Tuesday, 2 November 2010

How to knit...with denims!

Do you have any old jeans or cotton t-shirts in the house that you no longer wear? Are these too good for the rag bag, but not good enough for the charity shop or selling at a market? Do you hate throwing stuff away and are looking for a way to recycle the material?

Brigitte from Purls of Colour has the perfect upcycling solution: knit them!

I was at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin last week and showed people how to knit with t-shirt and denim yarn, and I now reveal my secrets...

First of all, you need the fabric - this could be cotton t-shirts, a pair of old denims, a worn-out silk scarf or fabric remnants from a sewing project. If you haven't washed any fabric remnants beforehand, I'd advise to wash them to make sure the material doesn't shrink terribly or falls apart. I've just ruined a cushion cover by washing it and I had no idea that it would totally go to pieces.

I prefer working with natural fibre, but I know people have knitted with plastic bags rather successfully. I also tried to knit with ties (and am still working on that one), but again, wash them first, because some silk ties lose shape after washing.

You also need a pair of BIG NEEDLES - yes, needles that put fear into the hearts of men! Size 15 or 20 - if you can get any bigger, go for it! At the last Knitting and Stitching Show, a lady knitted rugs on needles that were the size of broomsticks!

Then you need a pair of scissors and the fun starts. There are various ways of cutting the fabric. Some cut strips and then sew the ends together by hand or machine. Some knot the ends of stips together, but that means you either let the ends hang, or you have to sew them in later on.

To avoid too much sewing or knotting, you can cut your piece in the round or in serpentines to have longer strips.

Yes, you get corners, but they aren't too visible when you knit, and the ones that show look rather arty and interesting.

That's really it. Once you have enough strips sewn or knotted together, you just roll them into a ball and start knitting scarves, hats, bags, rugs...

This is a rug I knitted from cotton t-shirts and cast off with denim (the loopy bits are the corners of strips cut out in the round).

I've even used some denim in my latest Austerity Neckwarmer!

Although I love love love wool, I am beginning to develop a soft spot for knitting with fabric, so there are Purls' creations in the making which mix wool and interesting fabrics.


  1. Fantastic. When I saw your comments last week about knitting with denim I was so hoping you would do a how to on this! So thankyou!! It makes me want to take up knitting again.I think I'd have fun with this.

  2. Hi Brig, I can't believe you were there and I didn't get to meet you! I was there all day saturday. Were you in the coffe shop area?

  3. Thanks :)

    AM, I've just washed some silk fabric remnant, and can't wait to start knitting it!

    Vivi, I was at the Show only on Thursday and went home the same night. It might be as well, since I spent all my money - too much temptation thrown in my way...

    In case people have missed the link on the Crafty News and the Etsy team thread, here it is again:


    Go to the Show on 1 November, forward to the 14th minute, and you'll see a report on the Knitting and Stitching Show with a few Etsians in it (yes, and me ;)

  4. It was great to see so many people watching you whos eyes opened in amazement at what you were doing on the day. Thanks for sharing with us all. Am looking forward to seeing your new creations.

  5. Thanks for the info, it looks great your work is so interesting.Show us lots more.

  6. I love your fabric knits - they look amazing & you did a great job on Martins jumper, it did look really funky.... I was looking at it when he first gave it to you thinking uh oh, it's so boring & plain, what could you do with it but it turned out really well.

  7. oh since been forced to knit at primary school never felt the want to pick up knitting needles until now!:)

  8. Have you tried doing this with strips of plastic bag? - It can be a wee bit hard-going on the fingers, but it's really great - especially for things you want to be particularly sturdy, or to hold their shape.

    Takes several plastic bags to get enough strips to knit a shopping bag, but the result is incredibly strong!.

    Variations include 1) Ironing strip ends together to make them fuse; 2) Weaving strips and then ironing to form woven, rather than knitted cloth.