How to Make a Primitive Rag Rug

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I thought you might like to see one of my rag rugs. This is entirely recycled material, (except for the thread) 3-1/2 pairs of my husband's jeans and about 1/4 of an old flannel twin sheet. The backing is a denim tote bag I made to schlep my sewing machine which hadn't been used in many years (the bag not the machine) so I unpicked it. It is approx 20 x 30

These rugs are neither complex or difficult to make and there are many ways to do it. THIS one was made by cutting the dead jeans into 3" squares and folding them in half diagonally to make a triangle shape. Discard seams etc. You don't have to use denim, I do because what else are you going to do with ripped and stained jeans?

You can make rugs with old tee shirts using at least two squares or mens shirts which you can pick up for pennies at thrift shops. The thinner the material, the
more squares you should layer, this is the 'pile' of the rug. If you don't want to mess with squares layer several strips cut or torn to more or less the same width and stitch straight down the center. Make your rows closer when using strips, think 'chenille' without the fuss of snipping it all apart. 1-1/2" strips sewn approximately 1/2" apart will use a lot of ugly fabric and make a thick rug.

Decide what size you want your rug to be, bearing in mind that the bigger the rug the heavier to lift out of the washer when wet. You will need a sturdy piece of backing material, you can get 60"+ wide denim very inexpensively in the flat fold fabric section. I usually buy new for the backing since that is what holds the whole shebang together. Never skimp on thread quality.

Fold the backing so it is doubled in thickness and stitch about 1/2" in from the edge all around the perimeter. Don't worry about the raw edges. Next draw lines with a ballpoint as a sewing guide. 1-1/2" is the maximum spacing for denim squares, it feels lumpy to me if you go further apart than that. My method is to take the length of the mat and divide it by 1.5". If it comes out to an odd number move the lines closer, the mat will be denser.

It is easiest to stitch the rows by stitching the center row first, then the rows on either side, working evenly to the ends of your rug. You will also have less bulk to wodge under the sewing machine arm as you progress from the middle to the edges.

Fold your fabric squares in half as you are ready to slide them under the presser foot. Go slowly at first, taking your foot off the pedal as you add a new folded square until you pick up the rhythm.

Now start stitching! Place your folded fabric triangle with the folded edge on the edge of the backing and the point on the guide line pointing at you. Stitch about 1/2 way down the triangle and place the folded edge of the next triangle on top in the same way, stitch, place, stitch until your row is done. It comes out to about one square folded into triangle per lineal inch in the row.

Neatness does not count.

For each row I start the stitching and after about 1/4" reverse and back-stitch over at the beginning and end of every row. Makes things stronger.

On THIS mat I changed the direction of the triangles on each row. I don't always do it that way, do whatever turns you on. When I was done the mat felt a bit lumpy so I stitched strips of flannel sheet (4 layers) between the rows.

Next to the washer. Denim and flannel will fray like crazy, other fabrics not quite as bad, might want to take it to the laundromat. Then the dryer to fluff. Clean the lint trap every ten minutes or so. It WILL clog up fast.

This mat will outlive me. As a bedside or bath mat they more or less last for ever. As a front door mat inside, they get to looking grungy in my house after about ten years. I wash them frequently and will use a package of RIT dye as the whim takes me.


Nancy said...

Great use of blue jeans!

Tanya said...

Hmm. I'm not quite sure I got that but it is a terrific way to use jeans and the mat certainly does look durable! 3 inch squares right?

Howdy said...

Looks cool... I'll bet if you cut your squares 'on point' so that the edges were on the bias - you would not have the fray to contend with.

Nice use of old jeans... or flannels... or... or... LOL

Beth said...

WOW, way cool. I may have to try this.

Paula, the quilter said...

Double knit works great for these rugs. You know the stuff that never, ever wears out. I recall my MIL used to wear double knit pants.

Henrietta said...

With denim you want it to fray. Fraying is what makes it soft, if the denim didn't fray you would need to use much smaller squares or it would feel like standing on a pile of pebbles.
The butterfly rug Lori showed is made with polyester knit which doesn't fray. The squares are 1-1/2". Of course poly knit is much softer than denim in the first place.

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