I'm not kidding when I say that my husband and I have had a bag of shirts sitting by our door waiting to be brought to our school or dropped off somewhere else since we moved into our new apartment this past February.
I noticed the cats had already been using the bag for scratching so I decided to take a look and found a couple great t-shirts from Old Navy that have holes or stains and really not donation worthy. So I grabbed those, along with a few other excess t-shirts (we have no shortage of t-shirts, at last count my husband had over 100 fandom, vintage, logo t-shirts) that we don't (and likely won't) wear and got to work on this low cost/no cost instructable.
Twine, cordage, rope, yarn, etc. whatever you want to call it, this instructable will teach you how to make thin, lengthy rope-like material from your excess t-shirts that can be used for a variety of other projects. This method doesn't just work with fabric, you can also use it to make rope from bark, grasses, and other materials (handy if you're ever marooned on an island or lost in the woods). It's also a fairly calming activity, once you get the hang of it. It's easy, inexpensive, and can be done anywhere (like outside at the beach, camp, on the train, etc.).
Between my husband and I, we will be posting a few Instructables for projects made with this rope so check back soon!
I hope you enjoy and please don't forget to vote! :)
Step 1: BoM
Fray Stop (optional)
Binder Clip (for holding unfinished ends together)
Clip board (helps when just getting started)
Step 2: Prepping T-Shirts
To prep an uncut t-shirt for becoming t-shirt yarn/rope, start at the bottom of the shirt and cut 3/4-1" wide strips. Keep cutting strips until you reach the arms, which you will also cut off (but won't use to make your rope).
Keep cutting until you have enough "raw" material to work with. Take some of the strips and cut them in half. When making the rope you don't want your strips to be of equal length (more on this coming up).
Keep in mind that different fabrics behave differently. Some t-shirt material will not fray, but will stretch, a LOT. I like to add in some other scrap fabric because I like frayed-boho style look. But I wouldn't use fraying material in a project I intend to give to one of my pets or as a gift for a small child (not that I know many).
So now is a good time to add your Fray Stop or similar product to prevent fraying. Follow the manufacturer instructions for the product you're using.
(Note: your strips can be wider than 3/4-1", I just find this size to be easier manage and not quite as bulky. But for a dog toy or mat, I'd go wider.)
Step 3: Getting Started
Take two strips of unequal length and tie them together at one end. I find it easier to have the end attached to something so I can keep my strips straight as they twist together (also helps with preventing unraveling).
In the first picture I've labeled the two strips "A" (white strip) and "B" (striped orange strip). Hold strip A in your non-dominate hand and take strip B into your dominate hand. With your thumb and index finger, twist strip B with the twist going away from you (in the direction my finger is pointing in pic 2, box 1). Do this as tight as you can as the tighter the twist, the more secure it is.
After you have a couple twists in strip B, carefully pull strip B behind strip A (pic 2, box 2), bringing strip A to the front. Now begin twisting strip A in the same direction as you twisted strip B. After a few twists, pull strip A behind strip B and continue twisting. you will repeat this same pattern until you get to the end of a strip.
Twisting the strips together is a lot like braiding, only without the third strand. You have to keep a tight hold on each strip. It's a little tricky at first, but once you get into a rhythm it's really easy and you'll have a ton of shirt rope to turn into awesome projects.
Remember: the tighter your twists, the more secure your rope will be.
Step 4: Adding More Strips
When you get about 1" to the end of a strip, you want to kind of wrap the current strip around the new strip. I find working with tapered ends is easier for this purpose (especially if working with strips of different widths).
Wrap the old strip around the new strip and begin twisting away from you. After a few twists, continue wrapping as shown in the previous step, keeping a firm hand on the joined ends so that they don't slide apart. After a couple twists you'll be able to continue twisting and wrapping without worry of the ends coming apart.
I've thrown in some extra pictures of strips right after a new piece has been worked in (pics 3-8).
Step 5: Wind
At some point, soon after you've started getting the hang of the twisting and braiding, you're going to have a couple feet of twine falling all over you. This, or whenever your hands start to really hurt, is when you want to start wrapping up the twine. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to wind up the twine, I took an unused ribbon spool and wrapped it around, using a binder clip to secure the untied loose end in place. If you're handy and know how to wind a yarn ball, that would also work.
If you're done-done with your twine, tie another knot and then wind it up. If the twine is too long for a needed project, simply tie two knots at the length you want and then cut in-between them. This will keep the twine from unraveling.