I love crafts works. I made my first rag doll when I was 10 as a class project for a jumble sale, and I made my first rag rug when I was 16.
A rag area rug is a traditional handwoven carpet that is made from old and discarded clothes This craft has been around for hundreds of years and involves crocheting strips of cloth to create a floor covering.
Long ago, when clothes are so worn that they were no more useful to wear, they were hardly thrown away and too old to be given out. Every old bit of anything a family owned was recycled and put to good use for the benefit of the family. And if gifts needed to be presented, rag rugs made from the same worn-out materials were used.
Today, the popularity of rag area rugs continues to rise, and people love them so much that they either go out to buy one or hand-weave one for their own use or as a gift. Also, those who love craft-making, ‘rag-rugging’ is great fun and when it is completed, makes a wonderful item to spread on your living room or bedroom floor.
Materials You Can Recycle to Make Rag Rugs
Making handwoven rugs is a great way to recycle your old garments which can include:
- Old jeans
- Bed sheets and pillowcases
- Shirts and skirts
- Old jumpers
- Old but soft leather bags
- Curtains and drapery
- Old towels
- Toughened plastic bags.
The best rag area rug has a good mix of fabrics in a planned colour-coordinated way and a variety of textured materials can also be added to the mix.
If you will rather use new strips of fabric instead of old clothes, you can purchase a mix of cheap or reject materials online or from any of your local fabric shops. Wherever people live, cheap fabric shops and flea type markets abound so especially look out for leftover strips got from bales of fabrics.
There are different types of rag rugs and each is constructed differently from the others. They can come in one solid colour, or as a multi-coloured rug.
If you want a soft rug, use fabrics that are soft underfoot like bedsheets, pillowcases, or old t-shirts. On the other hand, if you want a rag rug that is thick, strong, and longer-lasting, you can use old jeans, suits, or flannel.
If you can crochet with yarn, then you can crochet a rag area rug with fabric strips. It’s the same basic crocheting principle. Don’t worry too much about perfection because the idea of a rag area rug is not to achieve the intricate look of a machine woven carpet. These are handmade rugs meant to be a work of art and therefore need not be perfect.
How to Make Handwoven Area Rugs
Rag area rugs are quite easy to make and if you are skilled at the art of making them, you can complete one (depending on its size) in just a couple of days. For a beginner, the process is fairly straightforward and if you are able to do some simple crocheting, you can make a rag rug because the most basic and simple technique of crocheting will suffice.
Beginners who wish to perfect the art of rug making may find this simple but comprehensive book on weaving rugs quite helpful.
The tools you need to make a rag rug are:
- Needle and thread or,
- Sewing machine
- A sharp pair of cloth scissors
- A large crochet hook (the US size Q is perfect for the job)
- Old clothes or materials found around the home
Make sure you have enough materials to make the rug size you want but if you are a beginner, just use what you have available and consider it a test run but if you have a certain space you'd like to use the rug and need it to be the right size, you'll need to be sure you have enough material to use.
- Cut all the material into I” or 2” strips depending on the fabric and the look you desire.
- If the strips you have are short, joined them together by sewing or knotting at the short end to create longer strips.
- If you can crochet with yarn, then you can crochet a rag area rug with fabric strips. It’s the same basic crocheting principle. Follow a half double crochet
- With the large crochet hook (large crochet hook allows looser stitching) start the rug with a chain stitch as long as you want the rug to be wide.
- After you create a chain, start the half double crochet stitches.
- Wrap the strip around the hook and hold it with a finger so it doesn’t slip off the hook.
- Push the tip of the hook through the hole, hook the fabric strip and pull the hooked strip out through the hole.
- Continue to pull it through both the loops on the hook
Don’t worry too much about perfection because the idea of a rag area rug is not to achieve the intricate look of a machine woven carpet. These are handmade rugs meant to be a work of art and therefore need not be perfect.
- Add on strips as you crochet or make all that you’ll need in advance.
- Make all your strips up first if you plan to dye them to look evenly random.
- If you want simple stripes on a rectangle rag rug, for instance, you can add on as you crochet and change strip colours at the edges as is required.
- Using a large crochet hook allows stitches to be relaxed so it’s easy to unravel if you hate the end result and want to do it all over again.
- You can get area rag rug making kits that has every tool you will need for your task, including backcloths.
- After making the rug, iron it with a steam iron, especially the edges are ruffling.
Video Tutorial - No Sew Rag Area Rug
Video Tutorials - Round Doormat
Other Crafts Made Out of Old Clothes
The technique used for weaving rag area rugs can also be applied to other crafts Asides using a rag rug for the floor, there are a variety of other things you can make out of old clothes and fabrics to use as home décor items or give out as gifts. They include some of the following:
- Tote bags
- Tea cosies
- Wall art
- Tablecloths, coasters, and placemats
Rag Rug Making - A Perfect Craft for the Family
When kids are free or on vacation and want something exciting to do, give them this fun task to do. They can make their own rag area rug for their bedroom, or for any other space in the house. And if they get good at making them, they can sell them to family and friends and earn some money in the process.
