This is a project that takes some time to complete, but the results are impressive! First I rounded up all the old t-shirts that my family had out-grown or worn out and used a rotary cutter and cutting mat to remove the hems. Then I cut 3/4″ strips going across the bottom of the shirts until I reached the sleeves. This left me with large loops of t-shirt. I then cut off the sleeves and cut them into strips as well.
I needed to have a base for my carpet, so I used a piece of burlap. I cut the fabric to the desired size leaving an additional two inches on all sides, then I taped off the edges with masking tape to keep them from unraveling. Next,I drew out my design with a permanent marker. I found it easier to use simple, free-flowing shapes, like pre-school coloring book images, but this was a personal choice. The only caution is to be sure and have enough of the same color strips to complete the design. It is good to have a back-up plan in case you run short.
In order to be able to have both hands free, a frame of some sort is necessary. A quilting or embroidery frame will work or anything that will hold the fabric in such a way as to allow one hand above and one hand below the fabric. The picture to the left is my home-made frame. The dowels which hold it up are fourteen inches long. This made it comfortable to work on the carpet while sitting on the floor (I use a stadium seat!). I stretched the fabric out over the frame and tacked it in place using upholstery tacks.
Hooking the rug is actually very simple. I picked up a loop of T-shirt and cut off the side seams. (Some shirts do not have side seams. Just cut through it so that it becomes a long strip.) I held the t-shirt strip in my left hand (under the fabric), and, using a crochet hook in my right hand, I pushed down through the fabric from the top and pulled the end of the strip up. I pulled it up until is stood about half an inch high. Following the outline of the shape I had drawn, I pulled loops of the T-shirt up from the bottom through the holes in the burlap to the height that I wanted the pile of the carpet to be. I did not draw up a loop in every hole. Doing so would only have made it hard to pull up the loops and caused the carpet to curl. As long as the area is filled in and the burlap cannot be seen, then there is enough T-shirt coverage.
When I reached the end of the strip, I pulled it to the top of the carpet and cut off both it and the starting end to the height of the loops. Picking up another strip, I continued to pull loops up through the burlap, working in a spiral toward the center of the shape being filled. Once I reached the middle, I pulled the strip through to the top and cut the end even with the top of the loops. I continued in this way until the entire pattern was complete.
After I had removed carpet from the frame, I placed it face down on my ironing board and ironed the back with a steam iron. This helped to “set” the loops in their new position. If the carpet needs to have slight adjustments made to straighten its edges, try blocking if by pinning the carpet to a flat surface in the correct shape, dampening it, and ironing it dry.
The final step in this project was to fold the edges of the burlap under once and iron them to the back of the carpet. Then, using upholstery thread, I whip stitched the edges of the burlap in place. I tried to sew through the burlap that was still visible on the back of the carpet rather than through the loops to avoid the possibility of pulling the loops out. I also recommend sewing a piece of carpet backing on to the underside of the carpet to keep it from sliding around on the floor.
As I was working on this project, I was reminded again of the awesome nature of my God. Just as I had an overall design for my carpet and worked each loop of color in to the carpet in accordance with that plan, so my God has had a plan for mankind. In one blinding second of eternity, He set down exactly what He wanted to accomplish, down to the smallest detail! Unlike my plan, which ran into a few unforeseen problems that required changes to be made, His plan is perfect and will never be altered. Nothing will ever surprise Him: no action of flesh or spirit ever thwart His purpose.
I am reminded of the verses in Isaiah 46:9-10 which state, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure”. From the beginning of time, His perfect purposes have been set like the guidelines on my carpet, and each kingdom, each world event, and each human life are like the loops, each one moved into place just as He desires it. What an anchor for the soul in the “dark portions” of the pattern of our lives to know that the Artist in control of the overall design promised to work all things out for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28). One day, I will be able to see the full tapestry of God’s design and see just how my life blended perfectly into the pattern of His purpose. And I will be able to say with rejoicing, “It is good!”
Update 1/2o15 – I have been using this rug for several years now, and I have found only one detraction to its design. Though I have not had to wash it frequently, I have run it through the washer and dryer and the burlap backing is beginning to break down. Material possessions always break or wear out eventually, but the life of a carpet on this design might do better if it is cleaned with a carpet cleaner instead of going through the washer and dryer. Hand washing and air-drying might also extend its life. If you think that you will want to wash it in the washing machine, it might be better to use the mesh for hooked rugs rather than the burlap.