Hi everyone! Like many out there in America right now, I’m scrambling to catch up with a world that was turned upside-down by COVID-19 virtually overnight. I know that there is a lot of hype out there, but I’m taking my responsibility seriously and I hope you do too – I am practicing social distancing and self-quarantine despite not having any symptoms. This is a vital strategy for everyone to employ as much as possible right now, and here’s a great article that explains why:
Ok! But that just means we have lots of extra time for hobbies, right? Right. Especially ones that don’t cost us a lot of extra money, and here’s a great one I’ve been meaning to bring out in video tutorial form anyway: The T-shirt Rug!
This is a favorite project of mine, resulting in lots of versions in the past and eating up lots of recycled t-shirts given to me by friends and family. The original blog post for this project gives the links for how to make your own t-shirt yarn, as well as the written tutorial for the general strategy.
See the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to create the first part of your own recycled t-shirt rug, plus me rambling and stuttering, ya know, as a bonus. 😛 Other links that are referenced in the video: – Working a flat circle
This video covers the first 9 or so rounds, and you should be able to take it from there – but I may end up doing a Part 2 if enough people want me to! As always, I love your feedback and comments so be sure to leave ’em and don’t forget to like my video and subscribe to my Youtube channel if you haven’t yet ❤
UPDATE 9/2020: I did end up doing a Part 2, added below, which moves on from the basic inner circle and covers some of the fancier strategies I use to add visual interest! Hope you like 🙂
Sometimes I have to burn off my excess creative energy by doing something I can finish quickly! These wild textile jewelry pieces fit the bill, especially since I’ve been trying to clean my shamefully stuffed craft storage and shredding stockpiled t-shirts is a pretty effective method for me to do that.
This tutorial is a guide for the refashion-centric among us, and you don’t even really need to be able to crochet to make it! Only the simplest crochet stitch, the chain stitch, is necessary. It’s explained here for those who don’t know how.
There are lots of different methods for cutting t-shirt yarn, and you don’t have to cut yours the same way as shown here, but this method is featured because you can use t-shirts with lots of seams (ex: Women’s fitted t-shirts). Of course, if you want to save yourself the trouble, you could just buy some commercially produced t-shirt yarn instead!
1 Jersey knit cotton t-shirt, plain
9.00 mm crochet hook
Step 1: Lay out your T-shirt and cut up the side seams on both sides of the front and across the top. It’s okay to cut a little wonky to get extra material from the bust area below the collar, but I’ve found it’s best to keep in GENERALLY rectangle shaped.
Step 2: Beginning with your wonky – cut side (or any side if you don’t have one) start cutting a strip about an inch in width. The goal is a thin-ish strand once you stretch the material. It can be a little more or a little less than an inch depending on the material, but be careful because if it’s too thin, it’ll break when stretched. Leave your strip attached by about an inch of uncut material.
Step 3: Flip your t-shirt piece around and cut about an inch to the opposite side of the uncut end. Do this 3 or 4 more times to get a long uncut strand (for a small size) or 2-3 more times for larger t-shirts. It’s better to have more than you need than not enough, and in fact you could cut the entire piece of t-shirt material this way, but I don’t like to because cutting this way leaves tabs. Speaking of which….
Step 4: Once you’ve got your long piece, start gently stretching your strip to curl the material to make it round and yarn-like. Use a light touch at first! Now, to deal with those tabs created by zigzagging the material. Take your scissors and round those babies off, then stretch them a little more (be careful here – rounding the corners makes the fabric thin and therefore weak to stretching). Still a little messy, but stitching will mask that.
Step 5: Set your long strip aside – I had almost 3 yards. Now lay out your remaining rectangle of t-shirt fabric and get one inch strips straight across, shearing them completely from the main fabric so that they are individual strips. Stretch each of these strips. For a standard amount of fringe, you’ll want to have 23-26 strips, so use cut out the back piece of the t-shirt and use it for more short strips if you have to.
