Secrets of the No-Sew Rag Rug

by Daisy on 11/04/2008

Thank you for visiting Little House in the Suburbs. If you like what you see, please SUBSCRIBE and be sure to check out OUR BOOK.

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.


{ 166 comments… read them below or add one }

Razel December 26, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Wow I was writing a story about my Grandmother and the memory of the rag rugs she had on her floors came to mind. I wanted to make sure I called it the right thing so I did a search and found your site.

Now I am inspired to make my own rag rugs thank you so much for taking the time to post this on line. What a blessing!

betty January 15, 2011 at 11:20 pm

These rugs are really beautiful! I want to make one! My grandma used to make these rag rugs but she sewed the strips together and then rolled the strips into balls till she was ready to make one. I never did see how she put them together tho…. but I love how easy it looks to braid one of these rugs. Of course it could be more complicated I guess I will find out when I attempt to make one. I hope I can. I just love these rugs!

Nina Smith January 31, 2011 at 7:07 am

Thanks for posting this. I am in the process of re-doing my teenage daugters room on a very limited budget. We’ve painted, new curtains and new bedding but she also wanted a rug and I can’t find what I’m looking for in the store so I thought…hmmmm, I’ll make one! I thought about the no sew blankets that are so popular now and figured there must be some kind of no sew scatter rug I can make. My search landed me empty, until I came across your posting. We are preparing for a major winter storm in the mid-west starting later today so I’ll have lots of time to work on my new project. Hope it’s as easy for me as it looked for you.

glenda February 5, 2011 at 3:50 am

Thanks so much, my elderly friend now in nursing care made these braided and woven rugs and showed me once. I had forgotten how to make them and have been messing around with rag yarn for sometime trying to figure this out, you definitely saved my day, as you are making yours similar to hers, but I recall hers used more braids to weave with but not sure how many, 6 or 7, do you use odd or even?

anyways saving this to find later. I know you have given me back hope of learning this method. since she is no longer able to show anyone, its nice to know this instructional is here!!

thanks again.

Maija February 13, 2011 at 6:36 pm


What a wonderful idea! You’ve done a great job at describing the method.
My question is about the finished shape. Is it possible to make the rug more square or rectangular – ish?

Rachelle February 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm

what a cool way to repurpose old clothes. and it looks like a fingerprint!!

Becky April 10, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Could you tie it at each end so you have little tassles?

Shirley June 14, 2011 at 3:18 am

This information is incredibly detailed and very helpful for any first-time rag rug maker – thank you for sharing. If however you are ever in the market for homemade rag rugs, candles, and/or soaps I would very much appreciate it if you visited my website at
Thank you.

Cyndi July 15, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I did it! I made a small rug for practice! I wish I could show you but I’m not sure how to post a pic for you to see. You could see it on my blog at
Thanks so much for the easy tutorial! I think some day I’ll make a really useful, bigger rug! It takes a lot of fabric though!

Camilla July 28, 2011 at 8:33 am

Hi, I want to make a rug of my own and wanted to know how many t-shirts you needed to make the rug shown here? And how long did it take you? Thanks for your help and for a great tutorial!

Ivory Soap July 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I think it took three shirts and a couple of days work.

Poor College Student July 28, 2011 at 8:32 pm

So, I have about a garbage bag full of tshirts, and this looks like the best way to make them into a rug. My question is though: Where do you hook on the strips when you’re adding new ones in? Just anywhere on the part that’s already braided? Or where there isn’t one already tucked through? The other tutorial didn’t explain this part very well either.
The rest of the tutorial is excellent, thanks very much for posting :) I’m excited to get started.

Mamachildress August 8, 2011 at 7:40 am

I’m wondering if it matters the weight of the fabric you re using. I have many scraps of fabric…. denim, cotton, knit, etc.

Thanks so much!

tatiana August 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm

it looks like it has way to many strips of fabric i think ill start with a pot holder till i figure out the way too add more without dropping a braid somewhere…..think i heed practie

Emily August 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm

This is too cool. My mom gave me some old purple curtains last time she was in for a visit…this was the only thing I could find on the web for how to make a rug out them. It was very helpful…when I was finished however, I still had a ton of scraps left over so I knotted them through the top of the rug and left the tails out…looks very funky and fun…like 70s shag. The rug now has a home in my daughter’s room. Thankyou for posting the steps!

Susan August 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Maija, I was wondering about making a rectangular rug, too. I’m going to try Becky’s suggestion and make rows woven together and tasseled at the end instead of turning (which in my experience with sew and naalbinding rugs is hard to keep flat). To the thrift store for gray and yellow tees!

bj September 5, 2011 at 6:59 pm

i make rag rugs by crocheting them with a big hook. they don’t look like yours…i do like the look you achieve. thank u for the lesson.

Shandell September 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

I’ve tried making this rug twice and about halfway through it curls up and won’t lay flat. I need some help troubleshooting! I used the other tutorial you linked to as well. I think my issues is skipping tucks at the turns, I don’t know if I’m interpreting that part correctly. help?

