t-shirt shag rug tutorial

Here it is, finally! My shag rug is complete. I love how it feels under my feet, and if it starts to look a little flat, I pick it up, shake it, and it fluffs right back up! 
It took some time but I finished it and I’m glad I decided to make one. You can too, especially if you like to cut up t-shirts but never know what to do with the scraps afterwards. The scraps from my scarves are perfect candidates for making a rug. And this craft is very easy, even children can learn how to thread the rug with some assistance with cutting the scraps.
Feel free to message me with any questions. The idea and instructions for this rug came from the book Generation T, which is a great book to purchase if you like making eco-friendly t-shirt clothing and crafts. Please visit their website and check out their multitude of fantastic ideas.
How to Make a T-shirt Shag Rug

Supplies: 1 XL t-shirt, cloth scissors, and lots of small t-shirt scraps
the base with a few scraps threaded through
1. Make the base.
For the base of the rug, lay the X-L t-shirt flat and cut a large rectangle out of the shirt, as large as you would like the size of your rug to be. It’s possible to make a larger rug by sewing more t-shirts together- two to make a runner, four to make a large square, etc. You could also cut it into a circle shape for a circular rug.
a rotary board makes cutting easier
perfect sized scraps!
2. Make scraps.
If you are me, you have scraps of t-shirts all over your apartment. If you aren’t, you may need to go to the thrift store and purchase a lot of t-shirts to make into scraps. I would go for 10-12 to start, although I’m not positive exactly how many you will need. Go for more rather than less, and choose complimentary colors, or try to purchase t-shirts that are the same color for a monotone rug. 
Cut these t-shirts into strips that are approximately 5-6’’ long and 1-1 ½’’ wide. You can use scissors, or if you are lucky, a rotary cutter and board, which helps make things faster. Some t-shirt fabrics stretch and so you can pull them to make them longer. Others don’t.  Once you cut a few t-shirts you’ll begin to see what works. Also, don’t be afraid to use imperfect scraps-scraps that have odd edges, have a serged edge on them, are ruffly, etc. They add to the shaggy look of your rug.
holes before and after scraps are threaded through 
3. Cut holes into the base.
Starting 1’’ from the edge of the base, carefully poke or snip horizontal and vertical rows of small holes about 1/2 ’’ to 2/3’’ inches apart. It will look like a big Lite-Brite board without the little pegs! You can also do this as you go along while putting the rug together, as I did, or just go ahead and make all of the holes before you start to thread the scraps into the rug. If you want perfect rows, you can mark the holes first using a ruler to mark the spots. 
see how the scraps share each hole? 
4. Start threading scraps into the base.
Beginning at one corner, thread a strip down through the first hole and back up through the second. Take a second scrap and thread it through the second hole (the same hole you just pulled the first scrap up through) so that it shares this hole with the first scrap, and then pull it up through the third hole.
Continue doing this for a very, very long time… Do this while watching movies, television, when you have a really short moment of time and you don’t know what to do. It will take time, but it will be finished!
the back and top side of the rug- pretty on both sides!

5. Give your rug a haircut.
When you are finished, you can give your rag a little haircut to even out any longer scraps that look off, or you can leave your rug uneven for a shaggier look. But remember, these scraps don’t grow back!

The top side of the rug looks great, but so does the bottom side. Flip the rug over for a new look and feel! If a scrap falls out or gets uneven, simply put it back in or pull it until it is even. It’s very easy to maintain. If you would like to wash it, please use a lingerie bag and run it in a delicate cycle as it could fall apart in the wash. However, the fabric is not delicate itself, so if something were to happen, it can be cleaned.

Send me pictures of your own rugs, and I’ll post them here. Or, make one for a Christmas present this year. It’s not too early to start!

181 thoughts on “t-shirt shag rug tutorial

  1. This is great! I have a bunch of t-shirts with logos on them that I can exactly Goodwill/donate (they were from my college program/uniform) and this is the perfect use for them!

  2. Excellent! I've been looking for DIY rug for our reading area – this is going to be perfect! I have been saving stained clothes (4 kids=stained clothes) for such a project! If I don't get to it before Christmas, I will after. Thx!

  3. Exactly what I was thinking Jess… how do the scraps not fall out? They must be tied, right??? Love this idea. I have a huge stack of tshirts to use too!

