CROCHETED RAG RUG PATTERNS
How they work…and why some don''t
by master rugmaker, Diana Blake Gray
We get a lot of questions from people who have purchased rug
(from other folks) and wonder why they can''t get them to work. So here
is a primer on how crocheted rag rug patterns developed and how they
Back-and-Forth Crocheted Rug Patterns
There are basically two sorts of patterns for making crocheted rugs.
The first type is a back-and-forth construction. (Begin with a base
the desired length, chain 1, insert the hook in the 2nd chain from the
hook and make a single crochet. *Single crochet across the row, turn
chain 1, and repeat from*.) These patterns may use half double crochet,
double crochet, or specialty stitches. With this type of pattern, the
strips should be cut straight on the grain of the fabric, usually
inches wide, and not more than an inch wide unless you are using very
fabric. If all of the rows are the same length, these patterns will
a rectangle. If the rows are of varying length, unique shapes can be
One gal is making crocheted rugs in the shape of the state of Texas,
another is making a Nebraska shaped rug, using this type of
In back-and-forth crochet patterns, the only trick is to size
to the weight of the strip, and not work really tight stitches. Heavy
and wide cotton strips don''t work well for these types of rugs, since a
prominent ribbed effect is created.
Radial Crocheted Rug Patterns
The second type of crocheted rag rug pattern is the "radial"
which is the standard crocheted rug. These begin from a round center or
a base chain and are worked around and around the center, always
in the same direction. In the 1800s to the early 1900s, patterns for
these types of rugs most often were quite general, using such phrases
"increase as necessary to make the rug lie flat". The strips for these
rugs were cut straight on the grain of the fabric, and the rug makers
the day made the rugs by "feel". With practice they knew about when to
add stitches to keep the rugs shape and allow the rug to lay
Some early crochet patterns used the device of working rag
clothesline. This was done for two reasons: the stiffness of the
helped to force increases which helped the rug lay flat; and/or the
used in the rug were so worn that the clothesline was needed to give
rug body. Unfortunately cotton clothesline used in rugs shortens the
of the rug. It holds water when the rug is washed (leading to damp
and the clothesline itself has a harder texture than the fabric, so
the fabric wears through faster.
By the 1920''s, several crocheted rag rug patterns appeared
with the "feel" of rug making wrote down the stitches they added as
worked. Unfortunately these old patterns most often did not work for
with a different touch in crocheting. For that reason, patterns in the
1930s and 1940s often called for the fabric strip to be cut on the
so that it would have enough give to work with the written patterns.
So two schools of thought developed-one which called for bias
of cottons, and the other which used straight cut (or torn) strips. Of
course in moving away from the traditional straight strips, the rugs
supposed to be easier to make, but unfortunately the resulting bias
continued to stretch, even after they were made, and didn''t hold their
In the 1930s and 1940s crocheted rugs were also made with
stockings, instead of rags. The stockings had a built-in stretch and
so that they acted like yarn, and the rugs were made from regular yarn
rug patterns (which will not work with fabric strip).
Even through the 1970s, when I began researching rug making,
sources as Better Homes and Gardens were still publishing directions
radial crocheted rag rugs saying "increase as necessary" which is not
useful to a beginning rug maker.
Research on Crocheted Rag Rugs
It was not until the early 1980s that I began to conduct experiments
with fabric strip for crocheted rugs, to determine why the old radial
for rug making simply did not work reliably and did not work with
that did work for yarn rugs. The very first fact that I discovered was
that fabric strip--even when cut on the bias--does not act the same way
as yarn does. Straight-cut fabric strip has no ''give'' like yarn does,
bias-cut fabric strip will stretch out, but does not have the
to resume its original shape as yarns will.
Working with the traditional straight-cut fabric strip, I
extensively to develop an increase pattern which would work for radial
crocheted rug patterns. That increase pattern worked so well that it
adaptable to crocheting rag rugs in all sorts of shapes all of which
flat, every time, no matter who was handling the crochet hook. The
was the breakthrough which allowed the full development of fabric
rugs. In 1984, the increase pattern was first published (under formal
and again in 1997 in the book "Crocheted and Fabric Tapestry Rugs".
So, while our books all deal with traditional crocheted rugs
with straight cut, not bias, strips), the directions are based on the
pattern which was only recently developed. That is why our rugs are so
consistently shaped, and the fabric tapestry patterns are so
Because of the copyright protection, we are the only source for books
this increase pattern.
Old Rug Patterns Available on the
There is a lot of information about crocheted rugs on the internet,
and even some free patterns, such as the one for a 1930s style bias
(oval) crocheted rag rug on About.com. The instructions are an
piece of rug history so long as you understand the shortcomings of
rugs, and old patterns. Don''t be discouraged if the pattern doesn''t
for you, since it is an old-style pattern relying on the ''feel'' of the
original rug maker.
Finding Crocheted Rug Patterns that
If you are looking for rug patterns of any sort, look at the rug
Is it evenly shaped? Is the rug shown laying flat? Be especially
of directions that show a rug draped over something ''artistically''.
is often a device to hide the fact that the rug doesn''t lay flat. Also
be careful of directions that show a picture of a rug with something
sitting on it. This trick is used to hide the fact that the shape is
good (most often used with poorly done heart rugs).
Be cautious of crocheted rug patterns that call for fabric
be cut on the bias. These are most often derived from older patterns
require the fabric strip to stretch in order for the rug to lay flat.
patterns which call for fabric strips to be cut very wide (over 2
create a very lumpy look. These are most often touted as being "quick"
to make, but in reality, are mostly a device to sell patterns, not
people how to make functional and attractive rugs.
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