If you are using commercial yarn or a continuous strip in this step, cut your strands to DOUBLE the length you want your fringe to be.
Step 6: Grab your hook and your long strand. Leaving a tail of yarn about 10″ long, create a slipknot loop. With your hook in the loop, grab the long end of your yarn with the hook and pull it through the loop, leaving your hook in the middle of the new loop. One chain stitch made.
Repeat until you have 25-ish chain stitches, or however long you need your chain to be to fit your neck. If you’re feeling adventurous, try using the Double Chain technique instead of the regular chain. I like to use this on the fringe chokers because it helps them lie flatter around the collarbone.
Once you’ve completed your stitches, tie off (i.e – pull the rest of your strip out through the last loop), and leave a 10″ tail when cutting off excess yarn. If you complete your required stitches but don’t have a 10 inch tail left over, just tie it off for now. We can use a short strip to attach an adequate length of tie later.
Step 7: Finally! Fringing time! Lay out your chain. Grab some of your short t-shirt strands and double them over. You might have some that are shorter than others – aesthetically I like those to be on the outside toward the shoulders but you might not care. Anyway, double those puppies over.
Insert your hook into the loop on the bottom of your chain or double chain, from back to front, and catch the doubled side of your strand with the hook. Pull it through so you’ve got a loop.
Now catch the loose ends of your short strand with the hook. Pull those through your loop completely. Tighten.
Ta-Da! Now do that until you have fringed the entire choker, or at least the majority of it.
Step 8: Attach extra ties at the end of your chain if you need to, for fastening around the neck. You could be done at this point, but I like to add a little knotwork around the top.
To add knotwork, take two adjacent pairs of fringe and separate one strand from each pair (make sure the strands are also right next to each other). Pick up both strands and tie in a simple knot. Repeat across.
These can be used as a base for adding even wilder decorations like beads, feathers, leather strips, chains, etc… But since I’m short on time, I’ll leave those for another day!
That stylish bikini underneath the necklaces is also made from recycled materials. Check out my post, the Bindu Recycled Sweater Bikini, for more on that.
Here’s another project that fits firmly into the “tired of staring at it because it’s been sitting on my desk for over a year so I might as well finish it” category!
There’s no real reason that it took me so long to finish, other than I got continuously distracted by other projects and lost my momentum on it. It was the fourth crocheted t-shirt rug from this series that I posted a while ago, in which I allude to the method but don’t provide much of an explanation. Today I am remedying that!
I got the idea of using yarn to crochet around the t-shirt strips from Pinterest (of course) but felt that I could make things a little more interesting by experimenting with stitch designs..
…. which was fun, but sometimes one desires a more mindless exercise. So I experimented with ducking the t-shirt yarn strip in front of and behind the stitch, and came up with a design that makes the strip form eye-pleasing rings of bobbles or nubs, or in the case of my most recent rug, stones on sand.
Crocheting around the T-shirt yarn in this way is soooooo much easier, neater-looking, and more economical than trying the crochet the t-shirt yarn itself. I always make my own t-shirt yarn, so it’s also better because it’s easy to switch from one ball to another with this method. So enough talk… how is it done?
Crocheted T-shirt Rug How-To
UPDATE 3/2020: I now have a video on my YouTube Channel that demonstrates this technique – view this video by following the link or keep scrolling to view right here on the blog 🙂
A large amount of cotton or acrylic yarn (A skein of Caron One Pound usually gets the job done nicely, with some to spare)
T-shirt Yarn (I use home-made, but store bought works too!)
A 6.00 mm hook
Start by making a magic ring. 6 sc into the ring tightly. Sc into the first sc of the first round to begin a joinless, in-the-round crochet circle. *
*I will not be giving instructions for increases in the round because I’m making the assumption that the crocheter already knows how to handle this – just work them in the same proportion as you usually would or decide how many you need to keep it flat as you go.
