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BellaOnline's Rugmaking Editor

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Toothbrush Rag Rugs

Guest Author - Iris ten Holder

Let me first give you a bit of interesting history. Toothbrush rugs get their name from the needle that was used to make them. While we no longer have toothbrushes with holes - Why not?" one wonders - we may assume that originally a toothbrush was hung on a hook.

Obviously someone in need of a tool discovered that the hole was just the right size to hold fabric strips and thus a new tool was fashioned by removing the brush and smoothing the end. This method of making a long sturdy needle caught on and this type of rug became known as a toothbrush rug. Now most toothbrushes would be unsuitable. An easier option is to buy a hand-crafted wooden needle.

A toothbrush rug could thus be made with a primitive tool and from fabric strips torn from available rags. The knot is simple and the rug requires no further finishing apart from threading the last end of the strip through previous loops.

Smooth cotton or silk, even rayon and acetate are suitable. Squeezing the fabric through the hole will help to fold or roll the fabric. Some like the raggedy look thus obtained, For a smoother finish, double fold the strips and even baste them to ensure that no threads are showing.

Fabric requirement
1/2 pounds per square foot is needed.
One pound of fabric is approximately 4 yards.
Therefore, 12 yards is required for a 2 x 3 rug

Rug size: 2 x 3 = 6 sq.ft.
Pounds needed 6 x .5 = 3 lbs.
Yards needed 3 x 4 = 12 yards

Both the weight of the fabric and the width of the fabric may vary and thus
alter the requirement somewhat.

A toothbrush rug is made with an Amish knot, also known as the buttonhole stitch. The buttonhole stitch is used to finish buttonholes with a sturdy row of knotting; it is also used to make a belt loop or a button loop. In this case the stitches are not made around the edge of fabric, but around a sturdy thread. It is the latter that is the basis for the toothbrush rug. The buttonhole stitch actually has a twist. I doubt that this will work with the fabric strip.

To make a toothbrush rug, we need a basic strip around which a second strip can be knotted. Therefore we start with two strips; one is the base strip, while the other will do the knotting. The base strip, (usually called the core or the runner) will remain straight.

Making the Knot - two options
Attach two strips side by side to a cushion, put the toothbrush needle on the strip to the right, and hang something heavy on the left strip. Pick up the strip with the needle, and working from the top down, make knots around the strip that is hanging down (the runner):

1. Put the needle under this strip and pulls it through a little. You will see that the knotting strip has formed a loop. Bring the needle back over the straight strip and down through the loop. Then pull the strip through until the knot is tight.
UNDER - UP - BACK - THROUGH - PULL

2. Put the needle over the strip, leaving a loop. Bring the needle back under the straight strip and through the loop. Then pull the strip through until the knot is tight.
OVER- UNDER - BACK - THROUGH - PULL


When the knotted strip is long enough, close the circle and continue knotting, but now, in addition to going around the runner, pick up the loop from the previous round. In this way the whole rug is entirely assembled by going through the loops and around the basic strip. No other stitching will be required.

To allow for increases, make an additional stitch between the loops. In the first few rows this may be needed every other stitch. When the loops are too tight together, too many increases have been made; when the loops get too long more increases are needed. It is hard to give a firm rule.

These rugs are beautiful in one color. A certain amount of perfection is required to make the loops regular and evenly spaced. Fabric with a pattern might hide some of the imperfections that are bound to occur when beginning this craft.

Smaller rugs make good potholders, trivets, and chair cushions.

I wish you enjoyment and a sense of discovery in making something that has historical significance.
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Content copyright © 2013 by Iris ten Holder. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Iris ten Holder. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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