Perhaps you have got a few Teeshirts that are very worn out and not even worth giving away. You could rip them up and use them as cleaning rags, or you can try extending their usefulness by braiding them into a nifty rug, old-school style!
I actually tried making a similar rug earlier this year using old towels, but sewing the towel braid together hurt my fingers – and the rug didn’t hold together as well as I liked.
Using old teeshirts for this braided rug worked better for me, because the braid was easier to work with, and I could weave the rug together – no fussing about with needles and other pointy hurty things. This craft turned out to be straightforward enough for Little E to do it on her own! We ended up with a lovely, soft rug which made a great bathmat – and it’s washable too.
In this tutorial, I use a four strand braided technique (like a ‘fishtail’ braid), because I feel this gives a wider and flatter weave, but you can use a three stranded braid if you feel that a puffier rug works for you.
How to make an Old-School Braided Rug from Old Teeshirts
- Old Teeshirts (I used about 3 large men’s tees to make a round floormatbut you can use more if you want a bigger rug)
- Cut the tees into 1.5-2 inch strips widthwise so that you end up with a bunch of loops
- Stretch the loops as far as they will go until the fabric rolls in on itself
- Cut the loops open on one end so that you are left with long strings
- Choose 4 strings and knot them together. I decided to go with 2 strings of contrasting colours to get a nice chevron pattern.
- Cross the outer (green in the picture above) strings over each other, right string over the left to form an X.
- Take the next set of outer strings (dark blue in the picture above). Cross them over the centre of the braid, right over left, to form a second X.
- Take the following set of outer strings (green) and cross them in the centre again, right string over left, to form a third X. You are now back to your original position, having done three layers of braiding!
- After you have done about 4-5 inches of braid, roll the braid into a spiral, with the original knot in the spiral centre. Now you can weave the free braid together to form the rug.
- Take the string that is closest to the centre of the spiral and pass it through one of the loops of braid that it is nearest to it (see the picture below).
- Pull the string tight to secure the free section to the rest of the rug.
- Continue to braid, securing each section every 1.5-2 inches.
- When the lengths of string become too short to braid, you can add another string to it by knotting the ends together. To make a less bulky knot, snip a small hole about 0.5 inches from the end of both strings that you wish to join together.
- Pass the end of the old string through the hole in the new string.
- Then, push the other end of the new string through the hole in the old string
- Pull tight and it should form a small, tight knot!
- Continue braiding your rug until it reaches a size that you are happy with
- To finish off the rug, knot the ends of the free braid to one of the loops from the braid next to it, securing the end of the braid to the rest of the rug. You can then trim off any excess string or tuck the strings into the rest of the rug to make them neat.
- Enjoy your soft new floormat!
Left: Eleanor braiding using two sets of contrasting colours to form chevrons, Right: Another rug that we made using four different colours
Here’s a super quick and very simple no-sew tutorial to turn an old teeshirt into a pretty cute multilayered necklace or infinity scarf – and it’s an easy one to do with the kids too!
- Old Teeshirt (a seamless tee is best)
- Lay Teeshirt flat
- Cut off the bottom hem of the teeshirt and put it aside.
- Cut your teeshirt into 1-2 inch strips across the width of the tee. I used 2 inch strips because it was easier for Little E to manage, but I think the necklace will probably look nicer with thinner 1 inch strips. You should end up with a bunch of loops.
- Stretch out each loop as far as they will go until the fabric rolls inward.
- Join all the the loops together, doubling them up if necessary to create that multilayered effect. Make sure that you can still pull the loops over your head easily. I used three loops doubled up to make a necklace for Little E but you can use more to make more complex-looking necklace.
- Cut the bottom hem of shirt that you saved in half to make a long flat ribbon at least 10 inches long.
- Using this ribbon, tie a knot around the necklace loops to hold them in place.
- Wrap the rest of the ribbon tightly around the loops a few times. I made the wrapped portion a few inches wide.
- Tie off the ends of the ribbon with a knot.
- Trim the ends to look like a little bow or tuck them under the rest of the ribbon to hide it.
- Enjoy your new necklace!
If you are particularly handy, you can experiment with braiding or knotting the teeshirt strands together, or mixing loops of different colours and textures!
P.S. Check out our other Teeshirt Upcycling posts here.
As I said in my previous Upcycling For Kids post, Singapore generates an embarrassing amount of textile waste, which is why I am trying to think of ways to give old clothes a new lease of life instead of discarding them.
Whilst clearing out my wardrobe, I found a few teeshirts that have pretty cute designs on them but really do not suit me anymore. These shirts, although beloved, weren’t really fancy enough to be worth putting aside for Little E for the future. So I decided to repurpose them into cute outfits for Little E to wear right now!
