Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

How to Make a Rag Rug


Update: Many of you have asked if I sell any of the rugs I've made. Well, I've decided to offer some of them in my Etsy shop. Enjoy!

Most of you who visit this blog post will recognize these types of rugs; perhaps even your grandmother at one time made them and now they are in your home.  When washing rugs as a child I remember how heavy rag rugs were and how long they took to dry on the clothesline.  It wasn't until years later that my mom said these were handmade using old clothes.  About 10 years later I had a pile of clothes and some worn sheets and decided to hunt down the technique for weaving rag rugs.  I recorded 4 videos that show the process and some pictures below.  

I hope you feel inspired to make some of these rag rugs during the winter when you are looking for something to keep your mind off the falling snow and cold temps.  Traditionally these rugs were made by recycling old, worn out and stained clothing.  They were made during a time in history where nothing was wasted.  All of my rugs are made with fabric that cannot otherwise be reused...sun-bleached curtains, ripped sheets, stained clothes, etc.  If you are intimidated by weaving, don't be. The weave is very repetitious and goes quickly.  

How durable are these homemade rugs?  One of my rugs is 4 years old and it is the only rug that is used in front of the kitchen sink.  It has been washed dozens of times and still holds up to daily traffic. 

The Frame: 
My frame was determined by the length of steel rods that I could find.  Dimensions: 27x38 inches.  The frame pieces are about 2 inches wide and about .5 inch thick.  The steel rods are 36 inches long and are held in place with 5 eye hooks evenly spaced on each side.  Do not use coat hangers or any metal that can bend easily. I haven't tried wooden dowels but I imagine they would bend and perhaps break.  50 nails are used for the frame, 25 on top and 25 on bottom, spaced about 1 inch apart.  Total cost for my frame: $2.36

Fabric: sheets, pillowcases, curtains, old clothes, corduroy pants, etc. 100% cotton and polyester work the best because they don't stretch and shrink when washed.  

Other Supplies:
-Two clothespins are used to help hold the fabric in place when you aren't weaving.
-Fabric Scissors


Step 1: Making the warp

When you weave, work from the ends of your frame and finish in the middle. 

Almost done...by now the warp should be really tight and weaving takes a little longer because there is less space for your fingers to work. 

The rug is now complete!


Here are two more rugs that I have made (click to enlarge). 

This picture shows the spacing between the rod and the frame.


Video 1: How to Make the Warp
Video 2: How to Weave 
Video 3: How to turn around at the end of each row
Video 4: Finishing the rug


64 comments :

Jess @ Lesniak Oriental Rugs May 31, 2013 at 11:30 AM  

Great tutorial, pretty rug. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous June 2, 2013 at 6:02 PM  

Thank you for the clear directions. I really would like to make one of these looms. Did you post a how to ?

Holly June 3, 2013 at 4:51 AM  

Hi Anonymous! No, I didn't post a tutorial on how to make the loom. Next time I make one I will be sure and take a video.

Unknown June 16, 2013 at 8:36 PM  

Hello, I wanted to say you inspired my adult daughter and I to make rag rugs. Our husbands made the looms for us, which are designed to make your style of woven rugs and potholder style rugs on the same loom. The two vertical boards rotate and have the rods on one side and dowel pegs on the other side. Thank you for our inspiration!

Betty

Holly June 17, 2013 at 6:41 AM  

Hi Betty,

I am so happy to hear that you and your daughter enjoy weaving rugs. The loom your husband designed really intrigues me! I have a smaller one that I use for making placemats but I like the idea of having the loom adjustable so I don't have a bunch of looms to store. Thanks for sharing!

Holly

stephanie July 6, 2013 at 4:35 PM  

Hi Holly,

Thanks to your awesome directions & video's, I now have a loom that I made myself and am about 6 rows in on my first ever rag rug!
I was given several big bags of quilting scraps by a relative and had no idea what to do with them until I stumbled across your blog, I really do enjoy doing the weaving and it is something I think I will continue to do.


