How to Crochet a T-Shirt Rug
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.
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 8 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!
- /Scissors: A rotary cutter is easier on your hands, but a sharp pair of scissors will work just fine for cutting the T-shirt 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. Rotary Cutter
- If you use a rotary cutter, you'll need a cutting mat. If you use scissors, you just need 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. Self-Healing Cutting Mat:
- 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.
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!
- Fold the top in half (lengthwise) so that the sleeves are together.
- 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.
- Snip off the bottom hem and discard it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue to cut 1/2" strips, stopping short of cutting the strip off the main body each time.
2. Finish the Cutting Process
If you follow these final steps, you'll end up with one long strip of fabric from each T-shirt.
- Pick up the tube and slide your hand inside.
- The raw edges make lots of lint. Before continuing in the cutting process, take the top outside and shake off as much lint as you can. It's best to do this before the final cutting because trying to shake out one long strip can result in many difficult.
- Use scissors to make the first cut from the edge closest to your fingers diagonally into the top of the first cut. This will be the end of your strip, and the strip should drop down and hang free.
- Continue cutting diagonally from each front cut to the next back cut. If you do this correctly, you will be able to pull one long, continuous strip of fabric away from the tube as you go along.
Tip: If you are unsure about cutting the shirt, try a practice run on a plastic grocery bag. Cut off the bottom edge and the handles and then practice the remaining cutting.
- Don't worry if your strips are not exactly the same size or if you have little jogs in the cuts. The stretchy knit fabric will cover a multitude of cutting flaws, and you will never see them in your finished product.
3. Wind the Yarn Into a Ball
Once you finish cutting, wind the strip of "yarn" into a ball to keep it from getting tangled. I like to cut at least two shirts and roll the strips into balls before I start crocheting.
If you are using different colored tops, think about which colors you want next to each other. My first rug was made from pastel shirts, and I found the color combination quite pleasing to the eyes.
4. Crochet the Yarn
Abbreviations: ch=chain; sc= single crochet
Rnd 1: Chain 15 (or desired length). 3 sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch down the side, 3 sc in end ch and sc up the other side. I skip the join at the end of each round and keep working in a spiral, but it is helpful to mark the end of the round with a piece of contrasting yarn or plastic. (Alternate to spiral: join with a slip stitch at the end of each round. Chain 1, work as below.)
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each of the 3 end sc. Sc in each sc down the side. 2 sc in each of 3 end sc, sc in each sc up the other side.
Rnd 3: sc around increasing approximately 3 evenly spaced sc at each "end". It's important to evenly space the increases, as the rug will grow lopsided if you don't.
Rnd 4- desired length: Continue in a spiral until the rug reaches the desired size.
Last Round: Work in sc around with no increases. This will make a firm edge. End with a slip stitch. Work in the loose ends.
Learn How to Crochet
Make the Rug Your Own
Make your own unique T-shirt rug by changing its shape and size. While the rugs shown are oval, you can easily make them in round or rectangular shapes depending on where you plan to use them. You can make your rug thicker or thinner by cutting the strips wider or narrower.
The best part of this project is that you are recycling your old T-shirts into a fresh, pretty, and durable handmade rug. Have fun!
Crochet T-shirt rug project
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© 2011 Stephanie Henkel