  4. Blimey, you must have read my mind, I've collected some old fleece blankets and started cutting the strips but I couldn't find a cheap rug backing, now I know I can just use some old t-shirts or even maybe even another large piece of fleece blanket. Can't wait to get started now, thanks xx

    • I found a latch hook rug from Hobby Lobby for $3.99 and that works great. I am working on it now and I havent tied the strips. My thoughts on was will be with a mild scrub brush by pushing them all in in direction (say to the right and carefully brushing across a couple of times) and then reverse that and do the same to the left. Hang to dry. Good luck.

  5. I can't wait to try this! I'm going to use old sheets my MIL gave me. If you cut a little tear you can rip through the rest of the sheet. It gives a more "shabby chic" feel to the scraps because there are are frays on the edges. Wish me luck!

  6. I am making one of these rugs right now. After I finish each row I am putting just a small amount of washable fabric glue under the back of the woven strip. No more worries about them falling out!

  7. Do you think this could be washed or fluffed in the dryer to remove dirt? Although it's upcycling, I'd hate to go to all this effort if it can't be easily cleaned.

  8. I think this is a great idea. For the base, though, I'd probably want to reinforce the pieces and somehow attach it to a rug gripper base, especially if it's used where there are tiles or hardwood flooring.

    • There is a liquid brush on latex you could use. I have used it on rug backs, latch hook rugs, and it works well.

  9. I think the fabric glue idea is great, although I'm going to try washing mine in a delicate bag when I wash it to help the scraps stay in.

  10. You could also run longer strips in and out through the holes, leaving a big loop sticking out, and then cut the loop in half. I'm totally going to do this!

  11. Found via pinterest and thank goodness..I absolutely love the way mine turned out and couldn't be happier–thanks for sharing such a great idea! :)

  12. if you put a gripper bottom on this it would probably stabilize the loops. I wonder if tieing them would make them feel weird under the feet.

  13. Were there additional scraps tied onto the one pictured at the bottom? The one pictured at the top and also "pinned" looks more "shaggy" & "scruffy" wheras the finished one here seems to look flat and merely weaved? The entire rug at the top looks like the edges of the bottom one…

    • Rhonda – this may have already been answered, but I believe the bottom pic -the “flat and merely weaved?” one is the BACKSIDE of the rug. To shoe you that either side has a nice look to it and a differ feel. :)

    • that was a picture of the bottom of the rug. she was just showing you could use either side. the fluffy side is on the other side.

  14. @Rhonda – It's the same rug just flipped to show the back side. She mentions in an earlier paragraph you can turn it over for a different look/feel.

  15. @Donna, I only use one layer of t-shirt on the bottom, as it makes it harder to cut through the fabric with two layers. But if you wanted to double it up, I would possibly consider cutting the holes on the base with a rotary cutter! Hope that helps!

    @Angee, yes, it is flipped over. This rug is reversible, which is why I have decided not to back it with any kind of backing. I like the look and feel of both sides.

    @Luann, I've decided against fabric glue as it would make the rug flammable and also not as eco-friendly as the glue is toxic.

    Hope this all helps!

  16. Barb, can you tell us how you "tied off" the strips? If you tied off at the base of the scraps, how does that make the back nonslip? Guess I'm not seeing it. I'd like to do this but am concerned about the strips falling out during the wash…and it has to be washable with 2 dogs. Thanks for any help clarifying.

    • Did anyone tie strips down? How did it turn out? Like idea of tiring down for washing. Advise please! Any thoughts welcome.

  17. Wow! I really love this! I made one a really long time ago before Pinterest and the great world of the internet. I tied all the pieces together. While it did come out great it was RIDICULOUSLY heavy. Shaking it wasn't easy, lol. And the thought of throwing it into the washing machine didn't sound great either! Too heavy. So I really like this one. And I am pretty sure that between the hubby and the kids I can find a bunch of tshirts that they don't need :D lol

  18. I am definitely making this…..TONIGHT. Absolutely love the idea, and with 3 older kids, there are a million discarded t-shirts around here.

  19. If you use a grid system, like a counted cross stitch design, I think your idea would work just great. Just draw out what you want, and poke the holes in the t-shirt base on a grid, changing colors as your pattern would indicate. Good idea.

  20. Good idea, you can also sew squares of t-shirts together by layering them and then running two stiches (zig zag) along where they overlap to bring it all together. I've made large ones this way!

  21. I've double knotted them (tying the two scraps in the same hole together to prevent making the rug smaller). It seems to help hold it together without sewing the rug!

