Knitting Fabric Rugs: 28 Colorful Designs for Crafters of Every Level

Knitting Fabric Rugs: 28 Colorful Designs for Crafters of Every Level

by Karen Tiede


$17.06 $18.95 Save 10% Current price is $17.06, Original price is $18.95. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, December 13


With just a few tools and fabric, Karen Tiede gives you directions for making 28 different rugs with designs that use age-old motifs, including stripes and spirals; traditional quilt patterns, such as tessellations and log cabin designs; and freeform inventions. She shows how to create a wide range of color modulations, as well as different shapes, from rectangles to circles. The results are beautiful, one-of-a-kind floor coverings and wall hangings that are perfect for your space and taste.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612124483
Publisher: Storey Books
Publication date: 07/28/2015
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Karen Tiede is the author of Knitting Fabric Rugs. In addition to doing her own design work and teaching, she is also a weaver and woodcarver. Tiede markets her rug designs online and lives in North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt



The Heart of a Fabric Rug

To get started knitting fabric rugs, you don't need a lot, and you probably have most of it already. Furthermore, it won't cost very much at all to buy anything else you need. Here are the basics: a space to work in, raw material (old clothing), a way to cut clothing into fiber strips, processed fiber (so you can start knitting when inspiration strikes), a way to store your fiber/stash so you can find it easily, and needles that feel good in your hands.

A Space to Work In

Let's start by talking about studios: art-making spaces. You can't make art unless you have the materials at hand to make it from. And you need a place to store those materials. You don't get an idea, go to the store to buy parts, and come home and make your project — at least not when you're 30 miles from the store and working in recycled material anyway. I have a business license to make and sell rugs in my home and am fortunate to be able to give over one small bedroom in my 1,400-square-foot house to textile stash. Having this studio matters a lot to me. I know that not everyone can afford to dedicate this much space to a craft, however, and fabric inventory can become a real challenge.

The solution to this challenge is to find some way to organize your growing stash. When I first started knitting rugs, I brought used clothing home, washed it, and stuffed it into pillowcases ready for processing. This worked well enough for a while, until I suddenly realized my house could be featured in a show about hoarding. It was not pretty. So I emptied all the pillowcases out, sorted the clothing into two huge piles (mostly tops and bottoms), and started processing each garment by cutting away the seams, button bands, and so on, until I had rough-shaped pieces that could be folded and stored more efficiently (what I call "flat fold"). I reduced the volume significantly by throwing away the parts that aren't useful for knitting.

The Raw Materials

Most of my rugs are made from used clothes cut into long strips of woven or knitted fiber. I also sometimes use household linens (sheets and napkins), and sometimes purchased yard goods. You can find usable fabric in a lot of places.

Where to Find Fabric

Yard sales. Visit yard sales, especially multifamily events. Show up toward the end of the morning and make an offer on "everything left over." Arrive with a great big truck to take everything. Note that you may be competing with local thrift shops, who may have made prior arrangements with the vendors. Craigslist or an equivalent is a similar source.

Thrift shops. Thrift shops in my part of the world have "bag days" or "dollar tables," when you can buy a bag full of clothing for $1 or less. Learn when these are scheduled, and plan to arrive either early or late; some thrift shops allow you to take everything left at the end of the day for even less money. (Incidentally, much of the clothing rejected by thrift shops is sold by the truckload to aggregators who ship it to developing countries, where it is processed and woven into rag rugs, which are then sold back to us at discount stores.) Look for "rag bags," and buy one to see what kinds of clothing get put into a rag bag. Some shops sort their rag bags by white or colored T-shirts. Pick the colored ones. These garments are likely to be stained and torn, but you may be able to cut around the ruined parts and still get a reasonable amount of fiber for the money.

Your friends. Tell your friends that you need old clothing, and that you don't care what shape it's in. I often come home to find bags of clothing on my doorstep.

Trash/garbage/dump. Where I live, we take our trash to a transfer station, and the county picks it up from there and takes it to the dump. Each transfer station has a swap shed, where people leave unwanted stuff that still has useful life. Much of this stuff is clothing. The swap sheds have provided me with more incoming fiber than I can knit.

