Tutorial: Braided Rug

Looking for a fun way to use up some extra fabric or some old clothing that you have lying around? Or maybe you just need something to make your floors a little cozier. Either way a braided rug is the perfect option. It’s easy to make, and you can choose the size, color, and shape to perfectly fit your space.

This type of braided rug is made from 4 strips of fabric that are woven together over and over again until they form one continuous braid. The rug begins with one single braid that your keep adding to, working your way from the middle of the rug out.

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This rug was made using secondhand fabric.

To learn how I make a braided rug you can check out my video, or follow the step by step instructions I have written below.

* Shameless plug: My brother, Jameson White, not only helped me by editing this video, but he also wrote, performed, and produced the background music. If you’d like to check out his other music on ITunes you can go to:
https://itunes.apple.com/bn/artist/jameson-white/id596592696

Or you can follow this link to check out his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheToneFinder 

What you will need:

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  • Fabric:

You can use any fabric you happen to have, including old sheets or clothing. I usually use multiple colors, but I try to make sure that all the fabric is the same weight, meaning I don’t use materials like denim and cotton together. Not only would they wear out differently, but they would also braid differently making it hard to maintain an even tension throughout the rug.

  • A needle and thread:

A sewing machine will also work, but I find a needle and thread simpler.

  • A pair of scissors
  • A ruler: Optional, but it can make cutting your fabric into equal strips easier
  • A safety pin: Optional

Step 1: Cut your fabric
To begin making a rug you will need to choose the fabric you want to create the center of your rug first, because you will be working from the middle out. I generally choose only 2 different colors for the center of my rug, but in this tutorial I am using 4.

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To do this with 4 different colors, cut 1 strip of each color that is about 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) wide and 24 inches (62 cm) long. This is where your ruler comes in handy. These measurements are all approximations of what I prefer to use.  The great thing about braiding your own rug is that you get to choose what measurements work best for you, so if you find that you want your strips wider or narrower that’s perfectly acceptable.

Once you have your strips, sew two of them together and then sew the other two strips together to create 2 long pieces of fabric.

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If you were doing this with only 2 colors you would simply cut one strip of each color that is approximately 2-3 (5-7 cm) inches wide and about 48 inches (122 cm) long, or whatever size you find works best for you.

If you want your strips to be perfect and even you can measure each of them before cutting them out.  I usually just make a cut at the top of my fabric and then pull on both sides to tear the strip all the way down. This is much faster then cutting all the way down a piece of fabric and creates strips of similar sizes.

Step 2: Sew your strips together

Once you have your 2 long strips of fabric, lay them perpendicular to each other.

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Sew the two strips together by simply stitching a diagonal line through the center of each strip with your needle and thread.

Step 3: Begin to braid
Beginning to braid is the most difficult part of this process. To start I sit on the floor (or on my bed as I find it more comfortable to have pillows behind me) and lay all of my strips out in front of me with the seam holding them together at the top.

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Once your strips are laid out, grab the strip farthest to the left (this is your working strand and is the navy blue fabric in the photo above and the examples below) and fold the sides under so that you can’t see the unfinished edges. These edges will be hidden on the back side of your rug. Next, pull your working strand over your second strip (the pink strand), under your third strip (the white strand), and over your fourth strip (the striped strand). You have now effectively made your working strand into your fourth strand.

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Set that strip of fabric down and grab the strip that is now farthest to your left (the pink strand in the photos above). This is now your new working strand.  Pull this strand over the second strip, under the third strip, and over the fourth strip.

Repeat this process until your braid is the length you want. This will be your center braid, and the length of it will determine the overall shape of your rug. If your center braid is shorter, your rug with be more circular. If your center braid is longer, your rug will be more of a rounded rectangle.

Make sure that as you braid you are keeping a consistent and tight tension. I use my heel to hold the top of my braid down so that it is easier braid with a consistent tension.

