DIY Fabric Rug

Use yarn made from recycled fabric to create this vibrant DIY rug.

January/February 2016

By Karen Tiede

red rug in front of door

You can do some amazing things with recycled clothing. Whether it’s a stack of old T-shirts from college or shirts you bought from a thrift store for a quarter apiece, transform torn, misshapen or outdated T-shirts into a beautiful rug using these instructions. Excerpted from the book Knitting Fabric Rugs, this project will get you started on a great winter hobby. Master it, and you can turn offcast clothing into helpful and useful household basics, perfect for your own home or for gifts. Author Karen Tiede says she chose to make a rug in all red tones because her red stash was overflowing and she needed to reduce the volume—she finds reds to be an especially easy-to-collect shade.


• Knitting needles, size 10–10.5, 10 inches long
• Fabric yarn in varying shades of red
• Strips of fabric yarn in accent colors (if desired), each 12 to 20 inches long
• Quilter’s pins
• Large darning needle, to attach strips

To Make Fabric Yarn

T-shirts are ideal for making fabric yarn, as they have few seams, bold colors and the fabric is a good weight for knitting.

For a visual tutorial on making fabric yarn watch this video from Upcycled Stuff.

1. Begin by cutting off and discarding the hem and sleeve bands. Next, cut the shirt into three sections—one from the body and one from each sleeve—then cut off the top of the yoke on front and back, eliminating the neck of ribbing.

2. Lay shirt flat and begin cutting across, parallel to where the bottom hem was. Stop your cut 2 inches short of the fold on the opposite side, then make another cut parallel to the first, again stopping short of the folded edge. Continue parallel cuts up the entire body of the shirt, always starting on the same side and stopping short of the opposite edge.

3. To release a long fabric strip, open the tube, and starting at the bottom edge on the side of the shirt that is still joined, cut the first strip on a diagonal toward the second strip. Continue up the shirt, releasing each strip by cutting diagonally across the uncut side section. When you reach the top, you will have released the entire body in one long continuous strip.

For a visual tutorial on making fabric yarn watch this video from Upcycled Stuff.

To Make the Upcycled Red Stripes Fabric Rug

knitting needles with red fabric

This rug is made up of 5 sections, and is knit to length rather than to a row count. Each section should be 32 garter-stitch ridges long. When casting on, use a piece of fiber long enough to cast on all of the stitches without encountering a knot.

To Knit the Rug

color chart for red rug

Section 1 (darkest reds): Make a slip knot, leaving a 12- to 20-inch-long tail that you can use later to stitch the pieces together. Place slip knot on your left-hand needle. Insert the tip of your right-hand needle into the slip knot, as if you were going to knit it. Wrap the fabric strip under the tip of the right-hand needle from back to front, draw a loop through the slip knot, and place the new stitch on the left-hand needle, orienting the new stitch so the front leg is in front of the back leg. Continue to add new stitches until you have 8 on your needle.

knitting rug

Knit in garter stitch (knit every row) until the section is 32 garter-stitch ridges long. Bind off, leaving another 12- to 20-inch tail. (Leave the same length tail at the end of each section.)

Section 2 (dark reds): Using the same method, cast on 7 stitches. Knit in garter stitch until section is 32 ridges long. Bind off, leaving tail.

Section 3 (medium reds): Using the same method, cast on 14 stitches. Knit in garter stitch until section is 32 ridges long. Bind off, leaving tail.

Section 4 (lightest reds): Using the same method, cast on 11 stitches. Knit in garter stitch until section is 32 ridges long. Bind off, leaving tail.

Section 5 (medium reds): Using the same method, cast on 14 stitches. Knit in garter stitch until section is 32 ridges long. Bind off, leaving tail.

To Assemble the Rug

sewing fabric rug 

Use quilter’s pins to pin two strips together, aligning garter-stitch ridges. Take the long tails from the ends of your rug pieces and use a large darning needle to join the sections together using a mattress stitch. Repeat until all strips have been sewn together. When finished, the rug should measure 31 inches wide by 24 inches long.

Handy Hints

• Counting Rows: When counting rows in garter stitch, it’s easier to count garter-stitch ridges: Each pair of garter-stitch rows makes one ridge. Use safety pins to mark every 5th or 10th ridge so you don’t have to keep counting from the beginning. Important: In this pattern, the first garter-stitch ridge in a new piece is created by the cast row and the knit-back row (the second row). The last ridge is created by the last row knitted on the right side, followed by the bind off.

• Binding off: Knit one stitch of your row, then knit the next stitch. Draw the second stitch over the first, and pull it off your needle. Continue this method until you reach the end of the row and one stitch remains. Cut tail, pull it through the loop, and remove the final loop from your needle. Make a knot. Bind off on the wrong side of the fabric.

Bind off with the same tension you used when knitting the rest of the piece. A loose bind off won’t show up against large-gauge garter-stitch. A too-tight bind off will create a narrower edge, keeping your rug from lying flat. Allow a length of fiber about four times the length of a row for the bind off, in addition to the 12 to 24 inches of fabric for the tail.

Excerpted from Knitting Fabric Rugs by Karen Tiede. Photography by Kip Dawkins Photography. Charts by Ilona Sherrat. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

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