Thank you very much :)

Stephanie

mary July 19, 2013 at 11:57 AM  

I am trying to make my first rag rug using your tutorial. I have a few questions. First, when you finish the end of making the warp do you knot that off in the same way you did at the beginning of warp? And if so, is that at the bottom right or top right corner? Second, when weaving, you said you pull the strip about half way through when you begin the weave. Does this mean you have all the strips already attached to one another and then you pull half of the length through? or how much of length are you starting with when you begin the first row? Also, you aid when you go to the next row and are turning around, you slip the weave through the knot at the beginning, but do you slip it through each time you are ready to turn with the one above? Finaly, you siad when finishing off you use a crochet needle to weave the ends back through-do you mean just through the warp or also within the weave?

Holly July 21, 2013 at 5:38 PM  

Hi Mary,
Here are the answers to your questions. If you need more clarification, please let me know!

1. Yes, to end the warp, use the same knot technique as we did in the beginning. End in the bottom right corner.

2. You don't want the strip very long when you are weaving because it's a lot of fabric to pull through. I pull the strip halfway through at the beginning because we are using one continuous strip of fabric. To begin weaving I start with one strip of fabric about 3 feet long.

3. You only need to go through the knot once and that is for the first row. All of the subsequent rows just need to go around the rod and the end strip of fabric each time.

4. At the end, the crochet hook is used to push the fabric strips through the rug because everything is very tight. I basically go back and forth within the weave.

D Hillesheim August 10, 2013 at 8:09 AM  

Hi Holly,

Thanks for the great blog! I have an online shop where I make infinity scarves out of t-shirt loops. I have been wanting to make a loom like your's so I can use the remaining t-shirt hems for weaving. Have you had experience with using the hems? I was interested to hear you say the t-shirt material doesn't wash as nicely since it stretches (I hadn't thought of that).

I appreciated your clear instructions as well.

Dana

Holly August 10, 2013 at 4:00 PM  

Hi Dana,

No, I have never used t-shirt hems in my rugs. Since hems have an extra layer or two of fabric, they may add extra bulk to your rug depending on the other fabrics you are using. Good luck!

Holly

Anonymous August 25, 2013 at 2:36 AM  

Hi ur videos are very clear.i would luv to make this.could u pls tell wat s the measurement for medium size rug?and war s the thickness of the rod?shud it b thin?

Holly August 26, 2013 at 3:29 PM  

Hi Anonymous,

The rods are 1/8 inches in diameter. Make sure the rods cannot easily bend. The eye hooks also help keep the rod from bending.

The measurement of a finished rug is: 25x34 inches. It all depends on what you consider to be a medium-size rug, but I would consider this to be medium.

Hope this helps!
Holly

Anonymous September 16, 2013 at 9:51 PM  

Hi. This looks great, I've just finished making my loom. Just wondering what happens when you get to an eye hook when weaving do you just go either above or below it... Then when you're finished and removing the rods, they're not a problem? I just thought it might somehow get hooked.

Can't wait to start :)

Cheers

Erin

Holly September 17, 2013 at 9:28 AM  

Hi Erin,

When you get to an eye hook, just go above or below it. There shouldn't be a gap when removing the rods. Good luck!

Holly

deb @ frugal little bungalow September 20, 2013 at 1:12 PM  

HI THERE ! I ordered a loom from someone and they did send printed instructions. There is another video on the Net about doing this as well, but that lady's fingers FLEW......

I am so glad to have found YOU! :) Your instructions are perfect. I'll have you on at the beginning and end of every row through my entire first rug, most likely :) I have to cut and put fabric together first so it may be a bit till I start but I am relieved to have found your video :)

Wonderful instructions, thank you :)

KcSlumper October 12, 2013 at 4:23 AM  

Thank You so very much for making your instructions/videos, so easy to understand.
I have watched a few other videos, (not that I don't appreciate them), I was left with questions.
After watching your videos, I gained a full understanding. I started my first rug yesterday.
Take Care - Be Safe

Anonymous November 11, 2013 at 5:10 PM  

Hello. I have been curious as to why the weaving of rag rugs on a frame is approached from both ends of the warp (moving to the middle).

Do you know what advantage(s) that provides?

Thanks.
Good instructional series.

Holly November 14, 2013 at 7:31 AM  

Two benefits for moving from the ends and meeting in the middle are:

1. It creates even tension on the rods so the rods don't become warped on one side. My weave is very tight so I would be concerned about bending the rods.

