How to Learn Portuguese Rug Making

Written by jennifer marlowe
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For centuries, the women of Arraiolos, Portugal have stitched some of the world's most beautiful rugs. Today, Portuguese tapestry rug making isn't limited to Arraiolos. Portuguese rugs can be found across the world, although the most sought-after pieces are still found in Portugal. Using a long-armed cross stitch, these rugs are painstakingly created by hand. Some rugs take nine months or more to complete. Early Portuguese rugs had square designs with contrasting colours. Later rugs show Persian influences, and today rug makers cater to a universal market using a variety of designs. Learn this traditional art by stitching a sampler using the long-armed cross stitch.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • 12-inch-by-12-inch square of Aida (11 count) cotton needlepoint canvas
  • Tapestry needles
  • Tailor's marking pencil
  • Ruler
  • 2 skeins of tapestry yarn (100 per cent wool) in two contrasting colours
  • Scissors
  • Needlepoint frame

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  1. 1

    Prepare your canvas edges. By covering the edges with masking tape, you will avoid the fabric fraying. Center the tape on the edge itself and fold it down on the front and back of the canvas.

  2. 2

    Measure 3 inches from each edge of the canvas and mark with the marking pencil. Draw a square with these markings. This square will be your "working area," or space for actual stitching. The border makes it easier to frame or create a pillow with the final piece.

  3. 3

    Put your canvas in the needlepoint frame, with the top left corner exposed. Thread the needle with a length of yarn cut 12 to 17 inches. Knot the yarn at the end in a double knot.

  4. 4

    Count five squared openings down in the Aida canvas, starting at the top left corner of your pencil-marked square. This fifth square is where to bring your needle up. Call this "Point A." Count out six squared openings to the right, starting with the one next to where your needle came up. Call this "Point C." Let the tip of the needle rest in this square, but don't bring the yarn through. You are just marking your spot. Count upwards another three squared openings, starting with the square directly above the needle. Take the needle from its marking spot and push it through the third squared opening above. Call this "Point B." Bring the needle up through Point C, three square openings below where you are now. Count three squared openings to the left of your needle and three more upwards. This will bring you even with Point B, on the same row. Push the needle through this square. You've just completed one long-armed cross stitch.

  5. 5

    Begin the next stitch three squared openings below the last. The needle will come up even with Point A, in the same row. Follow along with the above directions until you've completed the next stitch, and eventually the entire row. Alternate the colours for each row, making a striped design. When you run out of yarn, pull the needle under and through the completed stitches on the wrong side of the canvas. Begin a new length of yarn the same way, securing it using the back of the finished stitches.

  6. 6

    Make your completed Portuguese needlepoint sampler into a pillow or frame it.

Tips and warnings

  • Higher-quality yarn separates into threads or "plies." If you are using a thick yarn of this sort, separate three plies and use these three as a single thread.
  • Threading the needle with longer yarn, more than 17 inches, will cause knots in the stitches.

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