Up-Cycle Old Fabric Into A Rug

Stuff you need. I used a 4mm crochet hook, no. 2 weight yarn (fingering, sock, or fine baby weight), and strips of cotton fabric 2-3 inches wide.

Don’t worry. You do not need to learn, nor know how, to crochet to make this. How this rug is woven together just happens to be a very simple method that is called the ‘single crochet’ stitch, and the most efficient tool to do it with is…you guessed it… a crochet hook.

I spent a ton of time experimenting with different sizes of hooks, widths of fabric, and weights of yarn, and found this combination to result in the nicest and closest look to a loom-woven rag rug. If you want a finer or chunkier result, I would size everything up or down proportionately.

Your fabric. Prepare a good quantity of your fabric to start, some of each main colour that you have. Having a lot of colour selection to start helps you really get into the grove of your rug, and is way more fun than having to stop every couple rows to make more strips. It is also probably less annoying to anyone listening to you doing this. Rip the fabric into 2-inch to 3-inch strips. If you rip the fabric instead of cutting it, your strips will be perfectly straight, you will save a ton of time, and you will never notice the difference.

I went to a thrift shop and purchased thirty dollars of bedsheets, because I was extremely particular about the colours I wanted, and had a complete vision for my sitting room that included periwinkle walls, dark stained wood, colourful orange pottery, and green tweed fabric. But really any fabric that is cotton or resembles it in some way will work. My rug ended up including pieces of my old scrubs, odd or stained pillowcases, leftover fabric from other projects, and old tablecloths. Just remember to adjust the width of the strips based on the thickness of each type of fabric if you want your rows to be even. There are methods for cutting smaller fabric pieces into very long strips; get friendly with YouTube.

I never worried about stains either, unless ,well, a whole cup grape juice had spilled on something, then by all means cut around it. But tiny ones will never be noticed.

You can use any fabric you like, but old fabric does have a few benefits. It’s already washed, dried, shrunk, stretch, faded, ran, and anything else you can think of. So when you finish your rug, it will keep looking just like it did when you finished it for a very long time. If  you absolutely want to use new fabric, do you yourself a favour and at least run over it with the car a few times first.

Find that yarn. Any decent lengths work. When you run out of one length, simply tie a knot, move it to the back of the rug and keep stitching. I used acrylic, cotton and wool. All will work, but I do wonder how well the acrylic will wash and hold up over time.

If you are not a knitter, talk to your knitter friends.

If you are a knitter, here is where you fall in love with me. Pull out the black hole of your knitting stash. All those little bits of sock yarn left over from every pair you’ve ever knit, because it’s perfectly good wool, single balls of ugly sock yarn that your friends find for you in the thrift store because they know you knit socks, leftover fine baby yarn, acrylic yarn you think is pretty, but deep down you know you will never use because you’re a yarn snob. At four feet wide, I had already used up the left overs from more than ten different balls of yarn, and by the time you get that far, one ball of sock yarn might do you for two rows. I decluttered like mad during this project.

Plan colours, or not. I ripped a good quantity of strips from every different colour of fabric and rolled them all into balls so I could see all my colours at once. I found the best way to decide where to put what, was to lay out three to five strips beside my last row, and then decide what order looked best in terms of the overall scheme.

Making a truly multicoloured blended rug takes more planning than you think. One sequence of colour will make some colours pop and another will make them appear to blend in. Be as particular or as unparticular as you wish. Don’t be as particular as me; you might never finish.

Start your rug. Start by working single crochet stitches around a two-inch length of fabric. Then roll the stitched part into a snug coil. Do a few stitches around two rows of fabric to hold the coil together. Continue working single crochet stitches in between each stitch from the row before.

There is no perfect time to increase or decrease. You will find you need to add more stitches in at the beginning, but eventually, just stitching in between each stitch from the previous row should be sufficient to keep the rug flat. If it starts cupping add some increases in that area, if it’s wobbly in an area, decrease.

Don’t worry if it gets bubbly, wibbly, wobbly, or anything of the sort, it’s definitely a timey-wimey project. Once the rug was a decent size, my bum spent so much time sitting on it, while I worked around and around it, that I assure you it is very flat now. The rug. The rug is flat now.

 (Oh, and spoiler! You can iron it. That’s in step 9.)

Stitch and stitch and stitch some more. Change colour every one to one-and-a-quarter rows. This way you don’t really notice the colour joins or double rows. If you aren’t making a multicolored rug like mine, well you are free to do what you wish. To change the strip/colour, cut a small vertical slit in the very end of both the old and new strips. Thread the new strip through the old strip, and then thread it through itself. To make the joins a little neater I also tucked the corners of the old strip through the slit in the new strip before pulling the knot tight.

Make your rug whatever width you like. The larger you make it the more yarn and fabric you will end up using, obviously. At the beginning, a ball of yarn that would make one sock, did me twelve rows. By the time my rug was over four feet wide, twelve rows became three. I have no idea how much fabric I’ve used so far, but I’m getting to the end of a few sheets at least.

If you are a math geek like me, do not keep calculating how much of the surface area of your rug you have completed. Otherwise, when your rug is over four feet wide, you’ll discover that you are only 45% of the way through a six-foot diameter rug. Pi r2 for the win!

But here’s the calculation anyway. Pi(radius of width completed)2/Pi(radius of desired width)2 = percentage of surface area of the completed rug that you have finished.

This discovery is why my rug is beautifully worked, but still definitely a work-in-progress!

Finish the thing. Take your finished rug and soak it in some soapy water and rinse it well. I can guarantee you it will at least have gotten a little dusty since you start. Dry it flat. Or hang it over a drying rack. If its not flat enough for you after that, run a low iron or even use a bit of steam (that will depend on the yarn you have used) over the wrong side. Make it yours. Stencil fabric paint on it. Dye it. Add non-slip undercoat. Draw on it with bleach. Crochet a few rows of yarn around it and add a fringe.

I’m still convincing my husband on the last one. But he doesn’t know that I’m secretly afraid that if I don’t add a border, I’ll just keep working on it here and there every time I’m in our sitting room. And one day someone will find him and me, in our nineties, dead and buried under an acre-wide rug.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, and if you’d like to make your own spite rug, please buy my mountain of leftover old fabric. It can be yours for the low, low, price of…just make me an offer in the comments!

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