Make a Braided Rug From Recycled Wool

Learn how to make a braided rug from recycled wool. You can make an heirloom braided rag rug from recycled wool blankets, skirts and suits.

| December 2008/January 2009

Make a rug such as this one from recycled wool blankets and clothing.

Make a rug such as this one from recycled wool blankets and clothing.

Photo by Faye Moulton

Use old wool blankets, skirts and suits as the material for a braided rag rug and keep old wool out of landfills.

Make a Braided Rug From Recycled Wool

The tradition of rug braiding came down to me from my hill-farm grandmother. She called it thrift, but I also have found it to be one of the most enjoyable recycling activities that I practice.

The first step is acquiring the material. Used woolen blankets, coats, slacks and skirts are good. Old Army blankets are a real find. Their weight and colors blend well with other wool colors. Many wool items are discarded because of a few moth holes; that does not disqualify them for rug material. Church rummage sales, thrift shops and friends who know I am braiding are my best resources for wool.

I take apart clothing with sleeves, and remove linings and buttons. Then I open all of the seams so that I can deal with flat pieces only. I wash all of the pieces of material, preferably on a sunny day, and hang them out to dry.

The next step is the ripping-tearing-cutting stage and is best done outdoors, as there tends to be a lot of lint. The usual width of a braiding strip is 1 1⁄2 inches. It is very satisfying to rip up a blanket that tears into long strips. If it will not tear, it must be cut. Once the strips are all sorted by color, the ends of the strips are stitched together and wound into color-coded rolls. Now I’m ready to start braiding. I use Braid Aids that attach to each of the three strips employed in a braid. They help to turn in the raw edges of material as I braid the three strands together.

After I have a few feet of braid completed, I start to coil the braid into the finished shape. My grandmother stitched each braided round to the next with carpet thread, hiding her stitches between the folds of the braids. I use a special lacing thread that can be spliced to make one continuous thread throughout the rug.

6/4/2014 6:39:36 AM

You've made something remarkable there. The colors on that looks amazing. My sister is a very good at knitting wool product and I always envy her. Maybe now I can show her this wonderful rug. Thanks for sharing this with us.

lynn moddejonge
1/3/2013 9:17:22 PM

My great aunt used to make braided rugs out of bread wrappers. My mom just died and passed them on to me. I love having the contact with passed family.

glenda fox
1/3/2013 9:01:46 PM

My grandmother made the wool rugs, and also braided old nylons the same way to make rugs.

kathy young
11/26/2011 1:39:36 PM

I had a friend who used to make braided rugs out of old panty hose. It's amazing what you can use.

2/28/2009 5:52:08 AM

My great-aunt who lived to be 101 braided rugs up until the end. She was almost completely blind at the end of her life, but she still braided rugs...the color schemes just got more and more interesting.

2/18/2009 5:38:21 PM

A tip- wash all of the wool before braiding it, that way it's pre-shrunk and you don't have to worry about a 6 foot rug turning into a dollhouse rug! :)

nancy bledsoe_1
2/18/2009 5:31:14 PM

My mother made many wood braided rugs, both large and small. She got really excited about an old Army blanket, too, but best of all, my Dad used to say he was afraid to take his pants off at night, because they might be in the rug the next morning!

2/18/2009 4:15:22 PM

My Aunt used all her kids old jeans to braid beautiful rugs.

2/18/2009 11:25:14 AM

Doesn't the wool shrink when you wash the blankets, coats, material, etc.? Thanks, Marly

dawn butts
12/21/2008 1:31:16 PM

My great grandmother made many of these in her lifetime, including several that are room-size. One of these was dragged up a flight of stairs by a cousin before evacuating during the 1972 flood. When I was a child(I'm now in my mid 30s) , it never occured to me that this skill and practice was so special.

12/7/2008 5:28:07 PM

My grandma has had one of these in her dining room for as long as I can remember. It is wonderfully warm under winter feet and after 30+ years of walking on, spills, and abuse from assorted small children it still looks as great as I remember from when I was very small. From experiences with cotton rugs, I do not believe these are difficult to make, and infinitely durable once you find the material.

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