The braided rug (also called the rag rug and many other names) is often overlooked at not worthy of being included in the crafts category. But with a history of being an economical and utilitarian necessity and with the impressive characteristics of durability comfort, and attractiveness, the braided rug is respected in some circles today.
I never knew anything negative about braided rugs—growing up with a grandmother who would save clothing rejects, cut them into strips and sew them before braiding them into heavy-duty and attractive floor covers.
I never thought twice about helping out when my grandmother would put me to work at the braiding process.
And I never considered making a braided rug a burden. To the contrary, learning how to make a braided rug is unbelievably simple, fast, and cheap—far cheaper than buying one!
Instructions for Making a Braided Rug
- Decide if you want a lighter weight braided rug or a woollen one. Accordingly, collect discarded materials and clothing or saved fabric scraps and remnants.Or, in keeping the cost down, visit a garage sale, flea market, or thrift shop.Note: You can also buy new fabric, of course; and in some stores (like Dorr Woollen in Newport, NH), can even find pre-cut strips.
- [If you don’t use pre-cut strips], press the wool if necessary. (Lay material flat; lay a damp cotton cloth—such as a clean dish towel—over the wool; and apply a steam iron.)
- Cut the material into strips. Make all the strips the same width, realizing that the wider the strips (along with the heavier the material) the thicker the finished braid. Some say 2” wide; others suggest 4” wide. It’s your call.
- Sew the small strips together with right sides facing, end-to-end, doing so at a ninety-degree angle (and trimming excess), so that you end up at this stage with three lengths of wool. Again, the longer the three strips are the bigger your rug will be.
- Bind together the three strips at one end.
- Using a braid stand (looks like an old spinning wheel guide, but with a forked clamp, insert the bound end into the notch. Or, using a heavy item to hold the end(s) in place (and to keep them from twisting), begin braiding:Say the three strands are in front of you, splayed. The far left strip is A; the middle strip is B; and the far right strip is C. C is passed over B. A is passed over C. Repeat.
- Once you have one very long braid, sew the two open ends, to secure the braid.
- Now you are ready to form a braided rug shape. Decide on the shape you prefer. Lay the braid in the centre of the floor, and make a starter coil. Wind the braid around the centre coil, which is as tight as it can be, and keep winding until you reach the end of the braid.
- Leave the shape in place, and take up a sturdy sewing needle and heavy carpet thread (in a colour that matches or blends in) or clear nylon thread. Sew the rows of braid to each other, keeping to the topside of the rug
You are now experienced in making a braided rug. And with so little time and cost and with all that character, ability to endure years of foot traffic, and handmade care, who could disrespect such a wonderful household addition?