How To Make A Colourful Crochet Rag Rug With Recycled Fabrics
If you’re looking for an easy, fun project that doesn’t require much mental effort (apart from selecting colours and doing basic crochet), then making a rag rug is the perfect project for you!
Make one while in front of the television, and after the first few rings, it can be done in autopilot, without paying too much attention to it.
Suitable for fabric hoarders, rag rugs are very hardy and will happily go through the washing machine a multitude of times. They are also easy to repair with a needle and thread, should a loop come undone. You don’t need to buy a lot of craft materials to get started; a crochet hook, scissors, needle, thread and the right fabric is all that is needed.
Quick Fabric Guide
Fabrics Which Work
Cotton & 100% Cotton
Delicate Dress & Skirt Fabric
Thin, Lacy Curtains
Lycra & Spandex
Old Cotton Bedsheets
Cotton Doona Covers
Thin Nightdress Fabric
Floaty, Delicate Clothing
Fabrics To Avoid
Tshirts (unless they are really thin)
Anything thicker than 1mm
Choosing The Right Fabric
Often the only thing standing between a potential rugmaker and an outstanding rug is obtaining the right fabric to work with. If you imagine fabric as thin as a tissue, that is what to look for.
While other tutorials recommend items such as recycled tshirts and towels, if you want a finely detailed rug with tightly woven loops, you will need to have thinner and flatter fabric, preferably fabric which doesn’t shred at the edges or break off into little bits.
A small bit of shredding is fine, but if the fabric drops bits EVERYWHERE after cutting one side, you’ll know it’s the wrong one. Elasticated or polyester fabric is fine, as long as it is thin. The thinner the fabric, the better – transparent fabrics work well, as does cotton.
Make sure that the fabric is of a certain length and width. To do the centre rings, a minimum of 30cm x 60cm may be needed and as you work outwards, more fabric is needed per colour ring. I often find bedsheets are the right size to work with on the large outer rings, while a recycled skirt is the right size for inner rings.
Where To Obtain Fabrics
Firstly look for any items in your wardrobe that have ripped in the wash. Chances are, they are exactly the kind of delicate, floaty fabric we are looking for. Old nightdresses with holes in them, or doona covers that have worn too thin are perfect for rag rug making.
If you have any spare patchwork fabrics or other fabrics which weren’t 100% cotton but look OK, these can be used too. Visiting your local thrift shop, recycled clothing store or op shop can yield cheap but attractively patterned bedsheets, skirts, dresses and other clothing with thin fabric.
Handy Tips For Purchasing
- Use highly decorative fabric for the brightly coloured rings (see photos). Then use bedsheets or haberdashery fabric for the bulk of the outer rings, to minimise costs.
- Large printed patterns show up as stripes when rag rugged. Small patterns (think mini florals) show the design better. It’s good to try a mix of both.
- If you want a multi-coloured effect, like my rug, get fabrics which contain lots of colours in the one fabric, and also get some plain one-colour fabrics in some of your main colours.
- Feel free to work gold or silver printed fabrics into the rug too – printed cotton is best, so it doesn’t shred. You can also use sparsely sequinned fabrics for a bit of texture.
Choosing A Colour Theme
You don’t have to choose a theme if you don’t want to. But having a colour palette picked out means that you won’t spend money on unnecessary fabrics. If you’re getting a lot of colours together, it can add up, so it’s a good idea to have colours picked out.
Firstly, decide if you want a lighter or darker coloured rug. Then decide what your main three colours will be. In the case of the rug I made, I chose pink, blue and yellow as my main three colours.
After I’d obtained a couple of fabrics, I cut small parts off them and carried them with me, to see how the new fabrics would blend with the existing ones.
I bought the bed sheets in light pink and yellow first, then obtained the patterned and coloured fabrics after checking they would match the look of the rug.
Do you think you'll try gradation?
You’ll notice that in my rug, the coloured rings look gradated, that is, they blend from lighter to darker. Using gradation in rag rugs makes them appear much more attractive and is the way that professional rag rug makers do it.
To perform gradation, simply make sure that your fabrics are used in order from lighter to darker (for a light rug) or from darker to lighter (for a dark rug).
Each coloured band should have the stripey or patterned colours first after the main sheet colour, followed by the more solid colours and ending with the most obviously visual solid colour before returning immediately to the main colour again.
