Make a Braided Rag Rug!

November 14th, 2011 by zoe 34 Comments

My love of old T-shirts just keeps on growing!

See this stack of old T-shirts – they are going to become a fabulous rainbow rug!

Begin by collecting a colorful pile of old t-shirts. To make a 36″ round rug you will need about 10 to 12 shirts.

Cut the shirts into lots of strips, I made mine  1 1/2″ wide and that seemed to work great. You will now braid your strips together to make one single extremely long braided rope.To begin, take three t-shirt strips and sew them together at one end. Start braiding!

I used a curtain rod clip to hook one end of my braid to a chair to provide tension while braiding. A clothes pin is also helpful for holding your braid tight. As you come to the end of your first length of strips you will need to add more length. Connect strips together to add more length – cut a small slit in the ends of all your strips. Thread new strip through the hole, loop it’s end through on its self and pull tight. 

You will now have extended your strip! It is important to stagger your strip extensions so that they are not all lumped in one spot on your braid.

Now you are ready to braid and braid and braid!

When you get tired of braiding it’s fun to coil your rope and see what kind of progress you are making.

When you have finished your braided rope it’s time to begin stitching.

Set your sewing machine for the widest zig-zag stitch,tightly coil your braid, stitch round and round. When stitching push the two braids together tightly with your hands, watch your stitches carefully to ensure they are connecting the seams.  Your hands will get tired from all the pushing, I found it was easier to set my adjustable chair higher to get better leverage while stitching. Try not to stretch your rope too much while stitching because it will cup like a bowl. But don’t fear a hot iron can correct the cupping. Every so often your bobbin will run out of thread, this is a good time to iron your rug flat. Set the iron to hot, start and the center and iron out toward the edges. Repeat on both sides.

This rug currently measures 34″ across and took me a day to make. I haven’t finished the ends off yet because I think I want to make it a bit bigger – I just found a pile of gray shirts that I am hoping will bring it closer to the size I was dreaming of. I will take another picture of it finished and in place next week. I just had to share it today because I was so excited stitching this together. I love the colors and weight of this rug. I am already dreaming of the next one!!

Maybe ocean colors?

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34 Responses

  1. Beth-Marie says:

    Oh my, you might make me go crafty with this nifty project. It just makes so much sense. How big do you want it? and were will it go?

  2. yolanda says:

    me encanta!! (I love it)

  3. Carrie says:

    Truly inspiring! Now the top project for our cold january days here in minnesota!

  4. marsha bressem says:

    Zoey, My mother and law made table mats by braiding nylon stockings of different shades. They were monotone, but really neat. It’s great to see old time skills being rediscovered and tweaked. Great ideas!

    • zoe says:

      Marsha — Nylon stockings, wow, were they recycled? Did she hand stitch them together? I was just checking out that super pretty one Sara has. The boys are still hoping to have a tea party some time! xo

  5. Natalie says:

    What a great tip for extending your rope. I have always sewn the pieces together but it is so time consuming. You can be sure I will try it your way on the next rug.

    Thanks again

    • zoe says:

      Natalie, Do you use T-shirts or rags, hand stitch them or machine stitch?? Bet our Great Great Great Grandmothers would be proud!

      • Natalie says:

        I have used mostly rags. One was done with all sweatshirts and sweatpants—a nice thick sturdy rug.
        I have always hand stitched the pieces in the past but I have a feeling that after trying this (my next rug, using all t-shirts, is being started in January…after the holiday rush) that I might never ever have to hand stitch all those strips ever again.

        • zoe says:

          Natalie, I thought about hand stitching but there was this moment when I looked at the miles of braids and thought…. I will try the machine first!!

  6. Kristin H. says:

    These are beautiful! Making a rug has been on my list for years. Maybe you’ll inspire me to actually do it! We have an old one in our living room that a great-grandmother made and we love it even though it’s a little rough around the edges. It’s hand-stitched together with what looks like fishing line.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Hello! Found your blog recently, while researching the Alabama Stitch Skirt (really like yours). This is a great little rug, thank you for sharing that.

    • zoe says:

      Thanks Stephanie – hope you are having fun with your Alabama projects, I gotta make myself something new one of these days!

  8. XIsca says:

    Really fantastic. Tanks for sharing this creative moment with us.

    Xisca

  9. Elizabeth Ann says:

    Thank you so much for the tips on the “cupping” and the tieing of the strips. I was taught how to hand sew braided rugs when I was around 8 or 9 yrs old. I am now 35 and still trying my best to sew rugs. My mentor who taught me as passed on and I had several questions that have been now answered by this site. Thank you.

  10. Alice says:

    LOVE IT. I’ve done really simple crafts before… Though this does look quite easy but I still might get my mum to do the stitching it together – I’m no good with the sewing machine lark!! Don’t really have the patience to hand stitch. Anyway just started mine with old baby grows for his bedroom, so it’ll be mainly white with dashes of other colours! EXCITED MUCH!!

