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You can braid a rug like great-grandma's.

The art and craft of rug braiding dates back to the early 1800s, but it's now disappearing. Rug braiding began when women showed their creativity by utilizing old clothing and scraps of cloth to create a utilitarian household rug to add warmth to an otherwise harsh lifestyle.

Our great-grandmothers used all types of scraps and worn-out clothing. I prefer to use all-wool, or at least 85 percent wool content of a "skirt" weight. The uniformity of the thickness of the wool will make a nicer finished product.

Beginning your rug

Gather the material you plan to use for braiding. As a rule of thumb, one yard of material purchased off the bolt, 60" wide, weighs one pound. By weighing scraps and remnants you can gauge the amount of wool on hand. On the average, one square foot of braided rug will require 3/4 of a yard (or 3/4 of a pound) of wool material.

It is important to consider the design of your rug. For the beginner, a "hit or miss" rug is easiest. I prefer this design because it is representative of the colonial woman's rug, when scraps of material were used. In a hit or miss design, one main color strand is carried throughout the rug. The other two strands consist of varied colors, creating a very eye-pleasing look.

If old clothing is used, rip the piece apart after washing the garment in hot water to kill any possible moth larvae. The hot water also "firms up" the wool fibers.

Strips used for braiding can be between 1-1/2 and 2 inches wide. I find that a strip 1-3/4 inches wide produces a very nice looking braid. Strips can be torn, for the most part, however, some material is better cut. You will quickly find out which materials need to be cut.

Some additional supplies are needed: 1. Vari-fold braid aids (trifold the material for braiding)2, Lacer 3. Heavy duty lacing cord 4. Sewing thread 5. Needles 6. Scissors 7. Leather gloves to protect hands when lacing (optional)

These materials can be obtained from the Braid-Aid Company,466 Washington St., Pembroke MA 02359.

Plan in advance

The shape and size of the rug you wish to braid must be determined. For this article, I will explain how to braid an oval rug.

Let's say we plan to make a 2, x 3, rug. To determine the length of the first center braid, subtract the width from the length and add one inch per foot: 32=1 foot plus one inch for shrinkage.

The "T" start

Decide which three colors you wish to use for the beginning of your rug. Tear a 1-3/4 inch strip from each piece of material. Place the vari-folders on the strips.

Join two of the strips together on the bias. To do this, place right sides together at a 9O angle and join with a diagonal seam. (See Fig.1.) You can use the sewing machine or hand-sew this seam.

Take the third strip, fold two sides to the center and then fold in half. Secure with an invisible whip stitch for three inches (Fig.2). Attach to the two joined strips so the diagonal seam is directly in the center of the T. (Fig.3.)

Fold the top portion of the joined piece and whip stitch for four inches (Fig.4.)

You are now ready to begin braiding.

It is very important to remember when braiding to keep all seams to the right side in order to have a reversible braid and a reversible rug.

The sore thumb

To start braiding, place your left thumb over the center strip of color number three. Bring color number two over the thumb and number one over the top of number two (Fig.5). You will have to turn the strips for the first loop to get all seams turned to the right side.

Continue braiding with a firm but not too tight braid for the desired length of the center braid (in this case, 13 inches).

You are now ready to braid a turn, which allows the center braid to lay flat for lacing. You want your turn to go to the right. Therefore, braid the two left colors (left tube over the center, left tube over the center, right tube over the center). Do this twice in a row and you have braided a straight double turn (Fig. 6). Continue braiding to the end of the center braid.

Lacing your rug

A braided rug is laced together by going through the braid of one row and attaching the braid of the loose braid. To lace an oval rug, begin at the double turn end of the center braid. Lace through two loops and knot securely. Lace on the wrong side of the rug, making sure that the open edges of the braid face inward. Do not pierce the material; rather, lace through the loops. Lace every loop for a strong rug.

In order to allow the rug to lie flat and not pucker, it is necessary,v to increase on the curved ends only. To increase, you lace through two loops on the braid to one loop on the rug. As a general rule, six increases are needed on each round as you lace. It is best not to increase at the same spot on the curve-stagger the increases. You may wish to use safety pins to mark your increases.

Changing colors

When changing colors on an oval rug, always do so coming out of the curve, and always change colors on the same end of the rug. To determine where a new row begins on an oval rug, lay a yardstick along the outside edge of the braided part of the rug. The loops just past the straight edge is where the color change should occur. Change only one color at a time. This allows the colors to blend, and gives the rug continuity.

Ending your rug

To finish the rug with an inconspicuous braid, finish coming out of the curve. The taper is about six inches long. Determine where you want to end your rug by once again laying a yardstick along the outside edge. Where the braid crosses the edge of the yardstick is the area to come to a finish. Unbraid about six inches of the braid. Cut each of the strands of material, gradually tapering to a modified point. You may need to stitch the strands for easier rebraiding. Rebraid. Interweave the ends into successive loops on the rug. The end of the braid will look like it blends into the rug, and there should be no bump at the ending of the rug. (Fig. 7.) Weave the ends into the rug in a zigzag fashion to secure the ends. Using a needle nose pliers is helpful. You may need to redo the ending until you obtain a smooth finish.

This article provides you with enough information to get started in braiding. With practice, you will be able to create many beautiful braided rugs for your home. I would enjoy hearing from you with any questions or comments. Happy braiding.--Barbara Esterly, Sugarloaf Acres, 107 Schweitz Rd., Fleetwood PA 19522
COPYRIGHT 1994 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Esterly, Barbara
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 1994
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