Rugmaker's Homestead

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Rag Rugs Tour
1. Tambour
2. Shirred 
3. Standing wool

4. Knitted
5. Flat Wrap
6. Amish Knot

7. Chain Braids
8. Broomstick & String Crochet
9. Crocheted

10. Fabric Tapestry
11. Anchored Loop
12. Hooked, Poked, Prodded, Bodkin

13. Needleworked
14. Toothbrush rugs
15. Braided rugs

16. Knotted & strung shags
17. Loom woven
18. Patched (penny rugs) & sewn shags
19. Frame made rugs
20. Wagon wheel & frame braids 
21. Odds 'n ends



Rag Rugs Tour
#14 Toothbrush Rugs: Bohemian Braid, Swedish Braid & Nalbinding Rugs

All three of these rugs have been called 'toothbrush' rugs at one time or another. They are similarly constructed, and the traditional tool was the flat handle of a wooden toothbrush because it could be modified easily for rug making. For the Swedish and Bohemian Braids a notch and hole were cut in the handle of the toothbrush; for Nalbinding only a hole was cut. The Swedish and Bohemian braids can also be made using button hooks, or crochet hooks and lacing needles. 

All three types of these 'toothbrush' rugs are made using short strips of fabric (rag) strip, in a technique that involves lacing the strip through loops of strips drawn though the rugs. It is the pattern of the looping and lacings that distinguish the three methods from each other. (It should also be noted that variations of these three techniques have also developed, elaborating the particular pattern.) 

Bohemian Braid Rugs (Beggar's Braid)
Bohemian Braid Rugs are one of the most surprising of all of the types of traditional rag rugs. Though they are made by a simple series of loops and knots, the resulting rug structure is so stiff that it is hard to believe that the rug is composed of only light weight cotton strips. The front of a Bohemian Braid rug has a radiating basketweave texture very similar to a flat wrap rug, but the reverse side of the bohemian braid has a 'braided' look.The traditional Bohemian Braid is made with short sections of cotton fabric strip. (The rug at the top of this page is a large Bohemian Braid Rug.)

Front 'basketweave' texture
of the Bohemian Braid
A bicolor sample of the 
Bohemian Braid accents
the differences between front
and back.

Back texture of the
Bohemian Braid
(The "Modern" Bohemian Braid
This is not a toothbrush rug and is made with a continuous strip of fabric. The "modern Bohemian Braid" should probably be classified as a type of chain braid, but because it is identical in appearance to the traditional Bohemian Braid, I'm including it here. The modern Bohemian Braid creates rugs with the same body and stiffness as the traditional method, but can be adapted to use with yarns.) 
Swedish Braid Rugs
Swedish Braid rugs are made similarly to the traditional Bohemian braid, but are worked from two laced loops instead of one. The front texture of a Swedish Braid is a spiraling basketweave, and the reverse is a series of closely spaced knots. 
Naalbinding rugs
This is a related technique also Scandanavian in origin, working relatively short strips of fabric through a series of loops. The technique developed first for use in making heavy durable mittens, etc., often from yarns recycled from worn out sweaters, socks, etc. Naalbinding is distinct from the other two toothbrush rugs in that it requires one working loop to be twisted around the thumb. This twisting creates a 'stretch' in the rug, where the other two are stiff. 

The surface appearance of these rugs is most similar to braided-in rugs. (See the Rugmaker's Exchange for a picture of a Naalbinding rug.) Naalbinding rugs are also covered in the book "Miss Rosemary's Stick Rug" (see Carolyn Carlson's web page at http://home.mindspring.com/~dave.c/ for more information about the book). A slightly different naalbinding technique was included in the "Bittersweet" project in the Ozarks. Those directions are now available on line at The directions include a lot of photos and are very slow to load, so you may have difficulty with your browser, but are very worthwhile. 

Show me:
Books & Supplies for
Toothbrush Rag Rugs 


I have a toothbrush that has a hole in one end and the other end has been pointed. I was told my Great-grandmother used it to make rugs. Do you have instructions on how to do this? Thanks,

My wife is trying to locate some description of ways to make a crocheted rag rug with a technique that includes using a toothbrush adapted to some kind of tool. have you heard of this, and do you have any information about it. Gary

Dear Gary, 
There are several types of "toothbrush" rugs (it is a whole family of traditional techniques. Toothbrush rugs are different than crocheted rugs, but there is a type of toothbrush rug that can be made with a crochet hook or button hook. That is the Bohemian Braid. We do have a book on that.
UPDATE: We now have the book by Carolyn Carlson on making naalbinding rugs. See the books & supplies section or the catalog for details.

Dear Rugmakers,
Thank you so much for sending a catalog to me. You mentioned Swedish Braid rugs. I would like to try my hand at making one. How do I begin? I also would like to try a "Swedish Rag Rug" and a Braided woolen rug. I agree with your philosophy of preserving the old crafts…in particular, rugmaking. I'm looking forward to your reply. 

Dear Ingrid,
The Swedish Braid is one of the more complicated of the 'toothbrush' rugs and I'm afraid that directions in writing wouldn't do you too much good. (It really takes diagrams to show the process of how to handle the loops in the 'braid'.) I'm hoping to get some time this fall to get the drawings done for this so that the directions would be available. 

In the meantime, you might want to try the somewhat simpler, but related, Bohemian Braid, which we do have directions for... Happy Rugmaking, DBG

Just a brief announcement for those having an interest in naalbinding. Larry Schmitt's third naalbinding workbook is now available. It is titled "Lessons in Naalbinding: Mittens, Mittens, Mittens!" This workbook is an exploration of the traditional Scandinavian naalbinding mittens -- including -- directions for four naalbinding stitches and six mitten patterns (each in three sizes). This is practical manual intended for the craftperson who wants to make real, "wearable" mittens, but attention is also given to historical background, traditional finishing touches and adornments, as well as directions for making nålbinding needles. A special feature of this workbook is a detailed and descriptive list of the more than thirty stitches that have been found in Scandinavian naalbinding mittens, with specific recommendations for yarn selection for each stitch. Schmitt's "Lessons in Naalbinding: Mittens, Mittens, Mittens!" (along with the two earlier volumes, "Scarves, Wimples and More", and "Edgings and Embellishments") is available from Susan's Fiber Shop, N250 Hwy A, Columbus, WI 53925 USA (telephone: 920-623-4237). For more information you can reach Susan McFarland by e-mail at susanfiber@internetwis.com. Please address wholesale inquiries to schmitt@mailbag.com. ---------

Copyright Rafter-four Designs

Rafter-four Designs maintains two websites:
The Rugmakers Homestead for traditional rag rug makers at http://www.rugmakershomestead.com

The Super-Green Clean for learning to use microfiber towels for cleaning house at http://www.supergreenclean.com