2. I try to have a consistent design for my rugs and have often run out of material because it is hard to estimate how much fabric is needed. I personally like having the middle look different in case I run out of fabric instead of an end.

Zachary Rickett January 20, 2014 at 5:33 PM  

Wonderful! Thank you so so much. Easy to follow and you did an amazing job. You made a fan out of me.

Tina McFadden March 14, 2014 at 7:52 PM  

This is the BEST tutorial I have seen to do the rag rug. I will get my frame out now and try this again. thank you so much!!!!
I really think I should order the rug mat frame you have and give it to my daughter and maybe peak her interest in this. Tina

LuLu April 15, 2014 at 7:20 PM  

Where did you get your steel rods from? Do they have a specific name I should look for?

Holly April 16, 2014 at 9:36 AM  

Hi LuLu,

I purchased my rods at a store that sells welding supplies. They aren't a particular name/brand. I suggest shopping at a small hardware store or HomeDepot. Just make sure the rods are really sturdy and won't bend. The eyehooks also keep the rod from bending.

Holly

Emily Kate July 25, 2014 at 3:55 AM  

Thank you so much for the fantastic post – I’m about to move into a new little house and I started hunting for fabrics as soon as I read this weeks ago.
Front London is the new destination for bespoke designer rugs. We present our highly awarded designers, Jan Kath and Michaela Schleypen in our new showroom. You can visit there
http://www.wearefront.com/

Shellie J July 31, 2014 at 12:52 PM  

Your videos are awesome! How wide do you cut your strips? I cut mine 1 1/2" and I am a very tight weaver... Should I cut them wider?

Holly July 31, 2014 at 5:13 PM  

Hi Shellie!

My strips are about 1.5 - 2 inches wide. A 1.5 inch width gives a very nice tight & durable weave so the width of the strips is all a matter of personal preference. Depending on the fabric, I usually just make a little snip with the scissors and then rip long strips using my hands. Sheets can easily be ripped whereas curtains and clothing usually need scissors. A rotary cutter also works but I try not to get too technical.

Holly

Cindy August 4, 2014 at 3:52 AM  

PhotoThank you for the wonderful tutorial. It is very easy to follow. I was able to make my frame from your measurements and looking at the pictures. It turned out pretty good but goodness gracious it cost me $28.00 to make. I need to find a store like yours.

Cindy Maki August 21, 2014 at 4:37 PM  

Hi. Do you know where I could get a PDF of How to instead of the video clips. You may appreciate that we live off the grid in an underground house and don't have internet. My husband wants to make rag rugs and is a "written word" learner.

Holly August 22, 2014 at 3:39 PM  

Hi Cindy,

I am inspired by your off-grid living! I don't have pdf documents, but you can purchase a book ($12.00)about how to make rag rugs from a quilt shop called Country Threads in Iowa. We use the same technique. http://www.countrythreads.com/rugs-from-rags/

I hope this helps!
Holly

Debra Booth August 24, 2014 at 3:09 PM  

I love your style of making Rag Rugs. Can you tell me how many "rows" of fabric do you use with the horizontal braiding? I know it would vary with length of your strips and fabric width.

I have a lot of quilting scraps yo use up.

Also when you are tearing the old sheets, to you tear them top to bottom or left to right?

Thank you... Hubby is making my frame this week. I can't wait to get started.

Holly August 25, 2014 at 6:52 AM  

Hi Debra,

There are between 110-125 rows in my rugs depending on the fabric thickness and how tight I weave.

I never really pay attention to the way I tear the sheets so I'm sorry I can't tell you which direction.

Holly

JustLindaSue January 11, 2015 at 10:37 AM  

I'm just learning ...your video is very helpful on starting the first row...I have watched it over and over and over..I WILL get this right no matter how many times I have to pull it out and start again...LOL Thanks!!

Marcia January 16, 2015 at 7:35 AM  

Hello and a big big thanks for your tutorials. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I refer to them...rugs are awesome and made lovely gifts at christmas.Marcia, in Washington

Anonymous January 19, 2015 at 11:13 AM  

I was very impressed at the clearness and simplicity of your instructions. I am getting started as a handicrafter, and weaving of any kind has seemed a bit daunting, but this will be a delightful start for all of the material I have collected. Also, perhaps atypical, I am a guy. Thanks for the tutorial!