Home sewers' leftovers. A source I didn't consider until well into this project was my own stash of leftover fabrics from years of making clothes. All of those bits that were too big to throw away but too small to use for anything significant can be sliced into usable strips for knitting. Consider putting a small notice up in any fabric store in your area.

Unfortunately, much of the fabric used for quilt making and most upholstery fabric is printed on one side only. If the backside has strong color (solids), you can use it. If the backside looks like the backside (that is, not as bright or colorful as the front), it's best to leave those pieces for a quilter. It has taken me several years to refine my input stream so that I no longer bring home very many garments or fabrics that don't work well. I used to actually iron yards of rayon strips so that the colorful side faced out, and the less-bright side was on the inside. I don't do that anymore. Nothing comes into the stash unless it has good color on both sides of the fabric. It doesn't have to be the same color on both sides, but it has to be useful.

What to Collect

I apply several criteria to the garments that come into my house:

* Fiber source

* Garment construction and size

* Color

Fiber Sources

Natural fibers. I prefer natural fibers and blends, including cotton, wool, silk, and blends of all of these. I'm not a fiber purist. Many polo shirts and T-shirts are cotton-poly blends, and they work just fine. Although T-shirts are usually great, those with large plastic appliqués may not knit as smoothly as all-cotton shirts in solid colors. If you have an all-natural approach to life and art, feel free to restrict yourself to these kinds of fiber. You will be able to honor your values and still make knitted rugs.

Synthetics (polyester, microfibers, and so on). Inexpensive bridesmaids' and prom dresses are often made of polyester fabric. These garments have oodles of fabric, especially if the skirt is full, and they come in great colors. Knit polyester fabrics don't hold up as well as wovens, however. Also, the chiffonlike overlays used on some dresses have not turned out to be useful. Chiffon unravels, but cutting on the bias helps. The unraveled bits get all nasty and matted up when the rug gets washed a few years down the road, which is a pity, because I'd like to make use of their colors.

Burn Tests

If you're not sure what something is made of, you can do a burn test on it. There are many kinds of burn tests, but here are the basics. Do this test over a sink, and take care that there is nothing in the area, such as a curtain or towel, that might catch fire accidentally.

Cut a small piece of fabric, long enough to hold safely without burning your fingers. Use a match to light the swatch on fire, then quickly blow it out.

* Cotton flares, burns cleanly, and smells like paper.

* Rayon flares, burns cleanly, and smells like paper.

* Silk and wool smell like hair.

* Polyester and other synthetics melt as fast as they burn, leave a little bead of plastic on the edge, and smell like chemistry.

Garment Construction

The garment that provides the perfect raw material for rug knitting is a seamless, extra-large T-shirt. You can cut a 50-yard strip of rug fiber from one shirt. Unfortunately, seamless extra-large T-shirts are only a small percentage of the recycle stream. You don't have to limit yourself to them, but knowing they are the acme of the search helps you understand what you're looking for. Here are some features to consider.

Big pieces. In general, the larger the garment, the longer the strip you'll be able to cut from it. Look for men's shirts, adult-size pants and trousers, full skirts (especially peasant skirts, once you cut out the gathered seams), and full-skirted dresses. Polo shirts are good, but be sure to cut out the extra button on the inside seam before slicing the garment into strips.

Few seams. Don't cut across seams when you cut a garment into strips, as the seams are likely to pull apart after the rug is completed. I learned this the hard way! Women's shirts are often made with lots of finicky bits, and by the time you cut out all the seams, there's nothing left. Fancy women's blouses, as well as dresses, are sometimes more trouble than they are worth. Jackets and suit coats have remarkably little useful material. Given that a decent used jacket, sports coat, or suit coat may help someone get a job, I don't pick these up unless they are ruined by stains or moth holes. Then, the backs can be used and sometimes the lining. Baby clothes are too small to bother with. They are also highly valued by families with low incomes, so don't hog the flow. Donate them back to a thrift shop.

