The craft of rug making dates back to ancient times and there are a number of traditional techniques still commonly used today. One of the more popular techniques amongst hobbyists is the art of rag rug making which, as the name suggests, entails making rugs out of strips of rag and other loose textiles.
Most rugs typically boast a shaggy appearance. Rags are therefore ideal for the creation of rugs as they help exemplify this traditional, popular feature.
A traditional rag rug is created using piles of old cloth, which are joined together either to form a colourful pattern, or a more random appearance as the craftsperson sees fit. This is part of the appeal of rag rug making, as the rug can be easily assembled with only minimal thought given to the final design – ultimately, a shaggy-looking, yet appealing rug can be created with relatively little effort.
Rag Rugging Supplies Required:
- Assorted rags
- Hessian sheeting (or a non-skid rug mat)
- Optional: rag rugger tool or hook.
How to make Rag Rugs
The basis of making a rag rug is simple enough: fill a hessian backing with pieces of rag until the weave is no longer slack and the strips are securely in place. Typically, strips of rag are individually weaved into a hessian backcloth so that both ends of each strip stick out on the top side of the rug.
Hessian sacks were the original choice of backing for a rag rug, however as these are harder to come by these days sheets of hessian (also known as “sacking hessian”) are typically used instead. Hessian makes for an ideal backcloth for rag rugging because it’s tough as well as cheap. Hessian also exhibits a loose weave, making it relatively easy to feed the strips through without risk of breaking the threads.
To make your rag rug, simply pull each individual strip of rag through a weave of the hessian sheet, then feed it back out again so that both ends of the rag poke out of one side, with the tight part in the middle of the strip poking through the underside. This should keep the strip of rag firmly in place without the need for knots or any other form of tying.
The process is then repeated until a thick, shaggy rug is created. Note that not every weave in the hessian need be filled with a rag strip – experiment to see how many holes can be covered in order for the rug to become rigid, but typically 4 to 5 strands apart will suffice.
The size of strip you use will vary depending on your personal preference. A common size per strip is 1×3 inches (1inch wide, 3 inches long) – wide enough to keep each strip in place within the hessian weave, yet long enough for your finished rug to exhibit a thick pile finish. It’s also an ideal length for creating your rug in a casual fashion without having to worry too much about uniformity. Strips longer than 3 inches tend to be too slack, reducing the firmness of the rug and causing the strips to flop over one another.
Useful Rag Rugging Hints and Tips
- Try weaving each strip of cloth 4 to 5 weaves apart from the other – as long as the backcloth eventually becomes covered with strips of cloth and exhibits little slackness, the rug will look great and be fit for purpose.
- Pulling the cloth through the weave is easier than pushing it through, but a tool is generally needed for this method. A rag rugger is a tool specially designed for this purpose and can speed up the weaving process, allowing each strip to be pulled through with relative ease. Alternatively, a hook can be used for the same purpose.
- Pushing the strip through by hand will also suffice, but the process may take longer. If necessary, each strip of rag can be pushed through the backcloth using a sharp implement.
- An alternative to hessian sheeting is to use an old non-skid rug mat.