The Braided Rug
( Originally Published 1914 )
The braided rug is one of the most serviceable and effective of the needle rugs. It is so simple in technique that any careful needlewoman can make it. And consequently it is the one most frequently seen in the farmhouses in New England and Middle States. Sometimes indeed a complete floor covering is formed by using braided squares fitted together. These coverings are heavier and warmer than rag carpets. They wear longer, too, and lie flatter, keeping down to the floor at the corners and showing no disposition to kick up in the annoying way that rag rugs do.
Braided rugs can be made entirely at home and with otherwise waste material if the worker chooses. The really old ones were made of cotton rags or cotton and woolen mixed; in fact, of anything old or new which came in handy. For the spacious attics of our great-grandmothers furnished inspiration and material enough at any time that one was needed, and the work is so simple that many a one has been braided during the long winter evenings by the meager light of its con-temporary, the tallow dip.
But in these days of no attics and few store-rooms the worker in the cities at least has no treasures of cast-off things to resort to. The basements of the large department stores are the substitute, and these filled with their odds and ends of remnants and marked-down bar-gains it must be admitted take the place fairly well, though they are not as fascinating as the old-time attics. They have many advantages which are not to be despised: for one thing, goods may be bought in any desired quantity, large or small, and the worker of discriminating taste may select just that which is most suitable to carry out the design which has been planned, for there are many kinds of cotton fabrics that are soft and attractive in coloring and printed with fairly reliable dyes.
Of these the blues of all shades and makes are the most satisfactory. Of other colors the cottons known as the Washington prints made by several Rhode Island mills are dependable. These are a revival of some of the quaint, old-time patterns and they are principally used for making quilted bedspreads.
The braided rug is made in three forms: square, round and oval. An old square rug is sometimes started with a piece of carpet for the center, but this has an incongruous look and is not good from the designer's standpoint. The most desirable shape for the small braided rug is oval, so let us take as an example a braided bath mat in blue and white, size 26 x 32. The tool needed in making the braided rug is a coarse sewing needle suitable for carrying white cotton, size No. 24.
The Washington cotton prints already mentioned are practical for braided rugs because they are soft finished fabrics with little dressing. They retail at from seven to eight cents a yard and are about twenty-four inches wide. Select a medium blue with a small broken-up figure, rather than a figure which is distinct in pattern, like a dot or a plaid, for instance. A floral pattern or sprigged effect is better for the present purpose. Of course any print will do if the Washington prints are not obtain-able. Plain colors can be used effectively when combined with figured goods, either by using braids made entirely of plain material or by braiding two strands of one with one of the other. A rug this size requires nine yards of medium blue cotton print and six yards of unbleached cotton cloth of the cheapest brand.
PREPARATION OF THE MATERIALS
The blue cotton prints and the unbleached cotton cloth must be torn into lengths of one and one-half yards. This is done because these lengths are in turn torn into strands for braiding, and if the strands are any longer they are apt to tangle in the process. First wash all the cloth, each color .separately, with warm water and with either a borax or naphtha soap. Rinse the blue cotton print until no more of the dye color runs off, and while it is still wet hang it in the sun to dry. Do not wring it out. Hanging in the sun while wet fades it some-what, and the washing softens the fabric making it easier to braid. Remember always in selecting and preparing goods for braiding that stiff materials do not crush up nicely in the braids, and as this braided rug is a wash-able rug too, all likelihood of the colors running in subsequent washings must be done away with by a thorough washing before they are made up.
After the blue calico print is dried, dampen it and press it out. The unbleached muslin must also be washed and ironed to soften it. Now tear both the blue and the white lengthwise—that is, the way of the selvage of the goods—into strips three and one-half inches wide. The cotton prints do not measure more than twenty-four inches in width, so in order to have seven strips of the blue it will be necessary to make each strip a thread or two less than a full three and one-half inches wide.
The width of the unbleached cotton cloth varies with different makes, but whatever its width, it must be torn into strips three and one-half inches wide. If it does not come out exactly never mind; there are always uses for all sorts of left-overs in making other kinds of rugs.
