Making Rag Rugs (Fiber Arts) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

My grandmother used to make rag rugs by weaving them. Does anyone else do this?

My dim memories of it were a wooden 2x4 (about) frame, with nails in either end, which were strung with some sort of cord, then the strips of rag were woven through the cords/strings. I don't remember the frame being adjustable. Perhaps she just had Grandpa (or Dad) make it to the most commonly useful size. After all the rags had been woven in, I believe the cords were cut and knotted in small groups, forming a fringe.

Today you can find "rag" rugs, usually made in India, but for some reason unfathomable to me, they don't seem to wear as well as those old rugs that Grandma made. Maybe they don't pack the rag strips in as tightly. Maybe her cord was better. The ones that really "get" me are the ones that they say need to be dry cleaned! I like stuff that can be washed 80 zillion times.

So, does anyone have any info on woven rag rugs and the "looms" to make them that they would like to share? Any ideas on what to use for stringing, what kind of cord? I think the rags were long strips, maybe 2" wide, of whatever was leftover from making things and/or old clothes torn up. I was thinking of using super cheap close out fabrics too. I think Grandma folded in the raw edges of the strips as she went, and I know when a strip was getting short, she'd sew another to it. She had the strips rolled into balls, ready to go, but I don't have a clear idea of how she got that ball woven in among the cords.

I'd also like to hear about other methods anyone is using to make rugs, mostly out of curiosity and a liking for anything fiber. Anyone braiding rugs? Anyone hooking rugs, especially with rags? Crocheting? Sewing strips to a backing? Sewing yarn to a backing (I did this once with a technique called "rya" -- makes a "shag" rug)?

-- Joy Froelich (, November 24, 2000


Joy, I remember my Grandma too braiding and crocheting rag rugs. Wish I'd have paid more attention! Try this site for all types of rug making: Hope that gets you there. I did a search on rag rugs and came up with this site. It's loaded with info.

-- Cathey (, November 24, 2000.

Joy - I recently, gosh now that I think about it, it was last spring found directions for making rag rugs from fabric strips on a frame. Sounds just like your grandma's.

The frame is made of 1x2" wood with nails top and bottom and a metal rod through screw eyes on each side. Frames can be made any size you wish just remember width must always be an odd number of inches and length can be any number of inches. I bought the frame for placemats and book from the little craft store we were in and made my big rug frame myself. The book gives you very good instructions for making the frame and rugs and was worth the $10. I like to get a good set of instructions for things cause I may not get back to the project for a couple years. The whole rug is made of material, no cording, so will last longer. You really need the book to understand how the horizonal strips are "tied" around the vertical strips strung on the nails.

The book is by Country Threads, 2345 Palm Ave. Garner, IA 50438 Phone 1-800-544-6852.

It would be worth the investment, I've seen these rugs at craft shows around here for $25 to $30 dollars and you can use up old clothes. I seem to go through turtle necks like crazy so I'm going to use some of those in a rug. Also got some "country" decorating material at WalMart during their $1.00 per yard sale.

Now you've got me excited about making rugs again this winter. Thanks!

-- Betsy (, November 24, 2000.

I make "tooth brush" rugs. But my materail wasn't rags. it was material that was too little to use for quilts. 1/2" - 1". I have braided rugs before and find the TB rugs easyer. Just a plastic needle a pair of scisores and the material. It is hard to explaine how to do it, but I learned how to do it in the early 90's.

-- rag rugs (, November 24, 2000.

Rag Rugs, that sounds intriguing. Can you try to explain it? Or do you have a web site?

-- Joy Froelich (, November 24, 2000.

I have never heard of a rug loom like what you described, but I'll bet it would work. I have a loom that was made to weave rugs on. The warp is set up, using strong cotton string; the weft are strips of rag material (usually cotton, or cotton blend), cut or torn in thin strips, and wrapped around a simple shuttle. The strip was "beaten" into place with the beater, a part of the loom that beats the new row into the previous one, making for a tightly woven, thick fabric.

Type "rug loom" into your search engine, and you should run into a TON of sites that contain them, in sizes that run from tabletop (for placemats and such) to huge computerized monsters, and every size in between. There are lots of folks who still make rag rugs by weaving them on looms; they are more sturdy than the Walmart sort. I think it is because we use a heavier warp thread, and beat the weft harder. They are my favorite kind of rug, and I have quite a collection of them. Nicely made ones last for years, and can even be dyed with Rit dye when they get faded.

-- Leann Banta (, November 24, 2000.

Joy, I crochet rag rugs, cut the material in strips, the width depends on how heavy you want the rug to be. Sew together and crochet with a large hook. The only trouble I have is that some material wants to unravel on the edges and get fuzzy. My grandmother used to crochet rugs too. Mona Lea

-- Mona Lea (, November 24, 2000.

