People often cut and stretch old clothes, usually woven shirts with some elasticity, into a material that resembles thick yarn for knitting and crocheting. Used plastic bags and other things that can form long strips are also common yarn substitutes.
Pulling on the ends of stretchy fabric strips forces them to roll up at the edges and become longer, rounded strands. Using large gauge needles, knitters can form these strands into bags, mats and other items that require strong, bulky yarn.
Knitters may also cut old plastic bags into narrow loops and knot the loops into long chains to make plastic yarn or plarn. However, plarn might not be suitable for beginner knitters. For both shirts and plastic bags, any seams, hems or glued sections should not form part of the yarn.
Storebought metal wire, which ranges from genuine gold to Teflon, is another common material for knitting. Knitters may choose to use metal or plastic knitting needles to make wire jewelry, to avoid damaging wooden or bamboo needles.
Other alternatives to yarn include narrow ribbons, string and pet or human hair. Less common yarn equivalents include measuring tape, strings of candy liquorice and video cassette tape ribbons. Ordinary household string is suitable yet durable for knitting, while cassette tape makes a fragile yarn.