Romayne January 20, 2015 at 9:21 AM  

Hi - love your videos!
I have a question : When you get to the end of the rug(in the center) are the rows going in the same direction? I find the slant of the rows are not the same - so there I are two rows with same the slant? The row coming from the left - the slant is downward from left to right and the row coming from the right has a slant downward from right to left.
Thanks,
Romayne

Holly January 21, 2015 at 5:13 PM  

Hi Romayne,

Hmmm...I think I know what you are saying. When I come to the end, my strips are coming in from opposite directions---two strips from the right and two strips from the left. From what I can tell looking at finished rugs, I don't notice a difference in the slant, but then again, I can barely tell where I ended the rug without looking for the bigger knots on the back. I will pay particular attention to the slant the next time I make a rug, but for now I can't see any glaring difference. My weave is tight and most of my rugs are really colorful so it's not a big deal for me. Thanks for the question!

Holly

Carol in Ojai January 23, 2015 at 4:01 PM  

Thank you for the best instructions I've seen yet on rag rug twining. I actually think I can do it now. You have inspired me to try again. Carol in Ojai

Debbie Johnson September 15, 2015 at 6:09 PM  

Hi Holly!
I too wanted to thank you for your very clear instructions! My birthday is coming up and I have asked for a loom from my husband. Love that he can make it for me and look forward to a smaller size for placemats and table runners.
My question is when making a loom for a placemat is the nail spacing the same as the medium rug loom. And they look to be about an inch apart.
When making a loom is the frame a couple of inches larger than the size of the finished rug?
Also enjoyed your sock darning video. I have several sock darning mushrooms handed down to me. Now I know how to use them! Thank you!!
Hugs,
Debbie

Holly September 16, 2015 at 5:57 AM  

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for stopping by! I use the same nail spacing on all my looms, irregardless of size. The nails are about an inch apart. Yes, the loom is a little larger than the finished rug---basically the size of the rug is determined by the distance between the nails. Good luck on your first rug & Happy Birthday!

Holly

Janet October 14, 2015 at 5:31 PM  

Would it be too crazy for me to try and make a rug like this that is 8'x 10'?

Holly October 15, 2015 at 4:36 PM  

Janet-

A rug that size certainly sounds challenging, especially when keeping the rows straight. Would you use a step ladder to reach the top of the frame? A friend of mine made two rugs and then joined them together somehow using a crochet hook to make it longer. Another problem I would have with a large rug is washing it. Good luck! I would love to see a picture when it is finished!

Holly

Carolyn @ Our Gilded Abode February 22, 2016 at 9:54 PM  

Thank you for your easy to understand instructions! Am looking forward to making a loom and giving rug weaving a try. Appreciate your wonderful info!

Kathy Logel April 11, 2016 at 5:41 PM  

Thank you for the great instructions and videos. My husband made me a loom and I'm having such fun making rugs. I call it "rug therapy"

Marilyn April 23, 2016 at 2:30 PM  

Thank you for such great instructions. You mentioned that you could do it in the colder snow days... I will be looking to do this in our hot, HOT summer days. I'm so looking forward to being able to create a rug. I've bought a couple in the past and have always wanted to make one. With your details and videos I'm hoping to do just that.

Rebecca McGuire June 3, 2016 at 11:31 AM  

loved your rugs and tutorial on how to do.. May i ask if you have a video on how to actually measure and make the loom?

Holly June 6, 2016 at 2:26 PM  

Rebecca,

Unfortunately I don't have a tutorial on how to make the loom. Sorry.

Holly

Anonymous June 7, 2016 at 12:15 PM  

Thank you... I have been looking for something like this.. that is all I want to do is make rag rugs..
This is awesome.. :)

Sally Giedd October 11, 2016 at 8:06 AM  

Holly, I loved your video but could you take a picture from the side to show how you hooked the rods to the frame? I have never made a frame before and don't understand how the rods are hooked into the frame so you can get around and underneath them. Thanks. SG

Holly October 13, 2016 at 4:48 PM  

Sally,

I updated this post to include a picture showing the space between the rod and frame. When the eyehooks are screwed in, they leave enough space for fabric to go under. I hope this helps!