Other considerations. I don't use terry cloth or sweater knits. The fibers slub off, make a mess, and leave the remaining fabric thinner than you planned on.

The Search for Useful Colors

In chapter 2, you'll find information about color theory and designing with color, but this section contains advice that I hope will help you think in terms of color as you begin to collect fabrics and organize your stash.

Red. I can always work with anything on the red side of the color wheel: warm reds, cool reds, anything from maroon up to red-orange. Lighter than that goes to pink, which itself shades into peach. Peach is a very easy-to-live-with color. Usually it's easy to find reds in many garments, especially women's clothing and T-shirts. I've found that all reds run when wet, no matter what you do to them, so don't use a red rug against a surface that can stain.

Orange. Orange starts up at peachy and goes all the way down into the warmer browns. Frequently, you'll find orange as a fluorescent, which is tricky to use in home décor. Plenty of T-shirts and polo shirts show up in orange, often with stains that have to be cut out.

Yellow. Clear yellow is a hard color to work with, because it draws a lot of attention to itself. It also gets dirty and stains easily. If you want to use a lot of yellow in a rug, it might be better to consider it wall art. Mustards are magic and play well with everything else, but they are hard to find in the recycled stream, though sometimes you'll find mustard-colored bed sheets.

Green. Greens can be warm or cool, yellow- or blue-based. Both sides work pretty well with turquoise and teal. Olive goes with everything. In my opinion, kelly green is death on a stick when it comes to blending. It's just plain ugly, and nothing plays well with it. Unfortunately, it's popular for soccer jerseys, school and band uniforms, and T-shirts, so you're likely to run across it often. Electric lime and chartreuse can go nicely with some other colors. There are lots of massively useful sages, olives, and pines. You'll likely find green uniform pants, men's pants, and some T-shirts and polo shirts. Greens subsort into categories very quickly in my experience, and it can be difficult to accumulate enough of any one of the subcategories. Collect all the green you can find (except for that nasty kelly green, which, IMO, has no redeeming social value).

Blue. I sometimes have trouble with blue. Not all blues — anything blue-green is fine. It's the dusty blues down to navy that stymie me. I don't like them, and they don't readily go with anything. My definition of "blue" is broad, and the blue colors I like to use overlap into green quite a bit: lapis, sapphire, royal blue, turquoise, teal.

Violet. Purple covers a broad spectrum, from more red to more blue, light to dark on both sides. They're all good, and they all play well with everything else. You do need to be able to distinguish between red-purple and blue-purple. Don't try this under artificial light. There isn't enough purple to suit me in the recycle stream. I collect all of it I can find, even the school uniforms and band pants. Darker purples hide stains well and work well on the floor. Be aware, however, that some purples will run in the wash.

Good Color Blenders

Browns. I was on rug number 40 when I got a commission to make a set of rugs in a particular colorway that set me to collecting beiges and khakis. Wowiola! What a great gift! All the colors of men's pants — khaki, beige, dun, tan, gray. These are all subtle, fabulous blending colors, and I suggest you collect them from the start. I'm a big fan of brights — primaries and secondaries — but the blenders make a rug easy to live with.

Gray. Grays are good to keep on hand, but they can be difficult to use unless you're working with black. Grays often have a blue cast, which makes them hard to pair with some of the warmer colors. That said, grays tend to be useful. Lots of T-shirts are the same basic gray, shifted only by dye lot and washing habits.

Black and white. Black and white are striking, but hard to live with as an interior color scheme. If your children or grandchildren drink grape-colored drinks, do not use a black-and-white rug on the floor.

Washing Raw Materials

Everything that comes into my house, from any source, gets cold-water washed and machine-dried to "bake." One important reason to do this is to ensure that the fabric has shrunk as much as it's going to, even though most used clothing has been machine washed and dried to maximum shrinkage long before it gets to the recycle stream. I use cold water, because hot water washing is expensive, and let machine drying take care of any remaining shrinkage. Decorator fabrics, particularly curtains, may never have been washed before, so they may need more than one trip through the dryer to reach maximum shrinkage. I don't use dryer sheets or any scented laundry products.

