This braided T-shirt rug is a great way to upcycle old clothes into something useful for your home. Braided rugs have been around for ages, and they’re a good example of how people used to squeeze value out of every household item. If we still had to grow the cotton, spin the yarn, and sew our clothing, we’d be less likely to toss things out, too. Don’t have a stash of old T-shirts lying around? Hit your local thrift store. Use natural fabric dye if you want a specific color palette (check out the article "Natural Dyeing: How to Make Natural Dyes from Plants and Other Materials" to learn more about natural dyes). Select fabrics made of the same material and of the same weight. For example, you could make this rug out of old wool sweaters; just make sure all the wool is the same thickness.
Large, flat work area
About 20 cotton T-shirts
Sewing machine (optional)
1. Lay a T-shirt flat, and cut the seams on each side all the way up to the arms. Trim off arms and open flat on the cutting mat with neck opening in the middle. Cut piece in half along shoulder seams, and then cut lengthwise into 3-inch-wide strips. Repeat with all shirts.
2. Sew three strips of fabric together at one end.
3. Tape the sewn end to a flat surface with painter’s tape and braid the three strips together.
4. When you complete the braid, finish the end by stitching it by hand or with a sewing machine.
5. Repeat this process with all of the fabric pieces.
6. Begin coiling the rug at one end, keeping the coil flat on a table surface. If necessary, use straight pins to hold the coil in place.
7. When you’ve coiled one entire braid, thread your embroidery needle and use it to lace over and under each braided piece, from right to left and top to bottom.
8. Repeat this process until all of the braids have been added, and you have your desired rug size.
9. Stretch and flatten the braided T-shirt rug, then place it on the floor.
Reprinted with permission from Eco-Chic Home by Emily Anderson, Skipstone Books.
Here’s a handful of other clever ways to repurpose clothing that’s past its prime.
Stuff mismatched knee socks with cotton and stitch them together to make a door or window draft stopper.
Repurpose the arms of a tattered sweater into cozy leg warmers.
Fashion a belt, headband or handbag strap out of old ties.
Upcycle a button-down shirt into a cute apron. Find instructions at Try This: Button-Down Apron Made from Recycled Shirts.
Sew the bottom of a tank top together to create a reusable grocery tote.
Make a cute iPhone or iPod case out of mittens outgrown by little ones.
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