Dana September 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I gotta tell you I love the Name of your blog!!! The project is fantastic too!

What A Hoot October 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Wow, this is great. I learned years ago how to do something like this but stayed with only five strips and it was sort of sloppy. I could not remember how to do it and then found here on a google search. The neat thing is you increase and then do a wind down which eliminates the problem of the one I had made. I am so excited to start one. Thank you. Great explanation, by the way.

PamB November 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Love love love!! Have you noticed how much your rug looks like a fingerprint?!! Being a huge fan of NCIS, I must try to duplicate it!! Thanks so much for the wonderful detailed tutorial!!

Joyce November 17, 2011 at 12:32 am

I was so excited to make one of these rugs, that I started and am having great difficulty with the laying flat. I wish I could watch you demonstrate the skipping tucks idea. I don’t get it. I’m going to take the rug apart back to where it’s starting to bulge on the corners and hopefully I will have heard back from you by then. Thanks so much.

Cindy Jernee November 17, 2011 at 1:35 am

Wow! I have been looking for a rug for my livingroom in colors that are pretty unusual. I found a rag rug for my kitchen that is perfect and now I can’t wait to make one for my livingroom now that I know how. Thanks for the idea and the great tutorial!

Nadine November 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I’ve been trying to find out if there’s some other name for this particular rag-rug making technique — I’m interested in the history — but I can’t find anything in all of my research that matches this type of braiding/no-sew method. Anybody have any ideas?

olivia December 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I have just attempted my first no sew rag rug and would like to suggest a few hints I have found that make it an easier project: the fabric should be the same type-thickness (varied thicknesses of fabric contributes to bunching), try to make the strips the same width (helps the rug to lay flat), and pull the strips of fabric to stretch them out as it will make the strips more uniform for a flatter rug. Are there any more hints out there?

olivia January 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Despite the hints, the skipping, even width strips etc I STILL could not get the rug to lay flat (makes a nice big hat though) so instead of putting the knot in the middle of 2 strips (step 2) I used 3 strips and braided them instead of weaving. Other than that I followed the same pattern of tucking and turning but the best part is you don’t have to tie on new strips just keep adding to the same 3, try it out if you are having trouble like I was.

Judy Lewis January 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Thank you for the detailed instructions. Can’t wait to get started. I remember my grandmother having them all over the house. I am so excited to see the finished project on my hard wood floors.

KarenInTheWoods January 6, 2012 at 8:27 am

Thank you so much for the shoutout link to Chris Gustin’s page with my rug instructions on it. I have also now added them to my own website too. I love the way you used the colors into a perfect swirl! I never tried it with tshirt material, sounds like a good fabric to try when it rolls up like that.

I have used this method of making rugs when we women were stuck at hunting camp with the guys for three days. All we needed was a bag of rags and a scissors! No looms in hunting camp. HAHA It was a fun way to use up rags and create something wonderful and usable at the same time.

(Our Blog) RVing: Small House… BIG Backyard
(All About Me)
(My Handwoven E-Stores)

Michelle Eging January 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I love this and plan on using this idea for my room!

nettie moore January 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

so excited to try this!!

Mrs. White January 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

I love how you explained this with humor, and took breaks! You did an excellent job!

Mrs. White
Vermont Sewing Cottage
The Legacy of Home

Sarah @ Hip Earth Designs January 26, 2012 at 2:09 am

I can’t wait to give this a try! I have a huge black garbage bag full of t-shirts that were donated to a yard sale I threw last fall to raise money for my in-laws after my brother-in-law’s motorcycle wreck.

I just couldn’t get rid of the unsold t-shirts- I knew I’d find some use for them and it looks like I have found it.


Janice Black January 27, 2012 at 12:01 am

Thanks so much for posting this! I printed out your instructions just before Thanksgiving, and shared them with my mom, who was also eager to give these a try. Well, I just finished my first rug! Unfortunately, I started weaving more tightly as I went along (once I got the hang of it a little better), which made my rug end up “bubbling” in the middle where I had been weaving it more loosely. Other than that, I think the technique of making it lie flat is similar to what you have to do when crocheting a large, flat circle. Just add in an extra every now and then at the turns. When it’s time to increase, yes, you can do that by not tucking it into the loop, but you can also do it by tucking it into the same loop that you used in the previous pass. (Wow, you’re right . . . this is far harder to describe than to do!)
I didn’t find any reason to tuck each new strip through the original knot. It’s easier, when you want to increase the number of strips, to just take an extra- long strip and pull one end through the next loop, pulling the end less than halfway through so that the two ends hanging out aren’t the same length (so that you don’t end up having two knots next to each other later on).
Anyway, I want to try making a whole rug by just continuing to use four strands on every row throughout the whole thing . . . I think that would look more like a traditional braided rug, which I like the look of. I would also like to try a square or rectangular rug. I think I’d attempt that by sticking with four strands and figuring out a way to turn back at the end of each row, boustrophedon-style. Then when I got to the size I was happy with, I’d run a row around the outside edge of the whole thing to finish it off nicely, kind of like putting the binding on the edge of a quilt.
I’ll try posting a link to a photo of my finished rug, but I’m not sure this will work.!/photo.php?fbid=3163053794493&set=a.3163053434484.157186.1209783996&type=1&theater

Janice Black January 27, 2012 at 12:08 am

If you are able to get to the photo, you can see that the overall look is quite different, although I did follow your instructions exactly up until I got to the row that was eight strips wide. After that, I stuck with only six or four strips per row for the rest of the rug, mostly because I wanted to make a fairly large rug and just didn’t have very much of any one fabric on hand.

