Make Something from Nothing - How to Make a Crochet T-Shirt Rug
A Pastel T-shirt Rug
Recycle T-shirts Into Beautiful Crocheted Rugs
When I first saw these T-shirt rugs, I was intrigued by the idea of making a beautiful rug from worn out and outgrown T-shirts. It satisfied my penny-pinching nature to recycle rags into something useful and beautiful without spending a dime. The T-shirt rugs remind me of the braided and crocheted rag rugs that my grandmother used to make. Depending on the size of your T-shirts, it will take from 4 to 10 adult sized T-shirts to make a rug.
Learn How to Crochet Video
Suitable for Beginning Crocheters
T-shirt rugs are a suitable project for beginning crocheters as the whole project is done in single crochet. If you have not crocheted before or need a quick refresher course on how to get started, you will find the step-by-step video at right helpful.
Tools You'll Need
Supplies Needed to Make a T-shirt Rug
One of the beauties of crocheting is that the supplies needed are so simple.
For a T-shirt rug, you will need the following items:
- 4 or 8 T-shirts. The number of T-shirts you need will depend on the size of the shirts as well as the size of your finished rug. (For the 36" X 24" rug in the top photograph, I used 8 T-shirts cut into 1/2" strips.) The T-shirts you use can be faded, worn or have printing and designs. Even stained T-shirts are fine as most stains will not show once the strips are crocheted. Although rubbery decals make crocheting the strips a little stiffer, it's fine to use shirts with decals that are flaking off. 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 good sharp pair of scissors will work just fine for cutting the T-shirt into strips.
- Cutting Mat. If you use a rotary cutter, you'll need a cutting mat. If you use scissors, you just need table or counter top for laying out the shirt.
- Size N Crochet Hook. A size N aluminum works best for me, but you can go up or down a size depending on how thick you cut your strips. The thicker you cut your strips, the larger the hook you will need.
Cutting the T Shirt
OLFA Rotary Cutter for Cutting T-shirts
I was thrilled when I discovered that I could use this Rotary Cutter to quickly cut my t-shirts into strips. The ergonomic handle and razor sharp blade makes cutting through several 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 the self healing cutting mat.
Self-Healing Rotary Cutting Mat
If you've never used an OLFA self-healing Rotary Cutting Mat and OLFA Rotary Cutter, you are in for a treat. The mat is essential for use with a rotary cutter. You can place several layers of fabric on it and zip through them with your razor sharp rotary cutter without every 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.
How to Cut a Continuous Strip From One Shirt
By cutting the T-shirt into the longest strips of fabric possible, you will have a smoother finished rug. If cut properly, each T-shirt will make one long strip of fabric "yarn." Follow these steps for cutting the T-shirt:
- Start your project by folding your T-shirt in half lengthwise so that the sleeves are together.
- Cut off the top of the T-shirt just under the armholes. (I save this piece of shirt to use for dusting.)
- Cut off the bottom hem of the T-shirt and discard.
- Now you will have the trunk part of the shirt left to work with, a tube shaped piece of fabric. Turn the fabric so that the cut edges are facing to the sides.
- Now fold the bottom edge up to within about 1.5 inches of the top. The top 1.5 inches will be 2 layers thick while the rest of the fabric is 4 layers thick. A rotary cutter should cut 4 layers easily, but if you are cutting with scissors, you may not want to fold the fabric.
- Starting about a 1/2" to 3/4" from one edge, cut a strip from the bottom up to within 1 inch of the top. If the fabric is folded, you will cut through the 4 layers all the way through the fold and then stop before cutting the strip all the way off the shirt.
- Continue to cut strips 1/2 inches wide, each time stopping short of cutting the strip completely off the main fabric piece.
Finishing the Cutting Process
If these final steps in cutting the shirt are done properly (see tip below), you will have one long strip of fabric from each T-shirt.
- Pick up the tube with the cuts in it and slide your hand into the tube separating the two layers of fabric.
- All the raw edges of fabric will make lots of lint. Before cutting further, take your cut tube outdoors and shake out as much lint as you can. It's best to do this before the final cutting as trying to shake out one long strip will result in many tangles that are difficult to undo.
- With scissors, 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 will 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 of T-shirts will cover a multitude of cutting flaws, and you will never see them in your finished product.
You Should Have One Continuous Strip
Wind "Yarn" Into a Ball
Once you have completed the 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 T-shirts, think about which colors you want next to each other. My first rug was made from pastel T-shirts, and I found the color combination quite pleasing. The rug pictured will be red, white and blue.
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 have the increases evenly spaced because otherwise your rug will grow lopsided.
Rnd 4- desired length: continue in spiral until rug is desired size.
Last Round: Work in sc around with no increases. This will make for a firm edge. End with a slip stitch. Work in loose ends.
Review of Cutting StepsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photo of T-Shirt Rug in Progress
Make Your Own Unique T-shirt Rug
Make your own unique T-shirt rug by changing the shape and size of your rug. 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
Do you think you would try this crochet t-shirt rug project?
Like the T-shirt Rugs? Try the Beach Bag Project, Too!
Check out the crochet Beach Bag project using recycled plastic grocery bags -- sounds odd, but they're really cute! These bags are great to take to the beach or on a picnic. Use different colors for variety. Click here for instructions: Crochet Beach Bag Project.
© 2011 Stephanie Henkel