Make a Braided T-shirt Rug




Introduction: Make a Braided T-shirt Rug

Recent "DIY" projects: Feather headbands (inspired by ones seen at Urban Outfitters) Permanently...

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

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

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

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

4 People Made This Project!


  • Water Contest

    Water Contest
  • Fix It! Contest

    Fix It! Contest
  • Creative Misuse Contest

    Creative Misuse Contest

92 Discussions

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!:)

1 reply

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

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)

1 reply

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

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.

1 reply

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

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

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.

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?

3 replies

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.