BreakThread February 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Great great great idea, thanks for sharing it. I’m fixing to make a few chair pads for “new” kitchen chairs I just got. I’m wondering how many t-shirts (or rags, etc.) it took to make the project above? I’m trying to figure out the color pattern I want but not sure how to estimate the materials.

Thanks so much!

Audrey Walz February 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Thanks for sharing this. I really like rag rugs and have been trying to find instructions on how to make them.

Ivory Soap February 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I think it took three shirts, old over-sized 90’s old navy shirts.

Tricia Rose February 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I think this is a better method than the one I have been using: making a long three-part braid, and then weaving in and out of the loops with twine and a bodkin. Thank you!

Bridget March 3, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I posted a picture of the one I made on my pinterest site – I used both methods of just continuing the 4 strand braid around and the extending to 8 braids
go to the braid and rug ideas, mine is the one with the white center with circles of different blues

Michelle Terry March 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Oh my gosh! My daughter sent to this website. I’ve been trying for a least 40 years to find out how to make a braided rug with 4 strands and not sewing. I used to sit on my great-grandmothers lap and watch her make scatter rugs. She use large safety pins “tuck” the ends through. I also used cotton scraps. There was a garment factory in town and my mother would go and bring home bags of scraps for her to use. Most of the rugs were small, but she made one large one for my mother. She looked at the bags of scraps and said “This is going to be really ugly.” It was one the prettiest rugs she every made. Thanks for the directions, I’m anxious to try my hand at it, it sounds exactly like the way she made her rugs.

Pam March 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I really love this. Reminds me of a fingerprint. But I must be dense or something because I’m having a hard time understanding what you are doing in the directions. I would love to try this. I’ve been trying to crochet one and it just keeps forming up into a bowl :(

Ivory Soap March 17, 2012 at 7:42 am

The bowl is likely happening because you aren’t adding enough new stitches each round or you’re stretching your fabric. You CAN’T stretch t-shirt fabric if you want it to remain flat. I have two posts on this site that explain the plaiting method. There’s another one on the no-sew rag bag that may work better. If it’s just not working in your head, you could try a very flat braid and then stitch it together.

Rochel March 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hi: I have lots of Alpaca Rug yarn made with the fibre from my herd of Alpacas and I would love to make rugs with it. My table-top weaving loom is not working out for this purpose and I would love to learn how to do it by hand. Any suggestions as to how to fasten the braids together??

Many thanks.

Ivory Soap March 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm

If you do braids, you usually have to slip stitch them together.

Jamy Gearhart Hillis April 15, 2012 at 9:09 am

Oh heck yeah! I’m going to make one of these & have plenty of old clothing to do it with!

DIANE May 16, 2012 at 10:24 am

This is the first time I’ve found instructions for making rag rugs with this method. My greatgrandmother, grandmother, mother, me, and my granddaughters make (and made) rugs like this. I do demonstrations at our local farmers market to pass on the tradition, and I’ve done classes at the local senior center.
This is the first time I’ve found someone who does this method outside of my family. I’m grateful for your excellent instructions. A picture is worth a thousand words.

christine June 7, 2012 at 4:09 am

That was an eye opener, i’ve always wanted to make rugs but always thought they were complicated ! NOT SO ! I’m now off to do someting with all the material i have hoarded for years and did not have a clue how to start it. THANK YOU x

Forest R June 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Thanks much for the tutorial! I love the look of the rug. I wonder – do you think you could make a hat this way? joining the edges of the flat part going vertically and circularly? maybe?

Ashley June 20, 2012 at 12:23 am

I discovered your blog awhile ago via Frugal Kiwi’s post about rag rugs. I finally had a go at making my own rug a few weeks ago. It worked really well, now I’m hooked. I’ve used up all the old t-shirts in the house and have had to post on free-cycle for more! If anyone is looking for alternative shapes/patterns this technique can also be used to make a circle rug, just start ‘tucking’ straight away rather than working a length first or a rectangular rug, work up and back to step 8, then instead of going around the end turn in the opposite direction and work back down the side of the row you have just done, depending on how you work the turn you can get diagonal stripes or a chevron pattern.

Ivory Soap June 20, 2012 at 6:08 am

I would love for you to guest post and show off your pictures!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: