Make a Unique Homemade Rug With Recycled Clothing

Use these detailed instructions to make a homemade rug with a sturdy braided design using recycled clothing.

| November/December 1971

Braiding rugs is one of those near-ideal down-home crafts. Almost everyone already knows how to braid and the rest of the process is simple to learn. Nearly everyone, too, can use a rug and braided ones are reversible, satisfyingly one-of-a-kind and easily cleaned with a broom. The raw materials are abundantly available, hardly any tools are needed at all and rug braiding can be done anywhere . . . in a tent, on the porch, in front of the fire, in your camper, out in the meadow before the flies get bad, even by feel in the dark when the candles give out.

The most important ingredient of a braided rug—outside of your labor and love—is the recycled fabric from which it's made. You'll want wool that has good wear left in it, of course, or your finished product won't be worth your time and (if you sell it) the buyer's money. Synthetics are not springy and alive enough and cotton—while pretty—is stiff to work and won't hold up. Plenty of woolen garments are discarded for reasons that have nothing to do with the amount of mileage left in them, however, and the pickings are lush enough to allow you to be choosy.

When gathering wool for my rugs, I avoid:

  • Threadbare fabrics (if the elbows or knees are worn out of an otherwise good piece of clothing, cut the bad spots and use the rest).
  • Very coarse, open weaves that are likely to ravel.
  • Thready or flimsy weaves which are unlikely to wear well.
  • Hard-finish fabric from men's suits. Although it can be used, it's very flat and doesn't combine well with higher napped wools. A rug made entirely of such material—usually always grey, brown, black or blue—would probably be pretty dull also.

The most unlikely clothes can be fair game for your braided rug "collection" . . . old bathrobes, out-of-style (is there really such a thing?) coats, rejected uniforms, torn slacks, moth-eaten blankets, a skirt that shrank or the prim wool dress that's become too tight. Round up these raw materials by putting the touch on friends and relatives who, likely as not, don't know what to do with them anyway. Visit rummage sales and load up with all the wool in sight (often available for little more than a song near closing time).

Before you cut up these clothes, though . . . try them on! How else do you think we got a tweed overcoat, pile-lined benchwarmer, wrap-around skirts and all the slacks I need for the year? (This is double recycling because, when the slacks have been overly pawed by our homestead goats, they'll enter their next existence as part of a rug). And check the pockets . . . we've found quarters in our time!

I don't hesitate to machine wash these rummage sale woolens before I begin to work with them, either. When they're going to be cut up for rugs, it doesn't matter if they shrink.

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