Instructables
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

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

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

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. 
peleela1 month 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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peleela1 month 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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Norahbelle made it!3 months 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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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

lhelton13 months 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. :)

lhelton1 lhelton13 months ago

This is also done without cutting the seams...it's done in a sort of zig-zag pattern.

RRS228 months ago
how do i keep my ends from curling? ive started and have only gone a little ways but my ends keep curling and flipping up.
nice idea
cmurray111 year ago
I agree, I have already cut my shirts into my long strips, but I don't understand this part. Could you use some scrap/strips and show how and when to lay them down? Oh, and how will I know when the time is right to add a new one? This is where I am stumped.
The intent is to not have all 3 strips run out at the same time. If the original T shape is a little off-center, all the better; hold the joining point and let all 3 ends hang down. Begin braiding those 3 strips. When one strip gets too short to keep going, sew on another strip to it.
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 :)
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.
cjraabe11 months ago
Clearly written and illustrated tutorial! Thanks for posting. A great way to use old t-shirts. What was the finished diameter of your rug?
platdujour11 months ago
This vid shows the t-shirt cutting - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3xJ_W6vYN4
I have been looking for a good tutorial for this for quite some time. Thanks for posting it. I already kind of figured out how it was done, but needed a push from someone who has done it; So thank you for that. I want to do an oval "Rag Rug".
smileee21 year ago
I think I would've used something a little thicker than thread, and whipstitched the edges of the braids together with a long yarn needle or crochet hook....maybe using it as a contrasting color? I love the colors, upcycled materials, and concept, though. Looks easy enough - thanks for the tutorial!
Najwahamid1 year ago
Very nice ...
bethcdh1 year ago
Could you do the same thing with old blue jeans? Or is the knit fabric better?
suzelac (author)  bethcdh1 year ago
You could certainly do it with blue jeans! I would just cut it into smaller strips width-wise because denim doesn't curl up like t-shirt fabric. :)
lcatterall1 year ago
That's excellent!! :-)
bree2472 years ago
Thanks, what a great idea!

Wish it would have left me save pdf but I guess ya have to pay for pro!
katvanlew2 years ago
very pretty rug!
katvanlew2 years ago
Very pretty rug! I really want to make one of these!
woww... very nice :D
rugshd2 years ago
I've seen this project before but you've laid it out very well, thanks for sharing!
ChrysN2 years ago
Pretty! I love the bright colours that you used.
suzelac (author)  ChrysN2 years ago
Thanks :)
It turned out gorgeous. :D
suzelac (author)  jessyratfink2 years ago
Thank you!