How to crochet a rug out of t-shirt yarn and twine... so that it looks like you bought it in the store

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Our little school changed its uniform this year. The little blue-grey polo shirts are no longer in use; they've been upgraded to smarter-looking navy shirts. The children look nicer, but it left me with a problem: what was I going to do with the still-perfectly-good blue grey shirts in their cupboards? 

I've been looking for ways to reduce what I put into landfill and it seemed just terrible to be throwing out shirts that are still wearable. (Let's face it, no one else is going to wear an ex-school uniform shirt just because it's in the Op Shop.) I had a think about what I could do with them, and somehow discovered the concept of 't-shirt yarn'. Basically, you cut up your old t-shirts into one long strip, pull it a little, and voila, there's a length of something you can knit or crochet with.

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It's pretty easy to turn a t-shirt into yarn. There are instructions all over the internet, so I won't go into it here. You need a shirt and some good scissors. I stole my husband's new ones (but I put them back afterwards.) Each ball of yarn in the photo comes from one shirt, so you get a pretty good amount. I cut my shirts into 1 1/2 inch strips. Because the material is fairly thick I ended up with a chunky yarn.

The question then was: what will I make out of all this yarn? The answer came as I looked at the empty space on my family room floor. We needed a rug and I didn't want to go out and spend a couple of hundred dollars on a new one. Surely I could create some kind of rug out of the old school shirts? 

The idea grew, and I asked for other people's cast off shirts. I wouldn't have enough yarn for a rug just from what my kids wore. But I still couldn't decide: what kind of rug would it be? I've made a braided rug before, over 25 years ago now, but I sewed that together and it took forever. This rug would have to be a no-sew project. 

I started to knit with the t-shirt yarn but it was heavy going, and I didn't have big enough needles to get the width I wanted. 

Crochet sounded possible, but there was a problem: I didn' t know how to crochet, and I didn't have a hook. When I discovered finger crochet and it seemed easy enough to pick up, I thought it might be the answer. I came up with this. It was easy and quick to put together, but it used a lot of yarn and I didn't like the scrappy effect. It would look more 'handmade' than I wanted it to.

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At this point, I investigated knotting, braiding, twisting, but I still couldn't find something that looked good enough yet was easy enough to do in front of the TV at night.

Scouring Pinterest, I finally came across a crocheted rug using yarn and twine. It was sophisticated enough that it didn't look too amateur, and I convinced myself that surely finger crochet couldn't be much harder than actually using a crochet hook? I headed out to Spotlight, picked up some twine, and a hook, and came back to have a go.

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I started with some navy t-shirt twine from a shirt my son grew out of, and then swapped over to the school uniform colour. I like the look of the neutral twine on the coloured yarn, and it will be very durable. The ball of twine cost me $24. I'm guessing I may need a second one as the rug gets bigger. But $50 for a rug for your living room is a pretty good price, amiright?

I followed these instructions from my poppet makes which were great. The only extra thing I had to do was a little more research on how to increase enough, but not too much so that the rug lies flat as it gets bigger. Too many stitches and it's wavy: too few, and it curls up. Who knew that there was a mathematical formula using Pi involved? Increase each round by six stitches every time! That's all it needs. To make sure it stays round, and doesn't become a hexagon, I'm making the increases random, putting them here and there rather than counting out my stitches.

Also, I've discovered that crocheting is pretty easy. (Well, at least just the basic stitch.)

The rug will take a long time to be as big as I want it to be. I'll be crocheting all year, but it's enjoyable and mindless, and I get the satisfaction of making something that will be well used and liked for our home, out of something that would otherwise be in landfill.