Braided Rag Rug in Progress

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Yea I know, this is usually a code blog but I’m a crafter at heart and I really wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned with the online community!

A month back I decided to try my hand a quilting. All went well until I had to stitch together then sandwich (the front, back and batting) and as it would turn out, my machine is just not up-to-snuff for that. While researching and learning more about quilting I came across the moda bakeshop, and when I looked in my craft pile this weekend to figure out what I could make next I saw the perfect opportunity for a braided rag rug.

Before diving in headfirst I made a little braided coaster that taught me a few things:

  1. A 3 strand braid is frustrating to work with because it’s not completely flat. Learning a new braid that may lay flatter would be beneficial for my sanity on a larger project
  2. If you’re concerned about frays either cut on a bias or iron. Even just ironing strips in half helps combat excessive frays and also help make sure the pretty side of the fabric shows more consistently
  3. Sewing this is going to be a cuss fest

But I was still on board! I used about 4 fat quarters probably about 3/4 of a yard of other remnants and started cutting away 1.5″ strips using my rotary cutter. I ironed everything in half and stitched the shorter pieces from the fat quarters into longer ~40″ strips. If you are in the market for a rotary butter and a mat (ie. new to quilting/rug making) I recommend getting a set that has a mat & ruler 18″ long. The length really helps a lot! My mat is maybe only 6″ wide but I’d buy a 6″x18″ mat over any smaller more squared size any day of the week. A good rotary cutter is helpful – my next investment will be one that I can use a pinking blade on!

I used a 5 strand flat braid technique from this post and got on my way braiding about 15′ of 1″ wide braid.

15 feet of braided fabric - gonna need more!

According to the posts I’ve read online to start an oval rug (mine will be 4’x2′ to run next to my bed) you need to start with the seam in the length of the difference. (IE. 4 – 2 = 2, so I must start my oval with a 2′ length). Here’s one of the posts that I found a lot of information from rug braiding on as well as rug braiding techniques on Rugmaker’s Homestead

Sewing the coasters with a nightmare so I think with the rug I’ve started to use a lacing technique I’ve read about and using a nylon cord I had around the house.

Of course, 15′ into the braid all the posts I’m reading recommend you start coiling once you have enough for your first round, which would be 2′ for my seam, then 4′ to go around that. Those recommendations are based on the fact that you’ll likely need to un-braid and re-braid those strands to get the center to lay flat. This piece of advice seems to be prevalent in all the posts I’ve read: If you center doesn’t lay flat there’s no way the rest of your rug will!

Because of that advice I picked up some more fabric and started my center so I could get the first bend correct. Took 4 tries braiding the round, un-braiding and then trying again to get a bend I was happy with. I’ll finish up the yellow that I have then work the multi-color braid around that for a few time around then add a few rows of a purple on the outside.

Yellow center of the rug with the first bend

I used the instructions to braid the first round from this no-sew rag rug tutorial. The rug in that tutorial isn’t quite my style (I like the geometric patters from the braids and the coil much better) but the part about making the first round (with pics!!!) proved very helpful for making my 5 strand braid bend around that first time.

Here’s one woman’s rainbow rug for a nursery made from jersey knit, an Etsy shop full of inspirational rag rugs, and a flickr braided rug group with tons of photos for ideas on color palettes, patterns and much more!

Other lessons learned:

  • When braiding 5 stands (thought I suspect this is true with 3 or 4 as well) your end braid is about 1/2 the length of your original strands
  • A healthy mix of solids and patterns looks fabulous. I used a batik deep purple, a blue/green/beige pattern, a purple/green/beige stripe, a bright (nearly patternless) yellow and a very neutral patterned white/beige. I think the mix is enchanting so far and I can’t wait to line the inside and outside with some solid purple and yellows when I find the right colors
  • When starting the 5 stand braid DON’T stitch the fabrics together and DON’T just lay them atop each other. Use a safety pin (quilting or a diaper pin for strength/security) and fold each piece in half and string it on sideways. You’ll have a much cleaner start that way. When the fabrics are atop each other it will take a few stitches of the braid (and a few inches) to order itself out
  • I encourage lots of mixing and matching, striped, solids, prints, plaids, anything really! Using cotton was an obvious choice for me cause it’s the remnant I had already, but it’s a nice light weight fabric that braid easily and i would recommend it to anyone just trying out rag rug making.
  • Never underestimate the learning process of making a smaller project first. Coasters, place mats, decorative under a candle type pieces. There’s a lot to learn and ruining your first big project with a new craft is not always the best way to get started with new technique!

Close up of my multi color 5 strand braid

Resources and Links

While doing my research I came across a lot of great articles about braiding rag rugs. I’ve separated them out to no sew and do sew tutorials, though no matter the method you choose remember that lacing can be used in place of sewing (for the most part) and the do sew are often hand sewing rather than machine sewing. When in doubt: wing it!

General Braided Rug Resources

No Sew Rag Rug Tutorials

Do Sew Rag Rug Tutorials

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