Braiding rugs from strips of fabric is a traditional craft designed to make something useful and decorative out of materials that would otherwise be wasted. It's easy enough for children to do, or to help an adult with, and with certain adaptations of the basic method, quick enough to complete in one day. Nonfraying fabric and a sewing machine make quick work of what could otherwise be a time-consuming task.
1 Cut or tear strips of nonfraying fabric that are at least three inches wide. Wider strips result in a thicker rug that is quicker to finish. Tearing the strips is quicker than cutting: Snip into the edge of the fabric and firmly rip the two sides away from each other. If the fabric doesn't tear smoothly or easily, use scissors.
2 Determine whether you have cut enough strips to complete your whole rug. Lay the strips out side-by-side on the floor so that they are not overlapping. When your strips cover an area that is at least three times the area you want for your finished rug, you should have enough strips.
3 Join the ends of three fabric strips with a safety pin. Braid the strips, keeping the tension of the braiding even along its length. Don't braid too tightly or the process will be more time-consuming.
4 Add new fabric strips to the braid by overlapping the top inch or two of the new strip and the bottom inch or two of the previous strip. Grip the strips together firmly at the overlap and work it into the braid.
5 Attach the braid to a cushion or the arm of your sofa using a safety pin to make it easier to continue as the braid gets longer. Reposition the pin to the bottom of the braided section whenever you've worked approximately an arm's length of braiding. This helps keep the braid taut as you work.
6 Continue until you have braided all of your strips. Trim the ends of the final three fabric strips so they are even, and hold them together with a safety pin.
7 Transfer your braid to a flat surface. Remove the safety pin from one of the ends and form a coil with the end in the center and the braid coiled around it in two or three increasingly large loops. Place a few straight pins through the coil to temporarily hold the adjacent sections of the braid together.
8 Thread your sewing machine with heavy polyester thread and a needle suitable for sewing heavy fabric. Set it to sew the widest possible zigzag stitch with the longest possible length.
9 Place the pinned-together coil under the sewing machine presser foot, ready to sew with the center of the coil under the needle. Lower the needle with the hand wheel so that it inserts into the center of the coil. Sew a few stitches, then back stitch a few times to secure the end of the thread.
10 Continue sewing, slowly at first, while rotating the coil so that the zigzag stitch alternately catches the side of the inner braid and the adjacent outer braid. Remove the straight pins as you sew.
11 Wrap more of the braid around the coil as you sew. After you've sewn the innermost part of the coil together, there is no need to pin the new parts of the coil. Just incorporate the new length into the coil as you rotate the rug under the needle.
12 Continue until you've sewn the full length of the braid into the increasingly large coil. You might need to start rolling or folding the sides of the rug to fit it through the machine. When you reach the end, tuck the final inch or two of the braid underneath the rug and secure it in place with a few back stitches.
Items you will need
- Nonfraying fabric (fleece, jersey knits)
- Safety pins
- Straight pins
- Sewing machine
- Heavy polyester thread
- Manipulate the shape of the coil to form an oval instead of a circle, or sew the braid together in long parallel lines, pivoting at the ends, to create a rectangular rug.
- Optionally, glue the braided rug onto a backing of heavy felt or canvas fabric. Paint-on and spray-on latex products are also available to create a nonslip backing.
- Recycle old T-shirts or fleece blankets for your fabric strips. Cut up old towels for a fuzzy bathroom rug.
- Using different-colored fabric strips together creates a mottled look in the final rug.
- Use woven fabrics if you don't mind your rug having a frayed look. Generally, you would fold strips of woven fabric or sew them into tubes to hide the cut edges and prevent fraying, but doing so is too time-consuming for a one-day project.
- The Encyclopedia of Needlecraft; Lucinda Ganderton and Dorothy Wood
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images