If one strip starts to get too short to continue braiding, simply sew on another strip of fabric. This is also how you change colors throughout your rug. Just take your new strip of fabric and lay the front of it (meaning the side you want to see when you look at your rug) onto the front of your current strip that you want lengthened. Then sew them together along the edge. When sewing strips together, it’s helpful to use a similar color of thread so that the thread doesn’t show up as much.

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To hide this seam while braiding, simply pull it through so that it is on the back side of your rug, or hide it under another strip of fabric.

Once the center braid is the length that I want, I take a large safety pin and pin it to the top of the rug so that I know where I started, and I also know which side is going to be the front. When you are first learning to braid it can be difficult to tell which side is which, so the safety pin can be a helpful marker.

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Step 4: Begin to weave your braid back into itself
This sounds more confusing than it is, I promise.

Once your center braid is the length that you want, it’s time to weave the braid around to begin shaping your rug. To do this take the working strand (the striped fabric in the photos below) and go over the second strand (the navy), under the third strand (the pink), over the fourth strand (the white) just like before, but now instead of leaving your working strand to become the fourth strand, you are going to take it and pull it through the first hole on your right.

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Now go back to the strand on your left (the navy in the photo above) and repeat this process. Over, under, over, through. You just have to remember that you always Start Over. 

If the hole that your are pulling your working strand through is large you can bring multiple strands through it. This is also true when going around corners. Often at a corner you will need to run two or three strands through each hole so that you have enough space to create a corner that doesn’t bunch up.

Step 5: Continue braiding

No really, just keep going over, under, over, and through. You’re doing great! Pretty soon it will start looking like a rug.

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This is the time when I usually start changing colors (though you can change them at any time) and playing around with different combinations. Or you can just keep the same colors throughout your whole rug.

There are 3 main things you need to remember while braiding:

  1. Keep your braid tight and consistent. To help keep mine tight I hold down the top of my rug with my heel or my leg so that I can keep the tension consistent. You don’t want some strands tighter than others. But, you also don’t want to pull it too tight making it hard to pull strands through.
  2. Fold your edges under. If you cut your strips of fabric, chances are that the edges are rough and could fray. You don’t necessarily want to see this on the top of your rug. Hide these unfinished edges by folding them under so that they will only show on the back of the rug. This is why I find having a 2-3 inch (5-7 cm) width helpful.
  3. Don’t forget your fourth strand. When I first started braiding I kept forgetting to pick up my fourth strand because I was used to braiding things with only three. This can cause knots to form, which isn’t what you want. Although, if you do braid something into a knot, don’t worry; my first rug had a few large lumpy knots, but after a few weeks of standing on it I can’t even feel them anymore.

Step 6: Secure your ends
Once you are happy with the size of your rug it’s time to secure the loose ends and finish the rug. To do this find where you want to end your rug and weave the four strands of fabric to the back. I usually do this on a corner because it seems to blend in better, but you can stop anywhere you would like.

Once you have your ends pulled underneath your rug, check how the front looks and make sure you can’t tell where your stopped braiding. Sometimes ending too abruptly or pulling the ends too tightly can cause an indentation to form on the side of your rug. You can see in the photo below that I ended this rug too abruptly and there is an indentation where it doesn’t look rounded anymore. This is what you want to avoid.

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Now turn your rug over to the back, weave your strands under a couple of other braids, and cut each one to an inch or two long. Once they are woven in and cut you can sew them down. If you are trying to make the bottom of your rug look just as pretty as the top, you can weave the ends underneath another strand of fabric and sew it down so that the seam is hidden.

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Step 7: Lay on ground
You did it! You braided a rug! And now it is time to lay it on the ground, take one awesome photo of how beautiful and artfully made it is, and then step all over it.

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This rug is made entirely from old blue jeans.

In general, a rug takes me around 8 hours or more to braid. It’s a pretty big time commitment, but the end result is stunning and so worth it!

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This rug is made entirely from old sheets and T-shirts.

If you have a rug that you have braided I would love to see it! You can either email it to me at livingwastefree@gmail.com or you can put it on Instagram and tag @livingwastefree.

Good Luck!

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