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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
#2 Shirred Rag Rugs & Faux Shirring

The oldest type of shirred rag rugs were made by gathering strips of wool and securing the shirring in coils or rows with the thread. Shirred rugs are reversible with rich, deep textures. (True shirred rugs should not be confused with a sewn shag rug where gathered fabric strips are sewn to a base fabric.)

Traditional shirred rugs can be assembled using several methods and the resulting rugs are hard to autumn hillstell apart without close examination. In true shirring, the folds of fabric will radiate from a center or line up in rows. Faux shirring can be distinguished in that the folds of fabric will lay around the rug in a series of 's' shapes rather than radiating from the center. 

Sewn Center Shirring
Center shirred rugs are the oldest of the shirred rugs, and have a simple construction. Strips of fabric are worked onto a thread, going in and out to create folds along the thread. Then these shirred sections are coiled and stitched to form the rug. 

Crocheted Center Shirring 
With crocheted center shirring the fabric strips are shirred onto a long thin afghan type crochet hook. There are two variations of these rugs:
1. Hump-back hook or "bent" hook method. The fabric is shirred onto a specially bent, long thin crochet hook, then each fold of fabric is worked off along with a double crochet stitch or a combination of a single crochet and a chain stitch. The fold is attached to the rug as it is worked. This is the most complex of the crocheted shirring techniques. (Over the years various hump-back crochet hooks have been marked, which go under such names as the "Schirren" hook, the "Shirret" hook, or " Art Rug Needle".)
2. Afghan hook method. Fabric strips are shirred onto an afghan hook (or bent hook), and the folds of the fabric are worked off, securing them with a chain stitch. A long strip of shirred fabric results. This long strip is then coiled to form the rugs and secured either by sewing or by crocheting with a steel crochet hook. This is by far the easiest method of crocheted shirring for a beginner. 

Edge Shirring
Edge shirring is done along one edge of a strip of fabric instead of in the center. These rugs were usually thicker and and have to include a spacing strip to allow the rug to lie flat. 

A single large piece of wool fabric (traditionally a worn blanket) was gathered along many threads to form a thick mat. 

Faux Shirring 
Wool strips were stitched together with a fold at each stitch. These rugs have the same deep, reversible texture as regular shirring, but the construction methods are generally simpler. Faux shirred rugs can be distinguished from shirred rugs in that the folds of fabric lay around the outside of the rug. In true shirred rugs the folds radiate from the center. There are three distinct methods of making faux shirred rugs:
1. Needle and thread. These are made with a long sewing needle and are very similar to standing wool rugs in their construction, except that each stitch secured a folded section of fabric.
2. Awl stitched. These were made with an awl, and have a loop of thread securing each fold of fabric. (There have been various gadgets marketed to make these rugs over the years, including the Graftex "texing" needle.)
3. Crocheted. These were made with a small steel crochet hook with one crochet stitch securing each fold. This method is also ideal for creating patterns in the rug since it is so simple to handle.

Show me:
Books & Supplies 
for making Shirred Rugs


Hello, Your website references shirring of rugs with awls. I have looked all over for someone that carries these - do you or do you know of a manufacturer that I could contact. I have a friend that does beautiful shirring and cannot find additional shirring awls anywhere! Thank for your help. Sandy

Hi Sandy, Tandy Leather (Radio Shack) carries the old style stitching awl that can be used for awl shirring. There isn't anyone left who still makes the special small awls with curved needles that were used in the 40's and 50's for the rugs, (made by the Graftex company) but sometimes they turn up in antique stores so you can check there.

My mother just passed on to me a rug and a rugmaking instruction booklet that was my great-grandmother's. Written in 1940, it is titled "How to make Rugs by the Texing Method" and was produced by the Graftex Needlecraft company in Minneapolis Minnesota. Along with the booklet is a small piece of colored graph paper and a tool (Patent number 2,138,108! :) ), which seems to be missing a piece (a spring-gauge, I think). The rug is sumptuous, colorful, unusual, heavy and reversible (no backing) and seems to be sewn in a shirred or caterpillar sort of method (although what I know of these methods is only what I just investigated on your website).

