Introduction: Make a Braided T-shirt Rug

Picture of Make a Braided T-shirt Rug

In this instructable, I'll teach you how to make a really cool rug, like the one pictured, from your old t-shirts! For me, this rug didn't cost any money because I used stuff I already had at my disposal. This project is a great way to put all of those colorful junior high track/soccer/rugby/quidditch shirts to use if you don't want to donate them.

Here's what you'll need:
- 5-10 old t-shirts, depending on how big you want this rug (I used 5.5 for a small bedside rug)
- a pair of scissors
- needle and thread
- sewing machine (optional)

The hardest part about this was how long it took to make, but it turned out cool enough that I wouldn't mind making another one. Keep reading to find out how I did it!

Step 1: Cut It

Picture of Cut It

Select a few old t-shirts from your closet, a thrift store, or your Aunt Marcy's NASCAR t-shirt collection. I used 5.5 t-shirts to make a rug that is approximately 18" in diameter, but if you have more time and patience than I do or if you want a bigger rug, you could use more shirts. Next step is to prepare the t-shirts by cutting them and turn them into yarn. I used a method that I found on YouTube but I took some photos of this step for here. 

You will want to flatten the shirt out in front of you, but face it sideways so that one sleeve points toward you and the other points away from you. Next, measure out every 2 inches from the bottom seam of the shirt (which is on the left or right side now), all the way to under the sleeves of the shirt. Mark with chalk or something that won't be obnoxiously permanent. You will want to start cutting on each mark or line you made, but leave 3-4 inches of the shirt still intact on the far side. Do this up to the sleeves, where you should cut all the way to the other seam. After you cut all of these lines, you can pick up the shirt and arrange it so it looks like a ribcage in front of you, as shown in the photos above. See that bit of fabric that you didn't cut? Now you're going to cut it diagonally so that you will end up creating one long piece of fabric from your t-shirt. This is really hard to explain, but as aforementioned, there are a crapload of YouTube videos explaining how to do this so feel free to search around if you need more coherent direction. 

You should end up with a really long strip of fabric from your t-shirt. Stretch this out really, really well and wind it up into a ball so it is more manageable. Repeat for your other shirts. 

Step 2: Braid It

Picture of Braid It

After you have prepared all of your t-shirts and made them into yarn, it's time to start your braid. I used a sewing machine to start the braid and for all of my transitions, but it was only because I was so pumped to have just gotten the sewing machine that I "had" to use it. You could totally hand-sew all of these or knot them for a more care-free look. 

I started by sewing the end of one yarn strip to the middle of a different colored strip to create a "T" shape. Those were the 3 pieces of the beginning of my braid and when I began to braid, it covered up the stitches (awesome!). Keep braiding until you need to sew on another color. I added a new color by sewing diagonally with the fabric placed right side to right side at a 90 degree angle, and trimming off the tiny corner. This way, when you stretch it out, the strand smoothly transitions from one color to the next. This kind of seam is used for binding in quilts also. 

Keep braiding until you have added all of your shirts. You can use an office clip or a chip clip to keep the braid from unraveling if you get tired and want to take a (2 week) break, like I did. It helps to keep the yarn all balled up while braiding so that it doesn't become a big, tangly mess.

Step 3: Coil It

Picture of Coil It

Start pre coiling your rug. Coil it somewhat gently so it doesn't pucker up into a braided t-shirt bowl (LOL), but try not to let any gaps show from one ring to the next. Pre coiling this braid will help you stay organized while you are sewing and will also give you an idea of how big your rug is going to be/if you need to add or remove shirts. I was meticulous (read: OCD) about my braid and made sure there was a distinct "top" side and "bottom" side while braiding, so it may be worth mentioning that I pre coiled with the "bottom" side facing up, as that was the side I wanted the stitching to be on. 

