The tshirt (t-shirt) rug is probably the hardest, definitely the longest, and absolutely the most rewarding handmade project I’ve ever undertaken. This tshirt rug uses around 80 t-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. :)
Here are my tips, tricks, and recommendations for anyone wanting to learn how to make a tshirt rug.
Materials and Tools
Latch-hook Rug Canvas
Rug canvases come in various sizes or can be cut into any shape. I used this 36″ x 60″ mesh rug canvas.
T-shirts come in several different thicknesses and sizes. The thick cotton shirts make for thick strips which are harder to pull through the mesh canvas. I recommend going for t-shirts that are thin and soft which are much easier to latch-hook. For a tshirt rug of this size, 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 may t-shirts you need for your rug). I sought-out garage sale t-shirts that had minimal graphics in shades of green or any light color (white, tan, gray, blue) that would easily take on fabric dye. Wash and dry all shirts before cutting to ensure there’s no shrinkage later and they’ll be prepped to take on fabric dye.
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 rotary cutter. Splurge on a good one with 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 grid at fabric and sewing stores. I used this one from JoAnn Fabrics.
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.
I thank my husband for this one! He handed me a needle-nose pliers and I never looked back. The hardest part of the whole tshirt rug project is pulling the strips tight. At first I could only work on this 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.
How to make a T-Shirt Rug
Now that you’ve gathered your tools and materials, let’s make a t-shirt rug.
Like I mentioned above, for a large latch-hook tshirt rug, you’ll need about 80 large to x-large tshirts and approximately 14,000 1″ x 4″ strips.
On your self-healing cutting mat, lay out a shirt. Begin by cutting off the neck hole and sleeves. Using your ruler and rotary cutter cut off the bottom hem of the shirt and the two sides. This will give you nice straight edges. Starting at the bottom of the shirt, cut every 1″ all the way to the top.
After that, turn your ruler 90º and cut every 4 inches. Cut off and discard any extra scraps.
Each t-shirt will provide a different amount 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!
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 tshirts 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 method for dyeing the fabric.
I used Rit-Dyes 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 goes perfect with a binge on your favorite series!
How to latch-hook
The best method for the latch-hook tshirt 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.
To begin, fold over the mesh canvas about 2 inches on all edges for reinforcement.
Push your latch-hook through a square.
Grab a t-shirt strip and fold in half.
Loop the t-shirt strip onto the hook.
Pull the latch-hook tool through the hole.
Push the latch-hook through the loop and hook around the strip ends.
Pull the ends through the loop.
With your pliers, grab the ends and pull tight. This doesn’t need to be too tight, save your hands!
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.
Latch-Hook T-Shirt Rug Video Tutorial
In this video tutorial I show how to make a tshirt rug.
And here’s the final! 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 tshirt rug
After some Googling, I found that the best way to wash the tshirt rug is to hang over clotheslines (or something sturdy), dowse with some soap, and rinse with a hose. I have not washed mine yet but I bet the weight triples.
What do you think? Have any questions about how to make the t-shirt rug? Leave your comments below.