How to Find Patterns for Making Braided Rugs

By Lesley Barker

  • Overview

    Braided rugs were used in colonial homes to keep the floors warm. They were made from long strips of re-purposed woolen or cotton cloth. There are still people who make braided rugs and keep the craft alive today. By carefully combining the colors in each strip, a controlled pattern can be produced. Hand-stitched braided rugs are totally reversible because, in contrast to machine made braided rugs, the threads that hold the braids together are laced in the center of the rug so you can't see them.
  • History

    Braided rugs are a traditional American craft. Before cloth was used to braid rugs, Americans in the late eighteenth century made mats and rugs out of braided straw. Once woolen mills were commonly established in early nineteenth century New England, people began to braid rugs out of strips of wool. At first, they were made without any regard to a pattern because the braids were made out of re-purposed cloth so whatever was available went into the strips.
  • Patterns

    Soon traditional patterns emerged and got named. One traditional design is the Petal pattern which the Shakers used. The pattern results in an oval rug with a circular center surrounded by eight separate smaller circles like the petals on a flower. All nine circles fit inside the darker border.

  • Types

    Even when no specific pattern, known as Hit /Miss, was employed, people who made braided rugs tended to end each rug with the darkest colored strips of fabric available so that this color would form the outer border to frame the rug. Usually, however, the strips of cloth which will be braided into the rug are formed out of fabrics which are similar in color such as earth tones, greens, or reds, for example. Another version of this Hit/Miss pattern is called the Joseph's Coat Pattern which uses randomly repeated colors.
  • Directions

    Making a braided rug involves several steps. First strips of woolen or cotton fabric must be prepared. Starting with a width of 1 to 3 inches of fabric, fold the raw edges in as though you were hemming. Then fold the entire strip in half long-ways so that the width is decreased by half. Use slip stitches to finish the edges. Depending on the pattern you choose: solid, check, tweed, hit/miss, petal or customized, braid the strips together so that they lie flat. Then hand-lace the strips. Besides the color combination, your pattern will create an oval, round, rectangular or free-form shaped rug.
  • Expert Insight

    Links below connect you with websites where you can search for hand-made braided rugs for sale that come in a variety of patterns. There is also a link to a website where you can find patterns if you want to make your own. When a hand-made woolen braided rug is finished, it can be quite valuable. Hand-made, hand-laced 4'11" by 7' woolen braided oval rugs in a Hit/Miss style sell for more than $1500.
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