One of the hallmarks of frontier families in the American West were rag rugs. Most often crafted by women, these floor coverings were handmade by taking bits of rags and tying, knotting, or braiding them together.
Like all good crafts, what was first a way of recycling old fabric became an actual art form. The website Rug Makers Homestead says that by the 1910s, rag rugs were seeing a rise in popularity and had evolved from primitive pieces to elaborate designs during the Arts and Crafts movement.
Not surprisingly, rag rugs gained popularity again during the Depression and master rug maker Diana Blake Gray writes that “hooked, 3-strand braided, loom woven and crocheted rugs, and the emphasis on the practical aspects of the rugs overrode most of the artistic developments earlier in the century.”
The craft is still practiced today, and if you’d like to give it a try, the internet is full of video tutorials. Here’s a guide to six of the best online videos for learning to make a rag rug.
Easy No Sew Rag Rug
Beginners should, well, start at the beginning. Before you can bust out the crochet darning needles, it makes sense to learn a basic pattern. That’s where this video from Nancy’s Notions comes in. With this step-by-step instruction you can learn how to make a small rug. This video is great because it uses an aerial view to show the viewer exactly how to pull and thread the strips of rags to form the rug.
Crochet Rag Rug Tutorial
Crocheting is a type of weaving done with a hook (called a darning needle) and most often prepared with yarn. But the same principles can apply to other materials—in this case rags. YouTuber Francis Young demonstrates this process in her video Crochet Rag Rug Tutorial and if you follow closely, you can easily craft your own.
Oval Rag Rug
The beauty of a rag rug is you can design it in multiple shapes as, HooknLoops Calm Country Crochet does in this Crochet Oval Rag Rug Part 1 video. One of the benefits of this guide is the video doesn’t just launch you into the actual strokes needed to create the rug. Rather, it begins by explaining exactly what tools you’ll need so you can get set up before attempting to make the rug on your own. In addition, the video just shows the work of the crocheter’s hands on a black background so it’s easy to follow every step.
Lost Art of Braid-in Rag Rugs Part 1
Part of the fun of learning a new craft is studying its history. That’s why we’re recommending Erin Halvorsen’s video Lost Art of Braid-in Rag Rugs. As Halversen explains, this form of rag rug making nearly vanished at the end of World War II when the conservation of scraps was no longer necessary. To rediscover this folk tradition, Halversen researched extensively and this video essentially allows crafters to step back in time and reclaim a long-lost art form.
How To Weave a Rag Rug Using Scrap Fabric
It might come as a surprise, but you can actually make a rag rug on a loom. Using those same fabric scraps gathered up for the other aforementioned videos, weavers can utilize their looms for this craft as well. Amazingly, the video from DIY On The House explains that the size of the scrap doesn’t matter. Even a 4x4 inch square can be used to make a loom rag rug.
How to make Amish Knot Trivets/Placemats (toothbrush rag rug)
Fun fact: historical evidence shows that crafters cut an "eye" into old wooden toothbrushes to make needles for weaving rag rugs. That’s why Barri-Jayne Makes calls her craft a toothbrush rag rug. Today, toothbrush needles are an actual tool you can buy at a fabric store or online. Better yet, in this video Barri-Jayne makes her own and shows viewers how they can save some cash by doing the same.
With these videos, you can get started on your own rag rug crafting adventures. All you need to do is rip up some old bed sheets or start collecting bits and bobs of fabric — say from old drapes, table clothes, or even T-shirts — and saving it for your eventual rag rug project.
Then, following these tutorials, you can turn your scraps into a functional masterpiece to decorate your home. As a bonus, the rag rug pattern can be used for more than just rugs. Think: placemats, table runners, and even wall hangings.
And if that doesn’t work out, as some craft projects are wont to do, you can always just buy a rug. While there may not be any rag rugs in our store, we do have the best in affordable modern rugs and Oriental rugs in a variety of shapes, colors, and designs.