A Survey of Rug-Making Techniques, from Braiding to Knitting

Stepping onto a soft, thick rug can really make a chilly day seem warmer. And it feels even better if you’ve made the rug yourself.

The process of rug-making may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many different techniques available, and if you check the following list, you’re sure to find at least one that fits your abilities, and your style.

Braiding
Braided rugs can be made from several strands of yarn, or from anything rope-like (“thick” is the operative word here, as it is with almost all rugs). But most people who braid rugs use strips of fabric.

The technique used is a simple three-strand braid that starts in the center of the rug and works its way out from there. As the braid is being made it’s also being sewn to the braid next to it-which is what keeps the rug together.

Most braided rugs are either circular or oval, but it’s also possible to make a square or rectangle just by adjusting the spiral, or by braiding back and forth instead of around and around.

Crochet
Rugs can be crocheted using thick yarn or fabric strips, and a very large hook. There’s a lot of room here for experimentation with different color and stitch patterns. But if you’re trying out different stitches, keep in mind that they will be walked on; raised or loose stitches can catch on people’s shoes or their toes, and they also won’t wear as well. This is especially true of more open, lacy stitches.

Rugs can be crocheted in many different shapes. Certainly you can make a big rectangle or square, but if you copy the braiding technique and do a spiral, your rug could also be round or oval.

Hooking
Rugs can be hooked two different ways. Using rug canvas and short pieces of yarn or fabric, you can make little knots with a latch hook, filling in the spaces on the canvas. Or you can use a continuous strand (fabric is probably a better choice here than yarn) and pull it through a piece of burlap with a plain rug hook, making small loops as you go.

Either technique is a good choice if you have a special design in mind-especially if the design is curved. Latch hooking will produce a pile which can be dense or shaggy, depending on the length of the yarn/fabric pieces. Hooking on burlap will make loops, which can be cut (if they’re long enough) or left as is. For the best results, hooking with burlap needs to be done on a frame, while canvas can be worked without a frame.

Knitting
Knitting produces a thinner fabric than crochet or any of the other rug-making techniques, so if you want a very flat rug, this is a good choice. If you’d like your rug to be thicker, you’ll probably need to use several strands of yarn held together-and very large needles.

There’s another consideration here. Unlike the other techniques discussed so far, knitting keeps all its stitches active on the needle(s). If your rug is going to be anything other than small, you will probably need to use the longest circular needle you can find (and work back and forth on it). You may even need to use more than one circular needle, working from one to the other as you would if you were using double-pointed needles, or you could use a modular kit. This might not sound too hard; after all, people knit very large afghans all the time. But afghans are much thinner and more flexible than rugs.

If the idea of knitting an entire rug is daunting, but you’re not familiar with any of the other techniques, you can always try making it in squares or strips and then sewing them together.

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