How to Knit a Teddy Bear From Recycled T-shirts

This Instructable shows the materials and techniques used to make a teddy bear from T-shirts.

Note: My bear was made for a class assignment. Part of the design challenge was to use only our original material (ie. T-shirts). Since no new materials could be added, there are some extra steps that I wouldn’t normally follow, or recommend. So, I’ve added shortcuts and indicated optional sections so you can skip some of the extra work if you like.

Step 1: Materials

-self healing mat

-rotary cutting tool

-sewing scissors (ie. Sharp and effective)

-seam ripper

-double pointed knitting needles, 10mm (15 US)

-regular knitting needles, 8mm (11 US)

-crochet hook (any size)

-needle for hand sewing (any size)

-sacrificial T-shirts (3-4 depending on the size of the them) *seamless t-shirts work best*

-ruler

Step 2: Prepare T-shirt

1. Use seam ripper to pull stitches from the bottom seam. Collect the thread and set aside for later use.

Shortcut: cut bottom seam off and save for stuffing. Then, later substitute new thread.

2. Cut sleeves, collar and shoulder seams off. Set aside for later use.

3. Cut along one side, from the underarm to the T-shirt's bottom with scissors.

Step 3: Making Tarn

1. Unfold T-shirt into a single layer of cloth, lay flat on cutting mat. Orient with cut side toward you.

2. Use rotary cutting tool (or scissors) and start cutting an approximately ¾” wide strip of fabric from the armpit down and stop around ¾” from the bottom.

3. Starting at the bottom edge, approx. ¾” above the first cut, begin cutting toward the armpit and stop ¾” away from the edge.

4. Continue cutting in a zigzag pattern to create one continuous strip of fabric. This will become your “tarn” (ie. T-shirt yarn).

5. Trim corners from zigzags to remove excess fabric and make a u shape.

Step 4: Prepping Your Tarn

1. Tie one end of your tarn to something strong.

2. Stretch and twist while wrapping around an object (I used a clothes drying rack).

3. Leave the tarn to stretch overnight. This seems to help it retain its new shape.

4. After tarn has had time to completely stretch out, remove it from the stretcher and roll it into a ball.

Now your ready to start knitting!

Step 5: Knitting

For non-knitters there are some video tutorials available here:

Casting on stitches: https://www.instructables.com/id/Knitting-Lessons...

Knit stitch: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Knit-Purl...

Double Pointed Needles:

Abbreviations:

DPN(s) = double pointed needle(s)

c/o = cast on

k = knit

p = purl

m1 = make one stitch

k2tog = knit two stitches together

st(s) = stitch(es)

Gauge:

There’s no gauge for this pattern.

My tarn widths vary slightly from one roll to another, so I improvised.

Step 6: Body

Shortcut: Ignore the colour change cues and make a solid colour bear.

Note: The body is knit in the round. This pattern is for a striped bear, so tarn colours are alternated every three rounds.

Start with your first tarn colour (tarn 1) and c/o 8 sts divided on DPNs (2,3,3).

Round 1: Place a marker stitch on a new DPN. Join ends together by knitting the first round.

Increase:

Round 2: k1, m1

Round 3: k

Round 4: Join in tarn 2 and use for next 3 rounds. k2, m1 (16 sts)

Round 5: k

Round 6: k3, m1 (24 sts)

Round 7: tarn 1. k.

Round 8: k4, m1 (32 sts)

Round 9: k

Rounds 10-12: tarn 2. k

Rounds 13-15: tarn 1. k

Rounds 16-18: tarn 2. k

Decrease:

Round 17: tarn 1. k4, k2tog

Round 18: k

Round 19: k3, k2tog

Round 20: tarn 2. k

Round 21: k2, k2tog

Round 22: k, cut tarn 2 and tie off.

Round 23: tarn 1. k1, k2tog

Round 24: k

Cut tarn, leaving a long tail. Stuff body with T-shirt scraps and tarn until you’re happy with its shape. Then, pull tail through remaining stitches. Knot and weave in ends.

Step 7: Head

Note: The head is knit in the round. This pattern is for a striped bear, so tarn colours are alternated every three rounds.

