Crocheted Rugs

by Diana Blake Gray
Master Rugmaker

Rugs have been made by crocheting with fabric strip since the mid-1800s, and their use was widespread through the 1930s. Being largely constructed of worn, thin fabrics, they were mostly regarded as more utilitarian than artistic until the Arts and Crafts era. During the depression, crocheted rugs became popular for their practicality. One student remembered her grandmother’s crocheted rugs as being “bullet proof”—and she wanted a rug that was just as tough. I found her story humorous since, I knew exactly what she was talking about. When you take a well-made crocheted rug and just use the dickens out of it on a porch, tracked in dirt gets ground down into the fabric and the rug surface gets harder and harder—maybe not quite bullet proof, but close.

More realistically, if you want to keep your rug looking bright, crocheted rugs that are less than about three feet in diameter will wash up nicely in a washing machine so the dirt doesn’t get ground in. For the less-than-perfect housekeeper, crocheted rugs have a nice characteristic: the dirt that gets tracked in falls through the rug. Just pick the rug up, sweep the floor and lay it back down. When company comes, just turn the rug over and the back side is clean.

Back-and-forth crocheted rugs
These are made with a single-crochet stitch, worked back and forth in rows. Mostly there were made with ¾ inch strip as light weight runners. This is the simplest crochet construction since there is no need for “increases” to keep the rug laying flat.

A depression era crocheted rug from my collection, made using 3/4-inch rag strip. An outstanding example showing careful color selection and placement. Family members said the rugmaker sold her rugs for $1 each for pin money.

Back-and-forth crocheting bordered with additional rows

A 6-foot rug in traditional colors

Radial crocheted rugs
These rugs are crocheted around and around in a spiral and the rugs can take on many shapes besides the usual round and oval. A reliable increase pattern is essential. The tendency of experienced crocheters is to just jump in and start crocheting (I did that myself) but without a pattern, the end result is inevitably the “sombrero syndrome”—yes, I’ve had folks send me photos (even one wearing the rug as a hat).

These rugs are made with 1.5 to 2 inch wide fabric strip, double-folded to hide the raw edges. Crocheted rugs can be made with wool or cotton fabric strip and have enjoyed a certain resurgence in popularity, though the quality of modern rugs is highly variable depending on the skill of the rugmaker and the directions they are using. To spot a good crocheted rug, look for regular shaping, and tight, even stitching. Avoid rugs with large loose stitches, an uneven center, or ragged edges of the fabric strips showing.

One Way Crocheted Rugs
These rugs were crocheted with relatively short strips of fabric, always worked on the same side and the same direction. Typically these runner style rugs had fringed ends and the rows of stitching run the length of the rug. Often these rugs were made with ‘fancy’ stitches, which tended to disguise the crocheted nature of the rugs. Their appearance is widely varied depending on the stitches used, some even appear to be knitted on one side. The ends of the rugs are either self-fringed or bound.

There is a lot of information about crocheted rugs elsewhere on the Rugmaker’s Homestead so I won’t repeat it here (see list below). Instead I’ll just show more photos to illustrate various shapes and techniques with crocheted rugs. I really do recommend reading the introduction to the Handbook which is available as a pdf file.

A heart shape crocheted with wool fabric and two heel-print shapes: 1 rug, 1 chairpad

A heart shape crocheted with wool fabric and two heel-print shapes: 1 rug, 1 chairpad

Pentagon shape, double-center rug and spiral pattern rug.

More about crocheted rugs on the Rugmaker’s Homestead (see the table of contents for more)
Preview of the Rugmaker’s Handbook: Crocheted & Fabric Tapestry Rugs (the table of contents and the introduction, as pdf files)
Crocheted Rug Patterns, How they work and why some don’t
Instructions to crochet a heart shaped potholder

Publications in our Catalog
Rugmaker’s Handbook No. 3: Crocheted & Fabric Tapestry Rugs

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