How to Make a Rag Rug, The Homestead Tradition Lives On

Home Projects Crafts How to Make a Rag Rug, The Homestead Tradition Lives On

Learn how to make a rag rug out of your leftover fabric scraps, or old tarnished clothes and rags! It’s a great fun way to recycle and repurpose. You’ll love this old homesteading tradition. I know I have. That’s why I’m sharing it with all of you so you can have fun and keep your door step clean all the time!

How to Make a Rag Rug

I’ll get to the tutorial…. But first, a story:

Rag Rug Compressor | How to Make a Rag Rug

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Lately, it is highly practical for everyone to recycle. It’s just a smarter way of living, not to mention the dwindling landfill space and non­-renewable resources such as fossil fuels like gas that we use daily in vehicles.

However, recycling is not a new concept.

I remember practicing recycling in my home when I was a kid, too, only I was not aware that it was known as recycling. During my childhood years, I always flattened tin cans and bundled newspapers at home. Every Saturday, as if routine, my mom would put on a pot of soup from the week’s leftovers. Nothing ever went to waste in my home.

My parents are pretty phenomenal; they survived the Great Depression and knew how to stretch a buck. My mom never disposed of anything if she could find another use for it.

When a towel wore out, or a sock was widowed, I would dare not toss it away, instead ­­it became a rag for cleaning. Undershirts with holes made good dust rags and thin old bed linens could be torn and used for a lot of things. We converted them to paint rags or tie ups for our tomato plants and even kite tails.

My favorite memory of recycling as a child involved the rag bag.

There was one summer in kindergarten when I outgrew my favorite gray and yellow plaid dress. My mother and I tore it into strips for the rugs. We removed the hem and some of the seams from the dress and pulled out the gathers at the waist. Then we removed the buttons and saved them in the button box, we did not dispose of them. My mom started to make little snips, about two inches apart along the edge of the fabric, and then we tore it.

Fabric Garland | How to Make a Rag Rug

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I love tearing fabric. It makes a wonderful ripping sound. It’s a very therapeutic and practical exercise.

When my mom tore it up, she placed the strips of fabric from my dress into a big brown paper bag. It was jumbled together with blue flowered apron strips, brown and white striped shirt strips, pink blouse strips, and red flannel nightgown strips. The result amazed me, my old dress was still good for something. However, this was not the end of the project. There were some mysterious pieces of cloth that I’d never seen before in the pile of clothes she tore up earlier that day.

She stored all of the rag bags in the attic. I can still remember opening the door at the foot of the creaky wooden attic stairs where we battled our way through the cobwebs with rolled newspaper, wielded as swords to safely enter. The attic was as hot as a sauna, just like it always was during every summer. The sun slanted through the dirty window, filled with dancing dust mites. After shaking and blowing layers of dust from the rag bags, my mom opened the bag with immersed hands, sifting her fingers through the cloth strips. She would collect the rag cloths in bunches, by evidence of the quantity and array of colors in her hand. Even now, I can envision her doing this with the smell of cotton, dye, and soap that surrounded her. My mother would smirk in accomplishment after they passed her examination, and we brought them all downstairs where the real magic could begin.

Colorful Fabric Strips | How to Make a Rag Rug

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I watched her sew the strips end to end, choosing the next piece by whim or art. Sometimes the color trails shaded from dark to light, and sometimes they abruptly changed from yellow to black to green to red.

All you had to do was sew one strip to the next with a single straight stitch. It was very simple, and very mesmerizing.

The long, exotic snakes of fabric coiled on the floor behind the sewing machine as she worked. Some years later, the old black and gold Singer treadle she owned (pictured below) was eventually converted into an electric portable. But, I just cannot imagine my mom sewing in any other way but with her right foot rested on the treadle, and the left cocked so that only the toes could brush each other. She would hit the flywheel with her right hand to start the needle driving up and down. She set a rhythm with her feet as she was working and would often start and stop as she adding in new scraps of color. She did not break a sweat.

Singer Sewing Machine | How to Make a Rag Rug

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The next step in the project was rolling the cloth strips into balls. My father and I got to help with this one. Pieces of my dress showed up in each of the balls. When finished, my mom packed the product into May Company Department Store bags that had handles and carried them to Mrs. Rodecker, who owned the store. Mrs. Rodecker was a widow who supported herself by doing needlework for neighbors and also weaved rag rugs. The last I saw of my gray and yellow plaid kindergarten dress, it was part of three different cloth rugs along with other scraps of our lives. The remnants were woven closely with bulky white threads and fringed at the ends. Each rug was a kaleidoscope of memories that could last for years to an individual.

Rag Rug Balls | How to Make a Rag Rug

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Want to know how to make the rag rug from these balls of torn up and pieced back together fabric? Here’s a few video tutorials for different styles:

How To Crochet A Rag Rug (easiest) from Francis Jones Young:

How to Weave a Rag Rug from When Creativity Knocks:

How to Make a Shag Rag Rug from Rebecca Kelsey Sampson:

You could buy a rag rug for just a few bucks at the store. But it won’t be the same. The quality won’t be as good, but more significantly there are no memories attached, and who even knows if the fibers were recycled from scraps or not. If you need a rag rug, I recommend to recycle your fabrics and make your own rather than purchase one. If you must purchase one, get it from a sustainable source and make sure the fabric used was from repurposed strips of cloth.

Have you ever made a rag rug before? Maybe this story sounds like a familiar one of your own? Let me know below in the comments!

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