One of my favorite memories is taking a bath in my grandmother’s claw foot bathtub and stepping out on the handmade rag rug placed on the linoleum floor at the side of the tub. The floor was always cold especially in the winter when the heat from the coal stove didn’t reach to the floor. But the crocheted rounds of material felt delightful to my feet.
Grandma had several rag rugs strategically placed throughout her house. They brought color and warmth to each room. They also carried the risk of slip, trips, and falls. They didn’t have the rubber backing we’ve come to expect on our more modern throw rugs. But thinking back, I can’t remember any such falls. I do remember grandma washing them in her wringer washer and because they were too bulky to run through the wringer, wringing them out by hand. The next day, there they were colors brightened, looking fresh and clean, gracing her floors.
I spent many special hours helping my grandmother roll the strips of material into balls, waiting for her clever hands to crochet them into rugs of various sizes. Pulling out these memories, I decided I needed a few of these rugs in my home. I searched my mind drawing forth the steps needed to make a rug. My husband’s mother used to crochet similar rugs and between Marvin and I, we set the process in motion and made our first rug. I have to tell you it wasn’t something to brag about. Still that didn’t stop us from patting ourselves on the back and ignoring how it cupped in the middle because we hadn’t increased stitches as often as needed. The Yorkies sniffed it over, walked across it, did their scratch and circle routine and pronounced it of napping quality. WHEW! We got better with each subsequent rug. Since our first attempt, we’ve made oval, round, and rectangle rugs. No they aren’t perfect, but each one is colorful and has fond memories crocheted in each stitch.
I’m by no means an expert on making rag rugs. I’ve been lucky to discover a woman in my church that makes rag rugs during the long winter months. This lady is an expert. My advice, should you want to take up this rewarding art, would be to find someone who makes rag rugs.and get their help. I’m going to attempt sharing my meager knowledge with you while assuring you crocheting a rag rug is easy. I couldn’t do it if otherwise.
For material, I haunt Goodwill for old sheets of any color, size or design. I hunt for old, cheap, clothing. Some articles I snap up are worn beyond wear. My friends know I make rugs so I get donations of cast-offs. First I cut the material into one inch strips. That’s why sheets work so well. You can make the first cut then rip it down the length of the sheet. WARNING: threads fly, landing on you, your clothes, furniture, and the floor. Very messy. Don’t worry if the inch varies it crochets in. When I first started this craft, I sewed the inch wide strips together. Then I was told about knotting the ends together. It’s easy to do and the knots hold. BUT I can’t explain this step well enough for you to understand. It involves cutting a small hole in the strip’s ends and pulling the lengths through. This is where a vintage rug maker can give you hands on help. My husband remembered his sister making this knot and through trial and error, we succeeded. Again, it’s not difficult and I wish I could be more precise in my directions. You might try google. Hmmm.
Roll the long knotted strips into balls. Don’t worry about joining colors of material or designs. You can if you are wanting a specific color blend. You’ll soon get creative. It all blends as you crochet. I’ve mixed some weird strips and darned if I haven’t gotten colorful and unique rugs. I’m always amazed at how it all works. And VOILA, you are now ready to crochet. I do a chain stitch of the approximate length I want. Then I crochet a double crochet into each chain using a size Q crochet hook. Again, there’s no specific size but you’ll want a big hook for the material. Here’s where you can make your own pattern of rectangle or oval. Your rug is now your very own creation and you decide size. Don’t forget to increase. When I asked how to know when to increase, my church lady just said vaguely I’d know. HA!! So I do it fairly often and it seems to be working. Through all this, I’ve discovered there are no precise do this or do that’s. It’s relaxing and rewarding. And I use the modern rubber backing strips found in Walmart. I sew a piece of this backing on each corner and the rugs don’t move on the floor.
I hope my feeble attempt at directions at least point you in the right direction. Visit your local nursing home. I’ll bet you’ll find someone there who is either making a rug or can tell you how. Seniors are a treasure trove of knowledge. And remember, to have fun while building your own memories.
Oh, I forgot to tell you, the Yorkies love to curl up on the mound of strips waiting to be wound into balls. They get a little indignant when made to move. Happy rug making.