Monday, September 21, 2015

DIY T-Shirt Rag Rug

I recently got the motivation to use up materials that I've been hoarding for far too long - specifically t-shirts. I've saved several t-shirts to make a t-shirt quilt (post to come later). I cut them up a few weeks ago and had SO much leftover t-shirt that I just couldn't throw away! I decided to make one of these rag rugs, which I had considered doing years ago. 

Here's how I did it!

Step 1: Cut

Cut t-shirts into strips along the bottom of the shirt. I didn't take a photo of this, but I used my rotary cutter and just zipped up a bunch of shirts of several different colors. Most of the shirts I used were missing a big square in the middle where I cut out a piece for the t-shirt quilt. Just the lower part of the shirts made plenty of "t-shirt yarn" to work with. 

After I looked over my colors, I decided to start with red and follow the rainbow outward with whatever colors I had on hand. You can see in my final product, that I'm missing orange and purple, but I had pink and lime green. I ended up with a lot of white strands, so I kept one white strand throughout the whole rug. 

Step 2: Braid

Choose three strands and tie them together. 

Secure your braid with a clip. I used a clip board, but a chip clip or clothespin would work too. Start braiding. Re-pinch your braid every few inches so that you can keep control over the braid. 

When you get to the end of one strand, you'll need to extend that strand. To do this, fold over the end and cut a little slit in it to make a hole.

Cut the same kind of hole in the next piece that you'll use to lengthen your strand.

Pull one through the other...

...and loop the end of the new strand through it's own hole. 

Then pull it through. You have to kind of flip the ends through the holes to make it as smooth as possible. You could also sew the new strand on, but I wanted as little sewing as possible, so I used this loop method to add new strands. 

Then you just braid it as long as you can stand to. I used up most of my red, then transitioned to pink by braiding pink, red, and white together before switching to two pinks and one white strand. 

Step 3: Sew

I saw tutorials where you could use your sewing machine. I would not have attempted this project if I knew it was a hand-sew project, but guess what? I ended up hand-sewing it!! My braids were too bulky for my machine, and I knew I would get frustrated and break needles. Also, the zig zag stitch looked really tacky, so I opted to hand sew.

You just curl the braid and sew the inner edge of the braid onto the inner circle. Once it wraps around a few times it's easy to follow.

IMPORTANT TIP #1. Keep your stitches loose. Too tight and the rug becomes a bowl, because it's being pulled on the inner side. 

IMPORTANT TIP #2: Sew on a flat surface. If you don't sew on a flat surface, the rug gets lumpy and bumpy. Mine is very lumpy in the inner colors, because I didn't use a flat surface. The outer rings are nice and flat, because I got smart and sewed on cardboard. 

That's it! The whole project took me about 4-5 evenings of braiding and sewing. I worked on as much as I could while the kids were awake, but when the rug got big, I had to wait for them to go to sleep to work on it. Otherwise they were all up in my business.

It was SO fun to see old ratty t-shirts turn into something beautiful. The colors ended up matching my living room perfectly, because of these pillows I made last summer: 

I didn't really plan that, but it's a very happy coincidence! I love my new rug!

I've seen several tutorials over the interwebs about how to do this, so if you don't like mine, there are plenty others out there! I even watched a few youtube videos before I started my project.

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