Mother Earth Living

Try This: Handmade Rug

Cut up your old, torn, battered and stained T-shirts to make this rug.
By Susan Wasinger
January/February 2005
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This rug is woven using the simple technique we once used to make potholders on little metal looms in kindergarten. Translation: Anyone can do it! For the more modern rug on this page, we used an all-black warp; all the horizontal loops are from black T-shirts. Then we alternated blue and green tones for the vertical loops. For the rug opposite, we alternated tan and blue for the warp, then mixed up several colors and even stripes on the vertical loops, giving it a more traditional rag rug appeal.

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It’s a scientific fact (or should be, anyway) that surviving winter requires an extra dose of the warm and fuzzies. You can generate them with anything handmade, and recycling something in an unusual and useful way definitely provides your daily requirement. So cut up your old, torn, battered, stained T-shirts and weave yourself a soft and sweet, warm and fuzzy rag rug. It’s a fun snowy-afternoon project—deceptively easy and even a little addictive. Once you’ve made your loom, you’ll find that one rug is never enough.

1. CUT SHIRTS: We used 7 or 8 medium and large T-shirts in a variety of colors to make one rug. Cut the body of the T-shirts horizontally into 3-inch wide strips. Don’t cut the side seams, as these strips are the loops you weave with.

2. BUILD FRAME: Make a 23-by-32-inch frame from 2-by-2-inch pine or redwood scraps. This will make a rug that’s about 18 by 23 inches. To weave a bigger rug, you’ll need bigger T-shirts as the loops cut from them must be able to stretch across the frame. For the loom posts, use 2-inch finish nails spaced 1 inch apart.

3. WARP: Stretch the T-shirt loops the long way across the frame to create the warp. Note how the stretched loops become two strings across the frame. Hook loops on nail posts.

4. WEFT: Working on the shorter axis (this is the weft), weave the end of a loop under one string, then over the next string, then under again all the way across the warp strings. The next loop should go over where the previous one went under, and under where it went over. Loop on nails.

5. FINISH WARP: When all the weaving is done, simply slip the warp loops off their nails.

6. FINISH WEFT: For the weft loops, work from left to right. Start by slipping the first 2 loops off their nails. Push the loop on the right through its neighbor on the left. Hold onto that loop while slipping the next loop off its nail. Now this new loop goes through the one on its left. Continue this pattern across the frame.

7. THE OFF: Once you have finished all the steps above, there will be only one last loop remaining. This last vertical loop needs to be cut. One cut end should be pushed through its neighbor. Tie both ends in a knot. Clip and tuck them away.

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