Sunday, February 14, 2010

How to Make a Braided Rug, part I

I decided to break up this "tutorial" on how to make a braided rug, because it might take a while for me to write.  Plus, when I make a rug, there are three definite stages to the process.

This is Part I -- Gather your fabric, make strips and fold them

First of course are photos of some finished rugs:
 You can make a small circle rug for on a chair or stool, or a long narrow oval for a bench:

 or a circular floor rug:
 or a long oval rug for a hallway!
 You can combine the braided rug with a hooked rug center:

But first you have to collect some wool.
I've been lucky in the past to obtain fabric somewhat inexpensively, but I find this is getting harder to do where I live.  Aside from Value Village, and the Salvation Army thrift stores, we have a Mennonite used goods store here that I found the best stuff.  It was in a section that had little bundles of fabric for low prices.  Also, you can sometimes find some good lengths of yardage at garage sales, or perhaps a friend might have a stash that she wants to give away.  Or, you can get it at fabric stores, although that can be pretty expensive.
Sometimes, it is even worthwhile to take apart an old piece of wool clothing, if you want to use the color or pattern on it --- a very large dirndl wool skirt is good, but you have to be able to get quite a few fairly long strips from it to make it worthwhile.

I sort of knew what wool looked and felt like.  However, it is hard to tell sometimes whether a fabric is a wool blend.  The main thing is that it should be thick enough to fold into a cord that has some body to it, that won't be really flat.  If a fabric is thin, you can try to felt it by throwing it into the washing machine on hot, and then putting it in the dryer.
You can really tell the difference between 100% wool and a wool blend when you try to cut or rip it into strips.  100% wool rips really easily, whereas a blend has resistance to it, and makes a louder noise when you rip it. 

To start, you need to cut strips of woven wool that are about 2-1/4" wide.  I usually make cuts on the end of the fabric with the rotary cutter and ruler:  You can rip each strip individually, or if you're feeling strong, rip down a few inches on each, then fold half the strips one way and half the other.  Hold one bunch of strips in each hand and then pull apart to rip all the strips at once.

 After you have strips, you might want to join some of the shorter ones into a longer strip.  I like to have strips that are at least 4 or 5 feet long, up to about 6 or 7 feet long.
Join them with a diagonal seam.  Just lay one end over another at right angles, and sew on the diagonal. 

Then cut the extra fabric away.

At this point, I usually put them all into a large basket to keep near the sofa to have on hand for moments when you want something to do.  Perfect for watching t.v.
Next step is to fold and coil the strips into something that looks sort of  like a cinnamon roll.

 It's a bit tricky to explain how to do the folding/coiling.  What you're aiming to do is fold the raw edges to the inside (be careful so that any seams you had will be on the inside of the fold).  It's certainly a two-handed technique.  You might find it helpful to place pins in as you go to prevent things from unwinding if you accidentally let go.  My coils are usually about 3" to 6" wide when totally wound up.  Finish off by putting a pin in the end to hold it in place.  Then, you can lay them out on an ironing board.  I steam them thoroughly on one side, turn them over and steam again.  When they dry, the folds will be set in place so that they won't unfold when you do the braiding part.  

They look sort of interesting at this point.  Usually I do lots of them, so that later I can braid a lot at one sitting.
If you only want to give this a try, you'll only need a few coils for something like a 8" circle to use as a hot mat.  You'll naturally feel clumsy doing this at first, and be tempted to give up.  But, it's like a lot of things, if you persevere a bit and practice, soon it gets much easier and you'll be doing it without thinking about it. Really!

Well, that's it for the first step,  next you will braid the coils!!! Michelle


  1. This is exciting, I can't wait to get started!

  2. I'm sort of gung ho on this right now because my sister found me a bunch of wool! m

  3. Thanks for the tutorial Michelle, I am loving this!
    Ann Kwan

  4. Guides like this are helpful, now to make a braided rug, is an simple job by using your advice. Thank you


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