Food & dining

Fashion

T-shirt alchemy from TeePearls

TeePearls turns T-shirt material into jewelry.
TeePearls turns T-shirt material into jewelry.

Wondering what to do with that worn-out old college T-shirt you just can’t bear to throw away? Ask East Somerville’s Catherine Maldonado to fashion it into jewelry.

Maldonado runs TeePearls, a company that transforms new and up-cycled T-shirts into necklaces and bracelets.

“T-shirt yarn became a pop crafting material in 2008 or 2009. Even Martha Stewart did a segment on it! People were making them into rugs, and I wanted to do something more fashionable,” she says.

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Maldonado began experimenting by tying the 24-inch stretchy material, bought in bulk from companies like Wool and the Gang, into knots. Over time, she grew adept at tying them symmetrically, fashioning them into lightweight necklaces, and selling them on Etsy and at craft fairs.

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“It seems super simple, but it takes practice to make those knots all the same,” she says.

Most necklaces have pops of color, such as white with black polka dots. Many of the fabrics are limited edition. Some customers opt to turn the fabric into bracelets by wrapping them a few extra times.

She’ll also fashion custom necklaces from beloved shirts, perhaps signifying your favorite concert or a beloved sports team. She’ll even present the goods in a custom pouch, also fashioned from the shirt. Prices typically range from $20 to $40.

“I get everybody [as customers]. I get little kids; I get boys and girls. My grandmother is in her 90s, and she loves them,” she says.

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com.