Secrets of the No-Sew Rag Rug

by Daisy on 11/04/2008

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I thought that with all of the emphasis on recycling and reusing these days, a no-sew rag rug post would be more common. However, in my own internet research, I find that it’s something of a unicorn.

It follows the same principle that we all used in making those funny cotton loop potholders–under, over, under, over. See? You’ve already got 3/4ths of the technique.

No-Sew Homemade Rag Rug (Or trivet, potholder, centerpiece, place mat, what-have-you.)

1. Cut strips of fabric 1-3 inches wide and remove seams. I like three foot strips, but the length only matters for how often you want to be taking the time to join new strips.

2. Tie two strips in a simple loose knot. You’ll be trying to shove fabric through this later, so too tight and you might get aggravated. Also, notice that the pieces in the picture are UNEVEN. At the end of every strand, you’ll have to join a new one, and it looks better if that’s staggered.

3. If you want stripes like mine, arrange your strips so that they alternate A,B,A,B when you lay them flat. Then take the one on the right side and go under, over, under.

4. Continue taking each right-hand strand and going under, over, under (Notice that it’s not a TIGHT braid. Just snug enough to lay flat and hold it’s shape.)

5. When you get a braid about 1/2 the length of the rug you want, it’s time to turn. I went under, over, under with that gray strip and then turned it to the right so I could tuck it in the edge of the original braid.

Depending on your material, your rug may not want to lie flat if you turn it too quickly, so you may not get to tuck EVERY strand into the original braid. Sometimes you might have to skip tucking a couple so you can turn the corner smoothly.

6. Work your way back down to the starting knot following the exact same pattern as you used to make the original braid, just tucking the end through each time. (If you want the stripes, tuck it in it’s OWN color as you come around and down.)

7. Once you get back down to the original knot, and work your way around the curve, skipping and tucking as necessary to lay flat, it’s time to add a strip! To maintain the stripes, I joined one of each color together and stuck it through the starting knot in a way that kept the pattern. Then I continued braiding the same way I had been all along, but now it was under, over, under, over, under–>TUCK!

You can’t see, but there’s SIX strips now.
Important to keep an even number the whole way.

Intermission: WHEW, this is way harder to explain than it is to do! For another explanation, in fact the only other explanation I’ve seen on the whole internet, click here.

Let’s also pause to learn how to join (slip-knot) strips to each other:

Cut a hole in the ends of both strips you want to join. Shove the new on through the old one. Then push the tail end of the new strip through it’s own hole and tug until snug.

Back to our regularly scheduled tutorial…

8. Braid all of the way down to the end and back up the other side to the original knot. Add another strip where ever you can sneak it in to make eight strips.

9. Pick up that right-hand gray one, and go under, over, under, over, under, over, under, over, under–>TUCK!

9. Every time you work yourself back to the beginning knot, add another set of strips until you get the size rug you’re looking for.

10. Once the rug is the width you want it across
the middle, it’s time to work yourself back down to 8 strips, then 6, 4, 2, and finally none in a way that doesn’t throw off your overall shape. When I decreased in the picture, I went under, over, under, over, under–>TUCK–>TUCK AGAIN under two more blues horizontally—>snip off the excess. Continue until you run out of strands.


{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie November 5, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Great tutorial, but I think this is one I’m going to have to do to really get. Thanks!

Nothinglikeit November 5, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Very Cool! I have to try this!


DayPhoto November 5, 2008 at 10:15 pm

I like this! I have wanted to do this for a long time and here it is.

Which by the way do you have a recipe for pumpkin muffins using a spice box mix?


Ivory Soap November 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Ya know, I really don’t have a pumpkin muffin recipe. I’ll check with the MIL. Any great baking recipe I have comes from her. I’ll ask TL too.


DayPhoto November 6, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Thank you! I just found a great pumpkin scone recipe, but not from a cake mix. 🙂


DayPhoto November 6, 2008 at 6:31 pm

I found one—see if you like it. I’m going to make some tonight.

