Zero-Waste Upcycling: How To Turn Old Sheets Into A DIY Rug

December 14, 2021

It’s winter. Our tile floors are ICY. We have rugs but they are usually occupied by at least one sleeping furry scoundrel. In a quest for warmer feet while re-using what I have, I’m making a rug out of two old sheets, a needle, and some thread. It’s a simple braided coiled rug and it’s very easy to make. I’m sure this rug will quickly be claimed by the dogs, but c’est la vie ;).

I was right!

Be warned: this requires a lot of fabric and hand sewing. It’s taken me two weeks of stolen moments, quiet hours while we watch documentaries, and a couple insomniac nights to finish the dang thing. This is an easy project to pick up and put down multiple times without issues, but it will take hours to complete (unless you’re well-practiced at hand sewing). Still, it’s worth it! My final product is a Van Gogh-esque floor mat and I’m thrilled with how it turned out. If you like rugs, free stuff, or comfy places for your companion animals to rest, please give this craft a try.

For this project you will need:

  • Two old sheets
  • Fabric scissors
  • A needle and thread
  • A ruler

Start by laying your sheets out flat on the floor. I chose to cut my sheets width-wise for ease, but you can also cut them length-wise if you desire. Mark three inches and cut.

My sheets were nice and thin so I was able to rip them along the cut with my hands (which is oddly soothing!). Continue down the side of the sheet. Do the same for the second sheet. This step is a lot of fun and a bit cathartic.

Now, take three strips of cloth and tie the top, leaving a few inches. I tied this end to my bed post. Start braiding. Make sure you keep the rope taut. The long strips of cloth will get tangled, so it’s best to detangle as you go in order to avoid a big knot.

Once you get to the end of one of the strips of cloth, take a new strip and fold it over the end of the first strip, then braid as usual. I like to do this when the end of the strip is in the middle, because it’s more secure. Continue braiding and incorporating strips of cloth.

At some point your rope will be ridiculously long and you’ll have trouble keeping it taut. You can put a weight on it, but I ended up using my foot because moving a weight every time the rope got long enough for slack was irritating.

So much braiding!

If you need to go back to regular life while braiding, just tie the ends into a loose knot and come back to it later.

Once you have braided all the strips together, leave an inch or so and sew the ends together. If your cloth strips aren’t even at the ends, just cut them to your desired length before sewing. Take the unfinished top part of your braid and braid until you have an inch or two of unbraided cloth. Sew the ends together.

Now, taking one end of the rope, make a small rosette, using the inch or so of unbraided cloth as a base. You can pin this in place for ease, but it isn’t necessary. Making small stitches, sew the rosette in place.

Join adjacent braids. I used multiple stitches (zig-zag, running stitch, chain stitch, back stitch) but any stitch will do. This is the back of the rug, so if mistakes are made, nobody will see them 😉 .

To join the braids, fit the edges together and stitch them as closely as possible. Don’t try to stitch through the braid; just poke through a bit of the surface of the braid, keeping your stitches small and closely spaced to ensure your rug does not fall apart. I made multiple knots at the ends of my string and back stitched the last stitches so the rug was secure.

Continue stitching, making the rosette gradually larger until you get to the end of your rug. Stitch the excess fabric onto the bottom of your rug and voila! You’re finished!

If I get the time to do this again, I definitely want to try it with tie-dyed sheets. For now, I’m going to rest my hands and eschew sewing until my fingers stop stinging from all the needle pricks. You can also use this same technique and modify how you sew/stack the braids to make a hat or basket. If you decide to tackle this project, learn from my mistake and use a thimble 😉 !

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Photo: Jessi Ferguson

Jessica Ferguson
Jessi is an American expat living in India with her husband, child, and animal companions. She has been vegan for close to a decade and cares for sick and injured freely roaming animals with her husband. If she's not chasing after dogs or a toddler, Jessi can usually be found snuggling local cows, doing yoga, or meditating. For glow-ups of cute free roaming animals, check out @Karunya4animals on twitter!

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