Holly

Deborah Young November 24, 2016 at 10:26 AM  

Hello,

I love your videos. I do have one question, when you take the rug off the loom, do you have to do something on the ends? I saw where some put fringe and I don't want to do fringe. OR when you take the rug off the loom it is good to go for using?
Thank you so much.

Holly November 25, 2016 at 7:48 AM  

Hi Deborah! I do not add anything to the ends. With the nails being so small, the little loops tighten up after the first wash and it looks great. After removing from the loom, I put it to immediate use!

Have fun!
Holly

Michelle December 12, 2016 at 9:06 PM  

Great tutorials! My question is what is holding your side rods on the loom before you start weaving? They appear to not have any larger ends to keep them from sliding out. Can't wait to get started and use up this stash I have from quilting!

Holly December 13, 2016 at 4:52 AM  

Michelle,

I use packaging tape to the hold the rods in place at the beginning because they will slide out of the eyehooks when there isn't any tension on them. Quilt binding strips are perfect for rug making!

Happy Weaving!
Holly

cschoer February 7, 2017 at 9:15 AM  

Does anyone have a suggestion on the best way to cut strips from Jeans. Do you use the seams? I have several pair and just don't know where to start cutting. Thanks

Holly February 7, 2017 at 12:03 PM  

Hi! The thicker part of jeans will be really bulky for the rugs so I suggest omitting the seams, pockets, waste band, etc. First remove the bottom cuffs and side seams and then start cutting the strips! On a side note, I keep the pockets and have kids decorate them with beads, buttons, ribbons, etc. and then put strong magnets on the back for holding on the refrigerator and inside school lockers. I use one for holding pens and pencils.

Holly

cschoer February 11, 2017 at 8:22 PM  

Holly, you are my hero. I finished my rug. Your tutorial is so good. I have some mistakes that I can see but all in all it is grand. Thank you so much for such a great site. I would love to be able to send you a picture of it. Hope you have a great weekend!

Jo February 22, 2017 at 9:32 AM  

THanks for the info. I have a question.

Why wouldn't the nails go all around the frame instead of top and bottom only?

Holly February 24, 2017 at 12:53 PM  

Jo-

I learned using the rods on the sides so the rows can be really close together. With nails, there would be more spacing and they would have to be really secure to withstand the tension. I weave really tightly and I could see the strands trying to pull off the nails and maybe even bending the nails. If you do try the nails on the sides, I would like to hear how it turns out!

Holly

Ellen April 29, 2017 at 11:26 AM  

Hi! Love the videos! I have a question about the width of the strips. Could you you use thicker or thinner to make a different look? How about jeans? Thanks!!

Holly April 29, 2017 at 2:34 PM  

Ellen-

Yes, the width of the strips will give it a different look, especially if you use a lot of different colors of fabric. You can use jeans but it gets bulky when joining the strips (making knots). Jean rugs also take longer to dry because of the extra bulk.

Holly

Jan July 12, 2017 at 4:39 AM  

Love your videos- so easy to understand. I do two things differently than you. On my loom the rods are bent at a 90 degree angle about an inch from the tops. This keeps them from sliding out until there are enough rows to hold it. It also gives you a bit of a handle when pulling them out. And also, I always go the same direction when weaving- left over right. Not sure of the advantage or disadvantage but it would eliminate the issue posted by one user about when the rows meet and they're going the same way.

Country Threads September 11, 2017 at 8:12 PM  

I'm wondering if you have used the book Rugs From Rags by Country Threads?

Holly September 12, 2017 at 6:22 AM  

Hi Country Threads! No, I have not used the book Rugs From Rags. I learned this technique from watching a demonstration at a Farmer's Market in Portland, OR.

Betsie November 18, 2017 at 6:45 PM  

Hi,
Many thanks for your clear tutorials. Please can you tell me how I would best join 2/3 rugs together to make a 6ft long rug.

Holly November 19, 2017 at 12:02 PM  

Hi Betsie!
I haven't joined two together because I would find that difficult to wash. If I were to join them, I would most likely crochet them in some way.
Good luck!
Holly

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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