Easy Pumpkin Muffins
• 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
• 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves until smooth. Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared muffin cups.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.


Nancy Ward June 7, 2009 at 5:34 pm


Today I posted an entry on my blog with a link to your No Sew Rag Rug tutorial.

Would you let me know that’s OK?


Nancy Ward

ivorysoap76 June 10, 2009 at 8:37 pm

@Nancy–Of course it’s fine!!! We love links. And sorry it took so long to get back to you. Your note got stuck in our spam filter.

Swedie June 15, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Looks quick and easy… thanks for sharing a great idea!

ivorysoap76 June 16, 2009 at 6:38 am

@Swedie–Hurray! Tell me how it goes!

Tabbyjacks June 18, 2009 at 8:21 pm

I love IT!!!! I have several peices of material to use. This perfect! My husband is building a new deck so I have some place to put it. Thank you for the very detailed instructions.


ivorysoap76 June 19, 2009 at 6:40 am

@TabbyJacks–You’re welcome! I also went through the technique again on my no-sew rag bag. I think those instructions are *prettier*. HA!

Bibliorg June 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Hey, do you think a jean material would work well with this template? I have a huge amount of old jeans that I’ve been meaning to turn into a rug, and I really like the look of your pattern. =)

Ivory Soap June 29, 2009 at 8:22 pm

@Bibliorg–Totally. I think the stretchiness of my t-shirts contributed to it not wanting to lay flat. I bet jeans would solve that problem.

Emerald August 28, 2009 at 10:17 pm

This is rad! It looks like a fingerprint from far away, I’m giving this a try for sure! Thanks for sharing the how-to.

kris August 31, 2009 at 12:47 pm

I’m getting lost when you have to add more. i sort of kept going with the same technique under over under tuck. Can i just do that the whole time a get the same results. I’m real lost with number nine. I’m very new to this, help please?

Ivory Soap September 1, 2009 at 11:50 am

You can keep going without adding as long as your rug lays flat. Otherwise, just slip another in there when it starts to pick up.

chrysshart October 13, 2009 at 2:19 am

I love this. It looks just like a fingerprint!

Rachel November 9, 2009 at 2:02 am

Wow, that is so cool! I have a rag rug and I jusst love it. I’ve never seen a no-sew version! Heather from CROQZine emailed me about this and I’m so glad she did. This is fabulous. I’ll be linking, thanks so much!

An Almost Unschooling Mom November 9, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I didn’t know this was possible – thanks so much for sharing this – I’m bookmarking, and the first free minute I have, is going into one of these projects.

Sara November 11, 2009 at 3:47 am

Wow, this is great! The thing that really annoyed me about trying to make a traditional braided rug (got as far as doormat size and gave up…..) was the sewing together of the braids, love the fact that this avoids that altogether. Don’t know whether i’ll get to a project like this as I’m so busy coming up with projects for my blog Do drop by for a visit!

Darci November 11, 2009 at 5:53 pm

My Grandma-in-law (is that even a relation? anyway…) has a rag rug of all different colors in her kitchen, and I oo and aw over it every time I see it. Now I can oo and aw over my very own!! YAY!

Rebecca November 15, 2009 at 4:37 pm

My 84 year old Aunt makes these rugs out of dollar store platic table clothes. They work great for patio’s, mud rooms, and entrance from garage. She has told me how easy they are to make now that I have pitures to follow can’t wait to try myself. I’m off to the store for supplies!

Joanne November 16, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Oh gosh, I always wanted to make a rag rug. It was great fun to begin. I couldn’t get the turn though. It would be GREAT if you started with 4 colors and then took pictures of EACH single strand as it makes the turn. For us slow pokes, if you get the chance! And then I hope I can find this site again!

