Saturday, June 30, 2012

Braided Rag Rug Basics- and Rapunzel Hair!

Rope Made from Rags
After every project, I meticulously fold and put away the leftover fabric. The scraps that are simply too small for anything else get tossed in a box. The leftover sleeves and seams from the T-shirt duvet cover that I've been working on (and I promise I will finish eventually) go in the box as well. Sometimes, this box gets overly full. On those days, I drag it out and start cutting whatever is in there down to strips that are about an inch wide, braid them, and make ropes. I used to either knot or sew them, but I saw a clever method on Moda Bake Shop that I've tried out and really like.

The Rag Box

1. Starting out. 

Knot the Ends
To start, you'll need a whole mess of fabric, cut down to similar size strips. Moda uses a really pretty print in contrast with white fabric, but since we're doing this to use up scraps, be kind to the environment, and stick to a more rustic look, we'll be sticking with whatever comes out of the box (yes, that is an old bathing suit!). Some fabric may rip neatly, which will save cutting time. Also keep in mind the thickness of your fabric. If you have a thick upholstery fabric, sometimes as little as 1/2" is plenty, but if you have something extremely thin like tulle, 4" wide strips are necessary. Just play with it and you'll get a feel for what you like. I personally like the different textures, shapes, and sizes. It makes each piece unique. Moda recommends sewing the ends, I'm lazy and knot mine.

If you have fabrics that are not colorfast, you might consider prewashing them on a gentle cycle and air or line drying them before cutting into strips.

2. Braid. 

If you are unfamiliar with braiding, check out the diagram on this website for more information. It often helps to have something anchoring the other end of the braid, whether you use a safety pin and pin it to a couch, your jeans, or a rug, have a patient friend hold it, or hold the braid underneath your foot. Start braiding away and stop when you're within a couple inches of the end of your shortest strip. If you are making a rag rug, you will want the braid to be loose. If you are making Rapunzel hair or a rope, you can braid tightly.

If you need to take a break from braiding, a safety pin will hold the braids in place. Or you can use a bobby pin while adding more, which is faster to move and remove. 


3. Add More Strips as Needed. 

This clever trick (from Moda) saved me so much time! When you get to the end of your strip, lay another strip over the end, overlapping by about 1 1/2 inches. 

Overlap the Ends

Fold both of them over and cut a small slit through both.

Take the end of your new strip, fold it under, and pull it up through the slit you've just made.

Pull tight.

Et Voila! Keep braiding like normal.

Here it is again with some different fabric:

Overlap the strips.
Fold them together.
Cut a small slit through both layers of fabric.
Pull the end of the new strip up through the slit.
Keep pulling gently.
When I'm adding new strips on, I like to pick three at a time. I add the longest new strip to the shortest old strip, the middle length new to the middle length old and the shortest new strip to the longest old strip. It helps to keep the braid fairly even.

As I started cutting more strips, I pre-cut the slits in each as well. I'm not sure which way is faster, but it was nice not having to reach for the scissors every few moments.

4. Keep adding until the desired length is reached. 

When the rope is as long as you need/want it, you can sew the ends or knot them. If you are working on something like a rag rug, I recommend just using a safety pin to hold the ends in place in case you wish to add more. I thought I had enough rope made for a rag rug I made for my sister, but I had nowhere near enough and had to add more on.

My two girls love to play like the fabric ropes are Rapunzel hair, hence the name. Really the only thing it has in common with Rapunzel's hair is the length and the braiding, but that doesn't stop their imaginations. I suppose if you used fabric in a hair-like color, it would look more like hair. Still, they love their ropes.

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