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How to Make a Colourful Crochet Rag Rug With Recycled Fabrics

Suzanne is an artist and writer who enjoys designing, crafting, and upcycling.

Learn how to make a finely woven and colourful rag rug just like this one.

Learn how to make a finely woven and colourful rag rug just like this one.

Easy DIY Rag Rug Project

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 on 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 That Work

  • Cotton and 100% cotton
  • Patchwork fabrics
  • Delicate dress and skirt fabric
  • Delicate scarves
  • Thin, lacy curtains
  • Lycra and spandex
  • Silk
  • Old cotton bedsheets
  • Cotton doona covers
  • Thin nightdress fabric
  • Floaty, delicate clothing

Fabrics to Avoid

  • T-shirts (unless they are really thin)
  • Towels
  • Flannelette
  • Leather
  • Denim jeans
  • 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 tissue, that is what to look for.

While other tutorials recommend items such as recycled T-shirts and towels, if you want a finely detailed rug with tightly woven loops, you will need to have thinner and flatter fabric, preferably fabric that 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.

Thrift stores and op shops are great places to find attractive, floaty fabrics and patterned sheets for a reasonable price.

Thrift stores and op shops are great places to find attractive, floaty fabrics and patterned sheets for a reasonable price.

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.

Obtain a mix of different coloured fabrics to work with. In this photo, I have used clothing, scarves, bedsheets, spandex and some spare leftover fabrics.

Obtain a mix of different coloured fabrics to work with. In this photo, I have used clothing, scarves, bedsheets, spandex and some spare leftover fabrics.

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 that contain lots of colours in that 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.
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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.

An example of simple gradation.

An example of simple gradation.

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 obvious 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 at the end of your gradation to get the right effect.

Gradation A: Click on the image to enlarge.

Gradation A: Click on the image to enlarge.

Gradation B: Three examples of different types of colour banding. Example #1 gives you the best idea of what can be achieved with gradation.

Gradation B: Three examples of different types of colour banding. Example #1 gives you the best idea of what can be achieved with gradation.

How to Cut Fabrics

  • 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 the 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.

Materials

You will need:

  • 3.25mm / Size 10 crochet hook
  • Sharp scissors
  • Needle
  • Cotton thread
  • Different coloured fabrics
Making a starting loop.

Making a starting loop.

Single crochet stitch (click to enlarge): 1. Hook through next stitch. 2. Yarn over and pull through. 3. Yarn over and pull through remaining loops on hook. 4. Next stitch. 5. Finished row.

Single crochet stitch (click to enlarge): 1. Hook through next stitch. 2. Yarn over and pull through. 3. Yarn over and pull through remaining loops on hook. 4. Next stitch. 5. Finished row.

Rag Rug Instructions

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.

Step 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 the thread at the start and sew a few knots at the end, so the sewing doesn't undo.

Step 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. You can also try the Magic Ring method if you like, but I use the traditional chain method.

Important: As you pull 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.

Step 3. After making the starting ring and double crochet ring as per the video, start working coloured rounds using a single crochet stitch.

how-to-make-a-rag-rug-rag-rug-instructions
Too much increasing of stitches will make the edges of the rug frilly like this, and it won't sit flat.

Too much increasing of stitches will make the edges of the rug frilly like this, and it won't sit flat.

How to Add Colours

For the first few starting rounds, use one colour as it is easier. Then, select a new colour and attach it 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!

How to Increase

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 increase is too much because the rug will get frilly, and it won't sit flat but instead will have fabric bunching up on the edges. With practice, this will become a very easy process.

An example of a decorative crochet edge.

An example of a decorative crochet edge.

How to Finish the Rug

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 the thread, and 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).

The finished rag rug.

The finished rag rug.

Another rag rug I have made, with a larger fabric width and a larger crochet hook. It didn't turn out as detailed as the main one in this tutorial.

Another rag rug I have made, with a larger fabric width and a larger crochet hook. It didn't turn out as detailed as the main one in this tutorial.

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.

This fabric basket was made using the same technique as rag rugging, mixing 1cm fabric strips with fluffy wool to add texture.

This fabric basket was made using the same technique as rag rugging, mixing 1cm fabric strips with fluffy wool to add texture.

© 2014 Suzanne Day

Comments

Jane Giesbrecht on August 09, 2020:

An excellent tutorial on how to make a round crocheted rug. Well written and easy to understand. My mother and grandmother made many crocheted rugs. They were very frugal, usually out of necessity, so every scrap of material from any source was saved. They made potholders from small scraps. You have aroused my interest in making a rug. Would you please take some time to explore how to hang my hundred-year-old ROUND rugs as decorative art?