Carisa Holmes November 18, 2009 at 10:22 am

WOw I’m impressed! The rug looks amazing, though I’m not sure I have the skill or patience to make my own 🙁 What I love about it is how you solve multiple problems with one project.
1. You are diverting waste from landfills by repurposing old fabric
2. You are preventing the need for yet another new, toxic, synthetic rug
3. You are filling a need for a product without using ANY new materials


Maybe I will send you all my worn out organic fabrics and we can take over the world…

Ivory Soap November 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Ooooo, Carisa, you called me a genius…. Did I pay you to say that?

Rachel November 23, 2009 at 2:40 pm

included this in a blog post that will feature 101 homemade gift ideas. It runs the day after Thanksgiving:

amy l December 31, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I tried your pattern about 6 months ago, because I think it looks so awesome with the swirly pattern. My question is, when the rug started getting “rug size” it wasn’t nearly as tight as the first severaly rows. Meaning, the fabric sections that loop got to be about 2 inches apart instead of around a 1/2 inch like they were the first several rows. I did keep the fabric pulled as tight through the whole rug. I was wondering if you have any advice on this, since it looks like your finished rug is weaved the same size throughout.

Ivory Soap January 1, 2010 at 9:32 pm

I think I added a great deal more strands as I went.

DW January 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I was just wondering, can you estimate how much fabric went in? Even if it’s just “10 shirts, 2 sheets, etc” or something like that. Just to get an idea…thanks!

Ivory Soap January 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm

DW: two BIG old navy t-shirts (remember in the late nineties when everything was still roomy?) and one stained up-to-date old navy t-shirt (relaxed fit…as if!)

Pep Pop January 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

Thanks for your tutorial.

elemegibere January 21, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Thank you, a great weave!

liz January 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Thank you! These instructions were very straightforward. My first try is a little loose and lumpy, but I think I will give it another go with thinner fabric (I used scarves from the lost and found 🙂

Morgan February 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm

am I the only one who thinks it looks a bit like a fingerprint? It’s completely badass

Leslie February 19, 2010 at 7:06 am

My hubband wants a rug like this because he played on one like it when he was growing up. Now I can make it instead of buying it…YAY! Check out our self sufficiency blog if you like!

Jen March 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I love this rug! I see I’m a little late in finding it, but has anyone tried making one much larger? I’m thinking like 8’x10′ for my kids playroom, with random fun colors. Also, has anyone tried it with other fabrics? I have some old fleece blankets, or I was thinking possibly using just cotton fabrics (not knit like t-shirts).

BethK April 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I’ve been thinking of trying this with a HUGE pile of old ties that are out of style … neither my dad nor my husband will wear ’em anymore. It would be interesting, but I don’t know about durability.

Anyone else have low-cost craft ideas for a pile of old ties? 🙂

Dane June 25, 2010 at 1:47 am

If you’ve still got those ties, BethK, you can totally make a skirt:

Wondering what to do with all of dad’s old ties? Try this!
1. Start collecting a bunch of ties, somewhere from 10 to 20 depending on your size.
2. Find a rectangular piece of black cloth, the length of your waist and the height a little less than that of the ties.
3. Lay the ties face down in a horizontal row with no spaces in between.
4. Pin the black cloth to the ties, all along the top edges of them.
5. Begin sewing from the backside of your creation, the needle of your sewing machine should be running along the black cloth side of it.
6. You might want to also sew along the bottom edge of the ties, if you don’t want them to flap around.
7. To be able to close your skirt, I recommend those snappy little buttons from the cloth store. Or just safety pin it closed!

Judy August 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

That is one impressive rug. I like that a lot. It is the hardest thing you have showed so far. Maybe I’ll start keeping old clothes for this project. It must be hard to keep the stripes exactly right. Thank you for sharing it.

Ivory Soap August 20, 2010 at 5:23 am

Judy, your right. It’s not for the faint of heart. Glad you like it.

marie illius August 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm

The rag rug is great, and the spice cake mix/pumpkin cake is just that– a box of spice cake mix, a small can of pumpkin mixed with enough water to the correct consistancy for a cake (or half of a large can). Some canned pumpkin is more soid than others. Bake at 350 until done (about 35 minutes).

mcleodhandcraftgifts August 31, 2010 at 3:42 am

With a creative mind, you can do amazing things ! Clever !!

Bianca September 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Thank you so much for this. I have been searching the internet for a tutorial for this type of rag rug and your instructions were much easier to understand than the one other postI found. I am going to get started right now 🙂

amanda h September 12, 2010 at 7:04 pm

The best rag rug directions I have found. I’m looking foward to making a custom size rag rug for the hall bathroom.

Becky October 7, 2010 at 12:01 am

This is awesome! I’m thinking 2 for under the stove and the sink! my feet and back are always killing me from cooking (and then cleaning up!) so rugs would be great. What material would you suggest for a soft, bouncy feel? =)

Marilyn October 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Ummmm heLLooo, I love this and I love your blog!!

how to make beats October 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Amazing, I found your site on Bing looking around for something completely unrelated and I really enjoyed your site. I will stop by again to read some more posts. Thanks!

Lisa October 31, 2010 at 10:31 am

This is such a great project! I found it through a Care2 article link and was inspired to try making a bedside rug for my niece using a whole pile of old clothes and fabrics. Since, second to using what I had on hand, color was paramount and I didn’t have enough of any one fabric type for a whole rug, I experimented with mixing fabrics: a Laura Ashley cotton floral dress from the eighties (remember those?!), an old pink sheet and pillowcases, a pile of old white t-shirts, a rose-colored sweatshirt and pants. I did the alternating fabrics as shown here, and when I ran out of one simply started with another, which gave me a pink-and-floral center surrounded by a pink-and-white ring and then a pink-and-rose border. I didn’t try too hard keep the stripes going, though, because I thought I’d get too frustrated and besides, looking at them made me a little dizzy! The outer rings turned out thicker and softer because they were partly jersey and sweatshirt material.

Like Liz’s first effort, mine is a little lumpy and loose in places, a little tight in others–I should have paid more attention to the linked instructions that specify to skip every other tuck when turning corners, but I decided to do it just like the one here even though mine wasn’t all jersey. I also think it’s more important than I realized to keep the fabric strands roughly equal in bulk (so thicker fabrics get thinner strips and vice versa), and also to taper the ends of the strands to a rounded point for a neater, less bulky joining knot (not as critical with the jersey, which snugs up nicely even with blunt ends). I also discovered that it’s important to work the whole rug on a flat surface–when mine got big I rashly decided to let it hang off the worktable instead of moving it to the floor, and it got all stretched out of shape. I’ve been able to tug and pull it back into a flat near-oval, though, so the looseness in places turned out to be a good thing in this case.

The roughly 3-1/2 x 5-1/2 almost-finished rug took me 4 movie-watching evenings–much quicker than I had expected. It felt like getting the rag strips ready took almost as long as the rug-making itself (and wasn’t nearly as fun).

The only place I had trouble was with instructions for decreasing: I got stymied by the fact that when you end a strand, you’re left with an uneven number and the braid doesn’t work (your braiding strand comes out underneath and then you have to tuck up instead of down, leaving you with two “over” strands in a row at the end)–so you have to decrease in twos, the same way you increase, but I couldn’t quite see how to do that properly. Would you end the second strand by tucking it in before the end of the braid row so it doesn’t throw off the over-under pattern? I’m trying different approaches and they all look a little messy.

I’m going to start a second one soon and am looking forward to making one that looks as neat and balanced as yours. Many thanks sharing this wonderful “unicorn” with us!

Cheryl Kindred, Sarasota Doula November 9, 2010 at 7:41 am

GREAT tut! I’ve got 3 vintage sheets worth of strips, and tried another tut that was not so good… I’m going to try this in january!

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