WAYS TO JOIN FABRIC STRIPS
WHEN MAKING RAG RUGS
By Master Rugmaker Diana Blake Gray
I get lots of questions about the ways that rug strips are
so to save everyone time here is a primer on the types of joining
There are three general groups of methods of joining fabric strips:
friction (unsewn), and knotted joints.
The Bias Joint
Anyone who has read any of my books knows that this is the method I
always recommend. The bias joint makes a smooth joining, without
a lump where the seam is. It is quickly done ahead of time on a sewing
machine for those types of rugs which use long continuous strips, but I
also use it for rugs which are made from short strips of fabric -- even
if I have to sew by hand. It is by far the best and most reliable
To make a bias joint, place two strips at 90-degrees with right sides
The ends of the strips form a corner. Stitch across the corner. Clip
excess off about ¼ inch from the seam. When the strips are
you will see that the seam runs diagonally to the strips. (If you'd
like to see a diagram of the bias joint, there is one in the article
about how to make rug binding here.)
The "Straight" Seam
This joint was often used with rugs made from old stockings, since
there wasn't a lot of bulk in the material. Two strip ends are laid one
over the other, with right sides together, and a seam is sewn straight
along the ends, with about ¼ inch seam allowance. When unfolded,
the seam runs straight across the strips.
Tacked joints were most often used in preparing rag strip for weaving,
but also for other methods such as crocheting or knitting where
wasn't a big factor. Strips of fabric are handled end-to-end,
one to the next about ½ inch. In the center of the overlap, the
strips were sewn together, either tacking with a few stitches by hand
with a sewing machine.
These are also worked with overlapping ends of strips, except that
there is no sewing involved. As the end of one strip is near, the next
strip is simply overlapped for about six inches. Through the overlap,
two strips are handled as a single strip. This joining was used with
weaving, crocheting and some braids to avoid sewing. There will be tag
ends of the strips that stick out and have to be clipped off, and it is
important when using this joint that the work is done tightly so that
strip ends cannot work loose since it is only the friction between the
two strip ends which holds the joinings together.
Slit and Loop Joints
This is a quick knotted joint, but does show in the rug and makes for
an uneven texture. It is used only for woven fabrics. Cut a slit
about ½ inch from the end of the first strip. The slit should
be large enough to allow the bulk of the next strip to pass through it.
Cut a similar slit about ½ inch from the end of the second
Bring the UNCUT end of the second strip through the slit of the first
and then through the slit in the second strip. Pull the strip snugly to
tighten the knot.
If you've ever made a chain of rubber bands, you know how to make this
joint. It does create knots in the rug, but depending on the softness
the materials used, they need not be too prominent. This joint is only
used for fabrics which come in a loop, such as socks or stockings cut
across, T-shirts cut horizontally or Girdle rugs (see Novelty and Fad
To make a chain joint, take two loops of fabric. Pass the end of one
the opening of the other. Then pass that same end through its other
Make sure as you chain loops together that the sides of the chained
are even so that the strip will lie straight.
With light fabrics, the ends of the strips were sometimes tied using
either a square knot or an overhand knot. The ends of the strip could
cut close to the knot or left long to create a shaggy surface. The
are however prominent in the rug, so this joining was most often used
utilitarian applications like scuff mats.
Copyright Rafter-four Designs, P O Box 40,