Creating crochet rag rugs with strips of fabric is not a project for someone just learning to crochet. Fabric is much harder to work with than yarn, and it takes practice. Once you've learned to do it, and have the crochet supplies you need, you can create beautiful rag rugs that may become family heirlooms.
Prepare Fabric to Crochet a Rag Rug
The first step is to purchase and prepare the fabric. Your grandmother may have had to make quilts and rag rugs with what was left from old clothes, but today's crafter wants to buy fabrics that suit her style, home decor and budget. A hand-crocheted rag rug will take 9-10 yards of fabric for a relatively small rug, and 15-20 yards for a larger one.
Have the fabric store cut all your fabric choices into one yard lengths. Wash them when you get them home to remove any extra dye or stiffener, and make sure shrinking happens before the fabric becomes part of a rug. Press each yard to remove the wrinkles. Finally, working with one yard at a time, cut the fabric into one inch strips.
You want the strips to be as long as possible; the ideal is to cut each yard of fabric into one strip. There are several ways to do this, but the simplest is to begin by cutting off any printed selvage, then cut parallel to the fabric width one inch from the side edge. When you approach the top (or bottom) of the fabric, stop cutting one inch from the end. Move the scissors to one inch from the first cut, and cut a one inch strip in the opposite direction to the other end of the fabric, again stopping one inch from the end. Keep doing this until you have one long strip. The places that have the squares from the top and bottom are awkward, but you can fold or roll them as you work with the fabric.
If you have only one color or print, you may want to sew the strips together at their ends to make one long strip you can roll into a ball. If you're planning a design with multiple fabrics, keep each fabric separate from the rest.
Start the Crocheted Rag Rug
The other crochet supply you need is a large crochet hook. A size P or Q works best with fabric. Crochet can be done either back and forth in straight rows, or in the round, working around a center circle. The style you choose will depend on the shape of rug you want.
If you want a rectangular rug, you can start by making a chain with the fabric strip the length you want the rug to be, plus two extra chains for turning. Because of the difficulty of working with fabric and a crochet hook, you may want to stick to single crochet stitches, and leave double crochet and fancy pattern stitches for working with yarn. Make the chain, turn, and make a single crochet in the third chain from the hook, and in all the chains to the end. You can start the same way if you want to crochet a square rag rug; it's just the number of rows you'll make that will be different.
For a round rug, chain five and slip stitch into the first chain to make a ring. For round one, you'll chain one and make nine single crochet into the ring, then join the last crochet to the beginning chain one, for a total of 10 stitches. If you want an oval rug, make a long chain, around 30 or 31 stitches. Single crochet in the second chain from the hook, and in each chain down to the first one. Make four single crochet in the first one to curve around the end. Then, working on the opposite side of the chain, make a single crochet in each stitch back to the last chain. Make three single crochet stitches in the last chain for that end's curve, and join to the first single crochet at that end with a slip stitch.
Complete the Crochet Rag Rug
For the square and rectangular crochet rugs, you can continue to make rows back and forth in single crochet. If, however, you want your rug to have one color in the center and a contrasting color as a border, you may want to work it in rounds, although they aren't exactly round. The crochet rag rug will work around a center chain, just as it does with the round rug. Instead of adding a stitch in every other stitch, you'll make a corner, usually three single crochet in one single crochet, and work straight up the side. You will make another corner and work across the top, then another corner, and so on. When you're ready to add the second color, join it with a slip stitch. There's no actual finishing with a crochet rag rug; when you complete the last square and slip stitch to join, you work the end of the fabric strip into the rug and you're done.
The same is true for an oval or round rug, In a round rug you work in rounds, and make increases at evenly spaced intervals around the circle. When you're making an oval rug, increases are made at each end of the center foundation chain, much as with square ones, but with more stitches added at each end to make a curve rather than a corner. Again, there's no special finishing technique; you keep working around the center until you've completed your pattern or run out of yarn.