Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DIY: crocheted rag rug part 1

After much thought (and many questions from readers), I've decided to attempt to do a tutorial for how I make my crocheted rag rugs. I was a little hesitant to do one because I think I rely more on feel when I make a rug and not so much on technique, and feelings are really hard to explain when it comes to producing a desired result for someone else. At any rate, I figured I'd try and if there are questions, just feel free to ask. I will say, though, that I am NOT a crocheter. I've never done it except for the rag rugs, so I don't know any technical terms, I only know what Tootsie told me to do and what I've figured out on my own along the way. If you ARE a seasoned crocheter, curse quietly in disgust to yourself. Thanks!

This is part one because I think there's a lot to kind of wrap your head around when first starting. First, you should gather your materials. So your shopping list should include:
  • Getting some thrifted bed sheets. I try to stick with cotton since flannel is too thick and I think silk would give a really odd effect to the stitches (too open). I also think lighter weighted worn-out cotton is best, but generally, it's just whatever colour or pattern catches my eye or what I think would work with other colours I have. You can also get any size you like, it's just going to effect the amount of that particular colour or pattern you have. You can also use any spare cotton fabric you have lying around. It doesn't necessarily have to be a sheet. Finally, I always wash them before doing anything. That's kind of a 'duh' suggestion, isn't it?
  • Next, you'll want to pick up a crochet hook. I thought I lost the one Tootsie gave me and did a lot of searching for a new one, but thankfully I found it. Anything too small or too large just felt so wrong. The size is 1/9-5.50 MM and the brand is Boye U.S.A. In my quest to learn more about crocheting rag rugs, I noticed a lot of people using really big fat crochet hooks. I would assume these people are the crochet experts who've moved from crocheting with yarn to rugs because (as best as I can figure) the size of the hook determines the size of your loop (as you loop over the hook, you pull it to that size), that gives you an even sized loop all the way around. So this is one area that I gauge depending on how the rug is circling. I could get a fatter hook to help with this process, but I'm really unwilling to go against what I was taught. If Tootsie made gorgeous rugs with a small hook, so will I.
  • You'll also want a needle and thread, but I assume most of us have that at home already. Any size needle is fine and any colour thread that blends with all your fabrics will do. I tend to use a cream coloured thread. You shouldn't be able to see much of it anyway since this is how I join different sheet colours together.
  • Scissors, of course!
Now you're ready to rip up your sheets! This is probably the most tedious task and I really don't like it because of the amount of dust that's created. It may sound silly to you, but I always wear a mask when I do this. I have a history of lung problems so I don't want to breathe in sheet dust as well (and you'd be surprised at how much fluff will be on your clothes afterwards so just imagine breathing it in at the same time). Some sheets are worse than others, but I'd rather be safe now than sorry later. I also try to do the ripping in my craft room. It's tempting to do it on the couch while watching tv, but then the couch will be covered in fluff and the room will be dusty. So I just knuckle down and get it done whilst staring at the wall. And I do it when Idle Husband's at work cuz he hates the sound of ripping sheets, and your significant other might hate it, too. It is a really terrible sound, but it's not really that annoying if you're the one doing it!

I usually start on the hemmed end and cut a slit in the sheet all the way down through the thread of the hem. The width of the strip should be around 1 1/2 - 2 inches, but I'm never precise with it. From there, you only have to pull and the sheet should rip straight down.

Once you reach the other end, stop a few inches from the end (I like to leave a lot here so when I'm crocheting, I don't accidentally pull too hard and rip the strip off),

and cut another slit in the fabric about the same width as the first one. Now you can rip the sheet straight up, from the bottom hem to the top.

Keep repeating this back-and-forth process until you get one long strip of fabric. Now you've essentially made yourself sheet yarn. I roll these up into balls so they stay tidy. It's helpful to get rid of any stray strings you find hanging about, too. I didn't do that on some of my first sheets and loose strings can be a real pain to work around.

I like to leave the hems intact and, as I'm crocheting, I pull out the string and open the hem. Then I rip it about half an inch to the end which gives me another 4-6 inches of fabric depending on how wide the hem was. Plus it does double duty as a safety stop on one end as I'm ripping. It's really easy to get overzealous and rip a strip straight off instead of keeping them all together. If you do that, don't worry! It's still usable! I'll talk about joining strips together later.

I hope you get some fabric ripped up cuz next week, I'll show you how to start a circle!


Khristen said...

Excited to see this in lamens terms! Can't wait for part two. I'm already looking for some old sheets! Plus, how many sheets for one rug?

GALaxy said...

It depends on the size of rug you want to make. I've made four 30 inch round rugs, one 4 foot oval rug, and two smaller oval rugs (about 30" long) with $60 worth of sheets and I still have one whole sheet left to rip and quite a few balls of yarn from the others.

Unfortunately, I don't know how many sheets for one rug since my sheets were a combination of doubles and singles (since they're cheapest) and I combined colours (as one usually does). If you started with three double sheets, I think you'd easily be able to make one rug (depending on the size you want). But if you're first starting, any bit of fabric will do until you get the hang of it!

Julia Forshee said...

This is such a fun idea! I just saw in a 1970's magazine that you can do this with plastic bags, too! We would love for you to consider joining our link-up party at

Julia -