Our grandparents and great grandparents knew the importance not wasting a single thing. When something seems to be at the end of its life, there might be a new life waiting for it, one that will make it just as useful as it was.
That concept applies to your old clothing. Old clothing can be used for so many things. You can make it into new and different clothing, make it into grocery bags, rip it up and use it as rags, or make it into placemats. One popular use for old clothing—and out focus here—is to make it into a rug.
What You Can Use
When it comes to using old clothing to make rugs, anything will do, provided it isn’t a heavy knit, such as a sweater, that will unravel when cut. Old clothing is fabulous for making rugs because it is relatively easy to do, is incredibly colorful, and can be made up of different textures that are pleasing to the eye and the feet.
You really can have fun mixing and matching colors and different textures and weights of fabric for a great look. Any of the following is fair game to reuse for the purpose of making a rug:
- Long- and short-sleeve t-shirts
- Tank tops/muscle shirts
- Sweat pants
Plus, you can use other worn out fabric-made items you have around the house, such as:
- Baby blankets
You get the idea. It basically has to be cloth that you can cut without it fraying terribly or unraveling.
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Aside from this, you will need just a few simple supplies for making your rug (that you should stockpile for Doomsday, anyway):
- Measuring tape
- Sewing needle (or sewing machine)
- Straight pins
- Safety pins
Additional/alternate materials might be needed for specific types of rugs and they will be listed with their own set of instructions.
There are a number of different ways to make a rug out of old clothing and bedding. What follows are a few examples of rugs you can make, so I hope you have your creative DIY hat on and are ready to have some fun!
Braided T-shirt Rug
A braided t-shirt rug is perhaps one of the easiest. Essentially, you cut your t-shirts, jeans, sheets, or whatever other material you are using into long strips that are about 2 inches wide.
If you have shorter strips, such as from t-shirts, then you will need to sew the ends of them together to form longer strips. You can cut a single t-shirt into one long strip as follows:
- Start with one of the side seams and cut along the seam 2 inches from the bottom of the t-shirt.
- Then cut parallel with the bottom of the shirt, maintaining a width of 2 inches. Be sure to cut one layer of the shirt and cut all the way around (through the opposite seam) until you get to within 2 to 3 inches of where you started cutting.
- Keep cutting, but cut on a slight diagonal so that you can continue to cut up the shirt, maintaining one long strip of fabric.
- Once you reach the armpits, cut your strip of fabric off. You can then cut the remaining part of the shirt into strips and sew their ends together or you can use these pieces as rags.
Ideally, you want your strips of material to be as long as possible and as you collect them, you can roll them into balls to store until you are ready to begin making the rug. When you are ready to start, follow these steps:
- Choose three different strips (this is when you can start getting creative with your colors) and tie the ends together. You can then secure the tied end to something (like the arm of your sofa) with a safety pin or secure it under a heavy object or with your foot.
- Start braiding the strips together.
- When you reach the end of one strip of fabric, choose another one, stitch the ends together, and continue braiding. Work like this until you use up all your strips of fabric and then tie off the end of the braid.
- Take the end of the braid that you want to be the middle of the rug and fold it so that two strips of the braid run alongside each other and then stitch them together. You can do this by hand or use a sewing machine with a large zigzag stitch. This is the center of your rug and you can make it as short or as long as you want, depending on how big the rug will be and whether the rug is going to be a circle or an oval.
- Once the end is folded and stitched, carry on curling the braid around and around, sewing it to the spiral as you go until it is all used up.
- Make sure the braid is flat as you sew it into a spiral.
- When going around a curve, make sure you keep the braid fairly loose when stitching it to the spiral so the rug doesn’t curl up when completed.
Shag T-shirt Rug
A shag t-shirt rug gives you a different look and feel than a braided rug, but is still so fun and colorful. It’s also easy to make. You will need backing material, which can be part of an old bath towel or other fabric that is not stretchy.
You will also need a marker and a ruler. You will also need a lot of strips of fabric from t-shirts, sheets, etc. The strips will be 1-inch wide by 4-inches in length, although you can cut them shorter if you want a less shaggy rug.
When ready, follow these steps (from Mother earth News):
- Cut the backing to the size of rug you want and sew the rough edges under. Obviously, using a sewing machine is faster, but hand-sewing does the job and if there is ever a disaster that causes a long-term loss of electricity, then hand-sewing will be the only option.
- Using the marker and ruler, draw lines ½ inch apart across your backing in whatever direction you desire (lengthwise or widthwise).
- With your color design/pattern in mind, lay your first row of strips along the first line, with the center of each strip lying directly on the line and the strips slightly overlapping each other.
- Sew the strips in place along their center (along the line).
- Use backstitching to secure the ends of each row.
- Repeat the above steps until your rug is complete.
You can also weave a rug out of long strips of fabric. A woven rug might take a little longer, but the end result is quite beautiful. No needle and thread are required for this rug. You will want your fabric strips to be as long as you can get them and 2 inches wide. You will also need:
- A 23-inch by 43-inch piece of cardboard
- Masking tape
Once you have your fabric strips ready, you can follow these steps (from ABeautifulMess.com) to make your rug:
- Take your piece of cardboard, and starting 2 inches from the side, mark a series of 2-inch lines from the short end of the cardboard and ½ an inch apart. Do this across both of the short ends.
- Cut slots along each of the lines. This is essentially your loom.
- Take three strips of fabric in whatever color/pattern combination you wish and place each end of the group of fabric into a corresponding slot at each end of the cardboard. Repeat this across the slots. It will get really bulky and full, but just keep going!
- Use one color of strip to weave into the others and wrap a small piece of masking tape around one end of the weave fabric so it will be easier to weave around the secured strips of fabric.
- Leaving a 6-inch tail sticking out, weave this strip over and under each group of fabric from one side to the other, and then wrap it around the last group of strips (over or under, depending on how the weave was ended) and bring it back across. It should be going over and under alternate groups of strips than the previous pass of weaving. If your first pass was over-under, your next pass is under-over. After each row is woven, try to straighten out the fabric groups and push the woven strip as close as you can to the previous woven row to ensure it is tight.
- To finish off the weaving, go back across your last woven row, and instead of weaving again, pass the end of the weave strip through the exposed portion of weave strip (where it is woven over) in that last row and tie it off. Do this at the other end of the rug, as well.
- Using a straight edge, such as a ruler or the edge of some cardboard, cut off the ends of the groups of fabric, making them as short as desired.
- Take the rug out of the cardboard loom and your rug is finished!
Note: Another way to join two strips without the need for sewing is to cut a small hole in the end of each, pass one end of the new strip through the hole in the old strip, then pass the opposite end of the new strip through the hole in the end of the new strip that was passed through the old strip.
Once you pull the new strip tight, they will be secure.
As you can see, it is quite easy to make your own rugs out of old clothes and other old fabric. With just a few basic supplies, your fabric, and some creativity, you can add fun splashes of color all around your home and you can have nice rugs to keep your floors warm, even when times get tough.
An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats.