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I hadn't really been a fan of sewn
shag rugs made with cotton fabrics until I made one of these dust catcher rugs
using our heavy-duty rug binding. It took just a couple of hours on a
Saturday afternoon and I put it
immediately to the test as a foot scuff rug in front of the door. Since we are in the county and heavy boots are pretty much all that the men wear, the rug got a good workout. It got grungy of course, and washed up beautifully.
The heavier weight fabrics, like the rug binding (or old jeans) really work the best for heavy duty rugs, but for bathrooms or bedrooms softer andlighter fabrics are fine.
By far the fastest rag rugs to make are the sewn shag rugs since they take advantage of the speed of a sewing machine to attach the fabrics to a base material. By using strips of fabrics instead of small pieces, the rugs are even faster to construct and by taking advantage of pre-cut strips the speed at which a rug can be made is simply unmatched. The 2-foot by 3-foot
dust-catcher style rug can be sewn in a couple of hours by an experienced seamstress and not much longer even by a beginner.
If you are a quilter, used to absolute precision with your seams, these rugs will probably drive you nuts since they are all made with seat-of-the-pants sewing skills. If you are a beginner, that's good news since close enough is good enough!
The only equipment needed is the same for basic sewing: scissors, thread and a sewing machine with a zigzag stitch. A yardstick is helpful if you want to draw guidelines but they aren't really necessary.
The rug shown uses a 10 ounce cotton canvas for the base fabric, but there are many other choices. Any sturdy cotton or blend fabric will work but avoid light fabrics or knits which will stretch. Good choices for base fabrics include denim, heavy duck and mattress ticking (especially nice since it has stripes woven in that can be used for stitching guides).
FABRICS FOR THE SHAG PART
The rug shown is made with our heavy-duty rug binding of about an 8 ounce weight. The binding is already bias cut and is 2-1/4 inches wide. (Because the binding is pre-cut on the bias it is extremely convenient to use-just sew a row and then cut the binding off at the edge.) For the 2-foot by 3-foot rug shown, allow 70 yards of the binding or your own cut strip.
Other fabrics will also work well for dust catcher rugs, especially denim, cordurouy, cotton t-shirt or sweatshirt knits, double knits, etc. Cut strips from woven fabrics on the bias of the fabric so that the edges don't ravel. Knitted fabrics can be cut straight across. Strips can be of any width you like, but 2 to 3 inches is a good range. I can't give you fabric yardages for these rugs, since you can cut the strips various widths. To figure out how much strip you can get out of a yard of fabric, divide 36
inches by the width of the strip which will tell you how many strips will be in a yard and multiply by the width of the fabric. For example, with 3-inch strips, you can get 12 strips per yard, and if the fabric is four feet wide, you can get 48 feet of strip (19 yards). Allow an additional 10% for the cutting loss in bias cuts-more if you are using small sewing scrap. (Bias cutting means cutting on the diagonal.)
Strips of very light fabrics such as calico will pack down and have to be used doubled-up for sufficient body, so cut them twice as wide (4 to 6 inches) and then fold them in half, or just sew two strips at a time. The handling of the lighter fabrics is a little trickier (they tend to stretch) and really isn't recommended for your first sewn shag rug.
STEP 1: CUT AND HEM THE EDGES OF THE BASE FABRIC
Using scissors or pinking shears, cut the base fabric to the size and shape that you want for the finished rug. Turn the cut edge over ¼ inch to the front side of the rug and sew it down using a zigzag stitch at the widest setting on the sewing machine (and about 12 stitches to the inch).
OPTIONAL: Sew rug binding around the edge and turn it over to the front side. This turned edge will be covered with the strip and it gives a little sturdier edge if your rug is going to get very heavy wear. This is the edge finish in the rug shown.
STEP 2: (OPTIONAL) MARK SEWING LINES
Using a yardstick, draw lines on the front side of the base fabric about ½ inch apart to use as sewing guides. Since with the dustcatcher style, each row of fabric is sewn above the previous row, you can eyeball the lower edge of the previous row as your spacing guide instead.
STEP 3: ROLL AND SEW
Since these rugs get bulky, the best way to sew them is from one edge (I'll call it the bottom end). The other end of the rug should be rolled up so that it will fit through the sewing machine.
Sew the first strip for the shags about ½ inch from the end of the rug. Use
a zigzag stitch set to about 10 stitches per inch and wide enough so that
the stitches cover the edge of the strip being sewn. Use a bobbin thread
that matches the color of your base fabric for the neatest look. (You don't
have to match your top thread to the strip color since the stitching is
hidden by other layers. A good neutral gray or tan is usually fine for most
applications.) If you want a thicker surface, just space the strips more
When sewing on the strips for the shag, begin at the very edge of the base fabric and sew across completely to the other edge. Then clip off the strip even with the edges of the base fabric. Start the next strip up about ½ inch from the previous one, and stitch it all of the way across in the same way. Clip it off even with the edge.
Just keep on going sewing each row of strip until you get to about ½ inch from the 'top' end of the rug.