Even the elderly can join in the fun of making handmade rugs. They have a lot of free time on their hands to take up rug making crafts. They may even take the craft up to earn some income too.
They will make great gifts for their family members, friends, and even as gifts for children in an orphanage, and homeless people in localities, to help insulate them from the cold.
© 2009 viryabo
Lisa Jane from Washington on March 21, 2019:
I love this article. I have made rag rugs out of clothes and they look great. This is easy to do. Thanks for sharing.
marissa lopez on April 22, 2017:
Adrian Cloute from Cedartown, GA on August 26, 2013:
I love this hub. I think that I will make a small one for my table and then make a bigger one for my floor.
Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on August 26, 2013:
Great idea on how to recycle old clothes and fabrics. You've given us easy instructions too, viryabo. Excellent craft hub.
Terri on January 13, 2012:
I have to say that, "I just love this." I love to make good use of everything, and I love the old Pioneer days from making home made bread, and cheese, to candles, and now this. This is AWESOME! Thank you. Making my first rug now from old fleece sweat shirts that I never wore. =)
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 21, 2011:
You are welcome Tina.
Tina on November 14, 2010:
I've tried plaiting and lacing a rug before, but this looks so much easier, I will have another go. Thank you for the really clear videos.
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on October 30, 2010:
Light82, im happy you have found a commendable idea in giving rag rugs to the destitues, from reading this article.
That's a sad thing to happen. The cold bitter months are when they need the most help from us.
Thanks for visiting and leaving thought inspiring comments.
light82 from USA on October 30, 2010:
Thank-you for the charity idea. When I lived in Toronto (this is very sad) a homeless man was found dead on the sidewalk in his sleeping bag, during winter. He froze to death and people walked by him for three days until someone discovered he had passed. hopefully we can help this from happening. Thanks for the idea1 ~L
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on September 29, 2010:
Auntysa, i'm glad you found this informative. Imagine how we can all recycle our old clothes and present rag area rugs as presents for the needy at Xmas.
They will be nice as covers against the cold for the homeless too.
Thanks for the visit and for leaving nice comments.
AuntySa from Austalia on September 29, 2010:
Great post. I love the step-by-step videos shown here. I must say that you have given us a brilliant idea to recycle things and make them useful.
RTalloni on September 01, 2010:
What great ideas-I'll be back to take a closer look!
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on August 19, 2010:
I'm so glad Emma. i know how it feels like, having to throw clothes away. And if they are stained and quite old, they cant be given away either.
Making rag area rugs is the best way to recycle clothes that are too old to give out.
Thanks for the visit Emma. And for finding time to leave a nice comment.
Emma on August 18, 2010:
This has given me such inspiration. I have a bag of my boys' old clothes that are stained and old. I can't give them away, and I hate the idea of wasting them by throwing them away. So I am going to make a rag rug! Brilliant. Thank you.
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on July 17, 2010:
2uesday, hello and thanks for visiting. I'm glad you are inspired to try it out.
Winter months seems a great time to make craftworks such as weaving rag ares rugs, as we tend to be stuck at home a lot more in the cold months than in the summer.
Im sure you'll enjoy crafting some.
Thanks for taking the time to leave me a nice comment.
2uesday on July 16, 2010:
Hi viryabo thank you for this, I can remember rag rugs in the homes of my grandparents. I knew they could be made by the technique where the fabric strips are pierced through a hessian backing but I never thought of making them by crocheting or knitting. I may have a go at this in the winter time, I have small off-cuts of fabric that would be suitable. You may have inspired me with this article. Thank you.
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on November 08, 2009:
Hello Peggy, Thank you for your visit and comments. We can put to good use all old clothes and use constructively. We really must have the ragman back! That will be nice.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 08, 2009:
You are correct in that nothing was wasted in the "good old days." My mother actually remembers the ragman coming around in Milwaukee, Wisconsin collecting old cloths that no one wanted or could use. And rag rugs.......very popular back then. Good hub!
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on September 27, 2009:
Hi Stacie, thank you for the visit and your nice comments. Im glad you've found it informative.
Stacie L on September 27, 2009:
this is a very useful and informative hub for us crafters! thanks :=)
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on August 19, 2009:
Hi Plants & Oils, Thanks for your nice comments, glad you like it.
Plants and Oils from England on August 18, 2009:
Great hub, and really easy to follow instructions.
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on August 02, 2009:
Thanks so much Dame Scribe. Appreciate your comments. I know kids will love this, especially the creative children who love to do crafts. Keeps them busy and entertained.
Gin G from Canada on August 02, 2009:
Great skills to know and fun projects for kids and teens too. Great article! :)