Step 4: Sew It

Picture of Sew It

Start sewing your braid together. I used a variation of a blanket stitch and started in the middle, working my way around and out of the spiral. This is the part that took FOREVER. Seriously. I was anticipating sewing this mofo on the machine, but lo and behold, the dang braid was too thick to even think about squeezing under the presser foot. So, hand sew I did. 

When you get to the end of your blanket, weave in the ends of your braid into the previous ring and sew to secure it. 

Step 5: Lay It

Picture of Lay It

If you got through all of those steps, throw that rug down and relish in your own awesomeness! Whew. 


heloise.obyrne (author)2017-11-03

I have made this and a crotchet one and found the crochet one way easier you just loop into each previous loop and through the edge of the outer loops to bind it together so you don't have to sew except if you want to add a backing pad. This one I found very time consuming and not as bouncy as the crochet one so I stopped at about one and a half feet lol! It was probably more like a hat! This one was also diddly evaluate of the length of the fabric the crotchet one had shorter lengths but actually longer lengths would be fine for the crochet because trees no twisting. By the end of one foot of braiding you have one foot of oposite raising happening to the ends to untangle so the process is very slow or you take up a huge space and lay each praise far far apart to stop tangling. Crotchet you can heap up the fabric and just continuously loop and loop and loop while watching tv there is nothing to keep straight or worry about or even think about. So although I enjoyed the look of this one it's way neater than the crotchet it was so much more hassle. We even did a crotchet one with the kids old odd socks for the dogs!! (Washed first, although the dogs love a dirty sock!!) they all have been thrown out now so I've no photos, we washed them in a machine and the stitches were just not strong enough to cope with the weight of the wet braids so it flung apart. The crotchet one held up for a few washes before it also deteriorated. If you want to keep it a long time do not let your dogs sit on it!:)

Anyone know how I can edit the above my phone has typed a lot of spells for me! Argh!

LyndaP6 (author)2015-09-02

some folks in my church are doing the same with plastic bags to create "rugs" that will insulate from the cold for homeless people in our area. You lay it flat, cut off the top and end, then fold in half lengthwise and cut (2x). You end up with 4 loops which are then looped into each other to create a chain, and then single crochet to long, rectangular rug. I haven't actually made one yet, but wanted to share in case anyone else wants to do something like this in their own community. (you just can't use any that are torn, cuz they'll rip)

EJFB (author)LyndaP62017-09-19

Thank you for sharing. Sounds like a great project for boy scouts and girl scouts or even a great family service project.

Rose AnneB (author)2017-03-10

I HATE when you say free but when you click on PDF format we have to pay premium fees! No wonder i hate online subscriptions and patterns.

EJFB (author)Rose AnneB2017-09-18

I completely agree with you. Its not like we are even using their paper or ink. Just let us have the print version and charge us if we need them to send us a copy

CynthiaC91 (author)2017-08-09

I am going to try this. I very much appreciate your instructions AND ESPECIALLY your sense of humor!!

Robert.3 (author)2017-07-27

Hmm no idea how to sew or braid. But barkpost suggested making a small version of this for an indoor safe frisbee. Since that is my pups favorite game and dog toys are so expensive it seems worth figuring it out.

ASPENSKIDUDE (author)2015-09-09

I remember some time ago reading an adaptation of this concept that wasn't sewn but one of the braids was fed through the last row of the rug, incorporating the new row onto the rug... kind of a reverse french braid concept?

boocat (author)ASPENSKIDUDE2017-06-19

That was how my grandmother did hers. She never stitched it. She had a lacing gizmo called a "bodkin" she used to feed the connecting strips through the main piece as she worked on it. The "french braid" description is good. I'm not sure what she did.

ashpapp (author)ASPENSKIDUDE2015-10-14

op nevermind, i get what you're saying. I wonder if there's a way not to sew it at all... like thead it through

ashpapp (author)ASPENSKIDUDE2015-10-14

Could you please explain what you mean? I'd rather that than sew it.

abender1 (author)2017-01-26

maybe I'll make tshirt bowls for fruit and whatnot.

brownsuger (author)2016-04-20

How do you stop it from curling up like a bowl

TonnaW (author)brownsuger2016-12-09

is there a way to repair bowling?