Can you tell me what sort of rug this is? Is there a place I can get a replacement part for the tool? What else do you know about this particular Texing Method? Is there anyone you know of who repairs rugs of this sort (there is a small hole in this one)? I have never made a rug, but I am interested in learning about this technique, to keep alive a very old family skill. My mom remembers my great-grandmother working on rugs of this sort on her lap, and this seems like an unusual type of hand-work that would be great to learn and to continue to pass along to my own daughter. Thanks in advance, Kelli 
Good Morning Kelli, The Graftex company is no longer in business of course. They were one of many companies in the 30's-50's who took a traditional rug method and marketed a gadget (their "Texing" tool) to try to make some money from it. The rug is one of the shirred methods, called Awl Shirring, and can be done with their tool or any standard awl. (Your tool is still quite usable without the spring.) The tool was popular for awhile, but the rugs were a bit tedious to make (the identical rug can be made much faster using the "steel hook" method of crocheted shirring). Our book "Traditional shirred & standing wool rugs" covers all of the various types of shirred rugs (and they are all that sumptious texture!). I'd suggest though that in repairing your rug, you make a small patch of 'steel hook' crocheted shirring, insert it like a plug, and then stitch it in place. I'd also suggest that you and your daughter start by learning that technique which is easy to pick up, and then shift to the awl shirring if you want to make one with the old tool.Hope that helps, Diana 

Hi: Hoped you could help. After much searching I was able to purchase a hump back needle on ebay.com. However, when I received it (still in the original packaging with instructions), it was not one like my mother's. Hers was long with a very sharp point on one end to penetrate the material and the hook end was larger than the hump back needle. Her needle was straight (no hump). She used thread similar to what butchers use to wrap meat. The hump back needle's hook is too small for that thread. Can you tell me if your needles are similar to what my mother had. Would so appreciate hearing from you. As you can tell, I'm not a "crafty" type person but would so love to make what she called the "Betty J" rug. Made one in junior high MANY years ago. Thanks so much. Leana 

Hi Leana, What your mother used was a standard afghan hook in a smallish size, and the back end was sharpened. You can do the same thing. We carry a 2mm afghan hook with a plastic knob on the end which is removable. To sharpen the point all you need is a little file (even a steel nail file will work). You also might try a local needlework store to see what sizes of afghan hooks they carry so you might be able to get one in the exact size that your Mother used. Happy rug making! Diana 

I have a question for you. After experimenting with the three methods of crocheted shirring, I find that I like the steel hook method best.(Chapter 7) You don't recommend this method for heavy wool fabric. Could you tell me why? My sample piece seems to look ok. I cut the fabric 3/4". 
Dear Jean, I'm so glad you're making a rug already! I don't recommend it for heavy wools (like coat wools) since they tend to be fairly tightly woven, and it is easy to drop a stitch coming back through. With the body in the heavy wools, it will often pull out several stitches before you can recover. *However*, there isn't any reason you can't use heavy wools with the method, if you don't mind the occasional frustration! 
It's high enough to have some spring and the warp thread isn't visible. I want to make a rectangular rug and this method seems easier plus I have more control over the pattern. You're right about both. It is really easy to get a good rectangle, and it is the easiest to control the design you want. I like the steel hook method a lot, and am surprised that it isn't the most popular of the three types of shirring which use crochet hooks.
I was able to find heavy nylon thread at a custom boot shop. It was quite expensive but I like it much better than the cotton crochet thread that I first used. I find it impressive that you have made over 500 rugs!! Now if I can only finish one!!!! 
Trust me-- the first rug is the hardest. It is the one that you have to concentrate on to get the rhythm and the fingers to cooperate. Keep in touch and let me know how it comes out! 


I have been collecting old wool blankets. Just recently I started to cut them into strips for crocheted rugs but since the blankets are somewhat more loosely woven than skirt wool I don't think that the strips will hold up well. They tear when I give them a strong pull. When I found this out I decided to check into making standing wool rugs. Do you think blanket strips will be ok to use? I am anxiously awaiting your order so I can begin my rug. Thank you again. Jean
Dear Jean, 
Those old wool blankets will be *ideal* for either shirred or standing wool rugs (I would suggest the shirred though.) Since they are fairly loosely woven, they won't stand up to a lot of wear if you crochet with them, but they will if they are made into shirred rugs. There are a couple of things to remember though. Strips for shirring or standing wool need to be cut on the bias, so there is a limited amount of fraying, and the width of the strips will be the thickness of the rug. For loosely woven blankets, I wouldn't cut the strips any narrower than one inch. I've made some gorgeous rugs with old wool blankets, and no one believes the shirred ones were made with blankets so worn that I had to discard the entire center part. I know you'll really like the technique. 

Happy Rugmaking, Diana


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