STEP 4: THE LAST ROW
The very last row of strip is handled just a little differently so that the
top end of the rug has a neat appearance. Place the strip on the back side
of the rug, lining up the strip with the edge of the rug, and sew it in
place with a straight stitch and a ½ inch seam allowance. The "right" side
of the strip should face the rug.
Turn the strip over to the front side of the rug, and make small back
stitches by hand to hold the strip in place. The stitches should be about ½
inch from the top edge of the rug. Try to hide the stitches so that they don
't show much on the front of the rug.
STEP 5: CLIPPING AND TRIMMING
Using scissors or a rotary cutter, trim the sides for a neat straight edge.
Then, beginning at the "top" of the rug (last row sewn) randomly clip into each strip. The clips should be to within a half-inch of the sewn stitches and they should be spaced three to six inches apart. Clip one row at a time so you can make sure that the clippings don't line up from strip to strip. The photo below shows the dustcatcher before clipping (notice the final row folded over at the top of the rug). The photo at the beginning of the article shows the rug after clipping.
The stitching on the back of a sewn shag rug can be unsightly-especially if you are making rugs for sale. You can add a decorative backing piece of cotton or base fabric using an iron-on adhesive (washable!) or by sewing around the edge with or without rug binding. Hint: if you know you are going to use a backing fabric, sew rug binding around the edge of the base fabric
before you begin to sew the rug. Then it is a simple matter to add the backing piece and fold the rug binding down around it.
CARING FOR A DUSTCATCHER RUG
These rugs are really easy care as long as you've used washable fabrics. Just shake them out regularly (do it outside, since they really do catch the dirt). Don't use a vacuum cleaner on these rugs since the beater bars will wear out the edges of the fabric and may even catch and clog the vacuum.
When the rug starts getting noticeably dirty, toss it in the washing machine. Heavy duty fabrics can take a normal/hot wash but lighter fabrics should be washed in warm water on the permanent press cycle. With each washing the edges of the bias-cut strips "open up" more and the rug gets softer and softer.
The dustcatcher style rug can be made in almost any shape, but since the shags have a distinct direction like a nap in a fabric, the rug will also have a visual 'top' direction. Ovals and rectangles should be worked across the narrowest dimension. Round rugs and square rugs can have the strips oriented any direction. Heart shaped rugs look pretty odd with the method, but there are some freeform rugs that do well. One of the best (and most fun) is to start with a rectangular base fabric and cut out a generalized fish shape. The strips are sewn on beginning at the tail end which gives the effect of scales on the fish.
PINCH-PLEATS: AN EASY HIGH-PILE SEWN SHAG RUG
Using pinch-pleats with bias-cut strip makes a very fancy looking rug but is
really quite easy and quick to do. Resilient fabrics work best for these (our rug binding, denim, wool, double-knits, etc.). Cotton sewing scrap will just pack down and the rug will lose its softness, so avoid them. Prepare your 2- to 3-inch bias strips and your base fabric (in any shape) as above
for the Dustcatcher rugs. These rugs take twice as much fabric as the dustcatcher rugs, so allow at least 140 yards of strip for a 2-foot by 3-foot rug. (The rug shown at right has alternate rows of the blue and green heavy duty rug binding.)
SEWING STRAIGHT ROWS
You don't need to mark sewing lines on the base fabric, since each row is sewn as closely to the previous row as you can manage. This will vary depending on the weight of the fabric you are using. For straight rows of stitching, roll the base fabric up to fit underneath the sewing machine and begin at one end. Use a narrow zig-zag stitch with about 10 stitches to the inch. You will be sewing down the middle of each strip.
Fold under the strip end about an inch and begin sewing at the edge of the base fabric, in the center of the strip. About two inches down the strip, pinch a pleat about one inch in depth. Fold the pleat down toward yourself, and stitch over it. Pinch another pleat about two inches further on, sew over it. Repeat the process to the end of the row. Make the last pleat at
the very edge of the base fabric by cutting the strip about one inch longer than the base fabric and folding it under.
The following rows are sewn just the same way. Push the previous row over as far as you can and sew the next row as closely as possible. Sew the last row right on the edge of the base fabric.
Round pinch-pleat rugs are sewn beginning at the center of the base fabric
and sewn in continuous fashion around and around. The limits on these rugs
are how much of the base fabric you can work through the gap in your sewing machine. I really suggest that you try a smallish sample before you tackle a rug since the sewing takes a little practice (especially around the curves). Oval rugs seem to be easier since there are only the curves at the ends to negotiate, but round rugs work too.
These rugs are ended with a row at the very edge of the base fabric. The
pleats will open up at the edge for a nice finish as shown in the photograph at right. If you used new fabric for your rug, it will probably feel "squirmy" underfoot when you first step on it. After washing, the squirminess will disappear as the sizing is washed out and the fabrics soften up.
These instructions first appeared in our catalog/magazine in 2003 and are copyrighted.
At this posting, the rug binding
mentioned is still in stock, however, it may not always be which is why
alternate materials are specified.
2007 by Rafter-four Designs