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How to Crochet a T-Shirt Rug

The creative process has always been an important part of my life. Here I share some basics to help you along the road to creativity.

This is my first pastel T-shirt rug. I used eight shirts to make this.

This is my first pastel T-shirt rug. I used eight shirts to make this.

Recycle T-Shirts Into Crocheted Rugs

When I first saw these T-shirt rugs, I was intrigued by the idea of making beautiful rugs from worn-out shirts. Upcycling rags into something useful satisfies my penny-pinching nature. They remind me of the braided and crocheted rag rugs my grandmother used to make. Depending on the size of your shirts, it can take 4–8 adult-sized tops to create a rug.

If you're a crochet beginner, fear not! T-shirt rugs are simple because the entire project is done in single crochet. If you haven't crocheted before or need a quick refresher course, you'll find a step-by-step video at the end of the article.

You'll need a rotary cutter or scissors, a cutting mat, crochet hook, and scissors.

You'll need a rotary cutter or scissors, a cutting mat, crochet hook, and scissors.

What You'll Need

One of the beauties of crocheting is that you only need a few supplies!

  • 4–8 T-Shirts: The number of shirts you need depends on the shirt size and the finished rug size you want. For the 36" X 24" rug in the top photograph, I used eight tops cut into 1/2" strips. You can use any type of shirt: faded, worn, printed, plain, stained, clean. Most stains won't show once the strips are crocheted. Although rubbery decals make crocheting the strips a little harder, it's fine to use shirts with them. Just raid the family's closet for the worst-looking T-shirts!
  • Rotary Cutter or Scissors: A rotary cutter is easier on your hands, but a sharp pair of scissors will work just fine for cutting the T-shirts into strips. I was thrilled when I discovered that I could use my rotary cutter to quickly cut my T-shirts into strips. The ergonomic handle and razor-sharp blade make cutting through several fabric layers super easy. I have some arthritis in my hands, and I found that this tool is so much easier on my hands than scissors. You will also need a self-healing cutting mat.
  • Self-Healing Cutting Mat: If you use a rotary cutter, you'll need a cutting mat. If you use scissors, you just need a table or countertop to lay out the shirt. If you've never used an OLFA cutting mat, you are in for a treat! You can place several layers of fabric on it and zip through them with your cutter without ever leaving a mark on the mat. Like magic, your mat heals itself! The handy grid helps you to cut even lines in your fabric and makes cutting multiple T-shirts into strips an easy project.
  • Size N Crochet Hook: A size N aluminum hook works best for me, but you can go up or down a size depending on how thick you cut the strips. The thicker you cut your strips, the larger the hook you will need.
Fold the T-shirt in half with the sleeves together.

Fold the T-shirt in half with the sleeves together.

Cut off the top portion just under the sleeve and cut off the hem just above the stitching.

Cut off the top portion just under the sleeve and cut off the hem just above the stitching.

Begin to cut 3/4 inch slits in the fabric, but stop short of cutting the strips completely off the shirt.

Begin to cut 3/4 inch slits in the fabric, but stop short of cutting the strips completely off the shirt.

1. Cut a Continuous Strip

Cutting T-shirts into the longest strips of fabric possible yields a smoother, more finished rug. If cut properly, each T-shirt can make one long strip of fabric "yarn." Follow these steps for the best results!

  1. Fold the top in half (lengthwise) so that the sleeves are together.
  2. Cut the top of the T-shirt off just under the armholes so you end up with a rectangular shape. I save the part with the sleeves as a rag to dust.
  3. Snip off the bottom hem and discard it.
  4. Now you have the trunk of the shirt left, which is a tube-shaped piece of fabric. Turn it so that the cut edges are facing the sides and are perpendicular to you.
  5. Fold the bottom edge up to within ~1.5" from the top. The top 1.5" will be two layers thick and the rest of the fabric will be four layers thick. A rotary cutter should cut four layers easily. If you use scissors, however, you may not want to fold the fabric.
  6. Starting about 1/2" to 3/4" from one edge, cut a strip from the bottom up to 1" from the top. If the fabric is folded, you will cut through the 4 layers all the way through the fold. Stop before you reach the top so it's still attached to the rest of the shirt.
  7. Continue to cut 1/2" strips, stopping short of cutting the strip off the main body each time.