Repurposing old clothes into rugs and quilts is a great way to give your wardrobe a new life and create beautiful handmade items for your home. Not only is this a budget-friendly DIY project, it also reduces textile waste.
This in-depth guide will teach you everything you need to know about transforming old clothes into stunning rugs and quilts you can use to decorate your home or give as gifts.
The first step is to gather the key materials you’ll need:
- Focus on natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool – they’ll hold up best for rugs and quilts.
- Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester as they won’t quilt or felt as well.
- Choose clothes with minimal embellishments for easier sewing and cutting.
- T-shirts, dresses, jeans, and wool sweaters tend to work great.
Fabric and Filling
- Cotton fabric like quilting cottons help tie quilt tops to batting and backing.
- Batting provides cushioning and warmth – cotton or wool are good options.
- Backing fabric gives the underside of a quilt stability – consider flannel or quilt backing fabrics.
- Sewing machine for constructing quilts or attaching rug fabrics.
- Fabric scissors for cutting up clothes and fabrics.
- Rotary cutter and mat makes cutting fabric easier.
- Iron and ironing board to press seams and fabrics.
- Straight pins, clips, and needles for sewing.
Making Cloth Rugs
One way to repurpose old clothes is by making braided, coiled, or punched rugs. Here are some techniques to try:
This style uses fabric strips braided together to form an oval or round rug shape.
- Cut or tear clothing into 1-2 inch wide strips.
- Sew strips together end-to-end into 3 long strands.
- Braid the strands together tightly.
- Coil the braid into a spiral and sew in place.
- Add a backing fabric for stability.
Denim jeans, t-shirts, and flannel shirts work great for braided rugs.
For this technique, fabric strips are coiled in a spiral to build a rug.
- Cut or tear fabric into 1-2 inch wide bias-cut strips.
- Using an oval rug base or drawn pattern, begin coiling strips inward.
- Apply fabric glue or hand sew each coil in place.
- Continue coiling until you fill the space.
- Finish by gluing or sewing a backing in place.
Try making a coiled rag rug using old cotton dresses or linen fabrics.
Punched or Locker Hooked Rugs
These rugs use short loops of fabric punched through burlap or monk’s cloth backing.
- Cut fabric into 1-3 inch wide strips.
- Fold the strips in half or thirds lengthwise.
- Use a special tool to punch the folded fabric through a rigid cloth backing in loops across rows.
- Trim the rug’s edges once all loops are punched through.
Flannel and tweed fabrics are ideal for punched rugs.
Constructing Quilts from Old Clothes
For quilts, you’ll cut up clothing into squares or rectangles to form a patchwork top, then sandwich fillings between the quilt top, backing, and binding.
Making the Quilt Top
- Select which old clothes to use and cut into squares or rectangles.
- Arrange and sew the fabric pieces into rows.
- Sew the rows together, adding sashing or borders if desired.
Upcycle t-shirts, dress shirts, jeans, and wool sweaters for the quilt top.
Assembling the Quilt Sandwich
- Make sure the quilt top, batting, and backing are each larger than your final quilt size.
- Layer the batting between the quilt top and backing.
- Baste the 3 layers together using pins or quilting stitches.
Choose cotton batting and flannel backing for warmth and coziness.
Finishing the Quilt
- Quilt the 3 layers together by hand or machine using straight or decorative stitching.
- Sew the binding strips together and join to quilt edges to encase raw edges.
- Add a label detailing your quilt making process.
Binding the quilt completes the heirloom-quality finish.
Helpful Tips and Tricks
Follow these tips to help make your repurposed fabric creations a success:
- Pre-wash and dry fabrics to prevent later shrinking
- Start with smaller projects like placemats to practice techniques
- Use sharp fabric scissors, rotary blades, and cutters for smooth cuts
- Iron seam allowances open or to one side for flatness
- Sew samples to test stitch settings and compatibility of fabrics
- Square up rug and quilt edges along the way for even borders
- Add whimsical embellishments like buttons, ribbons, or applique
With a little creativity and patience, you can give your old clothes new life in the form of beautiful and usable rugs and quilts!