How to make an authentic braided rag rug

How to make an authentic braided rag rug

Braiding rugs has been elevated to an art, high above the skills of the person who wants to simply and inexpensively cover her floor. Rugs are now made from 100% wool, precisely designed to fit almost any decor. They’re cut and braided by hand, and laced with special threads.

Other braided rugs can be bought in coordinated colors, braided by machine with an even, fat roll of each braid. Discount stores, department stores and ‘flea markets’ all carry this cheaper version that isn’t always so cheap to buy.

On the other hand, there are real braided rugs. Rugs the way they were invented, made from real rags. Random colors and worn clothing can create a braided rug that you can be proud of – and it’s much more authentic than the handmade wool rugs.

No, a common rag braided rug won’t last a life time, or as long as a wool rug (unless, of course, you use wool), but they will last for years and give you the pleasure of making something beautiful out of nothing. They’re enjoyable to make and give one a sense of real accomplishment when finished.

You only need to remember a few things:

Cut the material into strips about two inches across. If you have thinner material, cut it wider, thicker material can be cut narrower to make the braids more or less the same size.

Most instructions will tell you to sew the strips together then roll them into a ball before you begin braiding, but it can be awkward that way, with a lot of tangles. It’s much simpler to begin braiding and sew the strips together as you go.

To start the braid, you’ll need a spindle of some sort that won’t move. The spindle that holds the spool of thread on a sewing machine works well, but if you don’t have that, tie the ends of the fabric strips together and loop them over a doorknob or handle. You’ll need to trim this end off later, but that will give you a start. Keep the material taut but not tightly so and make a three strip braid just like you would braid hair.

To join strips, hold them together at right angles, making a square corner. Sew a diagonal seam across the square formed, then trim the excess. This will make a continual strip without bulk or weak seams.

When you begin to braid, turn each edge of the strip about a third of the way toward the center, then fold the piece over at the center. This turns the raw edges inside where they won’t show or ravel out. It sounds more complicated than it is, and it won’t be long before you’ll be doing it easily as you go, without even thinking of it.

The first length of braid will determine the shape of the rug. Since the rug will grow at the same rate on either side as well as top and bottom of that first length, you can determine the size and shape by adjusting this length. To start a circular rug, a very short length will be turned back on itself, and laced to form a circle from the beginning.

To make an oval rug, use a braided length of 1/3 the size you want the rug to measure lengthwise when completed. A three foot rug would require a one foot braid to start and would finish at two by three feet. Or three by four feet, or however large you make it. For a runner, make the center braid at least half the size you want.

Lacing or sewing a rug together is the last step, and should be done on a flat surface. You may want to do this as you go, too, so you can see what the rug will look like, and to keep an eye on the size. A large table or the floor can be used. You can get special needles to lace a rug, or you can use a large darning needle – anything that will guide the thread through the braids.

Use very heavy duty string or special lacing thread and lace the rug like you would shoes. Back and forth inside the braid loops. To start, measure to where you want the end of the first braid to be, then turn the braid back on itself and begin lacing through each loop to the loop next to it.

Keep the rug flat as you go and test it now and then to be sure it will lie flat when you’re finished. If there’s a wrinkle or a ruffle now, it will be more pronounced the farther you go, so stop, back up and fix it.

When you have to make a turn, put several stitches in the same inner loop while continuing to lace individual loops on the outside. Use as many as it takes to keep the rug flat.

Keep sewing and braiding and lacing until the rug is as big as you want it, then, on the last strip, cut them progressively narrower so that the last braid simply fades into a very narrow one which you tack closely to the edge of the rug. Carefully trim the ends of the center braid and tack them firmly against the braids next to them.

And you’re done.

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