Taproot at Home :: T-Shirt Rag Rugs

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T-Shirt Rag Rugs 

Tutorial by Amanda Riley

Originally Published in Issue 16::SHELTER. 

Once quite commonplace in Europe (particularly England) and then in Colonial New England and south, rag rugs followed the frontier during the westward expansion of the United States. Scraps of fabric from worn-out clothing, bedding, and household furnishings used to be seen as precious, especially considering how much work and time had been put into the processing of this material. Thrifty homemakers held on to these scraps, and once they collected enough of them, pieced them together into quilts or wove or braided them into rugs. Rag rugs aren’t nearly as common today. Today it is easy enough to buy an inexpensive rug to throw down on the kitchen or bathroom floor without thinking twice, but certainly there is every reason to be just as thrifty and resourceful now. All you need is a pile of old T-shirts in whatever colors inspire you, a pair of scissors, a large (empty) picture frame, and a bit of patience and time. 

The rugs I make are woven, so they are composed of a “warp” and a “weft.” In weaving, long strands are attached vertically, under tension, to a framework (these are the warp). Usually, a continuous strand is then woven in and out of these, left to right and right to left and so on, building rows of fabric (these are the weft).

For the warp of these rugs, we will simply use long strips of T-shirt material tied tightly around an empty picture frame (see photo 1).

For the weft, we will use “loops” of T-shirt material (see photo 2).

Using loops for the weft will allow you to add on new weft material as you weave, without needing to sew pieces together: simply thread the end of the new piece through the end of the just-woven piece, and then pull the other end of the new piece through its first end (see photo 3).

As you weave the pieces over and under, simply turn back the way you just came when you reach the end of the warp row, being careful not to pull too tightly so as to keep the finished rug nice and squared off on the sides. (Pulling tightly will cause the rug to take on an hourglass shape, so resist the urge to neaten it up by doing so.). From time to time, push the entire woven warp up from the bottom to tighten it up (see photos 4-6 for details). To finish your rug, simply cut or untie from the frame, then tie the ends of the warp pieces together. Happy making!  

 

 

 

 

2 comments

Could you estimate how many, say, men’s t-shirts are needed for a square foot of rug…or a 16×20′s worth?

ms.bug April 04, 2020

Could you estimate how many, say, men’s t-shirts are needed for a square foot of rug…or a 16×20′s worth?

ms.bug April 04, 2020

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