Sunday, March 21, 2010

How to Make a Braided Rug, Part Two

You need to decide whether you want to make your rug round or oval.

If you want to make it oval, it can be helpful to have an approximate size in mind. This is because you have to start with a length for the center around which your two ends are curved. So for example, you might have a particular spot where you want to put it, such as a hallway. An oval is actually a circle, cut in half, with a square or rectangle placed between the two halves of the circle:
You can see that in the pictures, the first rug would be shorter and wider -- the drawn line in the middle of the square is the length of the first part of your braid.

So that in the second photo, the line is longer, and the rug is longer and skinnier.
For example, if you'd like your rug to be about 36 inches wide and 70 inches long, this is what you'd do. 1. subtract the desired width from the desired length (70-36= 34) 2. the result is the length to start with.
Example 2: if you'd like your rug to be about 30 inches wide and 84 inches long, 84-30= 54 inches to start with.
Easy right? The hard part is deciding what size you'd like the rug to be, especially if you're like me and just keep on adding to a project until I get tired of it. However, just pick a length if you can't decide, and then later, you can find a spot to put the rug.

Now, gather some equipment!
1. some coils of folded wool (see part 1)
2. pantyhose
3. scissors,
4. some sturdy thread, such as perle cotton size 8
5. a needle large enough for your thread
6. a bodkin

Of this equipment, the bodkin will be most difficult to obtain. They come in different sizes and shapes. My favorite is the one in the center, with the large eye and the rounded tip. The gold one is actually a needle used for knitting, which I hope will work. You can probably find one in a knitting or fabric store, or a large department store. they might be called a ball-point bodkin.

Okay then, it's time to start! Oval Version!

1. Open up one of the folded coils, and place the end of another one inside it, about 10 or 12 inches from the end, to make a T and then stitch these pieces together -- you can see the seam is about an inch long.

2. Start to braid
you will notice that one side of the coil will show the open side of it, where the wool is folded in on itself. The other side of the coil will just be smooth. Try to keep each side of the braid consistent. Either braid so that all the smooth sides are facing up at you, or else braid so that all the folded in sides are facing you. Later, you will lace the rug together this way as well, so that the rug will have a "right" side and a "wrong side".

3. You will need to almost immediately add the third color to your braid. I usually put a pin through the braided part so that it doesn't come undone.

Open up the end of both coils that you plan to join. Place the ends at right angles, right sides together, and sew a diagonal seam,
Cut the extra triangles of fabric off, and then coax the folded wool back into its shape.

4. Now you can continue braiding for a while, until you get to your pre-determined measurement! (see above)

When you are braiding, the coils might want to get all tangled together. I try to keep two of them short, and just let the third one pool on the floor. What I mean by Keeping them short, is that I place a pin into the coil so it can't unravel, so, it starts about 15" long from the braided part to the pin in the coil, and as I braid, it gets shorter. When it is right up to where the braid is, I re-pin it further down. doesn't that make sense?!!
Nb. Keep the braiding fairly snug and tight. Not insanely tight, but pretty snug.

5. Turn the end. To make the braid curve at the end of your center line, you will have to do something. This is what you'll do:

Normally, when you are braiding, you have 3 strings, the left, the center and the right. This has nothing to do with the specific colors, it is just where the ends of the strings come off the finished braid.

So in this photo, the beige is the left, green is center and turquoise is right. To braid, you would put right over center, (Turquoise over green--- now turq is center and green is right) then put left over center (beige over turq, now turq is left, and beige is center) Then repeat, right over center, left over center, etc etc,
To make a turn, you will go Right over center TWICE in a row, so, I'd go Turquoise over green, then for the second Right over Center, it would be green over Turq.
Then, go left over Center.
Then, go right over Center Twice again
Then you can go left over center and resume the normal braiding

6. Braid the length of the center again until you have to turn the end again.
You might want to lace together the two lengths so that you are quite sure of the placement of the second turn.

7. to Lace together the braids, you will need to get the nylons or pantyhose you've collected. Cut off the toe end, and then cut rings off the end that are about 1/2 inch wide, or so.

(At this point, I am wondering why the heck I thought it would be a good idea to write these instructions, I hope you are doing okay!!!!!! If so, great, if you are having some trouble, just stick with it, it feels really awkward when you do this for the first time or two)

When you pull on these rings, they get long and skinny, like elastic bands. you can link some together, place one rig under the edge of another, fold it over and pull that loop through. Right.
Then, just thread one end into the bodkin.

Pull the bodkin through the end loop on the inside, and thread it through the end of the pantyhose loop and pull tight. then, you just lace it back and forth from one side loop to the next loop on the other side --- pull the pantyhose lace tight so that the braids are pulled closely together:

Then, when you get to the end of the center strip, you do the turn thing again, as in step 5.  (R over C, R over C, L over C, R over C, R over C, Left over C, resume regular braid).  If the end of the center braided strip is bulky, you might need to spread out the turns a bit, by inserting another regular braiding step between the two Right over centers. 

Also, as you lace the strips, at times you may need to pull the lace through two steps of the outside edge braid rather than just one.  This will ease in the fullness of the turn.  If you don't ease in the fullness enough, then the rug will not lay flat, but "cup" in the center. 

After you have made a few end turns, you may find that you can just do regular braiding and ease in the fullness of the turns as you go around the circular parts of the rug.  Or, every so often you might want the braid to curve a bit so you'll throw in a double R over C.  

I'm going to post this now, but as I get further in this rug I might take some more photos to add in here.  If  you are working along with me and find anything unclear or a problem, please leave a comment, or email me at so that I can make that more clear. 

It really is satisfying to make a rug, and this technique will result in a rug that should last for decades, so stick with it!! m


  1. Bernie CruikshankMarch 23, 2010 at 2:28 AM


    It is on my long term list of projects - guess it is a lower priority than refinishing doors and trim though. I hope to use these instructions. They do make sense and I love braiding (came in handy in 4H all those years ago and then with my daughter's hair). just one question - is the pink stuff the perle cotton? Does any of it show and would you be better using a more neutral color (of course you probably wanted it to show for teaching purposes).

  2. actually the pink stuff is some pantyhose used to lace it together. Not much of it shows when it's pulled tight, you can get pantyhose in all different colors, this came from a thrift store,m


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