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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!
 
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Step 1: Cut it

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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

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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

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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

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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

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If you got through all of those steps, throw that rug down and relish in your own awesomeness! Whew. 
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JBaczuk made it!1 month ago

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.

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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.

Mattea3 months ago

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 :)

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).

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

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!

peleela1 year ago

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!!

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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?

I love your rug!

resmiv made it!2 months ago
I've made it?? but as you said it's getting into a bowl??pls help..
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Msbhavn2641 year ago
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 :)

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" part.....to make the continuing color join the previous color

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.
ecowaters1 year ago
That doesn't look like it would hold long. How have rag braid rugs been sewn before?

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: http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/no-sew-braided-rug-handmade-zmaz79zsch.aspx#axzz32GtWcGKY

Thank you

It's called lacing. Much better result that sewing by hand. There are special needles for lacing, too.

hintzeyates made it!3 months ago

Thanks so much; it took a few days (and a LOT of sewing) but it is done. About 1m (apprx. 40") across. I have another pile of dark T-shirts (black, brown, gray) ready to devote themselves to the next rug. :)

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luna149210 months ago

I made this with my mom and sister, but we used old blue jeans.(we still did not finish it)

Mattea luna14923 months ago

I was just wondering if this did this work even though the material did not stretch? :)

luna1492 luna149210 months ago

and we made it a little difrent

I coiled too tightly and really did end up with a t-shirt bowl. It was super fun and easy, though, so I'm going to try again.

You can also use old sheets!
gail.oehling6 months ago

thank you so much for this tutorial! It is very well explained, and funny at times:) I def plan on trying it!

I was just wondering this morning of how my mother and I used to make braided and crouched rugs from bread wrappers cut into strips. This is it! Thank you for this excellent instruction!
cherbearam7 months ago

You can also use this method with fabric strips and make coasters!

kathleen.tega7 months ago

Thank you for these instructions, I will be cleaning my closet and making this with the results :-)

Norahbelle made it!1 year ago

Great inspiration.. Thanks!
I was able to sew the braids together using my sewing machine but making it flat is a challenge.

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Wow!

Susan Schik8 months ago

Thankyou for this instructable, it was really helpful and I seriously enjoy your sense of humor! Thankyou!

honeycat1559 months ago

love it

Passion Make10 months ago

Wow amazing :)

CementTruck11 months ago

Nice color combinations. Cool instructable.

Gilly11 months ago

Beautiful and inspirational project. Love the colors.

BLR_RAVI11 months ago
very creative and nice project...can be made from unused stuffs too...great color selection

http://facebookjokesindia.blogspot.in/

And here's what I've done so far. Thanks for the inspiration and great instructable!!

tinaciousz11 months ago

I'm making this! Great colors and nice stiching :)

peleela1 year ago

These instructions were great! I'm still finishing up with the sewing, but I've learned a few things that I'd like to share for others:

My rug is going to be somewhere between 5 and 6 feet, so coiling the entire project while braiding wasn't an option. I ended up wrapping it up into a ball. After the fact, I realized that I needed to wrap it flat. I didn't, and the braid was coming off the ball with terrible twists in it (see photos). You want it to lay flat, with the "top" always on top of the ball.

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lhelton11 year ago

I have a suggestion for the cutting! I've often seen where if you cut strips to within a few inches of the opposite seam you can get one long piece of t-shirt yarn! It might help for larger projects of this type. :)

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