Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Recycled T-Shirt Seat Cushion Tutorial

A few weeks ago I made this braided cushion out of old t-shirts. They were in good condition, but I couldn't see anyone at Good Will wanting an old running shirt or a Hannaford t-shirt. It seems like every time I run a race I get a new shirt and no one needs 40 t-shirts. This was a great project that freed up some space in my dresser.

Since that post, a few people have asked for a tutorial. Today I made another braided rug/cushion so I could show you how to do it!

1. Grab three old t-shirts. If you want to make a rug (larger than the seat cushion above) you'll need at least 6 shirts. You'll also need a ruler and a good pair of scissors.

2. Cut the top of the shirt off. Start at one armpit and cut across to the other armpit.

3. Make a 2-cm slit on one side of your t-shirt, two inches from the left side. Continue to make 2-cm slits every two inches apart. Use a ruler as your guide. If you want to make a coaster or something smaller, then I would recommend one-inch spaces, which creates a thinner yarn.

4. When you get to the bottom of the t-shirt, cut off the seam/folded over part.

You should have one large, folded piece of t-shirt. It almost resembles a pillow case, which could also be used in this project! 

An example of the slits

5. Using your 2-cm slits as guides, cut panels in the t-shirt, but DO NOT cut all the way to the other side. Leave about a 1.5 inch of uncut t-shirt at the top, as shown below.

Your t-shirt should now look like this, still connected on one side.

6. Open your t-shirt and start on the right hand side. Cut a diagonal slit that goes from the bottom, right hand-side of one panel, across to the top of the other panel. This will create one continuous piece of fabric. I can't quite figure out how to explain this step, so leave a comment if you need clarification. It's also helpful to practice on a piece of paper or a paper bag before doing this step. The key thing to keep in mind is that you want ONE piece of fabric, not many. If you end up messing up and cut the fabric too soon, you can fix the mistake by sewing the pieces together.

7. Your t-shirt should now resemble this continuous strand of fabric.

7. Find one end of your t-shirt and hold with both hands. Pull taunt. This will "curl" the fabric to create your yarn. 

An example of curled fabric on the left, versus the fresh cut fabric on the right.

9. Keep pulling the fabric until it is all curled.

10. Roll into a ball

The more colors/t-shirts you have, the more options you have for your seat-cushion or rug!

11. Some may choose to sew the pieces together, however, I just knotted the ends of three pieces of t-shirt yarn to get started. I take the knot apart when I sew the cushion together. This of course, is after the rug is completely braided.

12. Start braiding until you reach the end of your balls of t-shirt yarn! Be careful! These balls of yarn tangle very easily. I found that the best way to keep them from getting tangled is to move each ball side to side, every time I add a new layer to the braid. 

Wilson absolutely loves the balls of yarn

13. Once you reach the end, tie your yarn into a knot. Don't worry about tying it tight. Once you start sewing you will need to be able to take the knot apart.

14. Warning: You'll need thread and a needle for the next part! Start in the middle of your rug/cushion and use a straight stitch to sew the sides of the braids together. You can create a circular shape, oval, or even a square. I did this by hand, but some people may be able to figure it out on a sewing machine (which I don't have!). When you get to the very end of your rope, untie the knot and sew the yarn into the bottom of the rug/cushion.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if you make a rug/cushion of your own! I'd love to see what others create with t-shirt yarn!


  1. I can't wait to do this! Do you mean 2 inch strips, or is it really cms? Cms just seem so small!

    1. The strips should be 2 inches wide. I cut a 2cm slit the shirt before cutting the full strips to mark the two inches, instead of using a pencil to mark them. You could always use a pencil instead, and make marks on it every two inches.

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