Do you have a huge bagful of fabric scraps like I do? Sew Mama Sew (A blog and website that I really enjoy) is having a ScrapBusters Month contest. There are so many great ideas to get rid of all those pesky scraps put forth already. Here's my entry.
I've been thinking a long time about what I could do with all sorts of differing sizes and colours. I always want to get the most use out of all my fabric (maybe it's because I'm cheap and I wanna say that I've used every last morsel). So I decided to work out the logistics of a braided rope rug. It takes a ton of work and handsewing, and a few calloused fingers, but the end result is going to be marvelous. Because the Sew Mama Sew contest only runs until October 23rd and I have tons of Halloween and craft show sewing yet to do, I will make the tutuorial early and show you the progress I've made so far. I promise to post the end result when it's all finished and fabulous.
Step number one to make your very own braided rope rug: Gather Your Scraps!
As you can see, my bag of scraps is hefty! Actually the week before I decided that something must be done, the zipper broke out of the bag and sent all sorts of pieces flying all over the place. Yikes!
Step number two: Cut your scraps into manageable strips.
The strips don't have to be a certain length. Actually it works better for the braided if you have varying lengths. I tried to maximize the scraps by cutting the entire length of the scrap itself. As long as the strips are longer than 5 inches, they should do. As for width, that can vary as well. I found that anywhere between 1 inch and 3 inches is a perfect for braiding. The strips can go in either direction or diagonal (there is no worries about grain here). And you can cut up the selvages (the part with the colour chart and working) because you won't see much of pattern in the rug itself, just the colour.
This is about one shopping bag full of strips that I've cut. You'll need about 10 or 20 more of these by the time you're done! I'll probably be able to get rid of that entire bag of scraps on one rug!
Step number three: Start braided your strips together.
I tied three strips off with an elastic and then started braiding. When you get to the bottom of oone particular strip, stop braiding about two inches before that and attach another strip. To do this, it doens't take any sewing. All you gotta do is wrap the new strip over top of the old one and keep going. You will end up with a long continous braid. Every time you reach an end, wrap another piece to it and keep going.
Here is a picture of the end that I've tied off with elastic.
Step number four: Start sewing your rug together
I don't recommend that you braid and braid then entire amount that you will need for the rug. Actually I don't even know how much that would be and it would totally be unmanageable. Instead, I've been braiding shopping bags full of strips and then sewing.
So tie off the other end with an elastic as well and you're ready to start. I used scrap embroidery floss to sew the rug together. You can use upholstery thread as well (I jsut didn't have any). Use a very long, shapr needle as well. I can't figure anyway to do this by machine, so I've opted to hand sew this. You'll have mightly calloused fingers by the time you're done!
Decide whether you want a circle rug or an oval shaped rug. I went for oval. I think I'm going to put it in the laundry room on the cement floor in front of my ironing board so that my feet don't get cold while I'm stuck in there ironing the weekly laundry loads.
If you chose oval you need to take the end of your braided and fol it about 4 inches over itself and start stitching it together. If you choose circle, then you just have to wind the braid into a circle and start stitching it together. I've been stitching in and out of the side of the braid and working up and down. There isn't really an art to this. If you use pretty embroidery floss in differing colours, it won't matter if you see the stitching. So make it messy, but strong. Remember that you will be stepping on this rug a lot so stitch slowly and make it tough!
Here are my beginning stitches.
Step number five: Keep winding the braid around and stitching it in place.
Remember to remove the elastic from the end of the braid that you're working on, and then wind the braid around and around and around. This is the longest and most tedious step. You just keep going and going and going until you feel like your fingers are going to fall off. That's why I recommend a sharp needle. Sometimes it's tough pushing through a braid and you've got to do a lot of pulling to keep the braid stitched together tight. But you'll be rewarded with one fine looking rug and a empty bagful of scraps!
If you need a break from all that hand stitching, you can always go back and cut more strips and start braiding again. Just take out the elastic on the end of your braid and start at it again. You'll need tons!
Here's about 2 hours worth of stitching. I have about a half of a placemat sized rug done. Actually that is a good point. If you don't feel ambitious enough to try a rug (or you don't horde a billion scraps like I do) you might wanna try a placemat? Or maybe you could build the rope up and make a basket? There are plenty of possibilities.
I haven't finished my braided rug yet. But I will post the finished result when I am done.
There are all sorts of other things you could try with this as well. Maybe use all one colour? Or a combination of colours the room you want it in? Or you could try braiding one colour until you run out, then another and then another, for a rainbow sort of look? I just opted to the multi-coloured mangled mess of a rug look. I really like it!
Here's my progress as of last night. I have a bigger braided rug and a bunch of new braid to work with. It took about 2 hours last night to braid the amount shown here.
Good luck. If you try this tutorial, I would love to see your final results. Here is a link to my Flickr group. Please post your braided rope rug photos there. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's creations!
EDIT March 28th, 2010: It's finally finished! Click to see the final product. The braided rope rug turned out super fabulous!