jewelry-supply online shops seem to sell nothing bigger than an 8mm opening.

  6. Hi Nancy, I know they are hard to come by if you do not have a bead store, or a beading wholesale district to shop in. Amazon vendors are adding more and more kumihimo products, so you might find them there. is great too.