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Mar 01

Up-cycled Yarn and Cloth

Every evening I think, “What’s for dinner?” Most of the time it is a meal fashioned from whatever I have at the moment. I love to approach spinning and weaving in the same way. What can I make from what I have lying around? I am going to show you how to spin a funky weft yarn from materials you already have.

I listen to audio books while I work and cook. The books reside on my phone and go everywhere with me. My wardrobe doesn’t consist of shirts or pants with pockets, so I love to have lightweight handmade bags for toting around my “books”. Keeping my phone with me helps me twofold: I always have my books with me and I can receive calls through my “Batline” which rings through the audio of my books.

The project for this month is an easy one-of-a-kind book bag for your phone, e-reader, or iPad. Focus falls on creating an artistic weft for a custom, art-yarn look, with little investment for the inspired spinner and weaver in all of us. Using some of your old clothes, a bit of your stash and a drop spindle, this project is quick, portable, and affordable.

Creating the Yarn

I save my most-loved clothes not fit for donation in a big basket. This is a great place to find the parts and pieces that become the basis for this yarn. Spinning this yarn from well-loved clothing ensures it will be something you like, as well as evoke a memory of the original garment. For this little project I used an old cotton dress shirt.

Old cotton dress shirt waiting to be repurposed

Old cotton dress shirt

Weft material gathered from old dress shirt

Weft material gathered from old dress shirt

I started by tearing the fabric into strips about 3/8th inches wide and tying the strips together using an overhand knot. I left the ends of the knot about an inch long as a design feature. Wind the newly created “yarn” into a ball.

Stephanie's little iPhone bag

Stephanie’s little iPhone bag

Now it is time to raid your stash. Whether we talk openly about it or not, most of us have a pretty decent stash collection. (If you don’t, there are many yarn stores happy to help.) Look for two yarns, one that will full nicely and one that we will ply with the fabric strips. For this project, I picked a skein of Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky in Deep Charcoal, and a 5/2 mercerized cotton #19 Medium Grey.

Tie the cotton and the fabric strips together at one end and use an overhand knot to attach it to the leader yarn on your spindle. Spin the spindle in a clockwise direction to twist the yarn and fabric strips together. Make sure that you keep a high twist, 36 degrees. How do you do that, you ask? Yeah, there’s actually an App for that, iSpin Toolkit. I am not a huge App purchaser, but this is fun, very useful, and worth the $4.99. (Editor’s note: There is a similar app for Android users called SpinTech for $1.99). Spin as much of this yarn as you like, it will be used as a design element.

Warping the Loom

I threaded the Lamb’s Pride in a 5-dent reed on my Cricket Loom. The length and width of the warp will depend on the device you are designing for. Width in the warp for this project is 30% larger than the desired width for the finished weaving. You can measure the circumference of the device and add 1/4″ to 3/4″ for seam allowance and ease, depending on the size of the device and your preferences. The length of the warp will depend on your stash choice yarn’s shrinkage. I figured shrinkage at 10% and take-up at 5%. The dimensions for my iPhone were: 4-1/2″ in the reed and 13″ in length plus 15″ waste, so I used a total warp length of 28″.

fibers for weft

fibers for weft

spin the two weft yarns together

Spin the two weft yarns together


Once your loom is all warped up, the fun begins. Start with a few picks of the yarn that will full, in this case Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky, and hemstitch. Remember that the beginning and end of your weaving will be the top of your bag once folded in half and stitched. Weave half the project with your fulling (Brown Sheep) yarn. Now, switch to a pick of your designer yarn followed by a pick of the fulling yarn (Brown Sheep). Pull out your little dangly bits of the tied ends so it’ll show on the surface of the fabric after it is washed. When you reach the end, finish as you began, ending with a couple picks of the fulling (Brown Sheep) yarn and hemstitch.

Woven fabric ready for finishing

Woven fabric ready for finishing


Remove from the loom and hand wash with warm water and soap to control the fulling. When the fabric reaches the desired density, rinse and hang to dry. If you want a denser fabric, throw it in the dryer and watch it carefully until the desired result is achieved. Once dry, trim the fringes even with the hemstitching and press. If your fringe has not been sufficiently secured with fulling, knot your fringe to prevent raveling.

finished piece

Finished piece

Fold the fabric in half and use the fabric strip to tie square knots every ¼ inch to close the edges of the folded fabric, and trim to desired length. I used the Incredible Rope Machine with one strand 5/2 cotton, one stripped fabric and two strands Lamb’s Pride Bulky to make the carrying strap.

Tonight you should order take out, put on your favorite audio book, and get warped. Tomorrow you can carry your devices with pride and style.