  22. my grandma made these with her sewing machine – she would lay the strips in a row – opened up – sew a line down the middle of the strip — then fold that row to the left – lay another strip of scraps down – repeat – very quick – very washable :) – i even inherited a special tool for sewing yarn strips (its a rectangle w/ another rectangle cut out where the needle sets in — it lays on top of the yarn strips – (which are perpendicular to the tool underneath) and holds them flat when you sew a line across them.

    • Unknown, I’d love to see more details on how your grandma made her rug, especially after reading about poor Sara’s rug falling apart!

  23. I cut the "tube" in one spot to open it up into a rectangle. So, I use both sides, but with one cut it turns it into a long piece of fabric. Hope that makes sense!

  24. Ginny, I have the same concern but – sorry – I don't understand what you mean about double knotting. And I can't see any knots in your photos. Could you PLEASE publish a photo or two showing how and where you tie the knots?

  25. I bought a "rag rug" for $3 at Wal Mart to use as my base and a latch hook to pull the pieces through the rows. I'm using scrap fleece. The rug will be a little heavier, but I have a front loading washing machine that can handle the extra weight. I also thought of purchasing the rubber mats used under throw rugs on hardwood floors as a base. They already have rows of holes and would make the rug less likely to slide across the floor. This is especially important if you have older people or someone not quite steady on their feet that will be walking over the rug.

  26. Finally finished my rug, but made the slits too big and the t-shirt strips slipped out easily. I pulled it all back together and simply ran a running stitch through each. Looks really great!!!!! Love how it looks with the quilt. Our dog Jack quickly claimed it as his own. ;)

  27. This is great! There is also a spray rubber that goes on kind of think that I sprayed onto the bottom so I can use this in the bathroom and not have to worry about the rug slipping. It also helps keep the scraps in place

    • What was the brand of spray rubber you used and where can it be purchased? I need rubber backing as well, did this work well for you keeping scraps intact to rug and is it proving both durable and washable? We have grandkids and a puppy, also I have some mobility issues and need non=slip for sure.

  28. How interesting, I've never heard of that product. Is it toxic? I'm interested in learning more about this spray rubber!

  29. I've heard of using a thin line of non toxic caulking on the back of the rug in rows and then using a paint stirrer to widen it out. When it dries it is just sticky enough to keep slippery rugs from slipping. I've also heard of doing that on socks for kids…little dots to help with walking toddlers :) I haven't tried it though.

  30. Some suggestions for anyone who is doing this for the first time…Use lighter color base..maybe like a gray color and use a ruler to mark dots where you will be cutting your holes. It goes a LOT faster that way. Have lots of pieces cut before you start. LOTS. It is very labor intensive so you need to have patience. It think our finished product will be very cool…Thanks for sharing this project with us!

  31. I agree, have a day or two where you cut your strips ahead of time and sort them by color in plastic or other bags to have them right by you while you weave.

    Good luck with your rug!

  32. Would this work using a bed sheet to make a large one? (probably cut in half so its not too large) Thinking this could be a long term project for my 10 year old she could do a little each day till its complete

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  36. I saw this idea on Pinterest and can’t wait to make my own rug. Thanks for the inspiration and instruction.

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  38. Perfect birthday present for my sister! It would be a great addition to her dorm room! Also wonderful because there is an awesome consignment store just down the street from me. Thanks! But one question: are the strips glued or knotted on? like if you pull on a string will it come off?

  39. Just be warned I spent 8 hours cutting shirts and doing this and then washed it when i was done and it all came apart even with the bag and on delicate (I cried afterwards) so I would recommend not washing it in a mashine unless you tacked the strips down somehow..

      • I made one. but instead of looping i took a little more time and sewed each piece onto the tshirt. I’m currently working on a much bigger one..like for my living room

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  41. Huy tuvimos la misma idea aunque yo no fui capaz de hacerla bien voy a intentarlo nuevamente ya con ayuda de este tutorial ….

  42. u can do this using a pillowcase for the base…or if u want the rug bigger..use old baby blankets like the receiving ones u can find for a dollar at thrift stores or even dollar stores…

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  44. Love this. I zoomed in on the finished item. I counted around 950 strips. Does that sound about right to you? WOW. that is alot. lol. guess i need to get busy cutting. lol. I have 3 dogs and there is always dirt and dog hair no matter how much i sweep. When getting into bed (my bed is real high) my feet always feel gritty. This rug would be great at my bed to wipe my feet on. Thanks so much.

  45. So once you thread a scrap through the holes, do you tie them in a knot on the other side? If not, won’t they slip out?