As mentioned previously, reds always run. Always. Many blues do, too. I'm thinking of a beautiful set of cotton curtains I found once, labeled "Made in Pakistan." They bled blue through several washings and dryings. If you face that sort of challenge, be sure never to put a rug with colors that won't stop bleeding on top of a cream Berber or other light-colored carpet.

When clothing comes out of the dryer, I stack it as flat as reasonable, by type. Pants get folded flat, seams to the sides (not creased). Shirts get stacked, roughly flat. The fewer folding creases you can insert into the garments at this stage, the easier it will be to cut the clothing later.

Estimating How Much Fabric You Need

Cut some fabric, such as a T-shirt (or two or three), into 1-inch strips. I call this "slicing." (For an illustration of how to most efficiently cut up a T-shirt, see Cutting Strips for Consistent Gauge.) Pick a pair of needles, perhaps a pair in the US double-digit ranges (US 10 or 10.5, for example), but it's up to you. Cast on six or eight stitches with one strip, and knit in garter stitch for a few rows (knit every row). See what you get. See how your hands feel. If your hands hurt or if they are giving hints that they may hurt soon, increase needle size. If the sample is too skimpy, and you think it won't hold up to foot traffic, use smaller needles so that the fabric will be thicker.

When you're happy with the result, measure the length and width of the resulting swatch and multiply those two figures to get the area of the swatch in square inches. Then, unravel the swatch and measure the length of the fabric strip you used to knit it. When you decide the measurements for the rug you'd like to knit, again multiply length by width to calculate the rug's total area. Divide that figure by the area of the swatch to get the number of swatch area units in the finished rug. Then, multiply that result by the number of yards of fabric strips you used in your swatch. This is the measurement of the strips you have to slice and tie up in order to get close to the size of the planned project. I usually estimate 60 yards per square foot of finished rug. The actual result is a bit less, but it's better to have more than you need. (See Calculating Materials for Circular Rugs, for more information.)

It's important to keep the stitch count per piece or section low, because the overriding variable in rug knitting with recycled fabric is weight. These rugs get heavy, quickly. If the project requires straight sides (rectangular sections), I don't like to have more than 14 stitches on a 10" needle. I can fit and hold up to 17 stitches on a 10" needle, so if I'm knitting a square on the diagonal, my modules tend to be 17 stitches at their widest. At approximately 1 ½ to 2 stitches to the inch, this makes them no wider than 11 ½ inches. I sometimes use 14" needles to increase the maximum width of a diagonally knitted square up to 22 or 23 stitches, but I can't hold a 14" needle with full rows of 22 stitches for long at all without causing pain in my wrist and elbows. After 8 or 10 rows, I decrease enough to fit all the stitches on the smaller needle and switch back to 10" needles.


Excerpted from "Knitting Fabric Rugs"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Karen Tiede.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Knitted Rugs: The Backstory

Chapter 1
Materials: The Heart of a Fabric Rug

Chapter 2
Color! Rules of Thumb

Chapter 3
Process: Rug-Making Nuts and Bolts

Chapter 4
Earn Your Stripes

Chapter 5
Tantalizing Tessellations

Chapter 6
Log Cabin Designs and Beyond

Chapter 7
Spirited Spirals

Chapter 8
Inspiration: Going Free-Form


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Knitting Fabric Rugs: 28 Colorful Designs for Crafters of Every Level 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Buecherwurm161 More than 1 year ago
A Great Book. I have dabbled in crocheting with fabric's before but I never considered knitting with them, so when I had the chance to get this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review I immediately jumped on it. Not only is this a visually attractive book, with beautiful color photographs, but the Rugs themselves look like little pieces of art to me. I loved all the unique techniques, helpful and easy to follow instructions and interesting color combinations. I have a pile of old t-shirts and clothes that I will be happy to utilize for my next project. This book really got my creative juices flowing and I can't wait to get started.