The t-shirt rug is probably the hardest, definitely the longest, and absolutely the most rewarding handmade project I’ve ever undertaken. This t-shirt rug uses around 80 shirts, cut into 14,000 1″ x 4″ strips, dyed into various shades of green, then latch-hooked to a 36″ x 60″ mesh rug canvas. Sound complicated? Not really. It just requires some time. :)
DIY No-Sew Rug Made with T-Shirts | Directions, Materials, & Tools
These are my tips, tricks, and recommendations for anyone wanting to learn how to make a t-shirt rug.
Use a Latch-hook Rug Canvas
Rug canvases come in various sizes and can be cut into any shape. I used a 36″ x 60″ mesh rug canvas.
How Many T-shirts for a T-Shirt Rug?
For a 3′ X 5′ t-shirt rug, I estimated that I needed at least 14,000 strips, which boiled down to about 80 large or x-large t-shirts. See below to figure out how many t-shirts you need for your rug. I sought-out garage sale and thrift store t-shirts that had minimal graphics in shades of green or any light color that would easily take on fabric dye. All shirts were washed and dried before cutting to ensure there would be no shrinkage later, and they’d be prepped to take on fabric dye.
T-shirts come in several different thicknesses and sizes. The thick cotton shirts make for thick strips that are harder to pull through the mesh canvas. I recommend going for large t-shirts that are thin and soft cotton jersey fabric that will be much easier to latch-hook.
How many t-shirt strips for a t-shirt rug?
Count the number of squares in the mesh canvas on two adjacent sides. Multiply those two numbers. This equals the total amount of squares. Divide that number in half to latch-hook every-other square.
- 40 squares wide, 40 squares tall
- 40 x 40 = 1,600
- 1,600 / 2 = 800
- At approximately 175 strips per large t-shirt, you’d need 4.5 shirts.
Every crafter should own a good rotary cutter. Splurge on a good one with an ergonomic grip (trust me!). This tool is great for cutting many things from plastic to paper to fabric. I have this one.
Self-healing Cutting Mat
Another tool every maker should own is a self-healing cutting mat. Get a big one even if you don’t think you need it now because you will later.
Clear Ruler with Grid
You can find a clear ruler with the grid at fabric and sewing stores. This is a great set of clear grid rulers to have for multiple projects.
I love Rit-Dye’s liquid fabric dye. I used different combinations of Apple Green, Kelly Green, Dark Green, and Golden Yellow.
Two words for choosing a latch-hook tool: COMFORT GRIP! I started out with a cheap wooden-handled latch-hook and within the first few inches of the tshirt rug I went out and purchased a comfort grip latch-hook (like this one).
I thank my husband for this one! He handed me needle-nose pliers and I never looked back. The hardest part of the whole t-shirt rug project is pulling the strips tight. At first, I could only work on the project for short periods of time (30 minutes per session at most) because of the repetitive stress on my hands. With the needle-nose pliers, it wasn’t an issue.
DIY Pillow made from Rugs
Make a pillowcase with two rugs. Makes a great pillow for outdoor use or a playroom.
How to Make a T-Shirt Rug
Now that you’ve gathered your tools and materials, let’s make a t-shirt rug.
Cutting T-shirts for a Rug
Like I mentioned above, for a large latch-hook t-shirt rug, you’ll need about 80 large to x-large t-shirts and approximately 14,000 1″ x 4″ strips. (See above for how to calculate how many t-shirts you need.)
On your self-healing cutting mat, layout a shirt. Begin by cutting off the neck hole and sleeves. Using your ruler and rotary cutter, cut off the shirt’s bottom hem and the two sides. This will give you nice straight edges to work with. Starting at the bottom of the shirt, cut 1″ strips across all the way to the neckline.
After that, turn your ruler 90º and cut every 4 inches. Cut off and discard any extra scraps.
Different size t-shirts will provide different amounts of strips. Write down a rough count of how many strips each t-shirt provides. You’ll want to know this later, so you know when to stop cutting up shirts. Make sure to cut extra strips!
Dying T-Shirts for a Rug
Welcome back and congratulations, the hardest part of the t-shirt rug is complete!
Mix up all of your strips so all the t-shirt fabrics, textures, and colors are evenly combined.
How to Dye T-Shirts with Fabric Dye
Soak your fabric in hot water before dyeing. Follow the fabric dyeing instructions included with your fabric dye as there is a certain ratio of fabric-to-dye that you’ll want to follow.
I weighed piles of t-shirts strips with a luggage scale in plastic bags and used the washing machine to dye the fabric.
I used Rit-Dye’s color formula chart to mix dyes to get the several shades of green.
After dyeing, dry the t-shirt strips in your clothes dryer to set the fabric dye.
Remove any t-shirt strips that didn’t take the fabric dye or don’t curl the same. Mix all the strips together.
This is me at the beginning, settled on the floor in front of Netflix. This project pairs well with a binge of your favorite series!
Upcycled Jeans to Backpack
Turn an old pair of jeans and a dress shirt into the perfect sized backpack.
How to Latch-Hook a T-Shirt Rug
The best method for the latch-hook t-shirt rug is to use every-other square. This will be plenty thick and much easier to work with than if you were to use every square of the mesh.
To begin, fold over the mesh canvas about 2″ on all edges to reinforce and give a nice sturdy border to the t-shirt rug.
Push your latch-hook tool through a square.
Grab a t-shirt strip and fold it in half.
Loop the t-shirt strip onto the hook end.
Pull the latch-hook tool back through, so the fabric is about half way through the hole.
Push the latch-hook tool through the loop of the fabric and hook around the strip ends.
Pull the fabric ends back through the loop.
Pull the ends to tighten the loop.
I recommend using a needle-nose pliers to grab the ends and pull tight. This doesn’t need to be too tight, save your hands!
Upcycled Mini Skirt to Tote Bag
A mini skirt is the perfect size for a tote bag. Follow these simple steps to upcycling a skirt into a bag for everyday use.
Here is what the backside of the t-shirt rug looks like.
My cat says “Are you done yet?” BTW this picture was taken before Scratch was cured of feline diabetes, so he’s pretty fat here.
Watch the Latch-Hook T-Shirt Rug Video Tutorial
In this video tutorial, I show how to make a latch-hook t-shirt rug.
And here’s the final DIY rug! I am in love with the look and feel of this rug. It is also VERY heavy for a rug…15 pounds!
Scratch likes it too.
How to Clean the Latch-Hook T-Shirt Rug
Many people have asked how I clean my t-shirt rug. For spot cleaning, I soak the area and gently scrub with laundry detergent. To clean the whole rug, on a hot summer day I dunk the whole rug in a large tab and soak with a small amount of laundry detergent, then rinse with the garden hose. I then hang it over something sturdy to allow air flow all around it and let it dry.
This rug is heavy on it’s own, but when wet it takes two people to move it around. It takes a couple of dry, hot days to dry completely.
Have you made a DIY rug using upcycled t-shirts? Leave your questions and comments below. And don’t forget to tag @scratchandstitch on Instagram and Facebook with your Scratch and Stitch inspired projects.