Make This: Old T-shirts f ind new life as a braided rug
by Deirdre Long
Jun 15, 2013 | 6171 views |  0 comments | 98 98 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo by Deirdre Long/The Anniston Star
Photo by Deirdre Long/The Anniston Star
I’m a binge-sewist. The time I spend in my sewing room actually sewing — it also doubles as my writing lab and the dog’s room — come in moments so few and far between (to me, at least) that once I get started, I attack as much as quickly as possible.

My latest binge was my T-shirts. Soft, faded lovely old T-shirts. I cannot give away, let alone throw away, a T-shirt. I just stash it away in my Clothes To Be Repurposed Box, knowing one day that it would serve some Greater Purpose.

There was a problem, though. Between the growing collection of T-shirts and half-felted sweaters, the box was getting pretty crowded. But what actually triggered this binge was an old T-shirt sheet that was on my bed when I was in high school. Now the sheet actually served a purpose for a good part of it’s old life — it was used on my bed, until about six years ago when my newlywed husband and I traded our old double bed for a new queen (by “traded” I mean we gave it back to my mom, because I’d been borrowing it since I left for college).

I held onto the sheet for five more years, not having a bed that it would fit on, thinking I could use it for something. And recently, it has been used — to make a fort and hammock for the kids on the bunk beds.

But I tripped over it while walking through the dining room one day. And it made me angry. Why was this filthy sheet just strewn across the floor, covered in dog hair and kid drool and who knew what else? I threw it in the laundry and decided that I must find something useful to do with that sheet.

By the time it washed and dried, I knew what this sheet was really meant to be: a rug. Making a braided rug from T-shirt yarn is surprisingly easy, especially when you can do all the stitching on your machine. Traditionally, braided rugs are hand sewn with invisible stitches, but this can take a very long time, since there can be hundreds of feet of braid in a single rug. When you sew the coiled braids together on the machine the stitching is visible, so keep that in mind when choosing a thread. Make sure the thread is a heavier weight too, since it’s going to get a bit of foot traffic.

I followed a tutorial on (go to and search for “T-shirt rug”) and got to work making my first braid. Within an hour, I had a horrible mess of a rug about 16 inches in diameter with stitching everywhere, pulling apart and curling up on the edges, so it was more like a cloth bowl than rug. Lesson learned: 1. Always check the tension setting before you start to sew, because you never know when a toddler has snuck in and messed with the dials. I also stacked up books around my sewing machine as an extension table, to help keep the braids flat and stop them from curling up.

Along with the sheet, I also cut up seven T-shirts and made them into yarn, ending with a braid that was 92 feet long. All that coiled into an oval rug about 32 inches by 25 inches. Not quite as big as I was hoping, but I left the ends so I can attach more as I collect more shirts.

As a rug, that sheet is doing its job well, strewn cock-eyed across the floor, covered with dog hair and kid drool and who knows what else, waiting for me to trip over it.

I feel another binge coming on …

Features Editor Deirdre Long: 256-294-4152. On Twitter @star_features.
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