In the second round of stitching, hold the t-shirt yarn flat against the last row and start to stitch the single crochet over the tail of this yarn until you have worked 3-5 stitches or have anchored it securely. Once you have secured the t-shirt yarn, you will begin weaving it in and out of the sc stitches.
Continuing to work in the round (and adding increases where necessary), hold the t-shirt yarn to the back of your work and work a sc in the next stitch. Keep in mind that the t-shirt yarn should be completely to the back of the work so that the yarn is not held within the stitch at all.
*Tightening the sc after working it by holding the loop steady and pulling on your working yarn makes the rug nice and firm and helps the t-shirt yarn bobbles look neat.
Before you work the next stitch, bring the t-shirt yarn completely to the front of the work, so that you are working your next sc behind the t-shirt strand.
Work the next sc, tighten it down if necessary, then return the t-shirt strand to the back of the work – this will wrap the t-shirt yarn around the stitch you just made, creating a little t-shirt bobble.
With the t-shirt yarn at the back, make another sc in the next stitch.
Continue alternating holding the t-shirt yarn in front or back, until you get near the end of the strand or decide to change colors. Return the t-shirt yarn to the top of your work and work a series of several sc stitches OVER the yarn, so that it is trapped in the stitch again. Do this until the end is reached, then begin the next strand the same way.
I like to vary the proportion of bobbles in the front (i.e – bring the t-shirt yarn to the front every two stitches, every three stitches, etc) to provide visual interest, or alternate rounds of bobbles with rounds of t-shirt yarn carried along inside openwork stitches.
T-Shirt Yarn Rug Video Demo:
UPDATE 3/2020 & 9/2020: I did eventually make a video guide/tutorial for how I make these rugs! It covers the basic strategies of how I start the rugs in Part 1 (following the basic increases formula to produce a flat circle and then adding in the yarn and crocheting around it) and then how to finish a unique rug in Part 2 (goes over the tricks I use to freeform the outer rings of the rug to create decorative stitching). Hope you enjoy!
As I’ve mentioned before, carrying T-shirt yarn along while you crochet regular yarn is a lot easier on your hands than trying to crochet the t-shirt yarn itself! And this way, there’s tons of variations you can try.
My rugs usually end up being somewhere between 32-45″, for use as small accent rugs or even table centerpieces (and if you use all cotton materials, really awesome hotpads are possible!) Lately, I’ve been thinking more about making them specifically for use as djembe rugs for the drum-circle going type! This of course has nothing to do with the djembe I recently purchased after a drumming workshop.
Typical. I finally finish a project that I’ve been dragging my feet on, and I immediately want to start another.
Planting time has finally arrived for us poor apartment-dwelling folk, so last weekend my roommate and I got to work potting lettuce and herb starts. With limited sun access and temperatures stubbornly remaining at lows of 35-40 for the past few weeks, we have to wait to plant things like tomatoes and cukes.
But we don’t have to wait to plant spider plants. Do you know what a spider plant is? It’s a virtually useless decorative plant that sends out about a zillion long, spindly appendages that end in little white flowers that turn into more spider plants. And it’s really hard to kill them. So what you end up with is way more spider plants than anyone wants. So you frantically try to give them to other people so that THEY can have more spider plants than THEY want, essentially furthering the cause of this insidious, but sort of pretty, species.
Potting? More like PLOTTING.
Anyway, the front porch railing currently has five spider plants sitting on it. Clearly something has to be done.
Plant hangers, of course!
“Partial Shades” T-Shirt Yarn Plant Hangers
A great mother’s day gift, especially if made from the grandkids’ old outgrown t-shirts! The color block or ombre look gives interest while the simple stitch pattern makes this a sturdy, uncomplicated project that you can finish in one relaxing weekend morning.
Some brief notes about T-shirt yarn + rambling:
See here for a guide to making t-shirt yarn.
I used T-shirt yarn cut to 1” strips and stretched tightly – your yarn may differ slightly in gauge if you cut it thicker or do not stretch it as tight. Just size it to your pot as best you can, and if you need a reference for building flat circles for the bottom, see here.
