Bohemian Braid Rugs
Modern & Traditional

by Diana Blake Gray
Master Rugmaker

The Bohemian braid rugs are likely the most surprising of the large rag rug family. Though made with only light cotton fabrics, they develop a stiff and sturdy texture, which has people thinking that there is some sort of artificial stiffener inside.

I first wrote about the Bohemian braids in 1986 (see Bohemian Braid Rugs for the Beginner). I’d seen an old rag rug made with the traditional Bohemian braid in the late 1970s and experimented off and on for years to recreate the texture. Most baffling was the knot, which appears between the stitches.

Front basketweave texture

The oral history of that original rug included the fact that the woman who had made it hailed from Bohemian, and was living in Nebraska in the late 1800s. With the Victorian era anglo-centric attitude, people had referred to her rugs as the “beggar’s braid” but I just couldn’t use that term for such a wonderful method. I suspect that the technique originated in eastern Europe, but lacking more than the one example, that is, at best, a guess.

Back braided texture

The characteristic texture of the Bohemian braids is a radiating basketweave on the front (nearly identical to the flat wrap rugs) but the back side appears to be braided. During my experiments, I found a way to create that very texture, but there was no knot between the stitches like the old rug. This technique I denominated as the “modern” Bohemian braid, since I have not seen an example of it that predates my written instructions. The serendipity of the discovery of the modern Bohemian braid is that it can be used with yarns or threads, where the traditional version cannot. I’ve used the modern Bohemian braid with embroidery threads to create miniature baskets and woolen fabric to create large rugs.

Front (left) and back (right) textures accented with contrast

Modern Bohemian Braid

Traditional Bohemian Braid

Flat Wrap

The key to identifying a Bohemian braid rug is the front and back texture differences (see photos above). That distinguishes them from flat wrap rugs, which have an identical basketweave texture on both sides. But to tell the difference between a “modern” and “traditional Bohemian braid rugs, one has to look closely at the edge of the rug. A modern Bohemian braid will show two distinct strands between stitches at the edge. A traditional Bohemian braid will show a single strand with a knot in it between stitches at the edge.

Bohemian braids are ideal for making sturdy rag baskets.

Bohemian braids are ideal for making sturdy rag baskets.

Bohemian braids are most easily made in the round, but oval, square and rectangles are also possible.

Front and back of “Supernova” Bohemian braid rug on the cover of the instruction book

Publications in our catalog:

Rugmaker’s Handbook No. 6: The Lost Bohemian & Swedish Braids; Rugs, Baskets & Variations…….$24.95

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