How to DIY Your Own Recyled T-Shirt Rug

College students do a lot. From student organizations, to volunteer fairs, to campus events, we participate in a wide array of activities. The best thing about these? Free food. But the second best? Free t-shirts! Depending on one’s level of participation in student life and desire to proactively obtain free things, upon graduation one’s drawers could easily be overflowing with t-shirts for events and organizations that we have long since stopped participating in. This applies to younger students as well; I remember having to leave over 80% of my t-shirt collection at home after high-school, in anticipation of re-stocking my closet with more relevant, college shirts. When our wardrobes can no longer accommodate these items, we are faced with a tough dilemma: what to do with them. Throwing them away is out of the question for all but the rattiest garments; donation is typically the best choice, both for the planet and for the community. However, if you just can’t bear to part with that one beautiful Food Day shirt, you have another option: upcycling!

There are many ways to upcyle your old shirts. It’s amazing how simple it is to breathe new life into an old shirt by simply cutting out the neckline, sleeves, or whatever strikes your fancy. You could cut them into strips and braid to make headbands, bracelets, or scarves. With a bit of sewing, you can easily turn t-shirts into tote bags, backpacks, or even into quilts! My personal favorite way to upcycle t-shirts is to make a rug, which looks lovely while being versatile and functional.

There are many tutorials out there on the internet; the best one that I’ve found is this one:  It looks difficult, but the process is fairly straightforward and only requires time, t-shirts and a sewing machine (or even just glue).

First, you start by cutting the t-shirts into long strips. The best way to do this is to follow a “zig-zag” pattern up and down each shirt, to obtain long continuous pieces. Then, simply braid them all together, tying new strips onto the ends of the old ones until all of your t-shirt material is used up. You can make the braid as long or as short as you’d like: they will determine the size of your rug when you are finished! After you have completed braiding, begin to coil to braid into a circle, oval, or whatever shape you want the final rug to be. As you coil it, you could either use a sewing machine to stitch each row of the braid together, or you could use glue (either fabric or hot glue should work fine) to attach it to a base of some sort (you could use another piece of thick fabric cut in the shape you want or a recycled rug underlay). Once you’ve finished wrapping and sewing/glueing, simply tuck in the final end and secure it down. And voila! Now you have a beautiful, recycled rug to use in your dorm, apartment or house!

I hope this tutorial has inspired you to think more creatively before getting rid of your old things. The possibilities for crafting are simply endless, and you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done your part in protecting the planet!

-Katie Lewis


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