How to make a braided rug

The thrifty practice of braiding cast-off fabric into rugs for hearth and bedside provides an economical way of adding a rustic touch to modern houses. These tips will help you get started.

How to make a braided rug

A simple three-strand plait forms the basis of easy-to-make rugs. The easiest shape to make is a circular rug, although oval-shaped, rectangular and heart-shaped designs may be mastered quickly. Like hooked rugs, braided rugs can comprise a variety of fabrics, including cotton patchwork, woollens and even fine corduroys. A multi-coloured "hit-or-miss" rug is the easiest, most traditional and most economical type to make.

You will need about half a kilogram (one pound) of heavy, tightly woven wool per square metre (square yard) of rug. Collect a variety of bright, dull and neutral colours, in solids and patterns, to use throughout the braid.

Collecting and preparing wool

Used woollen clothing is a traditional source of plaiting fabric.

  1. To prepare clothing for plaiting, remove linings and other non-wool elements and cut the garments apart along the seams.
  2. Wash the wool in hot water so it will soften and shrink.
  3. After washing, tear the wool into strips that can be folded for plaiting.
  4. Start each tear with scissors, then rip the rest of the way along the fabric grain. It is extremely important to use the proper strip widths because, when folded, their plumpness and uniformity affects the rug's quality.
  5. To determine the correct width, tear a test strip about four centimetres (1 1/2 inches) wide from your heaviest wool and fold it. The thickness of folded strips is determined by the heaviest wool in use.
  6. Fold the strip so the edges meet, then in half again.
  7. For thin wool, tear wider strips, and overlap the edges to make a folded strip of the correct thickness. The folded strip should be plump and round. If it is wide and flat, try a narrower strip. Fabrics lighter in weight should be torn into proportionately wider strips and their edges overlapped to form folded strips of the proper thickness.
  8. Weave a test plait with a few strips before tearing all the fabric to be sure of being able to make a firm and full plait.
  9. After tearing and joining the strips, wind them into loose balls for storage. The strips will be unwound and folded as you plait.

Forming the central plait

The length of the seam between the two central lengths of plait determines the size of the finished rug. Once you have decided on the size you want, subtract the width of the planned rug from the length to find out how long to make the centre seam. For example, a two x three-metre (6.5 x 10-foot) rug requires a one-metre (three-foot) centre seam.

  1. Start your rug by making a plait the length of the centre seam. Next, make two corners in your plait to bring it back on itself.
  2. Continue plaiting until the two lengths are equal, then sew and lace together.
  3. Once the plait lengths are joined, you can see where to make a third corner so that when you plait further, the new plait will fit snugly against the old. After the third corner, plait only enough so that when you make a fourth corner it, too, will fit snugly.
  4. Neatly sew and lace both corners in place.

Making one strip of many:

  • To join two strips, place them at right angles with the same sides facing each other; stitch on the diagonal with sewing thread, then cut off the outer corners.
  • The joined pieces open into straight strips.
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