I did it!
I made a rag rug from recycled t-shirts!
Braiding a t-shirt rag rug has been on my crafty to-do list for a while now, and I’ve finally crossed it off.
Today, I’m sharing some tips I gathered along the way.
Let’s start at the beginning. And that is where I got the shirts.
Every spring, a school in my town holds a massive flea market as a fundraiser. In one corner of the sale are boxes and boxes of t-shirts that have been donated. For $5, you can fill a large shopping bag with as many shirts as you can jam in there.
This year, I filled my bag loads of shirts in pinks, blues, purples, grays, and white. I even grabbed a couple of mint green T’s just because I fell in love with the color.
Most of these shirts were going picked up with the idea of making a new rag rug for my daughter’s room.
I had made one for her nursery before she was born using this method. I loved the look of it, but it’s a bit worn now. Plus, this way took a very long time and used quite a bit of fabric.
Now I was looking for something braided, but not crocheted and as no-sew as possible.
After loads of research, I finally landed on the tutorial by Dana at The Wonder Forest. Her instructions were really easy to follow and just right for what I was looking for.
As helpful as her info was, I did figure out a few things about making a t-shirt rag rug as I was working.
The first thing I had to do is make strips from my shirts.
I cut across the chest to save the sleeves and collar for another project. Then, I cut off the side seams and turned the rest into strips that were about 1 inch wide. I also got rid of any really large logos and graphics.
To keep the colors together, I rolled the strips into balls.
It was finally time to start braiding my t-shirt rag rug!
One of the changes I made to The Wonder Forest design was to use rings of color instead of a more random design.
To get this look, I first chose 3 strips of white jersey to begin my braid.
Then, I tied those strips together tightly.
One of the first things I figured out was that the knot has to be pulled as taut as possible.
Because the knot is going to end up right in the center of your rag rug, you’ll want it as small as possible. If not, there will be a bit of a bump.
It’s a good idea to tape down that knot for easy braiding.
After a few inches, I was able to start winding your braid around the knot.
Once I had braided enough of fabric to make it all the way around the knot in the middle, I was ready to start building my rug.
The idea is to bring the strip of fabric that is right next to the coil under and through the closest loop in the center.
I had to continue attaching the braid every 2 inches or so to avoid any gaps that are too large.
Another tip is to keep the braid heading straight down as much as possible.
I think that makes the braid straighter and more even. To do this, you’ll have to turn the rug very often. But once you really get going, you’ll develop a rhythm of braiding, attaching and turning,
Because this t-shirt rag rug took a few hours to make, there were times when I had to put it aside for the day.
I used a binder clip to keep my braid in place and it worked perfectly!
Another major part of braiding a t-shirt rag rug is jointing strips together.
You’ll need to do this often, whether you’re changing fabric colors or not. I recommend this technique because it’s quick and easy.
First, snip a small slit in the end of each strip you’re joining.
Then, pull the new strip partially through the slit in the piece at the end of the braid.
Bring the tail of the new strip through the hole in the top of that strip so it makes a loop.
Pull the new strip tightly so the loop closes and there is a very small knot tying the two together.
Here’s an easy to follow video if you need more direction on this!
You can finish your rug whenever you’re happy with the size.
When I reached an end to my t-shirt rag rug, I had to weave the last strips of the braid through the underside and tied them to keep them in place.
There were some spots where I found there to be too large of a gap between the rings.
To fix this, I simply used a needle and thread to make a few quick stitches on the underside as a reinforcement.
I’m really happy with the radiating circles of color.
I didn’t want to end on white because I was afraid the edge would pick up dirt easily. So I decided to add a single ring of gray. You can see a slight color change around the last bit where I ran out of the strips I had been using. But I don’t mind the darker tone. It adds to the handmade quality.
There are a couple of other helpful tips I can share about making a rag rug.
First, there are many types of jersey that are used for t-shirts. Some are thicker, some thinner, and some stretch much more than others.
While the different textures of the jersey didn’t affect the overall look of my rug, I did have to adjust how tightly I would hold the braid as I was working with it. I found if I pulled too hard on the really stretchy strips, the braid would end up too narrow.
Also, to make the shades of my rug transition more smoothly, I had to stagger the colors. This means that I never started braiding a new color of jersey all at once.
Rather, I would change one strip of the braid to a new color and continue to weave. Then, after a bit of braiding, I would add the new shade to a second strip of the braid. The third strip would get changed over after a little more weaving.
You can see in the photo below that none of the rings of color starts or stops all at once.
I’m so excited that I finally tackled this project!
The shades of the rag rug work perfectly with my little girl’s lavender bedroom.
And it’s soft and cozy under her feet.
I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t hold up to wear and tear because it wasn’t reinforced with a sewing machine, but so far so good!
If you have any old kids t’s laying around, give my reusable bag craft a try, too!