Starting with tarn 2, c/o 6 sts divided on DPNs (2,2,2).

Round 1: Place a marker stitch on a new DPN. Join ends together by knitting the first round.

Increase:

Round 2: k1, m1

Round 3: k

Round 4: Join in tarn 1 and use for next 3 rounds. k2, m1 (12 sts)

Round 5: k

Round 6: k3, m1 (18 sts)

Round 7: tarn 2. k

Round 8: k4, m1 (24 sts)

Round 9: k

Rounds 10-12: tarn 1. k

Rounds 13-15: tarn 2. k

Rounds 16-18: tarn 1. k

Decrease:

Round 17: tarn 2. k4, k2tog

Round 18: k

Round 19: k3, k2tog

Round 20: tarn 1. k

Round 21: k2, k2tog

Round 22: k, cut tarn 1 and tie off.

Round 23: tarn 2. k1, k2tog

Round 24: k

Cut tarn, leaving a long tail. Stuff head with t-shirt scraps and tarn until you’re happy with its shape. Then, pull tail through remaining stitches. Knot and use tail to attach to body with a crochet hook.

Step 8: Limbs

Arms: Make 4

Knit in stockinette stitch (alternating knit rows with purl rows) on regular 8mm (11 US) needles.

Using tarn 1 c/o 10 sts.

Row 1: k

Row 2: p

Row 3: k

Row 4: join in tarn 2. p

Row 5: k

Row 6: p, cut tarn 2 and tie off.

Row 7: tarn 1. k

Row 8: p

Row 9: k

Cut tarn, leaving a long tail. Pull tail through remaining stitches and pull tight to draw end into a closed circle and bring sides together.

Use remaining tail to sew sides together.

Stuff with tarn scraps and sew open end to body using tarn and a crochet hook.

Step 9: Muzzle

The base for the muzzle is kind of a square sided knit shape. c/o 2 sts on a DPN.

Row 1: k and slide work to end of DPN, turn needle (purl side).

Row 2: repeat above until your knitting is about 6.5" long.

Cut tarn, leaving a long tail. Pull tail through stitches and knot.

Curl work into a spiral shape and use tail to sew spiral into a tight disc.

Cut a section of collar and rip stitches out. Open flat and wrap over spiral.

Using saved thread sew to bear’s face.

Step 10: Ears

1. Cut a length of collar (approx 7") and turn inside out.

2. Make a loose knot and arrange in a triangle shape.

3. Hide ends inside knot and sew into place.

4. Make a second ear.

5. Sew ears onto bear's head with saved thread and adjust shape as you please.

Step 11: Tail

1. Cut a length of collar (approx. 8") and turn inside out.

2. Make a loose knot and then make a second loose knot.

3. Arrange as you like, hide ends inside knot and sew into place with saved thread.

4. Sew tail on bear.

Step 12: Features

1. Cut the eyes and nose from some of the screen printed material.

2. Sew the eyes on the bear with the saved thread.

3. Before sewing the nose down, tuck a few tarn scraps behind it to give it a more three dimensional look.

4. Sew a simple mouth with a just a few stitches.

Shortcut: Use craft eyes and nose, or make the features out of stitches. Use new thread to save time.

Step 13: Optional: Paw Prints

1. Cut out two paw shapes from T-shirt scraps. This will become a backing for the toes and soles.

2. Cut the toes and soles from some of the screen printed fabric and stitch these onto the backing (paw shape) with the saved thread.

3. Fold up some scraps and stitch onto the back of the paw print. Then, stitch between all toes and soles to give a raised look.

4. Sew onto bear's feet.

Shortcut: Use a marker to colour the toes and soles onto the paw backings.

Step 14: Optional: Belly Applique

1. Undo the stitching from a section of collar

2. Lay flat and cut a circle. Stretch the circle over the bear’s belly and sew on with saved thread.

Cut out any shape you want from different coloured scraps and sew on in center of white circle.

I chose a sewing machine shape to represent the sweatshops that these T-shirts originated from.

Step 15: Finished

Now, name your bear and give it a home!

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