T-shirt Rug

I am always looking for things to do with t-shirts. So much fabric, I hate to get ride of it! We are nostalgic folks, so in order to keep room in the dresser but not lose the memories I have made some t-shirt blankets for my husband and I. Since I only used a square of the shirt that included logos etc, I had plenty of jersy fabric left over from them. At least half of the t-shirt, more if you only used the front! How could one ever even think to toss it (and maintain cleanliness, organization, and space…)?

Well, it was high time to clear a little space and use this stuff I’d been hanging on to for a while. I thought about making a latch hook rug like these but wanted something a little flatter. Maybe a bit of crocheting or braiding like my mom used to do? Nah, I reverted back to my elementary school years of weaving random bits of string to make small mats that decorated my bookcase of trinkets. For years after I would end up with various yarns from who knows where and with whatever cardboard was available continue to make them. So, time to make a bigger one:

What you need:

  • T-shirt (or other fabric scraps) – I used the leftovers of 10-12 shirts for my rug that ended up at 1.5 x 2.5, and I didn’t end up using all of them.
  • Decent scissors
  • Yarn/thread/twine/other long fabric scraps/whatever you want to make the initial lines with. I used sturdy yarn that more or less matched the fabrics I ended up with.
  • A loom. Don’t panic, I just used 4 folding chairs and strung my yarn between. Looked great and took up the little bit of spare space we had left in our apartment! (I had the idea later to use a large piece of wood, like particle board with a bit of reinforcement, with nails. This way you could make your string tighter, and possibly put some guide nails along the middle in order to help prevent the hourglass shape. If we had room and more t-shirts I’d try it…)
  • A ruler/yardstick/measurer
  • A good back if your “loom” is on the floor like mine
  • A bit of patience.
Let’s go!
If you have anything screen printed on your tee’s, I’d cut them off. I had a small bit of print on one and it looked super noticeable. (feel free to give it a shot, could look interesting if all your colors have bits of screen print?) If you are using on-hand tees, choose colors that look good together.

Trim off all seems. They are a bit too chunky and don’t roll as well.

Start cutting your shirts into strips about 1 in wide. If you have a fancy cutting device to keep your strips amazingly straight and even, go for it. After weaving, you really can’t tell how straight they are. You might be able to see some thickness difference, but I like to think imperfections give more character.

– I later found a tutorial on how to make 1 long “thread” from a shirt. Could definitely save you time. I had many awkwardly cut shirts, and I wanted to use as much of the shirt as possible, so I still cut them into straight strips. Also, depends on the final look you want. Thick stripes? This method will work. Multi-color heathered? smaller pieces would be better.

Cut slits in both ends of every thread.

Originally I started off cutting the slits as I went along (below). Save yourself som energy, and just do the snipping all in one sitting. I forgot to take a picture once I figured this out. Learn from my mistake, it makes way more sense.

Peek ahead for some larger pictures of the “loom”. Just set the chairs apart from each other, more distance apart than the length you’d like your rug, and tie whatever thread you choose across. Mine started off being about 1.5 inch apart, but could have easily been closer to make the rug a little tighter.

Loosely tie your first tee-thread to one end, and start weaving! (For noobs, that means over, under, over, under and repeat endlessly.)

to attach the 2 pieces check out this tutorial

Put the end attached to the loom through the slit of the new piece of  tee-thread.

Then put the other end of the new piece of tee-thread through the slit on piece attached to the loom.
Confusing enough? Makes more sense when you do it yourself.

Most of mine looked like above. Every one in a while they look like below. Helpful tip, make sure they strands are curling in the same direction when you connect them.

(A slightly better view of the “loom” below.)

Continue weaving. I started doing random colors. Not long after this point, I decided to try thicker stripes, and liked it much better. I think with different colors, this could look cool, but not stripes were better this time.

Be sure to not pull to tightly on the tee thread when weaving. If you don’t leave a bit of breathing room on the outside edges, the rug will get more and more narrow as you go, making it triangular, until you get to the other end/start adjusting, when it starts to look like an hourglass.

When you’ve made it as long as you can/want, cut the yarn with enough room to tie the ends.

Take the yarn in pairs and tie it off. Trim excess. (If using other tee-shirt thread for this part, could make nice tassels?)

And you should have a rug!

Ways to do this better than me:

  • Wash the cut up tees before weaving them. Spare yourself the ridiculous amounts of t-shirt dust everywhere.
  • Use my modified idea for a loom (see “what you need” list to get my vague description. Or ask for clarification) OR find an antique loom and modify that! Check out this lady’s rugs on etsy
  • Choose a better color scheme. I was at the mercy of the colors I had, I refused to spend money on this one. Someday I’d like to either buy a bunch of shirts in similar color to get a “heathered” look to the rug, or be more intentional about the color combo with stripes, or buy a bunch of white shirts and dye them whatever color you’d like.

Let me know how yours turn out!


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