StephanieC128 (author)brownsuger2016-05-13

While you're braiding, you want the braids to be tight enough to hold their shape, but not so tight they start to have a rounded appearance. When coiling, the braids MUST stay flat, or the rug will start to bowl. If at all possible, sew on a large, flat surface, never in your lap.

StephanieC128 (author)brownsuger2016-05-13

Make sure you keep your braids flat, and the tension even. Don't make the braids too tight; that tends to create the "bowl" effect.

Yokenn (author)brownsuger2016-05-10

I think you just have to keep it flat everytime by not applying excess tension on the braid especially during coiling and the sewing part.

DebbieP98 (author)2016-10-16

I'm going to give it a try I.Love the look. Good way to get rid of old tee shirts I never wear. Thank you.

AnneMarieS (author)2015-09-28

Can this be made using old sheets and/or curtains? Wanting to make this with my daughter and we have sheets and curtains that match her colors in her room that we cannot use anymore.

Lavoz24 (author)AnneMarieS2016-03-14

I've bought bed sets from Walmart that were made tshirt style, meaning, the feel of fabric and thread used was the same as the one's used for making t-shirts and I have to agree the feel of my sheets and pillow cases did feel like t-shirts. So if your daughter's bedding is the same I say yes you can use them. Also, I've read a few ibles which say to use 100% cotton or if you don't have 100% cotton you could use a cotton/poly blend so again I say if you have bedding with this you can use it. Hope this helps.

TammyG6 (author)2015-09-01

I have tried making these several times. Round ones buckle up, Small flats start to curve. I think mabe a frame of some sort might work to keep shape. anyone have this problem? also, if the t-shirt is a blend, not 100% cotton the braids will strech more so i tried 100% cotton.

LyndaS2 (author)TammyG62016-02-12

I have built a simple a treat

Annaesil (author)2015-12-07

Do you have any advice regarding the type of shirts/fabric to use?

Is a standard low-stretch cotton jersey suitable, or should I try to use a very stretchy jersey. Our (aussie) low-stretch jersey is used more often for men's T-shirt while very stretchy jersey is used for women's loose singlets.

Also, has anyone tried braiding their T-shirts, then using a hoola-hoop to set up a weaving loom? Does this work?

Bobby T (author)2015-10-19

Can I buy this ? I'm not handy enough to make this on my own.

grt57 (author)2015-09-07

I need a seat cover for my pickup truck... this is giving me ideas... thanks.

lmason1 (author)2015-09-03

Every time you describe a tricky bit of cutting or sewing, take a photo. Take several.

ElinaL (author)2015-09-03

If you don't have the time and energy to try and flatten a rug--use it as a basket for scarves, toys, etc... I have one in the corner for magazines!

marti.criswell (author)2015-09-01

I used to cut my Dad's old socks in a spiral and crochet them into a rug. Good rainy day project when I was a kid.

Myss (author)2015-09-01

My Grandmother & Aunts made these rugs all the time for over sixty years. They are awesome rugs. The only difference is they didn't use sewing machines & they would put a backing on it. The rug does bubble in the center a bit, but once you walk on it regularly the rug flattens. The backing also seems to help.

torimcnary (author)2015-09-01

BTW, you don't have to use a presser foot. Go slow and walk the fabric through and you can use a sewing machine. Or get a quilting/walking foot.

Mattea (author)2015-04-09

Hi, I was just wondering if you think it would be possible to use normal non stretchy material instead of a T-shirt? Or do you think it would not work because it would not stretch? Thanks :)

MacCupcake (author)Mattea2015-06-10

I hope Marishka doesn't mind that I am jumping in here (I've made several of denim). The non-stretchy material does work, sometimes even better. The effect of the "bowl" that many experience is because the material stretches... and while adding to the rug, it gets pulled too tightly. So, relax on the stretch!