  11. Patricia says:

    Hi there, just got into the Kids Craft site and look what I find. WOW never thought about teeshirts for making rugs. I will try it. I have always crocheted mine and like you I like to see how big they can grow. Keep up the good work annd thank you. Patricia

  12. wendy says:

    Am on my second rug but could not get the knack of sewing it together by machine. So I have used Fireline(fishing line) and hand whipped them-takes a long time and you really have to make sure you don’t make your stiches too wide. Also got the”cup” in them but laid them flat and dampened them then weighted them down for several days. Then I used heavy fusible web to back them and keep them flat! Works great-if you are worried about slipping use up those odds and ends of puff paint on the back. I am super happy with the results and have had friends bring me their old t shirts with suspicious intenetions!LOL

    • zoe says:

      Wow Wendy, sounds like you have come up with a great technique that works for you. Very cool. I have been thinking of making one for a bathmat for my upstairs bathmat. Kind of want to try using thicker strips of fabric and hand sew it to try for a thicker rug—– nothing quite so fun as project dreaming!!
      Would love to see a photo of your rugs!!!

  13. wendy says:

    DUH I took some pics but am not smart enough to know how to send them to you!? Saved them on my desktop though til I figure out how!

    • Zoe says:

      Wendy! I know how you feel, i find navigating all the computer stuff that is suppose to make life easier crazy time consuming … and frustrating!!
      Thanks for inspiring me to get back to thinking about rugs!!
      Zoe

  14. melinda says:

    love the braided rug idea. my mom and dad had one of these in their living room and i loved it. work with kids at church and was looking for something special for them to make for their new classroom at the church. this will be so exciting for them to do. thanks.

  15. Joy Rezabek says:

    I plan on doing this as I will be living in a basement apartment and know the floors are cold. I’d like to try out making a couple long ones as apposed to round. I don’t think it would be too hard to adapt the directions. I like the idea of the fishing line! That will last MUCH longer than thread would. I will be using a lot of my hubby’s t shirts since he has passed on. I have thought about taking squares of denim (from his jeans) and patching them together for a backing. Not sure how it would work – but worth a try. It would make the rug warmer, and could hold the rug straighter. But then – so would a liner such as used in bed spreds etc.

  16. Mary 'Nana' Andrews says:

    I make ‘plarn’ to crochet with – yarn from plastic bags. When you cut the bags into strips you lay the bags out so each strip is a continuous loop. Then you insert one end through another and pull it through the first (see any plarn site for simple directions). You could cut the T-Shirts like this from the hem up to the sleeves and connect forever without sewing or cutting or anything. That leaves you with two differences: 1) working with double thick material for the rug, and 2) what to do with the top of the T-Shirt. Myself, I would like a super thick rug, just use a jeans needle in your machine and quilting thread. Also you could cut the rest of the shirt in the normal way so you could still make rugs both normal and thick. Just another option. Great site. I use to make these with my Grandma and I love ‘rag rugs’.

  17. maria de lourdes says:

    Adorei seu trabalho, cá do outro lado do mundo…. Vou tentar fazer. Beijos, kisss

  18. harriet says:

    I wish I would have seen this yesterday. I just took 3 garbage bags of t shirts ans sweats shirts to goodwill. Darn darn darn.

  19. Sylvia Bisbee says:

    My grade 3/4/5 class is studying the Cariboo goldrush and early settlers, and we just started this project, (before seeing your blog) we will hand stitch ours. I love how beautiful your colours are, I can’t wait to show the class how awesome yours look. I think it will be a worthwhile project, thanks for sharing.
    Sylvia Bisbee
    Davis Bay Elementary
    Sunshine Coast BC Canada

  20. Marcia says:

    This is so beautiful!! I can’t wait!! Maybe I will gather some T-shirts today!! Awesome, Thank you for sharing!!

  21. Eunice Flagler says:

    I really like the tecnique using old t-shirts, you said you would show a picture of how you finished it off when you were finished. I was wondering just how you will finish it off.

    Thanks Eunice

  22. Michelle Kosek says:

    There is a technique out there where you don’t have so many ends. There are actually two different techniques. One is to create a spiral see it here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMpCdef2EwI

    The other is what I use – http://www.relevedesign.com/how-to-cut-continuous-t-shirt-yarn/ When you stretch the yarn, you ensure that it won’t get out of shape when used later.

    I would NEVER machine sew these rugs. Lace them like a proper braided rug and they are reversible. They will lie flat and will not need to be resewn once the rug stretches out (as it will do as shown above.) Furthermore, if you want to do an oval rug, you will need to pay attention to where your rug colors end and start. When you lace your rugs, you can make them square as well. There are books in the library that can tell you more.

  23. carol says:

    This is so great, I’m so glad I found you. I was born in East Tennessee and my people knew all this. But I grew up an Army brat and never got the chance to learn. I am going to start trying this right away.

  24. Karen Silvester says:

    Thank goodness I “found” you :-) I was given a big bag of sweatshirt material and wanted to make a rug but everything I looked at was so complicated and I knew there had to be an easier way. I feel greatly encouraged.
    Thank you

  25. Shanna says:

    I love this idea! I recently joined a group on Facebook called : Homesteading Plain and Simple, a lady shared a beautiful quilt that she made: one side denim, the other flannel. As I was searching quilts, I stumbled upon your blog!!! (Yay)

    This is perfect to use up the remaining scraps from my denim quilt! I’m going to make a rug! Thank-you for the inspiration! I’m very excited!

    I’d love to share my project pictures with you when they are complete. Perhaps you would swing by and follow along as I share my progress. I’m sharing at http://www.mommiesandbeyond.wordpress.com

    Thank-you so much!

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