Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rags to Riches

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for their incredibly thoughtful and kind words on my last post.  I like to think that I am immune to negativity from cyber strangers, but some days it can prove to be quite challenging.  But now it's time to return to the sewing stuff!

Last month, I decided I would try my hand at making a rag rug.  I recently knit a couple of small rugs for my kitchen and decided that I needed one for my bedroom - but this time I wanted to try something different.  My maternal Grandmother had a braided rug under the dining room table which I believe was made of wool.  Although the colors were not my favorite, I remember being intrigued by the item.  I even made my own version with braided yarn as a small child, though they were more coaster size than rug size.

The first thing I knew that I wanted to avoid was raw edges.  I used a few scraps of muslin to test the best way to go about creating strips.  What I ended up with were three inch torn strips that I folded and ironed to hide those dreaded raw bits.

I rooted around in fabric bureaus, boxes, and bins to find quilting cotton remnants that I thought would work together to create a cohesive color scheme.

Once three of these folded strips of cotton were ready to go, I stitched them together, and started braiding.

Because I wanted a bit of consistency running through the entire rug, I purchased three yards of pink polka dotted cotton.  I was expecting that I would have leftovers, but I ended up using the entire three yards.

Which means that I used up six yards of cotton scraps for the second and third strands of the braid.  It also made me reevaluate some of the tiny scraps of fabric that I have been hoarding - there is a limit to how useful micro remnants can be, and if I save every bit of cotton I will not be able to maneuver around the sewing room at all.

The next, and most time consuming step, was hand stitching the braided cotton into a rug.  I know there are a lot of online versions of rag rugs that use a machine zig zag stitch to attach the coiled braid, but where is the fun in that?!  And to be honest, I am not a huge fan of how that ends up looking.

My finished rug is approximately 36 inches in diameter.  I estimate that I used about 42 yards worth of braided cotton to end up with a fairly small rug, so yes, this is a fabric hog!

But in the end, I cleared out a small portion of my stash and did not add yet another garment to my very full closet(s).  I am by no means finished with garment sewing, but this was a very enjoyable sewing experience that took me a little bit out of my comfort zone.

The final step was to back the rug with felt.  This particular felt contains some rayon and is a little bit lighter weight than I would have liked, but I already had it on hand, so it was another stash buster!  And if the backing deteriorates at some point, I can always replace it - the backing probably took an hour to cut and apply by hand.  The rug, however, took a lot longer than that!

I wasn't sure that this was going to be a totally successful project, but I am thrilled with how it turned out.  And I may have already started another in shades of purple for my living room, this time with a more oblong shape . . .


  1. I have always loved the look of rag rugs and yours is beautiful. The colours blend so well. Not sure I would have the patience, but I certainly have enough fabric in my stash!

  2. Lovely rug, Laura May and a great stash buster. I may steal this idea when it comes time to replace the bathroom rugs and use up some more of the stash.
    Theresa in Tucson

  3. Rug maker...another talent you didn't know you possessed.

    Check out "toothbrush rugs", they are knotted, not braided, and have a different textural appearance.

    Sign me slack-jawed and wide-eyed at your gumption, taste, and multitude of talents.

  4. you did a really GREAT job!!!!!! particularly like the color palette.

  5. When I was a little girl my mother and my aunt made a HUGE (at least in retrospect.....) wool braided rug for the sitting room of my aunt's very old and drafty farm house. As I recall the cutting and braiding was great fun, done mainly after dinner when the kids were going to bed (I remember hearing them laughing away downstairs), and the sewing together was a very protracted chore......in fact I'm not sure it was ever finished, I recall an orchard basket of coiled up braids sitting in the corner of the room for ever. I'll have to ask my mom where the wool came from, I would have thought funds were probably too tight to allow for buying new yardage!

    Thanks for sparking this memory!


    1. I also remember my mom making braided rugs for our house. She used to hit all the church rummage sales and buy old wool coats which she cut up into strips. Fortunately, women wore more than black in those days, so they were a random mix of colors. I'm wondering if your mom might have done the same thing.

  6. What a beautiful rug!! It is lovely.

  7. lovely rug!! I love the colors and appreciate the lesson.

  8. would using the bias folders for the fabric strips not only hide the raw
    edges but really save on time....works for me...many rugs later

    1. I thought about that as I was standing at my ironing board for days on end, however, I don't own any of those little tools, and I don't think they make them wide enough for my purpose. But I may have to look into getting some! Thanks for the suggestion.

    2. clover makes a 2" wide bias tape maker. so if you fold that in half you have a 1" wide strip. it saves a lot of time and your fingers from getting to close to the iron. you still have to be careful while you use it, and not try to pull it through too fast. but they are really nice to have. I think you cut the strips 3 3/4" wide so it might use a tad more fabric since your strips were only 3".

  9. I love this! I have to say that your blog posts are always so detailed and informative. Such a great inspiration :)

  10. Your house is beautiful. I had a comfort almost identical to yours for years. I love the knitted and braided rugs although I would never complete one so I better finish some of the sewing and lessen my stash too.

  11. Very nice work
    I invite you on my blog of old magazines and old french sewing patterns