The Circle of Waste Rug

Circle of Waste Rug

A community project by Upcycle Newcastle

What are we making?

Upcycle Newcastle is helping create a community made rag rug (hopefully getting to 6m in diameter) from old t-shirts, clothing and linen. We will be taking the rug to different venues in the Hunter region to work on it with people over the coming months.

Why make it?

Upcycle Newcastle aims to demonstrate ways of taking responsibility for our own waste. We also work to show creative ways of making the stuff we want, from stuff we already have.

The clothing and textile industry uses vast amounts of the world’s resources – water, energy and land – and creates huge amounts of pollution and waste. One t-shirt and pair of jeans is estimated to use 20,000L of water. The cotton industry alone uses 25% of the world’s pesticides and herbicides. Fast fashion has created a system of unsustainable consumption of clothing and textiles that has huge environmental impacts.

Our Circle of Waste rug is a demonstration of a creative and collaborative way of re-using damaged, old and discarded textile items rather than sending these items to landfill or dumping them in other countries. (Have a read about the impact of second hand clothing in Africa.) It allows us to have discussions with people about waste and consumption in a non-threatening context, and is also an engaging community building project.

Our inspiration

(Photo: Fritz Haeg)

Fritz Haeg led a team of people in the US in 2013 to create the Domestic Integrities A05 rug. It grew to 27 feet (8m) in diameter. This rug was constructed in donut sections (as ours will be) for ease of transporting. They used a finger crochet method.

How are we making it?

We plan to engage many people in the Hunter region in making this rug – we hope it will truly be a community made piece. We have already received lots of donations of materials and over 100 people have contributed to its construction as at 10 November 2017. People will be able to cut and prepare the materials as well as construct the rug with us.

We are using the Amish Knot or ‘toothbrush rug’ technique which is a blanket stitch using old toothbrushes upcycled into large needles. This is a traditional Amish technique of creating a rag rug.

Once the centre section reaches about 2.5 to 3m in diameter, we will commence the second section to be a donut shape to fit around the inner section. Constructing the rug in this way will make it manageable to carry and transport.

What will happen to it when it’s finished?

At this stage we’re not sure! As the rug grows and more people get to see it, we are planning on asking for expressions of interest from groups or organisations who would like to host the rug short or long term.

How you can get involved

We’re always looking for people to help out! Keep an eye on our events page, the Transition Newcastle Facebook page or join the Upcycle Newcastle Facebook group to see where it will be next and join in the fun or just come and have a look. You can join us for an few minutes or a few hours, and we’d welcome helpers who can assist in taking the rug to the community and help others in making it.

So far we’ve had people between the ages of 5 and 91 helping us make the rug. Everybody is welcome!

If you would like to host the rug at a venue, a community event or even a social group, or want more details, contact Cathy by email ( or by phone (0411 434 013).