Braiding Rag Rugs - Fabric & Preparation
Getting started on a braided rag rug is easy. For most individuals it is a simple process of searching through closets, the laundry room, the garage, and all those stash cubbies in your house for unmatched or old sheets, pillow cases and garments never to be used again. Fabrics can be wool, synthetics, cotton, or have a mixed combination (example – blended fabrics). Try to keep your project fabrics of approximately the same weight and fabric type as this will add consistency to your braid and to your rug.
You can play with mixing different fabrics or fabric blends. However, when you decide your lovely rug needs a good scouring and you've made a mixed fabric braid, possibly of wool strips and synthetic strips, the wool might shrink and felt and the synthetic will not. This can cause an uneven texture changing the shape of your finished project. If you plan on experimenting with mixing fabric strips in your braiding start with making a sampler and scour it hard.
Prior to cutting your strips you want to ensure that all of your fabric is clean. Dirty fabric can ruin your cutting tool and can certainly ruin a good pair of hands. There is an abundance of cutting tools to choose from; scissors, shears, rotary cutters or commercial cutters (electric and hand turned). The latter will usually cost well over a couple of hundred dollars. Shears work well if your hands can handle the cutting movements. They are also the most versatile for cutting a variety of garments. Rotary cutters or quilter cutters are probably next in line for cost effectiveness and usability. For cutting flat fabric, hand rotary cutters can be quicker than scissors and they are easier on the joints. If you have arthritis or severe hand cramping there are electric cutters and sturdy commercial cutters.
Strip size depends on what fabric you are going to use. Usually a strip of two inches to three inches is best. The width depends on the thickness of the fabric, the desired thickness of the braid, which in turn determines the thickness of your rug. You can mix the fabric widths. A reason for this might be you have one fabric strip of a heavier weight and one of a lighter weight. The heavier weight fabric should be cut in a thinner strip.
The type of cutting you do will also depend on what you are cutting, for example, flat sheets versus clothing items. Flat sheets can be folded and cut into strips using a ruler as a guide. Pant legs can be cut by starting at thigh and cutting in a circular pattern keeping your cut continuous down to the ankle. Look at the fabric you are going to cut and then try and imagine the best way to make longer strips using the least amount of cutting.
It is time to begin your fabric search. Find it, wash it and get started on stripping it.
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