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t-shirt latch hook rug tutorial

May 26th, 2009 by elle

I really love flokati rugs. I have two that are safely tucked away in my parents basement awaiting our reunion. When I learned that I would be having a child and building a nursery for him, I wanted a flokati. A gray one. Being a flokati snob though, I knew that I couldn’t afford the price tag (a whole months rent), and I knew that I would be too precious about the rug (and be leary of the body fluids that babies seem to leak all over the place). So I chose the only sensible alternative: I would make a rug.

I’m going to show you how it’s done, but let me warn you- while this rug was super inexpensive to make with the resource of money- it was very costly in the resource of time. I have easily 60 hours invested into this rug, and many many more hours donated by family and friends. I love that I started it while I was pregnant and worked on it while Jack was a teeny tiny newborn. I love that my Mom and I sat with it on our lap, each hooking from one side to the other, meeting each other in the middle, while my overdue belly hindered my progress.

And now, this is how to make your very own latch hook rug.

Latch hook canvas
latch hook tool
old t-shirts
scissors or rotary cutting tool/mat
seam binding
masking tape
dye (optional)

All of these things should be available at your local craft store, with the exception of the old t-shirts. I found thrift stores that were doing bag sales and loaded my bags up with white t-shirts. I also asked my local freecyclers if they had any white t-shirts to spare. I was able to purchase all of the supplies, including shirts, for under $25.

On to the making! The first thing that you want to do is plan. Decide how large you would like your rug to be and what colors/designs you would like. I chose to just make it one all one color, battleship gray (much to the chagrin of my submariner husband!). Estimate how many shirts you’ll need because if you’re dyeing them, as I did, you’ll want to dye them all in one batch to get consistant color. I found that I needed 70 strips to fill one square (latch hook canvas is pre-printed with a grid), and that I could get approximately 250 strips for the average men’s t-shirt. Thus, I would need 2 shirts for every 7 squares. These numbers are a good starting point, but may need to be adjusted according to your design needs.
note: I chose to make this rug very thick. The 2 shirts for every 7 squares number is based on a very tight and very high piled rug. Super results can be achieved with less. I reccomend using half of this number if you’re making a larger rug, to save on time, and to reduce the bullk of the finished rug.

Once you’ve gathered all of your shirts, use a rotary cutting tool and mat (you can certainly use scissors but the results are less precise) to cut the shirts into 1 inch strips. It was easiest for me to fold the shirt in half, shoulder to shoulder and cut strips from the trunk of the shirt, up to the collar. It is important to make sure that the shirt is smooth and flat when cutting, or you’ll end up with uneven or jagged strips. All of these strips should then be cut into 4 inch segments. This cutting phase easily took me 20 hours (I was cutting up 51 shirts!).

a full box of t-shirt strips

Once you have all of the strips cut, it’s time to dye them if you’d like. I used Rit dye and just dumped them all into the washing machine.

dyeing the fabric strips

t-shirt strips clog the dryer

Once your strips are all ready to go, tape the edges of the latch hook canvas with the masking tape so that they won’t pull apart while your latching.

latch hook sides

Now you’re ready to hook! From the front of your rug, isolate a strand of the canvas with the latch hook tool. Make a loop with the t-shirt strip and place it on the end of the tool. Pull the latch hook tool down, through the canvas, pulling the t-shirt strip with it, leaving the strip halfway through the canvas. Slide the tool up to the remaining ends of the t-shirt strip and catch them. Pull them through the loop made by the t-shirt strip below the canvas.

latch hook

I chose to do this with every other available space on my latch hook canvas, and it made a very lush, very high pile rug. You may want to space it out differently for a larger rug, or for a rug with less bulk.

latch hook process

Continue until you run out of strips, or complete the size that you’d like!

latch hook back

When you’re done, bind the edges by hand using seam binding.

Here’s my completed rug, you can see that it gets Jack’s approval!

t shirt latch hook rug

t-shirt rug closeup

larch hook and toes

Jack and the t shirt rug

good luck and happy hooking!


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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brena & Jered May 26, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Glad you finished it! It looks GREAT! Thanks for letting us help a little. I’m still trying to decide if I want to do something like this for Camden’s room. Seeing how long it really takes I’m having a hard time pushing myself into the “do it” mode.

  • 2 Chris May 28, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Really cool that you made this by hand. I love these rugs but damn that’s a lot of time. I’m not a knitting or shuttle-r or whatever else some of my friends who give me stuff that they invested this much time into, but I respect it. RESPECT!

  • 3 Stephani May 29, 2009 at 1:29 am

    That is so awesome! Thanks for the tutorial, I think this will make a really fun project for my girls and I. Yours turned out so cute, and baby Jack makes it looks so cozy. :)

  • 4 AndrewBoldman Jun 4, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I really liked this post. Can I copy it to my site? Thank you in advance.

  • 5 mub Jun 8, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    This turned out lovely! I just got a hold of some rug canvas and am thinking I want to do something like this with it!

  • 6 Pam (dieverdog) Aug 11, 2009 at 11:08 am

    wow, that’s cool! I bet it’s soft too. I can envision it in other colors and patterns too. You should write a book on it, I bet it would get published!

  • 7 Karen Aug 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Hello, I came across your blog and found your impressive rug. Love the colour and texture of it.

  • 8 patricia phenicie Sep 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Hi, love what you did. Do you know where I could find a large lot of shirts? I am sitting most of the time due to an injury, and I want to do something beautiful like you did. Thanks, Patricia

  • 9 Lucinda Nov 11, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I am so excited to have found your great tutorial! I’ve been wanting to make one of these rugs ever since I saw one in a baby store, but figured I’d have to just guess. There was no way I was going to pay for one at the store! Now to start my t-shirt collecting! I’d never have thought you would need so many! Did you use new t-shirts? Your cut strips look awfully white! Do you think it would work with old shirts? I love the pics of your baby on the rug, by the way. So cute!

  • 10 Rachel Dec 3, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    This rug looks great! So glad I found this tutorial because I’ve been planning to make a rug like this for a while now. I had a hard time finding a rug canvas large enough. The biggest I could find is 36″ x 60″ so that’s as big as my rug will be. A great way to save a whole step is to use jersey knit sheets! I purchased a set of full sized sheets in the color I want my rug to be at my local Ross (Marshalls, TJMaxx, etc) for only $11. I’m hoping the flat sheet, fitted sheet, and two pillow cases will provide me with enough fabric for my rug, and it saves having to find all the tshirts then dying them. Otherwise a great place to find tshirts is a goodwill. I make scarves out of old tshirts and always get them there.

  • 11 Karen Manasco Dec 2, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve viewed this page, and find it hard to believe there are not a ton of compliments and comments. Love, love, love this rug, and am in the process of making one of my own. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • 12 elle Dec 6, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Thanks Karen! I actually lost my whole website about a year ago (when I was updating and forgot to back-up first!) and lost all 300+ comments. I’d love to see yours when it’s complete!

  • 13 Liz Dec 12, 2014 at 2:19 am

    Hi there, just stumbled on your Site, and love it. I’m very much a diy er. :). One question about the rug. You said that you cut out one inch stripes… Is that one X one? I’d like to give this rug a go, and see how it turns out. Thanks.

  • 14 elle Dec 17, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Hi Liz! I hope that you do try this out! I cut the strips into 1 x 4 inch strips. Let me know how it goes for you- happy holidays!