Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bed Sheet Hand Braided Rug

Last year, as I was planning what things I could re-purpose for the upstairs, I thought about all of the multicolored fabric rugs my mom had purchased when I was a child. The idea of a fabric rug intrigued me, but I did not care for mine to be multicolored. Then my mom, who has boxes of fabric scraps, showed me her treasure trove of white bed sheets. I knew I would be making bed sheet rugs.

I wanted to find a braided method that could be completely done by hand, with no use of a crochet hook or sewing needle. I was planning to produce this rug wherever and whenever, including on public transportation. I was a full-time teacher and full-time graduate student at the time so free time was scarce. Then I found this tutorial from Little House in the Suburbs. I spent spare minutes snipping two bed sheets into 1 1/2 inch strips, round about, and ripping them down the weave.

I simplified the method in the tutorial, because I forgot about adding multiple strips once I got into a rhythm with my weaving/braiding. The entire rug is made with a 4 strand-braid tucked into itself. The result is a white, durable, hand woven rug, with visible knots and fraying thread that, to me, makes this rug even more special.

2 - King-sized bedsheets, cut and ripped into strips. Already owned

This rug was free for me, and a wonderful way to keep my hands busy while riding the bus, watching movies at night, and even listening to a speaker during one of my Master's classes (yes, I was that lady one day).


I do not have photographs of the strip preparation, since I prepared the strips more than half a year ago. I'll update this post when I start my next rug and completely finish the first.

First, I laid out the bed sheet and folded it into manageable sections, roughly 2' x 3'. Then, I cut along the folds so that I had about 15 rectangles of white fabric. I cut slits into the hems about every 1 1/2 inches, before I ripped the sheets down those edges. I had to collect many threads that fell off at this step.

Then I cut slits on each end of the fabric strips so that I could interlock the strips securely together.

I gathered 4 strips and interlocked them into one starting knot. I began a 4 strand braid in an "under, over, under, over, tuck and pull through hole" pattern.

Here are my four strips in the rug I had already begun. I didn't mind the fraying, so I didn't take extra time to fold, sew, or iron in the frayed edges to hide them. I was hoping for the handmade look these untreated strips would provide.

I took the first strand on the left, went under the second strand, went over the third strand, and under the fourth strand, as shown above; a basic weave or four-strand braid pattern.

To weave the rug as one piece without sewing separate braids together or using a crochet hook, I simply pushed the first strand (that went under, over, under) into the closest outer loop from the previous row on the right.  I used a butter knife in this picture only to indicate which hole I meant.  I pushed the woven first strand over the loop and into the hole so it would come out of the underside of the rug.
Here is a photo of the woven first outer strand being pulled through the hole and the butter knife indicating the hole again.
When a strip becomes short, it is time to interlock another strip to make it longer.
I retrieved another strip I prepared, so that to ends were cut with points and slits.  I'll call the strip on the left the old strip and the strip on the right the new strip.

Pull the end of the old strip into the hole of the new strip, as shown above.

Next, we're going to pull the middle of the new strip through the slit of the old strip.
Once the middle of the new strip is pulled through the slit of the old strip, the two fabrics will be loosely interlocked.
Lastly, pull the old strip to the left and new strip in the right to interlock the two strips.  I cut points on the slit ends to ensure the knot would be less bulky with material.  Now, this strip is ready to keep weaving. :)
I followed the finishing explanation provided at Little House in the Suburbs and the first rug I made was strong, and the end was so hard to notice, I couldn't find it a few days later, though I hunted for it well!

I hope sharing my slight variation of this rug style will help someone turn some unused fabric (t-shirts and jersey knit sheets would be great for a soft, smooth look) into a durable, handmade rug for their space, too.  :)

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  1. I will have to try this!!! I had a braided rug I loved, but the stitching was not able to keep it together, and I finally got frustrated after stitching and re-stitching it, and discarded the rug. I wish now I had kept it. Next time I will use your technique. Thank you so much for taking the time to make a tutorial. Blessings! Granny Grue

    1. I am glad that this may be a viable solution to you, Granny Grue! =D I'd love to see how your rug turns out, if you do decide to make one. :) I will be updating this post with the finished rug for my daughter's room in October. :) Blessings to you as well!

  2. I’m trampled by your contents carry on the wonderful work.
    mark foke

  3. Did you follow the rest of that tutorial.. adding more and more strips? That's where I get a bit lost. You go from 4 strips to 6 or 8? Yours appears to have just the 4. Could you clarify that part?

    1. Thank you for your question, Robin. The Little House in the Suburbs tutorial adds strips from 4 to 6 to 8, but I just kept 4 strips because it was simpler for me to do and remember. :) 4 strips worked fine for me. I'd love to see your finished product somehow.

  4. Thank you for these instructions. I have been trying to find this technique for years! My grandma made these types of rugs but I never learned how to make them and now I can. I compared the texture of one of her rugs to the one I'm starting using your directions and it's identical. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. Heather, I am so happy for you! I'd love to see your finished rug when the time comes. :) Your comment has truly blessed me today!

  5. How big of a rug did the 2 sheets make?

    1. Hi, Colleen. Thank you for asking your question. I had used one sheet to make an oval rug measuring 3 feet long, 2 feet wide. I picked up other projects before finishing the rug with the second sheet, but I would assume it would be 4 1/2 long by 3/5 feet wide. The larger the rug is, the more distance of fabric it needs to go around the oval.

      You may have different outcomes with a circle or rounded square rug. I would love to know if you try it, and how it turns out for you.

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  8. Dear Yvonne. Thank you for this pattern. Just one thing I'm not too clear about: "I began a 4 strand braid in an "under, over, under, over, tuck and pull through hole" - the last three words. Again, thank you and tons of blessings.


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