How to Make a Braided Rag Rug
Making a braided rug is a simple and inexpensive craft that can be created in very little time with simple skills. Even children enjoy helping and you will be creating a family memory as you wind your way through the making of a braided rag rug.
Although wool is not the only fabric you can use, it is the best fabric for handmade rugs as it will hold up well when walked upon. The place to start collecting your wool or other fabric is in your own closets and drawers. You may ask your neighbors or relatives to donate any old woolen suits or trousers or jackets. If you can’t find enough by doing this then you may want to hit the thrift stores. You can buy wool fabric if you want but it will add to the cost of your rug.
Your rug needs to be made of pieces of all the same weight and nap. It will not work if you choose a thick nappy piece from a coat onto a finer piece from woolen slacks. But never turn down an offer of a piece of wool as it might work for your next project.
Prepare the Strips
Cut or tear your fabric in two to three inch wide strips. Heavier fabrics should be two inches wide and lighter fabrics in the three inch range. If the fabric is easy to rip you may want to set your kids to this task. Measure and cut the notches for them to make it easier.
Sew your strips together end to end to make one long strip. You should cut each strip at an angle on the end and sew them together on the bias, right sides together, to avoid bulky seams. You will see the advantage of this as you begin to fold each strip. You will be making three long strips for your braid.
You may choose to keep each strip in a certain color range or mix various colors and patterns. The colors you choose will be according to your own taste, pattern and design. Keep sewing strips together to achieve a strip that will be long enough to braid. You can add more as you go along later. As you gain experience you will begin to have a feel for how long of a strip is manageable for you to work with. It only takes a few moments to add on to your strip.
Beginning the Braid
Lay your three strips face down on the table side by side. Fold each strip lengthwise by bringing the outer edges into the center and then folding them together again. You end up with a four ply strip with the right side of the fabric showing. This will give bulk to the strip and give you clean outer edges. Take the two outer strips and put the ends together, cut at an angle and sew them together to make a double length. Insert the middle strip into the fold and sew it in. This attaches all three strips for your beginning. Of course you will not be able to hold this fold in place all the way down the strip but once you begin to braid the fabric will naturally begin to follow the folded form. It will tend to roll in on itself which is what you want.
Braid and Lace
Pin the three joined strips to something sturdy or you might consider attaching it temporarily to a clip of some sort. The idea is to anchor it so you can keep tension on it as you braid.
As you braid, keep the strips oriented flat rather than allowing them to twist. This will give you a finer more polished look and your rug will be more consistent looking. Allowing your strips to twist will give you a lumpy inconsistent braid.
As you come to the end of each strip you can add additional strips. You may want to prepare a skein of joined strips in manageable lengths to attach as you go.
When you get a length braided that is suitable for coiling lay the braid flat on a surface and begin coiling the shape you want. You can choose a circle or make the center strip longer for an oval. Keep the braid flat as you coil working the braid around each corner. Lace each coil to the previous inside coil with a bodkin and heavy coat thread. You are not sewing the braids together rather you are lacing through the braid space on the one and into the braid space on the outer coils.
Work back and forth braiding and coiling until the rug is the size you want. Taper the final strips of fabric to make a smaller braid to finish off the end. Sew the final ends together and lace it to the body of the rug. You may want to tuck it into a previous coil.
A Casual Braided Rug
You can make a braided rug that has a more casual "rag" look to it by simply making rope like braids without folding the strips in on themselves. This will allow the frayed edges to show and the rug will take on a more rope-like loose quality. And of course you may use other fabrics besides wool.
A very nice little inexpensive booklet that you can purchase in hard copy or download on your e-reader is Braiding Rugs: A Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-03
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