The best way to tear off cotton goods of any kind is the manner in which surgical bandages are torn. Measure across, and divide the entire width of the cloth along the edge into spaces of three and one half inches. Make a cut three inches deep at each measurement. Take up the cut ends, one end in the left hand and another in the right hand, until all cut ends are held in the hands, a number in each hand. Then pull the whole piece apart into strips with continued sweeps of the hands. If two people tear the goods apart it is much more easily done.
Fold in the torn edges of each strip for one--half inch on each side, then fold these turned-in edges equally to meet in the center. The strips should measure one and a quarter inches when finished. The width may possibly vary a little, but that is not necessarily inconvenient though it should not be narrower than an inch at any point.
After all the strands are folded, iron them and wrap them around pieces of heavy card-board to keep them smooth and to keep the fold along the edge in place. Wrap each color on a separate card and do not -wind too many strips on any one card.
A good simple design is planned as follows: The center of seven rows is of the medium blue. Outside of this there are four rows of mixed blue and white, the blue predominating since the braid is made of two strands of blue and one of white. Following this, come four rows of the reverse: that is, of the braid made of two strands of white and one of blue. Next, are two rows all of white, then one row entirely blue, then two rows more all of white. After this come four rows of a braid composed of two strands of white and one of blue. The finish, or border, is five rows of braid made of two strands of blue and one of white.
This plan gives the rug a dark center surrounded by bands of graduating color going from dark to light. This is followed by an emphatic note of contrast made by the bands or rows of solid color, first white, then blue, then white again; the white should be, of course, the creamy tone of the unbleached muslin. These contrasting bands are followed in their turn by more rows of the mixed braids, graduating this time from light to dark, thus bringing the darker tone on the edge and finishing the rug in the most practical manner. Edges al-ways get more wear and therefore soil more quickly.
BRAIDING THE RUG
In the actual making take three folded strands of blue and holding the ends together, sew them. Pin or tie these at the end where they are sewed, to something heavy so that they may be firm and taut while braiding. Braid them together until within three inches of their ends. Then pin or tie these ends so the braid will not unravel. Measure off four-teen inches of it from the end where the braiding was started and double it together to form a loop. Sew this together_ (over-hand) along the inside edges of the braids, beginning to stitch where the three strands were first over-handed and working down toward the other end of the loop, which is the rounder end, as shown in one- of the illustrations. Go back now and take the loose end of the braid and over-hand it round the two first rows and go on thus until counting from side to side seven rows are sewed.
Be careful when rounding the ends of the oval not to full the braid too much nor to hold it too tightly. If the braid is fulled, the finished rug will ripple on the edges. If on the other hand it is held in too much in the over-handing, the rug will bucklc in the center.
The worker will notice that the sides of the oval are as yet very straight. They will begin to curve out as more rows are added.
These first seven rows form the center of the rug; when they are completed set aside the blue braid.
When starting a braid of different color add it to that already sewed at the curved end of the oval, rather than along its straight side.
Always begin the rows that are to be continued, on the same side of the rug, as will be seen on examination of the accompanying illustration. If some of the braid leaves a loose remainder at the place for adding a different color, cut it off but do not cut it straight across: unbraid it a bit and then cut the three strands off separately, each at a different point. Sew the ends of the strands of the new braid to these ends. Likewise when adding more strands of the same color or in introducing new colors to lengthen the braid, over-hand these new pieces to the ends of the already braided strand. Let the seams come on the in-side of the folded strand where the raw edges will not show.
In braiding the strands it will be found that the ends do not come out evenly. This is be-cause the worker pulls more on one than on the others. There is no objection to this, how-ever, for the seams in the strands must not all come at one point. If they all came together, the braid would bulge and be clumsy at that point. This is the reason for cutting the strands at different points when it is necessary to cut them at all. Sometimes of course a length of braid just finishes the required number of rows, but if it does not, be sure to save all the clipped-off ends of the strands. One may need even the smallest piece to finish up a row of some desired color.
