Slowly Crafting

A little over a year ago, I saw a blurb in Mother Earth News about creating a rag rug. When I followed through on the link, it was talking about using leftover woolen clothes to create durable floor mats. Well, this Southern California girl doesn’t do wool: it’s itchy, and more importantly it needs dry cleaning, which is expensive.

It did give me an idea, though, so I used the power of Google to learn more about rag rugs. I remember my grandma having them as I grew up, and I loved the way they felt underfoot – a wonderful contrast to that cold linoleum in the kitchen on winter mornings. It turns out, most people make them out of tshirts and other cotton fabric. I was in business!

Professional-Looking Rag Rug
My photo inspiration

I piled up all of my stained and otherwise ready-to-be-donated shirts and was all ready to get going. Step one is the least fun part, which is what kept me from starting this project for a long time: It involved cutting 2-inch-wide strips out of the shirts. Me being me, my strips were all going to be EXACTLY two inches wide, which made it a very time consuming, back breaking process, as I leaned over my quilting board and diligently cut the fabric into strips. I actually did the bulk of this project the same night I tried making pectin.

Once the strips were cut, I spent a while watching YouTube videos to find out the best way to proceed: There were different opinions in how to sew these little strips together, so I had to figure out which would work best for me. Fortunately a throw away line in one of the videos saved me a great deal of frustration. It pointed out not to make the strips more than five or six feet long, because trying to braid with them longer made it incredibly difficult.

Next up was sewing these little strips into longer strips. I needed Kurt‘s sewing machine for it. I knew from past experience, however, that if I borrowed the machine, it would sit around my house and never get done. Instead we found a time when I could come over and sew there.

Tammy Sewing Strips
Thanks for documenting this important step, Kurt!

After the strips were sewn, they lived under my bed for many, many months. It just wasn’t doing it for me. Then, about two months ago, despite a ridiculously busy work schedule, I decided to start. I love it! It is so relaxing! The first step is to braid the strips together, and then manipulate the braid into an oval shape and sew it down. I love all of it!

I’ve learned so much in the process of doing my first one. First off, don’t create 50 feet of braid and then start shaping it. It is hard to manage, and it starts twisting in on itself and doesn’t like to lay flat. Also, color choice timing matters. I got lucky when I started to create mine and like the way it is looking, but when I create future rugs, I will be more conscious of the color placement.

Finally, cats really like “helping” with this task, almost as much as the creation of Halloween costumes.

Carmen on Rug

Lemon on RugI figure my first rug will be down on the kitchen floor by Thanksgiving. It will feel all nice and cozy beneath my feet, and it’s washable!

Has anyone else had a craft sit unattended for months before resuming it? or What is your latest relaxation activity?

14 thoughts on “Slowly Crafting”

  1. What a great project! I loved those old rag rugs – I’m almost inspired to give it a shot to deal with our old t-shirts, but…you had me right up until the sewing part. Aack. I suspect our three cats would love the process as well as the finished product. Would be perfect for right inside the front door.

    And yes, my projects often sit in a semi-completed state for months at a time…and that’s the story. 🙂


    1. The sewing wasn’t that onerous. It took a couple hours for 2-3 rugs worth of strips. It could also be done by hand, which would allow you to skip the part where I was cursing the bobbin and the stupid threading guide on the machine.

      So glad to hear that I’m not the only one with partially completed projects!


      1. Thank you so much for the nomination! What an honor.

        This is a great project if you have lots of tshirts and the time to assemble it. I find it incredibly relaxing!


  2. This is an interesting project. I can’t say that I’m all that good with crafts or stuff like that. I’d probably throw away a shirt before cutting it up to reuse it. But the idea is really cool.


    1. This project is a year in the making. I’m so glad I finally did get around to it. For a while I was wondering if those shirts would have been better served donating them. Glad I didn’t go that route. It’s fun and relaxing


  3. If you could see my piles of UFO’s (unfinished objects) you’d shake your head in disgust, I’m sure.

    I had a quilt that I had cut out the pieces for that sat around for a year and a half before my daughter suggested I work on it an hour a day. Just an hour.

    I tried it and it was done in 2 months.

    I’d loved to make a braided rug. Are you sewing them together on the machine? I thought one used a big crochet hook and looped them together somehow that way. Or is it just the strips of fabric you’re piecing together? I, too, have a lot of t-shirts and other items of clothing I don’t wear and this would be a great recycling project.

    I have no cats – so that part is not a concern. I hope you’ll share the finished rugs with us. I love a show and tell.


    1. I don’t judge about unfinished projects (I love the UFO label!) since I have so many!

      Doing crafts in small batches makes so much sense. What a smart daughter you have!

      I sewed the small strips together to make 6 foot lengths. When I connect them, I use a knotting method I saw in a Youtube video. The crochet method for connecting the braids is one way of doing it, which I might try in the future. I am simply hand sewing the braid into place on the underside. Although that means the rug isn’t reversible, there were fabric ends exposed that I’ve been manipulating to the bottom of the braid anyway, so it works for me. I guess I’m just not that picking on my first attempt.

      I don’t know that the cats are going to give me the rug back to finish. My Carmen seeks it out wherever it is sitting, waiting for me to finish. Black Friday will probably be my polish it off date.


  4. I can’t wait to see the finished product! I once collected all the items I needed to paint a special accent wall and put them in the coat closet. Two years later the technique I was going to use feel out of style, and I put the items away in the basement where they belonged. Bullet dodged.


  5. This reminds me of my grandma too! Hers were the wool rugs and she made them huge…like to fill the living room. I don’t know that I will ever approach her level of skill, but I sure want to try!


    1. Now that is a big rug! I have seen that type of rug, but like you, those are well beyond my ability level. I’d love to get there, but I doubt I will ever spend the time to build those skills. I will simply not-so-secretly envy that ability.


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