Very little is needed to make a braided rag rug. Old Sheets (or shirts, jeans, curtains, tablecloths... whatever you can get your hands on - the only requirement is that you the same type of fabric for the entire rug), some scissors, yarn, a darning needle, a flat surface and time.
Start off by cutting "starter slits" about 2" long every 3-4" on whatever material you are using. Some folks like to cut the entire length of the material, I prefer to tear it. It goes much faster and is a great task for children. I find that kids truly enjoy destroying things - being given the a-ok to do so makes it even better. The kids were actually bickering over who got to do the tearing. They call it fun, I call it child labor. Tomatoes/Tomatoes.
You're going to want to put all your torn pieces in some sort of storage receptacle. If you don't happen to have a shopping cart on hand, any box, basket or bag will do. It's not a vital necessity, but it's preferable to having scraps of material strewn about the floor.
You are now approaching the fun part. Braiding. How you start the braiding is really a matter of preference. In my quest for directions I found that most people will cut slits in the top of the strip and then hang it on a door knob to start.
Like so.... (slit in fabric above, hanging on door knob below)
I don't like this method. I think it sucks and is complicated. I prefer a less classy approach - I simply hold the ends down with my foot until I get 5-6 repeats done.
As you're braiding you're going to want to remove all the little threads that are coming off of the material. If you are using a woven cotton fabric (e.g. sheets) this will happen a bit. I like to cut them to prevent more fray - ripping them off works fine too if you want to work out some anger. Whatever suits you is just fine. Please trust me when I say you want to remove them. If you don't, braiding will be a huge tangled mess and will only cause frustration.
Much like the not so bright fish in "Finding Nemo" - you may find yourself chanting "just keep braiding... just keep braiding... braiding, braiding, braiding... braiding". The first braid is the most tedious, but I ensure you it gets much easier. I don't like staying hunched over the entire time so after I have a little bit of a braid going I will hold it between my knees. The shorter the strands get, the easier it gets to braid. (Yes - I am stating the obvious - but I am a simple minded person and was very excited when I realized this at 2am). What you will have is a nice long braid to begin your rug with.
There are several theories on how to progress from here as well. I am only going to cover what I find the easiest and most logical. If you'd like to read about the other ways you can do so here.
At this point I begin sewing together the braid into a spiral. This will be the center of your rug and also the most challenging part of the endeavor. It will go fairly quickly and once you get past the start it will be smooth sailing.
Start by cutting a fairly long strand of yarn and tying it around the beginning of your braid. After securing a few knots for good measure, cut off some of the excess material. Loop the braid into a small, tight circle and take the needle and run it through the hole between the braided strands.
You will not have to actually sew through any material. Thanks to the wonderful space created by the braided strands all you have to do is slip the needle from the wrong side on the section to be attached and insert it in the aligning space on the section that has already been secure. Until you get a few rounds done this will be a bit of a pain in the rear. Hang in there! I promise it is totally worth it and gets way easier.
Just in case I was confusing, You will go from the wrong side of the non-attached section (bottom to top)
Then down through the right side of the already attached portion (top to bottom)
Now... this is very important. Make sure that when sewing, you do so on a flat surface. If you do not the rug will be wavy and wompy and will probably cause much anger and resentment. I prefer to work on a carpeted floor type surface. For those that don't like sitting on the ground a table works just as well.
Much like the "just keep braiding" tune, there is no doubt that in this first section of sewing the same tune will be once again running through your head. Eventually the braided section will come to an end and you will resume the braiding process.
I personally prefer to start the sewing process and braid as needed for a couple reasons.
- I get bored easily and breaking up the braiding and sewing works well for me. Just when I get sick of one I get to move on to the other and it makes me happy
- It is easier to make sure your rug will be round and the design flows the way you like if you are adding colors as you go rather than just hoping it doesn't look like a hot bag of ass.
When adding in a new strand to an existing strand, I prefer to stagger them. If all new strands are added in a straight line the result is a big lump that his hard to cover up. (I learned that one the hard way)
I tried several different methods of joining strands and I found this to be the most tidy as well as the least frustration. To start - fold the existing strand in thirds. This will resemble a tri-fold pamphlet.
Do the same tri-fold with the new strand, making sure that the fold is on opposite sides. This makes it easier to sew.
Run your needle and thread up from the new strand's tri-fold side and then across and back down. The top will look like this. (see below)
Tie the yarn in a couple of knots to hold it in place and then cut the remaining yarn, leaving a little bit of a tail. This will get worked into your next braid so it wont matter.
Continue braiding as before. When you get to the end of your material go back to sewing as before. Keep on going until the rug is the size that makes your heart smile.
Since I had to start a new rug for tutorial purposes - here is the rug I've been working on for about a day. You can see how making the rug in a "braid as you go" way makes it easier to know when to change colors.
To get the pattern above is really quite simple. I started with 1 braid with all 3 strands the same. The next row I worked with 2 white/1 blue. When I thought that was long enough I moved on to 2 blue/1white, then 3 blue, then back to 2blue/1white. I plan on continuing the same repeat until I'm content with the diameter of the rug.
If you found this helpful - please (pretty please) let me know. If you thought it was ridiculous or a waste of your time let me know (I promise not to be offended). As always feel free to contribute and questions, comments or concerns.
Good Luck and God Speed