To read the first story in this series on homemade rugs, click here.
You can brighten your home, economize on heating, and increase comfort almost immeasurably by some well-placed braided rugs, and believe it or not — even a beginner can make them! Rug braiding is a time-honored skill for a reason; more than just a creative tradition from our forebears, it is a practical and simple way to improve your surroundings with no cost but time.
We’ll start with a small rug, suitable for a space beside your favorite chair, or to solve a problem area such as near an entranceway or by the kitchen sink. The rug will measure 2×3 feet oval when complete. When your zeal for rug braiding takes hold, and your skill increases, you can make larger rugs: 6×9 or even 9×12 feet.
Once you have gathered fabric and prepared strips in rag balls measuring at least three pounds, you are ready to start braiding. (Read previous Off The Grid News story on this step here.) Don’t make the individual balls too big; you will need at least three balls in each color you want to use for the rug, so the long strips can be braided together. The purpose of rolling them into balls is only to make them more manageable.
Design your Rug
Give some thought to design. Even a first project will be more than a utility item, as rugs are a prominent item in interior décor. Bright, vibrant colors and high-contrast patterning will draw the eye toward the rug, while muted colors will allow the rug to fade into the background in favor of other furnishings.
Choose fabrics in colors that will coexist peacefully with those of the flooring, larger furniture, and walls, but do not shy away from making your rug a statement piece. A brightly colored floor covering can bring almost as much warmth into a room as the hearth it’s near. Lastly, you’ll be braiding from the inside of the rug out, so if you want to create a spiral or pattern of rings, you can choose your colors accordingly and easily create a very handsome effect.
Choose three strips of fabric to begin the central braid of your rug. Sew together the ends in a T-junction, with the fabric strip that comprises the center bar of the T inside the other two, and the right strip inside the left, so that only one fabric strip has exposed ends. Begin braiding in the usual manner, with the outside strip being moved to the middle and alternating left and right, until your central braid measures the desired length. To know how long to make your central braid, subtract the desired width of the rug from its desired length; for our 2×3 foot rug the central braid length will be 1 foot.
You have a choice when turning the first three or four corners. You can continue braiding normally, sewing the braid into place, or you can make braided corners for a flatter rug. If you want to make braided corners, you will need to braid the fabric strip that will be on the inside of the corner into the middle twice, instead of alternating as in usual braiding. After the first few corners, you can braid as usual.
When you have a central braid of desired length and have turned the first corner, you are going to continue braiding, following the outer edge of the central braid around in a spiral. As you complete each consecutive half-loop, use rug yarn and a large needle to stitch it in place by sewing around the outside loop of the inside braid and the inside loop of the outside braid. Do not sew too tightly or you will cause buckling in your rug; a medium, even tension is fine. It is much easier to sew as you go than to leave all the sewing to the last — plus, you will be finished more quickly!
Finishing the Rug
Once you have braided the rug to the desired width, you can sew the ends of the strips tucked into the underside of the braid. For a more finished look, wrap the last braid with bias tape and sew in place. Wash and dry your rug as you plan to for daily use, and consider adding a non-slip pad for beneath the rug.
Pour yourself a mug of coffee, grab a book, sit in a chair, and enjoy a warm feel on your feet and a sense of satisfaction: You made your first braided rug! (It won’t be long before you’ll see more spots on the floor that need a little something …)
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