Thank you for writing the tutorial.

J on January 22, 2020:

Excellent

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on June 02, 2017:

I remember cutting rags for woven rugs for my mother. They were 2 inches wide. My hands would get sore after awhile. I imagine cutting is best done as one works the rug to avoid this. I have some old sheets I might want to use up this way. Thank you for these instructions!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 20, 2017:

I'm back to read this tutorial again. I want to make this. At least I'm willing to give it a good try. Such a good hub with great instruction and photos. Thanks again and wish me luck!

GreenMind Guides from USA on January 18, 2017:

This is really great hub. I like the way you write. You have soe really great creative ideas in this hub. Thanks!

MELODY on October 28, 2016:

DO THEY STILL HAVE FABRIC SHREDDER? IT MADE THINGS GO SO MUCH FASTER. THAT'S A LOT OF CUTTING. THANK YOU, SO MUCH FOR THE GREAT INFO.

MELODY JAMISON, SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS. I SEE IT EASIER.

poetryman6969 on October 18, 2015:

I really like the colorful result. It's too bad you can't use old blue jeans.

Barbara on September 27, 2015:

what a wonderful detailed post, have read many, thankyou so much for sharing, so many pins, so many googles!! AND there it is all in one blog.

I love the rug. Such talent.

DebMartin on June 21, 2015:

Oh, I have not made a rag rug in years. I'm inspired to take up the project again this winter. I so loved my colorful rugs. I do remember though I didn't much like the sewing part. I'll have to get over that. Thanks!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on June 20, 2015:

I had not realized how intricate the process was. A little strategic planning goes a long way. That rug looks absolutely gorgeous!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 07, 2015:

This is certainly a great way to upcycle old garments and bed sheets, etc. Would also look great in a country home setting or with that type of décor. Rag rugs are certainly serviceable and can stand the test of time. I did learn how to crochet many years ago and made some crocheted blankets for baby cribs, etc. Your rug photos and that basket you made look really nice. Thanks for the tutorial. Will pin it to my crafts board.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on March 26, 2015:

Thanks! Unfortunately I am not teaching classes on it at the moment but I'll keep you in mind if I do!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on March 24, 2015:

oh darn, I do not know how to crochet. I would love to try this though

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 24, 2015:

Your rugs are just stunning! I want to make one and will follow your excellent instructions. Will have to wait until my broken finger heals but meanwhile I can start collecting fabrics. Big thanks and big votes. Will share.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 24, 2015:

These are so rustic looking ..I like the look and feel of them. While I have had several given to me I have never made one. Your directions were very detailed and all but I am one of those that would need to see you do this. As a matter of fact, I would join your class if you were teaching one on this topic!!!

Thanks for sharing.

PInned to Awesome HubPages shared and voted up++++

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on February 02, 2015:

I love rugs. I´ve never realized how much work it would be to make a rag rug! You never know--I might actually get the courage to try this someday. Thank you for your clear instructions and information on gradation.

Faythe Payne from USA on October 18, 2014:

Beautiful, I want to try this

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 25, 2014:

Quite inspiring and your detailed instructions make me want to begin a rag rug project (to add to my many other unfinished ones...) Beautiful work and your directions and pictures are great.

Audrey Howitt from California on September 25, 2014:

Love this! So am sending it around--very useful!

Tanya Jones from Texas USA on September 13, 2014:

I needed this. I have lots of scrap fabric. I also need to make a rug for beneath the kotatsu. Solution found. Great hub.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on July 23, 2014:

Hi MizBejabbers, I have seen those plastic bag ones. They're good for other uses, but forget the bathroom as they ARE cold and non-absorbent. Using fabrics in rugs and making them well means you can put them in the washing machine 101 times and they get more absorbent with each wash. I think the plastic ones are better as pool mats or animal mats (eg for a muddy yard). I have seen successful plastic weaving as shopping bags.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 23, 2014:

Very nice work, Suzanne. Your instructions are so detailed that anyone who crochets should be able to do these rugs. It reminds me of my mom who passed away in 2008. She was an artist and a crafter. She crocheted several small "rag" rugs (bathmat sized) out of colorful plastic bags (from Walmart, grocery store, newspaper, etc.). I still have them, but they are too cold on the bathroom floor and don't absorb water. Voted you up++

Dianna Mendez on July 01, 2014:

Welcome! I just started crochet again and find it relaxing. Your work here is intricate and shows creative talent. I'm sure I can make the rug from your detailed instruction. Thanks for sharing.