In the example below, you can see that to create a coloured section, I used two gradated bands to add a bit of pep. Feel free to experiment with this technique, but always use the brightest, most solid colour on the end of your gradation to get the right effect.
- Cut fabrics in a direction to get the longest strips from them.
- Cut strips of exactly 1cm wide (no wider). Do not tear or rip, just cut with sharp scissors.
- Double sew right side strip ends together with cotton thread in a running stitch as you run out of fabric, so that the strips do not get tangled up (Diagram A).
- Do not roll strips into a ball as this gets heavy and tangled when rag rugging. Add strips as needed as you go.
- Cut tops by trimming off any thick hems at the top, bottom and end of sleeves. Then create cylinders of fabric (Diagram B).
- Cut skirts by trimming off thick hems on the waist and bottom of the skirt and create a cylinder (Diagram C).
- Cut 1cm strips of fabric from cylinders (Diagram D). Keep original side seams intact (don't unpick side seams). If side seams are loose, you can double sew a running stitch to reattach them back together, but most times you won't need to.
You will need:
3.25mm / Size 10 Crochet Hook
Different Coloured Fabrics
Single Crochet Stitch
Rag Rug Instructions
Beginning The Rug
For the purpose of this tutorial, I will now refer to the fabric strips as "yarn". I am assuming you have a basic knowledge of crochet, however I've also included some diagrams/videos to assist.
1. Fold over 2cm of one end of your starting strip with the right side of the fabric on the outside, and sew a line across it (Diagram E) so it forms a loop. Make sure to knot thread at the start and sew a few knots at the end so the sewing doesn't undo.
2. Make a foundation ring of 6-8 stitches using the chain method, and then work 12 double crochet stitches into the ring and join up, as per video below. You can also try the Magic Ring method if you like, but I use the traditional chain method.
IMPORTANT: As you pull through your fabric yarn through loops and on the crochet hook, try to always have the right side of the material showing. Some people like to fold the "yarn" in half lengthways, with the right side on the outside. This means that your rug will have the right colouring as intended, rather than the wrong side of the fabric showing.
3. After making the starting ring and double crochet ring as per video, start working coloured rounds using single crochet stitch.
Creating A Foundation Ring & Double Crochet Round
For the first few starting rounds, use one colour as it is easier. Then, select a new colour and attach as per Diagram A.
To start the new colour, put your crochet hook into the next stitch of the work, and where possible, yarn over using the yarn that is past the join, so the join remains on the back of the work.
Don't forget to make sure the right side of the fabric is showing as you work!
All rag rugs are different in weight and shape, due to the different fabrics contained. Hence there is no definitive pattern for rag rugs. You will need to increase the number of stitches as needed.
When you notice the edges of your rug curling up slightly, you will need to increase stitches on the next round to make the rug lie flat again.
I usually do it by doing ratioed amounts (for example, four single crochet stitches, followed by two single crochet stitches in one hole). This ratio can vary. The idea is to try to make the rug lie flat after doing a round or two of increasing.
Sometimes, this can involve doing some increasing, assessing it, then undoing the round and trying a different ratio. It is easy to undo the round, just pull very gently on your fabric yarn to undo it.
You will know when the increasing is too much, because the the rug will get frilly and it won't sit flat, but instead will have fabric bunching up on the edges. With practise, this will become a very easy process.
Have you made a rag rug before?
To finish the rag rug, simply complete the last round, trim off the fabric yarn, leaving a 6cm tail, and then pull the fabric yarn through the loop on the crochet hook and pull to make a knot.
Turn over the work and on the underside, weave the tail into the work (weave it through the same coloured stitches) and attach it properly with a needle and cotton thread, using a few knots and stitches.
Trim thread, trim excess tail yarn.
If you would like to add a decorative crochet edge, complete the finishing step above, then add the crocheted edge to the finished rug as a separate project (doing it this way strengthens the rug).
Using The Technique On Other Projects
It’s possible to use the techniques in this tutorial to create other projects, such as fabric baskets, cup insulators and other items.
Rag rugging results in strong projects that hold their shape well, while having unique textures and colours.
The trick to changing the shape of a rug into a basket is simply to set up the base sphere to the size you want, then don't increase stitches at all, and the work will form a natural cylindrical shape.
© 2014 Suzanne Day