29 August, 2011

Braided Dreams

Finally! I have created a successful braided rag rug!

Over a year ago, I wound strips of torn-up duvet covers and pillowcases into balls of "yarn" with the intention of starting a braided rag rug. I had SO much material, but very few colors (several of which did not look great together), so instead of a braided rug, I crocheted the material into what is now one of my favorite items of decor in our home - a 4" in diameter rug that now sits happily in my kitchen.

After that success, I took a few scraps of what I had left, and crocheted another, smaller rug. It is also a happy addition to our home. 

After much thought and trepidation, I considered doing a braided rug with the purple scraps I had been hoarding. I had just gotten a vintage sewing machine as a gift from V's parents and felt like I could give this rug a go. Instead of doing a circular rug, I chose to do an oval rug. I spent hours braiding. It was such. a tedious. job. The worst trouble I had was that the ends of the "yarn" (that I wasn't actively braiding) kept tangling up and braiding themselves around me creating an awful mess. It was frustrating and I gave up on the project more than once because I thought it was annoying to spend more time untangling than braiding.
This was before I used my brain. 

Finally I had braided enough for myself to justify going ahead with the sewing part. I broke out my needle and thread and began the process. Hand-stitching. Ugh. Was that ever a nightmare. My fingers and fingernails were so sore - and I hadn't even made it through the first round yet. I started looking up alternatives to sewing tiny little stitches.
I even tried to zig-zag stitch the braids together. No dice. The yarn was too thick for my machine (or so I thought... this was before I discovered some of the awesomeness that was in store for me with that machine) and my stitches looked lame and unkempt... back to the drawing board I went. 
In my search for an alternative, I found a suggestion of someone using yarn and a large needle, and just sorta weaving the yarn between the braids' strands to create a rug. Huzzah! This plan was so much faster and easier on my fingers! 

The end result was hideous. It still is hideous. I can barely look at it, so I won't subject you to a photo. I put it on my cat's scratching post, on one of the levels he used to play on... he won't even lay on it. The other rugs? He loves to lay directly in the center - insomuch that he is directly (and deliberately) underfoot in the kitchen. The purple rug is an eyesore and an utter failure. A blob of bowley, cuppy, ugliness. Defeat. My ambitions to create another beautiful rug were put on the shelf... for 5 months, at least. 

When Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated posted her Rainbow Rug in January of this year I was re-inspired. I got it back into my head that I needed a braided rag rug. Every time I noticed a shirt getting too many little holes in it, decided that it was just too stretchy (you know, when you wear it for 5 minutes and already it looks like a potato sack), or became otherwise unwearable - into a basket in my craft room it went. I had accumulated enough (and also replenished our wardrobes with second hand finds) where I felt brave enough to start cutting some of the shirts into yarn. 

I hadn't really planned on when to start, but recently a friend of mine made a beautiful braided rag rug and I had seen a few others online - and I couldn't keep the thoughts of a rug in the back of my mind any longer.

Without further ado, I give you.... my braided rag rug!!

It is truly a testament to my wardrobe and to me. Tons and tons of vibrant colors, and just enough black to balance it out. Plus, I have always had a thing for rainbows. Truly. You should see my camera strap. Twenty t-shirts went into this 4" rug, plus several hours of cutting, braiding, and sewing... not to mention the several (small) spools of thread. I only had to rip out one row and re-sew it, which makes me feel very happy (otherwise, this could have been a very frustrating project). I created a new way for myself to braid without getting tangled up, and all in all, I'm very pleased with it though I do not know where I'll put it... being such a vivid thing.

The cat has even approved. His favorite spot? You guessed it. The middle. 
Stay tuned for a tutorial on how to make your own!


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