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  47. I love your tutorial but CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DESTROYED AN AWESOME PINK FLOYD “DARK SIDE OF THE MOON” T-SHIRT TO DO IT!!! There, got that out of my system!

  48. I used the fronts of the shirts for a memory quilt and will use the backs and sleeves for these rugs! Planning to make them with the church ladies at our beach retreat!

  49. Thank you so much! I’ve been looking for a tutorial to make a shaggy rug. I have bags of my kids old clothes and want to make something that they can keep. I was thinking quilts, someday in the far distant future when I have time to learn, but this is something I can do now and they can use now!

  50. I love this rug! I have the top half of about 100 tshirts left over from making hula hoop weaved rug, for a Girl Scout project. This is the perfect thing to use these for instead of throwing them out. Thank you, here goes another Girl Scout project!

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    • I have been cutting scraps all night. My hands hurt!!!! I am going to use a fleece throw for my base as I want a large rug for my son’s room that I am updating.

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  60. Great idea!! I am going to use all of the Miami Heat t-shirts that I have to make a rug for my grandson!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing !!

    • I can’t wait to try this!!! I always seem to have soooooo many t-shirts and I hate to just toss them out. What an awesome idea!!

  61. Love the idea!!! I can not figure out how to sew the strips to the base. I am a very visual person. Thanks for your help.

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  64. I would like to make it heart shaped and put it on my front door for Valentine’s day but I feel it wouldn’t hold its shape. What kind of backing would be strong enough? Would painters canvas be rigid enough? Anyone have thoughts?

  65. Jeni had the same idea that I had.. I would pull the two strips of the same colour apart, then just do a simple stitch down the middle and stitch all the ties together for each row. I was soooo sad to see the pink floyd shirt as the base too.. oh, what I could’ve done with that shirt!! ack!

  66. Grandma Nozicka taught me this way back when but she used burlap for the base. easy to use the t-shirt, too. thanks for bringing back a great idea to me… now need to get mine and my family’s old t-shirts dug out and do something with them.

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  70. After you thread the t-shirt rags thru the base, Do you tie a knot on the side that will be shag…if not what keeps them from coming out?

  71. Thanks for the tutorial- just finished and could not believe how easy it was – very impressed with the end result though!! I’m now planning on making a really big one for the landing, think I might see a few t shirts together to use as the backing or could I get away with using an old bed sheet? I wonder would the bit of stretch in the tshirt help hold all together?

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  74. Loved the rag rug idea. Good way to use the old shirts. My neighbor used to cut 3 inch squares out of the old double-knit fabric and sew the squares onto a firm backing, She would fold the squares into triangles, overlap the points over the one above, until she got to the end of the backing. Then she would sew down thru the row of the triangles. She used these rugs at all her door ways. They were light enought to shake out the dirt and put back down, and they were easy to wash in the machine. She did not dry them in her dryer, but hung them outside and shook them to fluff when she returned them to be used again. Any fabric could be used, like old jeans for a really durable rug. Lots of luck with these ideas.

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  76. I went through my clothes towards the end of summer and I found a ton of old shirts that I didn’t know what to do with because of stains and what not, but this is the perfect idea! I think I’m going to make one for my mom for Christmas to put in our living room. I’m so excited to start it! (:

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  81. Thanks for the idea to use a t-shirt for the base, much better than buying the latch hook rug base. I want to make a larger rug so I’m going to cut my rug shape out of a jersey knit flat sheet I got at the thrift store for $1.49. I’m thinking a dab of permanent fabric glue placed on the back of the t-shirt base before I pull the other side of the strip through the next hole so the strip can’t totally pull out in the wash or from every day use. If you are going to use fabric glue make sure it is permanent fabric glue as many of them are temporary. Aleen’s Fabric Fusion is perfect for this. I got a set of two “pens” of this stuff at WalMart, the tip screws off so I could refill it from a bigger (cheaper) bottle. I’m also thinking for a neat finished edge I could leave a 2 inch or so boarder on my base and when I’m done I can fold them over and use the fabric glue to hold them in place.

    My local Salvation Army thrift store has a rack of t-shirts with small stains or corporate logos for 50 cents each,, or just a quarter during their half price sales.

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  86. love the rug..a great idea but I am curious about your name…I am married to a Stoltz..could we be related? It is not a common name.

    • I guess it is more common than you think! Met a few Stoltz’s around the country. Means “Strong” in German. Could be related, but who knows?

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