Make a Rag Rug

Recycle old clothes and other fabrics by making them into a cozy, colorful rag rug.
By Amanda Blake Soule
January 8, 2010
Add to My MSN

As you collect fabrics for your rag rug, you may want to sort them by color, shade or pattern, then cut and sew them into strips and roll them into a ball.
SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

2010 Predictions: Interior Design Trends

For part two in our 2010 Predictions series, Natural Home forecasts warm, vibrant colors and more na...

River Rages During Spring Melt

As the first of the spring rains arrive, our river begins to flood.

Weave Old T-Shirts Without a Loom

Used T-shirts can be turned into many useful household items, including weaving without a loom.

The following is an excerpt from Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures  by Amanda Blake Soule (Trumpeter, an imprint of Shambhala Publications , 2009). 

Though the popularity of making rag rugs has ebbed and flowed through the centuries, the tradition has stayed alive. Rooted deep in handcrafting for family life, rag rugs carry the essence and the history of repurposing as a necessity as well as an art. Rag rugs can be made in a number of different ways. If you’re lucky, you might have the greatest learning source of all in a living relative who can teach you the skill. My Great Aunt Maddie was a rag rug maker, and with her passing, my family was left with a plethora of rag rugs that she made over the past century. All of them were created from clothing and other household items that she also made.

When I added one of Aunt Maddie’s rugs to my home, I was inspired to create the same myself and carefully studied her rugs to discern the method she used. Making rag rugs has turned into a wonderful way for me to extend the life of some fabrics and clothing my family loves, keep our home cozy and warm, and connect to our past.

PATTERN DETAILS

Level: Intermediate
Time to finish: A Season
Finished size: As desired

USE WHAT YOU HAVE

Many different fabrics work well for rag rugs. However, to have a uniform thickness, it’s helpful to use similarly weighted fabrics. Standard-weight cotton clothing works fine, as well as heavier wool, denim, corduroy and chamois. (This rag rug is made from midweight cotton clothing — shirts, pants, rags and dish towels.)

MATERIALS

Fabric (discarded clothing of the same fabric weight)
Lacing cord
Hand-quilting thread
Heavy-duty needle (with a blunt tip and a large eye)
Darning needle

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Gather all materials as described above. (The gathering process of this project may take several weeks or months, depending upon the availability of fabric.) As you collect fabrics, you may want to sort them by color, shade or pattern, cut and sew them into strips, then roll them into a ball as explained below to keep your piles neat. I usually just cut it as I go, without worrying about color order, making the rug a bit more of a surprise in color at the end.

    To prepare your materials, cut the fabric into 2-inch strips of any length. Cut the short ends. To join the strips, place the two strips of fabric, right sides together, and then stitch a 5/8-inch seam. Roll the fabric strips into a ball, as you would yarn. Continue cutting strips and sewing them together until you have a large ball about 6 inches or more in diameter. Make three balls.

  2. When you have three large balls, you can prepare the strips for braiding. Begin by folding the two raw edges of your strips in toward the wrong side of the fabric, approximately 1/4 of an inch on each side. Press. Continue along the entire length of ball, rewinding it as you go. Repeat this process for the other two balls.

    Take one end from each of your three fabric balls and loop the three strips together, forming a loose knot. Place the knot on a doorknob or a hook to begin braiding.

  3. Using a classic three-strand braid, braid until the strand is approximately 10 inches long, at which point you can start to coil the braid.

    First, remove the braid from the doorknob, tighten the knot, and cut off any excess strands before the knot.

    Next, create a tight spiral with the braid. Hold the braid in place by lacing the braids rather than stitching them. Using a lacing cord and a heavy-duty needle, weave the needle and cord from one strand of the braid on one side to another strand of the braid on the opposite side of the coil to which it is connected.

    Work a few feet in braiding and then do a bit of lacing. You’ll be working on your lap at the beginning and moving the coiled braid to the floor as the rug grows. Keep braiding and lacing until you are satisfied with the size of the rug. Braided rugs can be any size — for everything from a dollhouse-sized rug to a mat for a table to a full-sized rug. The size of your rug depends on your patience interest, and amount of materials at hand.

  4. To finish, trim the three strands to the same length and fold them over approximately half an inch, covering the raw edge. Lay this piece flat against the rug and complete the lacing. Secure the ends to the rug with regular heavyweight thread and a darning needle.


Reprinted with permission from Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures, published by arrangement with Trumpeter, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, 2009.

Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 

Lis Hylton_1
2/26/2010 9:42:58 AM
Hello Penny, Do you by any chance have photos depicting the method you are talking about? I would love to try but have zero experience with crocheting... Thanks! - lis

Lis Hylton_1
2/26/2010 9:38:08 AM
Hello Penny, Do you by any chance have photos depicting the method you are talking about? I would love to try but have zero experience with crocheting... Thanks! - lis

Lis Hylton_1
2/26/2010 9:38:05 AM
Hello Penny, Do you by any chance have photos depicting the method you are talking about? I would love to try but have zero experience with crocheting... Thanks! - lis

Lis Hylton_1
2/26/2010 9:38:02 AM
Hello Penny, Do you by any chance have photos depicting the method you are talking about? I would love to try but have zero experience with crocheting... Thanks! - lis

Lis Hylton_1
2/26/2010 9:38:00 AM
Hello Penny, Do you by any chance have photos depicting the method you are talking about? I would love to try but have zero experience with crocheting... Thanks! - lis

Lis Hylton_1
2/26/2010 9:37:57 AM
Hello Penny, Do you by any chance have photos depicting the method you are talking about? I would love to try but have zero experience with crocheting... Thanks! - lis

Lis Hylton_1
2/26/2010 9:37:50 AM
Hello Penny, Do you by any chance have photos depicting the method you are talking about? I would love to try but have zero experience with crocheting... Thanks! - lis

Gaenor Howe_2
2/5/2010 3:54:38 PM
You might want to consider the toothbrush method, where the strips are woven right into each other. This way the rug cannot unravel, and there are no dangerous loops to trip over if the sewing comes undone. It's also nice not to have to go back and start at the beginning with sewing, and the strips are attached to each other by looping through a slot at the ends. No sewing at all. You are also craftily reusing a worn out tooth brush.

Crystal_11
1/16/2010 6:57:02 PM
I have been wanting to do this for a long time! Initially with some "fat" jeans but I didn't have good instructions (just winged it) and it didn't come out. I've been inspired again by this post and started a Rag Rug-Along on my blog. Maybe by spring we'll all have some great rugs to show off!

Karen_67
1/14/2010 9:24:51 PM
I think what Penny is talking about is what I call hand-crocheting. It is just making a long chain, as you would when beginning a crochet project. That initial chain can be done by hand or with a crochet hook, either one. If you don't know how to do that you can probably learn from a beginning crochet site; try googling it. What I don't understand, Penny, is how are you (or the hillbilly!) going "around and around," as you said? What makes the rug hold together? I remember making little dollhouse rugs out of yarn chains, but when I rolled the chain into a rug shape it would not hold together unless I sewed it.

Country Elf_2
1/14/2010 10:03:47 AM
I have a question about the reprinting of the articles. No matter how I try I can not get a good reprint. Either it is so small I need a magnifying glass or when I try to change the size of the print it cuts off the sentances. I even put the margines all the way out and they were still cut off. I would like to try the method the other lady mentioned with the loops but can not quite envision how she is looping the fabric? Thank you so much for any help

Penny_1
1/14/2010 8:32:23 AM
Sorry about the duplicates. Nothing happened when I clicked the submit button. Arghie... I And my computer are old! :) Oh and I learned this method from a self professed hill billy... no insults intended at all.

Penny_1
1/14/2010 8:29:52 AM
There is an easier way that I call the "hill billy" way or "boot scrapers". You just cut strips from any old cloth, loop together (like crocheting but by hand), weaving ends together, around and around. No sewing. No hard thinking. No braiding. Denim is great for 'boot scrapers' by your entry doors. Sweats (cut thinner) and Tshirts (cut larger) with multi colors make very pretty room rugs. Anything to help keep rooms and feet warm and to make free is my ultimate ideal! :)

Penny_1
1/14/2010 8:29:48 AM
There is an easier way that I call the "hill billy" way or "boot scrapers". You just cut strips from any old cloth, loop together (like crocheting but by hand), weaving ends together, around and around. No sewing. No hard thinking. No braiding. Denim is great for 'boot scrapers' by your entry doors. Sweats (cut thinner) and Tshirts (cut larger) with multi colors make very pretty room rugs. Anything to help keep rooms and feet warm and to make free is my ultimate ideal! :)

Penny_1
1/14/2010 8:29:44 AM
There is an easier way that I call the "hill billy" way or "boot scrapers". You just cut strips from any old cloth, loop together (like crocheting but by hand), weaving ends together, around and around. No sewing. No hard thinking. No braiding. Denim is great for 'boot scrapers' by your entry doors. Sweats (cut thinner) and Tshirts (cut larger) with multi colors make very pretty room rugs. Anything to help keep rooms and feet warm and to make free is my ultimate ideal! :)

Penny_1
1/14/2010 8:28:24 AM
There is an easier way that I call the "hill billy" way or "boot scrapers". You just cut strips from any old cloth, loop together (like crocheting but by hand), weaving ends together, around and around. No sewing. No hard thinking. No braiding. Denim is great for 'boot scrapers' by your entry doors. Sweats (cut thinner) and Tshirts (cut larger) with multi colors make very pretty room rugs. Anything to help keep rooms and feet warm and to make free is my ultimate ideal! :)








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.