For your first rug, plan on making a small oval rug, approximately 1.5′ x 2.5′ when finished. Here is a photo of my very first rug. I learned a lot about the process while making it, as I am sure you will!
Prep the Fabric
- The first step is to cut your wool into consistently-sized strips. I suggest +/- 2.25 inches wide. Make sure all the fabric you are using is of similar weight. I use flannel, or medium weight, as opposed to heavy weight (used to make wool coats).
- I like to roll all my wool so it is easy to access and find the color I am looking for:
- Choose 3 strips of wool to start with. I recommend using 1 light color, 1 dark color, and 1 patterned fabric.
Starting the Braid
Video available here.
- Fold the end of each piece of wool in half and sew a 1/4″ from the end:
- Turn the fold inside out and press flat down the center to make a triangular tip:
- Fold the outside edges of the triangle in towards the center:
- The fold the strip in half towards the center.
- Hand-sew the top inch of fabric together.
- Complete steps 1-4 for each of the 3 pieces, and then pin them together:
- Sew all three pieces together. This creates a starting point for your braiding.
- Fold the fabric before braiding: Fold the outer edges of each piece of wool towards the center and then fold the piece in half. You should not be able to see any of the rough outside edges of the strips of wool – they are hidden within the fold. Some people use braid aids to help fold the wool.
- While you are braiding, the open edge of the right side should be toward the center of the braid, and the open edge of the left side should toward the left outside edge. During each braid, twist the folded strip of wool to ensure the open edges are consistently facing the right direction.
- Begin braiding your center strip! Although I don’t personally use them, some people find it helpful to anchor or clamp the end of their braid.
- Since the center strip is proportional to the outer dimensions of an oval rug, the point at which you make your first turn will determine the overall size of the rug. For a beginner rug, I recommend making a center strip ~10″ in length.
Splicing on a New Strip of Wool
If you are like me, and salvaging many pieces of wool to make a rug, you will have to splice on many pieces. I used to do all my splicing by hand, but have found that a sewing machine drastically speeds up the process.
- Cut the ends of the strips you are about to splice at a 45 degree angle.
- Lay them on top of each other, so that opposite corners are aligned. (Before you sew them together, make sure that once sewed and folded down, the strip will be straight, and the seam will on the underside.
- Sew as close to the edge of the wool as possible without compromising the integrity of the stitch. This will make the braid less bulky at the splice site.
Making a Turn/Curve
The first 3-4 turns for an oval rug will follow these steps, but after that you can just do a straight braid, wrap it around the curved edge, and lace it into place. For a round rug, you will begin making the curve immediately (I advise against this for beginners).
- Making a curve is easy in concept, difficult in execution. The straight braid is: right-over-center, left-over-center, repeat. The curved braid is: right-over-center, right-over-center, left-over-center, repeat. The braid will curve to the right. If you are left handed, you may want to make the curve in the opposite direction to favor your stronger hand.
- Repeat the curved braid pattern until when placed on a table, the curved braid fits snugly against the preceding row.
After the 1st Curve
- For the first row, and around the first bend, you hand sew the two rows together, edge to edge so that you cannot see the thread (if possible). Once the rug is finished, you will go back and lace these two rows together.
- After you have hand-sewn a couple inches around the first bend, you may start your lacing.
Lacing & Splicing
- Cut a piece of tubular lacing thread ~ 3 feet in length. Use a needle with a large eye to start the lace from within the seam of a braid, exiting from the side to which you are going to attach the next row of braid.
- Thread the lace into a lacing needle.
- Lace back and forth between sections of braid connecting the rows. See this lacing demo. Or at about 2:48 in this video.
- When your lacing thread gets too short to keep using, it’s time to splice on another piece. First you take a tapestry needle and insert it into the tubular lacing thread:
- Then you take a new piece of thread, put one end through the eye of the tapestry needle, and pull it through:
- Next, insert the tapestry needle into the tubular thread at the junction where the old thread meets the new thread, and insert the old end in the eye of the needle:
- Lastly, put the needle through to finish the splice. Pull on opposite ends to make sure it is strong.
Finishing the Rug
- Plan ahead and decide when you are going to end your rug and where you want the final section to be:
- Then start to taper your pieces so that the braid will get thinner and will blend into the shape of the rug more naturally:
- Then sew the pieces together when they get too small to fold by hand:
- Tuck the end pieces into the existing rug and sew into place: