How to Make a Rope Rug

Learn how to make a rope rug using a rope-making machine and recycled rags.

| January/February 1977

When it comes to attractive, foot-warming floor coverings, you just can't beat an old-fashioned Colonial-style throw rug. "Especially," says MOTHER staffer Travis Brock, "one that you've made yourself — for pennies — from recycled rags!"  

Two months ago, MOTHER researchers Travis Brock and Dennis Burkholder came up with a right smart (we thought) idea: "Why not use the rope-maker," they suggested, “to twist ordinary rags into 'fabric ropes' that a person can — in turn — make into a Colonial-type oval rug?"

Well, we're pleased to report that the boys' idea has — in the ensuing two months — materialized into a brightly colored 3-by-4 foot floor covering.  For all you would-be rug-makers, then, here's a quick rundown of how Travis and his wife, Linda, managed to create a lovely "rope rug" ... with tips on how you can duplicate their success.

A New Way to Recycle

Most experts say that wool is the only suitable material for a floor covering of this sort. "But," explains Travis, "Linda and I happened across a large quantity of double-knit polyester and decided 'What the heck ... let's use it,'" First, the couple washed the approximately 30 square yards of fabric. (No one likes a dingy rug.) Then Travis and his wife:

  1. Cut the laundered cloth into two-inch-wide strips
  2. Separated the strips by color, and
  3. Stitched like-colored strands together with bias seams (that is, seams sewn at a diagonal). "You could butt the ends of two pieces together and sew them straight across," explains Linda, "but you'd end up with unsightly, hard-to-manage lumps in the finished cordage."

Next, Linda and Travis selected three color-coordinated strips of fabric of equal length (anywhere from 20 to 80 feet long) and folded them in half lengthwise. "Then," says Travis, "we got out the Incredible Rope-Making Machine, slipped the strips' folds over the machine's three hooks, and tied the rags' loose ends together behind the 'Y'-shaped separator/holder."

At this point, Travis and Linda got on opposite sides of the rope-maker and started cranking out yard after colorful yard of thick polyester "rope". Says Travis: "I figure the two of us spent a little over an hour twisting our material into fat, tri-colored cords."

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