Lay the rug down on the floor from time to time during its construction, to see that it is keeping its form and also that it is smooth and flat. When the last row of braid required has been over-handed on, sew the ends down as flat as possible on the wrong side of the rug, turning the strands under one by one.
The braided rug of the farmhouse, though substantially made, is not always attractive because it is seldom well-planned. It is usually of a variety called "hit or miss" and it is generally miss," with a scattered effect resulting. As a matter of fact the braided rug has certain features which are characteristic of it and which consequently distinguish it. But it has remained for the modern handicrafter with a knowledge of design to discover them, to realize their importance, and to use them to ad-vantage. Thus from being an accidental form these features advance to the dignity of real ornament and become a characteristic figure in the design. Being made of three strands of muslin sewed in rows, the braided rug shows a form like a little arrow-head on its surface, which results from the braiding together of two strands of a darker color with one of a very much lighter tone of the same color, or with a sharply contrasting color. One might choose a medium blue strand, with two strands of white or two strands of black and one of red, according to the color scheme one has planned. The point is that the contrasting colors come together in such a way that they form this little characteristic pattern in arrow-heads as seen in one of the illustrations.
Thus a constructive feature becomes a decorative one as well and a surface pattern occurs from the rug's structure. If the rug were made in any other way this particular effect in surface pattern could not result.
The preparation for making the braided rug, really takes more time and patience than the actual sewing together of the rows of braid, but there is not the slightest use in beginning until all the rug material is in order. It must be all washed, ironed, torn, folded, before one is ready to begin. Once this is done the rest is very simple. The braiding and sewing can be easily done at any time, because like any other needle-craft it does not require special tools and equipment.
Before doing any work on the rug it is advisable to read over the whole description of the procedure in order to get a general idea of the subject, then to go back and go over it again, preparing the materials this time and leading up to the final sewing of the braid.
SUGGESTED PATTERN OF DIFFERENT COLORS
A Round Bedroom Rug in Blues and Pinks: For this rug select figured calicoes, preferably the Washington prints. Wash and iron them as already directed. There are four colors: a medium blue, somewhat grayish in tone if pos. Bible; another blue of the same color, about two tones lighter; a medium pink, and a calico with a white ground sprigged with pink and black, the pink predominating.
In starting the round rug begin to turn the braid at once without allowing any length in the center. Begin with five rows of a braid made with two strands of the medium blue and one of the lighter blue. Continue with three rows of braid of two strands of the lighter blue and one of medium pink. Follow these with two rows of braid of two strands of medium blue and one of medium pink. Then add four rows of braid of two strands of medium pink and one strand of mixed pink, black and white.
Finish with three rows of braid made of one strand each of medium blue, light blue and medium pink. The size of this rug is twenty-six inches in diameter.
An Oval Bedroom Rug in Pinks and Grays: Another very successful plan for a bedroom rug can be carried out in grays and pinks. These colors should be of the same tone value or degree of color, either in medium pink and medium gray or light pink and light gray. Either the pink or the gray should be a figured calico. Start with a center of ten inches in length with five rows of all gray braid. Continue four rows of braid with two strands of gray and one of pink. Then go on with a braid of two strands of pink and one of gray. Follow these with one row of a braid of two strands of gray and one strand of pink. Then one row of all gray braid. Finish the rug with two rows of braid made of two strands of gray and one of pink. The size of this rug is 23 x 31 inches.
Another plan for the Braided Rug: A less brightly colored rug would be suitable for either a living-room or a hallway. Select a medium green calico and a gray of a somewhat lighter tone. There is a Washington print that works up very satisfactorily in this connection.
It is a green ground with a pattern on it in yellow and black. It is one of the best known of these prints and like most of them it is a really old design which has been revived. Start the rug with a center of seven inches in length and use seven rows of all gray braid. Continue with five rows of the braid made of two strands of green and one of gray; follow these with one row of all green braid. This must be followed by four rows of a braid of two strands of green and one of gray. Then come two rows of all gray braid, next five rows of a braid of two strands of gray and one of green. Finish with three rows of a braid of two strands of green and one of gray. The size of this rug is 26 x 33 inches.