Braided wool rugs make excellent floor coverings for rooms with cottage, country and eclectic styles. They often feature multiple colours of wool tightly braided and bound together. If you can't afford to purchase a handcrafted braided wool rug, you can make one of your own from recycled wool sweaters. With a little practice, you can master the straightforward rug-making process and begin crafting your own braided wool rugs.
Machine wash salvaged wool sweaters in a top-loading washing machine. Add just a few tablespoons of mild detergent and wash the sweaters in hot water. This will shrink the sweaters and create durable felted fabric that's perfect for hard-wearing rugs.
Cut apart the salvaged clothing and create strips of wool fabric for braiding. Cut heavier fabrics into 2-inch strips and lighter fabrics into 3-inch strips. Use an acrylic ruler and a rotary cutter to make accurate measurements and straight cuts.
Sew the shorter lengths together to create longer strips. Match up the end pieces of two strips, right sides facing, to create a right angle and a square of overlapping fabric.
Machine sew a straight stitch (the basic stitch on all sewing machines) diagonally across the square of overlapping fabric. The stitching should run parallel to the right angle.
Trim the seam to 1/4 inch, using a pair of sharp fabric scissors; fold open and press flat.
Place the wool strips seam-side up and fold the edges of the strips toward the centre. Press with a cool iron to set the fold.
Fold the strip in half to hide the raw edges and press with a cool iron.
Wind the folded strips onto bobbins; if you don't have any bobbins, use a few empty toilet paper rolls.
Sew one end of the 3 strips together with a bodkin needle and heavy cotton thread. Use an over-and-under stitch to secure the top of the braid.
Plait the strips just as you would braid hair; instead of twisting the strips around one another as you braid, fold them. This will give your braid flat edges and keep the surface of your finished rug even.
Continue plaiting the recycled sweater strips until you've created a braid that measures several feet long.
Determine the length of your starting braid, which will be the middle of your rug, by subtracting the desired rug width from the desired rug length. The length of your starting braid will equal this number.
Place the braid on a hard, flat work surface and mark the starting braid's end with a safety pin.
Fold the braid back on itself and force both pieces to lie flat.
Thread a thick bodkin needle with a yard of thick, sturdy thread, knot the end and slide the needle between the last outer and inner braid folds before the braid doubles back.
Stitch around the outer strip several times to secure the thread in place, and weave your thread between the outer and inner braid fold every couple of plaits. Alternate between the braid on the left side and the braid on the right side to create a sturdy, balanced join.
Place stitches closer together when lacing around the corners of your first 6 to 10 rows. After that, stitch around the corner using the method described in the previous step.
Taper the end of the braided length, sew the raw edges with over-and-under stitches and secure the end to your wool rug with several more over-and-under stitches.