I've been reading on the website that Cathey provided. Rag Rugs It has a LOT of different methods.

They are talking about using wool strips. I know Grandma's were mostly cotton. If anyone uses wool, can you wash them? I know wool often shrinks, but have no idea if it would if made up this way.

Leann, I couldn't tell from your post whether you actually made any of your rugs. If you do, do you use cotton?

-- Joy Froelich (, November 24, 2000.

A fellow my husband works with knows I spin, knit and was trying to learn to weave. He picked up a loom at auction one day and brought it to me. Turns out it's a Deen rug loom made in Harlan, Iowa, until shortly after World War II and it's built like a tank to take the stresses of rug weaving. I have had a ball researching it including a phone conversation with a lady who works at the historical society in Harlan. She said she could remember when the company was still in operation. The looms were marketed mostly to women who wanted a home business but the company also made and sold finished rugs. I don't have room for it and would be happy to find it a "good home." It does have rust on it but it has responded to WD 40 and it would be easy to replace the heddles and beater which are rusted the worst.

I'm in central MO if anyone is interested. I don't have a lot of money tied up in it and could sell it pretty cheaply. It's one of those things I would do myself if I had time and space for it but....I'm at the age when I must prioritize my time and energy more than when I was a young woman. If this sounds good to you, please email me directly.

-- marilyn (, November 24, 2000.

I've been crocheting rugs for about ten years now. I've used different fabrics but now use only doubleknit or sweatshirt material.

I prefer the doubleknit fabric because it doesn't ravel, washes like iron and comes in a variety of colors that don't fade. I find this fabric in thrift stores, usually at a very good price.

The sweatshirt material is from old sweatshirts that I buy by the bag from a couple of different thrift stores. I cut the material into one long strip by starting at the bottom. Being very frugal I remove the waistbands and save them until I have enough to make a small rug.

-- Jackie Hawkins (, November 25, 2000.

I have woven several rugs on my loom, but had to give it up until we get more room! I make mine from cotton, mostly worn out jeans that I have torn nto one inch strips, and folded in half, and the outsides folded in towards the middle, so I don't get the raveling. Some folks don't mind the ravels; I saw a very attractive rug this fall at a craft show, where the weaver twisted the strips, and left the raw edges out; it made for a kind of chenile effect. It would be nice in the bathroom, in front of the tub!

-- Leann Banta (, November 25, 2000.

I make rag rugs all the time on my loom. I make them out of most anything, wool rags, denim, mop cord, baling twine, whatever is laying around. The wool ones are my favorite. I was able to buy fabric scraps from a coat factory. The wool is very thick. I cut it about in 3/4 inch strips, slanting the ends so I can match my next strip to it. I twist the ends along the selvedge to tuck in the edges. For warp I use cotton rug warp. When I'm done, I give them about a 5 inch fringe. When I start and finish a rug, I always add about 6 or seven picks of the warp before I start the actual rug filler. This helps stabilize it and makes finishing the rug easier. I love to make these and if anyone would like to discuss rugs they can e-mail me.

-- Anne Tower (, November 25, 2000.

I make mine out of old denim, with good thick cotton rug warp. the reason they say to dry clean is that the colors are not colorfast, and some may not have been preshrunk. If you want to wash the rugs, prewash the strips, the rug warp will shrink down and make the weave even tighter. Crocheting is alot quicker (prewash fabric) and thick and fuzzy.

-- joan murray (, November 27, 2000.

I finished my first rug :: traditional rug hooking

It isn't so great but I am proud of it anyways!!!

-- kelly (, November 29, 2000.

I made Braided rag rugs when I was a kid.Mom still makes them when she can.Fabric was ripped into strips and sewn together in long strands.Then 3 strands were braided together.Braid was coiled into a rug and sewn together.Do last step on a flat surface or the rug will prob be lumpy.

-- sharon wt (, November 29, 2000.

I used to help my grandmother make the braided rugs in the early '50's. She also had some rag rugs, but I didn't help her with those. They were made in the 30's and 40's. Pleasant memories!

-- Marie C. (, November 29, 2000.

joy, i think what you are asking about are twined rugs not woven rugs, even though this is a kind of weaving. their is a new book out by bobbi irving on twining rugs. i got my at barnes and noble. sally

-- sally stanton (, February 02, 2001.

Dear Joy, I have had three strokes lately and I reallwant to learn how to crochet rugs and baskets. This would be very good therapy. I do know how to crochet but I would really like to practice using my hands more. Thank You Ruth

-- Ruth Earlene Hutcheson (, March 21, 2002.

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