And the denim ones are so cool, especially if you are able to get a lot of different hues of blue (or even colored denim - but I like mine all blue).

TammyG6 (author)MacCupcake2015-09-01

can u post a pic of yours? would like to see them. i guess the denim is heavy and that prevents the buckling

Mattea (author)MacCupcake2015-06-13

Thank You! I am now thinking of making the shaggy style rag rug now as I think it might work better for what I am after but I am now worried that it will fray!! Mattea

MacCupcake (author)Mattea2015-06-13

You know, there is some fraying, but if you cut the denim along the grain, it helps to reduce the amount of fraying (mostly during wash). I try to not wash it too often to help reduce that, but you will find that fraying is inevitable. I cut the frayed threads where it is too long, but I find the fraying gives the rug a little bit more authenticity - just like your old jeans!

Good luck!

staceymcm (author)2015-08-27

It was more fun just reading the instructions than thinking about doing it! Great narrative!

TroubleT (author)2015-08-18

JBaczuk made it! (author)2015-06-28

We made it and it doesn't lay flat! We used a zig zag stitch on a sewing machine. Other than that it's pretty cool.

ValderiS (author)JBaczuk2015-07-25

It was probably pulled too tight. It is very pretty. Perhaps you can try undoing the stitches on the back and see if you can make it looser.

peleela (author)2014-07-06

Also, at one point while I was sewing the braid flipped, which meant the strands in the braid were going from the outside-in. All of suzelac's photos show the strands going from the inside-out, but I didn't realize that and ended up sewing a long section the wrong way. Eventually, the feet of the machine started catching the strands.

And here's what I've done so far. Thanks for the inspiration and great instructable!! (author)peleela2015-01-08

What kind of needle were you using on your rug? Did you also bottom stitch, or just use only a top stitch? Thanks.

Love, love, LOVE it!! I hope you have someone to help move that monster around under your feed dog!! What did you use for bobbin thread (the thread that will show on the otherside)? Maybe if a person used a plastic filament line, it wouldn't show? Or does it just not show anyway?

bforrester (author)peleela2014-11-11

I love your rug!

resmiv made it! (author)2015-05-23

I've made it?? but as you said it's getting into a bowl??pls help..

Msbhavn264 (author)2013-08-24

when you add more strips, do you make each one you add in the "T" shape ? can you knot the strips to join them together ? I don't know if it's the wording or that I'm just not picturing it in my mind. How, exactly, do you join new strips together ? I am such a visual person. I learn very quickly by watching, but if there are written directions, it seems to take me forever.l please help !! I really want to do this. I have such a love for braided rugs. I guess it's from childhood memories. They are so expensive to purchase, so, now, here's my chance to have one or twelve. LOL thank you :)

marishka.noyb (author)Msbhavn2642015-04-26

No....Right sides together,make an "L" shape~sew top left to bottom right~cut off the left bottom corner~Fold over the bottom "L" make the continuing color join the previous color

sgsidekick (author)Msbhavn2642013-10-08

Usually, the T shape is just where you start braiding. Two strands, usually different colors, joined end to end, with the third strand attached at the join to form the vertical section of the "T". Then you just add to the strips as you run out of length to braid.

ecowaters (author)2013-08-26

That doesn't look like it would hold long. How have rag braid rugs been sewn before?

nbrewer4 (author)ecowaters2014-05-20

You use a heavy thread and a blunt needle to go under one of the strips on your braid and across to go under one of the strips on the coil. It is done on the inside of the coil, alternating back and forth. This way, none of the sewing shows and the rug is reversible. Here's a link for a 4-strip method which doesn't use any sewing at all:

About This Instructable




Bio: Recent "DIY" projects: Feather headbands (inspired by ones seen at Urban Outfitters) Permanently dying an old bridesmaid's dress black DIY feather hair extensions Cutting ... More »
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