How to Make Your Own Yarn From Recycled Materials
Making your own yarn from recycled materials is a great way to reduce waste and get creative with your crafting. With just a few simple steps, you can turn old fabrics, plastic bags, and other items into unique, handmade yarn.
Gather Your Recycled Materials
- Old clothes, sheets, towels – Cut or tear into 1-inch wide strips. Avoid fabrics that fray too much like wool or stretchy materials. Cottons and linens work best.
- Plastic shopping bags – Cut off the handles and cut or tear bags into spirals to make “plarn” (plastic yarn). Choose thin, smooth bags without gussets.
- Old t-shirts – Cut into a continuous spiral strand. The stretchy fabric works well without fraying.
- Other fabrics – Try cutting up old socks, denim, curtains, etc into strips.
When selecting materials, opt for natural fibers like cotton, linen, or wool as they make the best recycled yarn. Avoid thick seams, printed designs, or fabrics that fray excessively. Solid colors or subtle prints work best.
Prepare the Fabric Strips
- If using fabric, wash and dry the material to pre-shrink the fibers before cutting into strips.
- Cut or tear the fabric into 1-inch wide bias cut strips. Tearing prevents fraying compared to cutting.
- To make “plarn” from plastic bags:
- Cut off handles, seams, and gussets
- Cut the bags into a spiral continuous strip
- Use sharp scissors to prevent jagged edges. Or consider using a rotary cutter and self-healing mat for efficiency.
Keeping the strips a consistent 1-inch width helps maintain even tension when you start knotting and weaving them together into yarn.
Make the Recycled Yarn
You’ll need a place to anchor your base strip as you start making the yarn. Here are two common techniques:
Finger Loop Method
- Anchor one end of your fabric/plastic strip around your finger.
- Take another strip and tie it in an overhand knot around the base strip, leaving about 4 inches of tail.
- Keep tying new strips of fabric around the base in an overhand knot until the yarn is the desired length.
- Secure the ends by knotting them together.
This method is great for beginners and makes a chunky uneven yarn full of texture.
Continuous Spiral Method
- Anchor the end of your fabric strip to a fixed object. A doorknob or hook works well.
- Start twisting and wrapping the strip continuously around itself to form a spiral. Pass the fabric at an angle rather than straight across to get a twisting effect.
- Guide the strip slowly so it coils evenly into a continuous “snake”. Keep hands close together to maintain even tension.
- When the yarn is the desired length, cut the end and tie it to the base tightly.
The continuous spiral method makes a smoother, more consistent yarn. It takes practice but creates a nicer finished product.
Use Your Recycled Yarn
Now that you’ve made your unique recycled yarn, you’re ready to start crafting! Here are some ideas:
- Knit or crochet scarves, hats, baskets, rugs, and more
- Try weaving or macrame
- Embroider designs using your yarn as an accent
- Make pom poms, tassels, fringes, or other embellishments
- Wrap gifts or vases for a recycled touch
- Sew the yarn into fabric items like tote bags or quilts
The possibilities are endless! Be creative and find ways to give your recycled yarn new life. Reduction of waste feels even better when you transform trash into handmade treasure.
Tips for Making Recycled Yarn
- When tearing fabric, tear with the grain rather than against it for clean edges.
- Use sharp scissors or rotary cutters for smooth, consistent strips.
- Start tying knots close to the fabric’s edge to prevent bunching.
- Apply even, gentle tension as you join strips to keep the yarn uniform.
- Use pliers to pull plastic bag yarn taut while knotting to reduce bulk.
- Untwist strips frequently while making spiral yarn to balance the twisting.
- Consider felting or ironing finished yarn made from wool or other fabrics to meld fibers.
- Mix different materials together for unique textures and colors in the finished yarn.
With a little creativity and effort, you can turn all sorts of waste items into handmade yarn treasures! Reduce and reuse while making beautiful crafts.