If you haven’t already, try modifying your hold on the hook when working with T-shirt yarn – hold it like a dagger and not like a pencil. (Some of you may do this already. I personally am a pencil holder*, but switch to dagger when I have to deal forcefully with something.)
* I mean that I hold the hook like a pencil, not that I myself am a device for holding pencils.
Size “K” hook
Different shades of T-shirt yarn – I used 2-3 balls of T-shirt yarn (2-3 Adult large t-shirts) per plant hanger. Results may vary.
A smallish planter – I used a 17” circumference pot, and wrote the pattern for that size, but it’s easy to customize the size by adding or subtracting rounds to the bottom circle.
Large-eyed yarn or tapestry needle.
Make Magic Ring.
Rnd 1: 6 Sc into the ring. Join with a slip stitch in the first sc of the round.
Rnd 2: Ch 1 (does not count as first sc in this round or in any subsequent rounds) 2 sc in each sc around. Join with a sl st in the first sc of the round. – 12 sc
Rnd 3. Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, 2 sc in the next stitch. (1 sc in the next stitch, 2 sc in the next st) 5 times. Join with a sl stitch to the first sc of the round.- 18 sc.
Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, sc in the next stitch, 2 sc in the next stitch. (1 sc in each of the next 2 stitch, 2 sc in the next stitch) 5 times. Join with a sl st in the first sc of the round. – 24 sts
Rnd 5: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, sc in each of the next 2 sts, 2 sc in the next st. (1 sc in each of the next 3 sts, 2 sc in the next st) 5 times. Join with a sl st in the first sc of the round – 30 sts.
Rnd 6: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, sc in each of the next 3 sts, 2 sc in the next st. (1 sc in each of the next 4 sts, 2 sc in the next st) 5 times. Join with a sl st in the Back Loop Only of the first sc of the round – 36 sts.
Continue working 6 increase stitches per round until your bottom circle can cover the bottom of your pot. The next round will be worked in the BACK LOOPS ONLY. This gives a nice, clean edge to the shape of your holder. If you like a rounder look, you can work both loops.
Rnd 7: In BLO. Ch 1, sc in the same stitch. 1 sc in each stitch around. join with a sl st to both loops of the first sc of the round.
Rnd 8: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch. Sc in each st of the round. Join with a sl stitch.
Rnds 9-17: Rpt Rnd 8. You can change colors at any point during these repeats, depending on how many color changes you desire or how much of each color of t-shirt yarn you have.
Rnd 18: Sl st in ea st around. This cleans up the rim and makes a neat looking edge. Cut yarn and tie off. Weave in the yarn ends.
Cut 4 lengths of t-shirt yarn a little more than TWICE as long as you want your hanging length (I measured one armspan per, making half that length equal to the distance between my fingertips to my chest).
Double each length up, looping them under stitches of round 17 (NOT row 18, the slip stitch row) at four equal intervals.
Shown with wrong side facing
Hook the loose ends and bring them through the loop, tightening them into a knot. Grab two adjacent yarn lengths, as show here…
and knot them less than halfway up. Do this for each point so that each yarn length is knotted to at length from an adjacent knot. Gather all the lengths together at the top and make one large knot, pulling tightly to secure (you can even slip a dab of glue in there if you plant on hanging a heavy pot).
Again with the documenting old stuff. This time it’s crocheted T-shirt rugs, in three different flavors…
I made all of these small-ish circular-ish accent rugs by crocheting around strips of upcycled cotton t-shirt. The method of using worsted weight yarn to crochet around the t-shirt is a lot more effective, time saving, and economic than just trying to crochet the t-shirt yarn itself. I have tried to crochet t-shirt yarn. My wrist and arm end up screaming and the product is bulky and unwieldy, plus you need like a zillion t-shirts to finish one decent sized rug.
This way is flatter, prettier, and doesn’t give me carpal tunnel (much).