Handmade Braided Rugs: Put Together a No-Sew Braided Rug

Follow these tips for your handmade braided rug, and use Grandma's four-strand braid and interlocking method to cut down on the amount of sewing necessary to finish your oval braided rug.
By Becka Jahelka
July/August 1986
Add to My MSN

By using Grandma's four-strand braid and interlocking method, your handmade, braided rug can require very little sewing!

Content Tools

Here's an attractive, old-fashioned floor cover that barely requires sewing! Handmade braided rugs, braided the way your grandmother did it, can save you money and make your house cozy.

The familiar braided wool rug has certainly stood the test of time, but my grandmother taught me — years ago — how to put together a handmade braided rug, one that eliminates the whole process of sewing the rug together, and gives the rug maker greater control over his or her colors.

Best of all, since my grandmother's rugs are made from inexpensive cotton, synthetic or blended fabric scraps, they don't cost much to make, and they're washable!

To begin, gather a pile of fabric scraps. Cut these scraps and rags — on either the lengthwise or crosswise grain — into the longest strips possible. These bands should be 2 inches wide and (ideally) 3 to 5-feet long (tear the strips — when you can — to save time, and sew short pieces together to get the right lengths).

Next, fold each strip's raw edges into the center, and then refold along the middle of the strips to hide those turned-under edges. If you do have a sewing machine, stitch the folds closed as you go to make a permanent crease. If you don't own a machine, just baste or iron the folds in place.

Sort the strips — by color — into bags or boxes. You don't have to fuss too much over the design, but even a hit-or-miss pattern will look sharper if a particular color (usually a dark one) is saved for the outer border.

Plan Ahead for Your No-Sew, Braided Rug

You'll have to decide how big your rug will be before you start it, because those proportions will tell you how long to make the center braid. As a rule of thumb, the length of that braid can be found by subtracting your planned rug's width from its length. A 2-by-3-foot rug, then, will need 1 foot of center braid, while a 3-by-5-foot rug will require 2 feet (a round rug, as you'll see, only needs a few inches of center braid).

It's best not to be too ambitious, until you get the hang of four-strand braiding. If you want to make a 2-by-3-foot — which is a good size for your first project — you'll have to gather three to four pounds of scraps.

Four-Strand Braid, Grandma's Interlocking Method

To make the center braid, pick three strips of cloth and sew them together at one end. Make sure these are of different lengths, and keep the lengths varied as you sew strips onto those that are braided in. Three stitched connections, if too close together, will produce a weak spot in the rug.

If you can find someone to hold the sewed ends (as you would hair) while you braid the center piece, you'll produce a straighter, more even weave. Make this central "rope" an inch longer than you determined by the length-minus-width formula above, because the end will have to turn back on itself when you begin to work on the next layer of the rug (to start a round rug, just braid 2 or 3 inches, and fold this center braid in half to form a "core").

With your center braid done, sew a fourth cloth strip under the last crossover formed by the original three. This will give you the four strands that you'll need to follow Grandma's "interlocking" method. Then, fasten a safety pin — to use as a "needle" — to the end of each strip.

If you're right-handed, hold the "working" end of the braid in your left hand (or vice versa for southpaws), and fold back that extra inch so that the four strands lie side by side — to the right of the braid — as shown in Illustration A.

Now, imagine that the strips are numbered — one through four — from right to left. Take strip No. 1 and weave it over strip No. 2, under strip No. 3, and over strip No. 4. Then, using the safety pin as a needle, pull strip No. 4 through the adjacent loop of the center braid as shown in Illustration B.

Strip No. 2 (the new "outside" strand) can then be woven over No. 3, under No. 4, over No. 1, and through the next loop of the center braid (see Illustration C).

This process of weaving the outer strip over ... under ... and over the other three, and then through succeeding loops of the center braid, will continue (with some variations ... see below) until the rug is finished (you'll have to, of course, keep sewing new strips to the unbraided ends as you go).

Keep Your Braided Rug Flat

Every time you round a corner, your rug will have a tendency to "pucker." To compensate for this, just braid more than one strip through each center braid loop as you round these turns. For example, on your first row around the ends of the center braid you may have to weave through one loop five or six times. When you next go around the same spot, though, braiding twice through every other loop might be sufficient. It's impossible to give strict rules for this, except that fewer of these "extra" passes through one loop will be necessary as the rug grows. Just work on a level surface — so you can see if the rug stays flat — and braid two strips through the same strip more often if the center starts to pucker. If the edges of the rug begin to look frilly, on the other hand, use fewer of these extra "corner" weaves.

Finally, when your rug is the right size, trim each strip to about an inch long. Weave each of these tips under a loop, and stitch 'em all in place.

That's all there is to it. So why not dig out those boxes of old clothes and scraps of sewing material and recycle them into a beautiful rug, "just like Grandma used to make"?

Previous | 1 | 2 | Next

Post a comment below.


10/22/2015 1:44:15 PM
I'm not getting this either. I always loved my grandmothers braided rugs and would like to do same, but the wording in this is not helping me. Is there some other pictures available or a video/U-Tube instructions available?

2/17/2015 9:23:18 PM
I'm sorry, I don't understand your directions. I'm a visual learner. Do you have more pictures or a video? I enjoyed watching my Grandma Love sew her braids together with old panty hose. This piqued my interest when you said no sew :-) Thank you

11/12/2014 11:45:32 AM
I do not see illustrations B and C unless you mean the three pics at the beginning?? Looking forward to trying this method out. Thx

7/12/2014 4:37:32 PM
I used the above instructions. I used double knit as I was trying to use up my stash, I did have to sew all edges of the strip before I started braiding. Even with the little extra work, my rug turned out beautiful. A little difficult to get started but caught on after the first circular round. This is the only way I will make my braided rugs from now on. Thank you for the instructions. I have osteoarthritis in my thumbs so it is very difficult to hand sew, this was such an accomplishment!

6/19/2014 6:09:50 AM
Shag Rugs are Handwoven Rugs made from differents kinds of yarns. Dense and plush, all shag rugs are prepared using wool or polyester depending on the designs. Shag area rugs make a fun addition to any fashionable space by incorporating texture to the room.

1/26/2014 2:53:37 PM
Thank you! I've been looking for THIS formula forever, but all I could find was sewn ones and tufted ones. Yay, finally the REAL braided rug! I can't wait to start.

1/23/2014 6:47:10 AM
I recently mentioned to my husband that I wanted to learn how to make braided rugs. Guess I'll start with this one. So excited to try this, thanks MEN. We just love your magazine.

1/22/2014 10:27:15 AM
Instructions are incorrect according to illustration "b". It should be use strip number "1" to sew to adjacent loop on original braid.

1/22/2014 9:08:22 AM
I was doing fine reading these instructions, until Illustration B. Lost me! Perhaps it will make more sense once I try making one.

Lynnette Wegrzyn
11/13/2012 3:43:15 PM
The instructions are very clear to me, and am looking forward to making one of these rugs. I will start, as you mentioned, with a small rug. I would like to hear/read comments by others. Where do I go for that?

Subscribe Today!

Pay Now & Save 67% Off the Cover Price

(* 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