Re-purposed T-Shirts Rag Rug

Tumeric Natural Dye_T-Shirts RugNatural dyes and upcycled old t-shirts! These unique and beautiful eco-friendly rag rugs are a great project to re-purpose old fabric and freshen up your bedroom.

There are many ways to make rugs with old clothing: crocheted, knitted, braided, knotted, glued and sewn.This project consists of sewing 4 inch strips of fabric to a towel. You will need a sewing machine, an old hand towel as your base material (a large t-shirt or any thick piece of material will work too), fabric (old shirts, sheets, sweatshirts, mixed left over pieces of fabric, etcetera), and a free afternoon to complete the job.

You can use old t-shirts, sheets, stained Fabric strips and old towelclothing—even denim—anything that is too or too old or wore out to donate. Three old medium white tees and a 14’’ x 27’’ stained hand towel were used to make each of the rugs featured in this article. Additionally, a natural dye bath was used to transform the dull and stained white old t-shirts into new and vibrantly colored fabrics. If your material is already colored, even better. Mix colors, prints, and textures. Check what you have at home and get creative!

Hibiscus flowers and turmeric root were used to create these gorgeous lilac and a bright yellow colors. Other natural items that can be used as dyes include: berries, red cabbage, tea, tree bark, herbs, and different types of roots and flowers. Distilled vinegar is commonly used as a fixative in natural dyeing processes, it helps the color to adhere better to the fabric and last longer.

For more green projects, visit GSU’s Clever Recycling page!


1. Color Fixative (helps dye to adhere to the fabric):

Soak your fabric in water before placing it in the pot. Place damp white fabric in a large pot on medium heat (cotton and wool work best). Then cover with appropriate parts of vinegar and water (1 part of distilled vinegar for every 4 parts of water) and bring to a boil. Boil for about one hour, remove from heat and rinse with cold water (wear rubber gloves for safety).

2. Dye Bath:

Fill a large pot half way with water and place it on medium heat. Add you plant material to the pot (2 cups of dry Hibiscus or ¼ cup of turmeric). Bring water to a boil and let simmer on low heat: 20 minutes for the turmeric bath and one hour for the flowers bath (remove flowers from pot before adding the fabric). Then place your damp fabric in the dye bath and let it boil for about an hour. Use tongs to move your fabric around from time to time. If you want the tie-dye look, use rubber bands to keep cloth from moving or just simply don’t stir the fabric during the bath. Once you obtain the desired color, remove pot from heat, drain dye bath down the sink, rinse the fabric thoroughly, and let dry.
Once the material is dry, it’s time to prep! It can take up to two hours to prepare all the material and around two hours to sew it to the towel (or base material).


Materials: old fabric of your choice, scissors, marker, long ruler, sewing machine, and thread.


  1. Using the marker and ruler, draw straight lines one inch apart over the entire length of the towel or base material. If your towel is 27 inches wide, 25 straight lines should be drawn to the towel and 27 lines should be sewn (this includes both ends of the towel).
  2. Cut the t-shirts into one inch wide strips. To be exact and avoid wasting material, you may want to lightly mark the t-shirts too before cutting them. Once you have cut all of the fabric, cut the strips into 4 inches long pieces.
  3. Divide your 1” x 4” strips into 27 equal groups so all of the material gets used and  each line has equal amounts of fabric. In this rugs, around 30 strips of fabric were used for each line.
  4. Starting at the edge of you towel or base material begin placing the strips of fabric (centered and slightly overlapping) and start sewing down the line! Repeat this step until you have completed the 27 lines and sewn all of the t-shirt strips.
    NOTE: To create the curls on the fabric, soak the rug, throw it in the dryer for a little while and voilà!