Due to the fact I have the Midas Touch when it comes to sewing machines (i.e. I turn them into blocks of inert metal), this will be a no-sew tutorial.
How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a No-Sew Tasselled Tunic (2 versions)
- Old Teeshirt
- Tunic Top That Already Fits
Cutting around the teeshirt to make it the correct size
- Lay Old Teeshirt flat
- Place Tunic Top That Already Fits on top of teeshirt to act as a guide
- Cut the teeshirt into 1 inch strips all around the sides, bottom and sleeves), leaving a 1 – 2 inch border around the Tunic Top That Already Fits (depending on how tight you want the final result to be)
- Trim off the tassels on the sleeves, leaving just one pair of tassels in the centre, which you can tie off with a knot. This makes cute, new fluttery sleeves for your new garment!
Knotting the sleeves, sides and bottom of the teeshirt
- Cut the side seams of the teeshirt, then stretch the tassels as long as they will go, until the fabric rolls in on itself. If you don’t use a seamless teeshirt, cut off the seams entirely for a nicer look
- On the sides of the teeshirt, tie each pair of tassels (one front and one back) tightly together with a knot, to make a row of knots and tassels down each side of the tunic top.
- For the bottom of the teeshirt, stretch the tassels until the fabric rolls in on itself, then knot each pair of tassels (side by side) tightly together. When you are done, you should have created a hem of knots around the bottom of your tunic.
- Then, create a second row of knots by tying pairs of knots together. Don’t worry about the tassels looking uneven – you can trim them to equal lengths once you are done. I left our uneven because I thought it looked nicer that way.
- Your new and improved tunic is ready to wear!
Little E wearing the No-Sew Tasseled Tunic (With Sleeves)
- If you think that the neckline and sleeves of the Tasseled Tunic are too big (especially if you’re trying to make it fit a tiny tot), you can turn the whole thing into a sassy sleeveless number. Cut the sleeves off at the seams and at the tops of the shoulders, then tie them off with a knot.
- Wear your new Tasseled Tunic with pride!
Little E wearing the No-Sew Tasseled Tunic (Without Sleeves)
P.S. Check out my No-Sew Hobo Bag Tutorial here.
In the last 6 months, whilst I’ve been ruthlessly downsizing my wardrobe, I’ve become ever more aware of the amount of waste there is just from the amount of clothes I’ve had to remove from my house (more on this in another post).
I was appalled to find out that in Singapore, we generate over 156,700 tonnes of textile and leather waste in a single year. This means that in Singapore, we generate THREE tonnes of textile waste every 5 minutes! And less than 8% of that is recycled. Yikes!!!
Upcycling is a great way to breathe new life into old clothes, and if you are anything like me and cause all sewing machines within a 100m to malfunction, here is a great No-Sew tutorial that is so simple, even a kid could do it!
How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a Cute No-Sew Hobo Bag
- Old Tee-shirt
- Using the scissors, cut off the sleeves of the teeshirt.
- Then, holding the shirt together, cut off the collar of the teeshirt to make the opening of the bag. A nice oval shape will do.
- Decide how deep you want the bag to be. I used a large square book as a guide.
- Cut the bottom of the teeshirt into strips about 1 inch wide to make a row of tassels. (Pro-tip: I left the book on the teeshirt and just cut the teeshirt up to the bottom of the book.)
- Make sure you also cut the side seam of the teeshirt.
- Turn the shirt inside out.
- Stretch the tassels as far as they will go. This will make them long and thin and easier to work with.
- Knot each pair of tassels (one tassel from the front and one from the back of the tee-shirt) tightly together. The shirt will begin to bunch up at the bottom, and you’ll have a row of knots with two strands hanging out of each knot.
- (Optional Step) Take any strand from the first knot and tie it tightly to any strand from the second knot in the row. Then from the second knot, take the remaining strand and tie it to any strand from the third knot in the row. Continue down the row, tying all the knots together. This will close up the gaps between the knots and make the base of your bag more secure.
- Now turn the bag inside out so that the shirt logo and patterns are showing and all the knots and tassels are on the inside. You should have two straps at the top of your bag.
- Cut the two straps in half where the shoulder seam is, knotting them at the top to create the shoulder strap for the hobo bag.
- If you like the look of the tassels, leave them outside the bag for a cute boho look.
- You can leave the two straps at the top alone if you prefer a simple tote bag.
- You can cut each strap at the top into three strips and braid them together to make a braided shoulder strap.