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How to make a standing wool rolled quillie beaded rag rug from tiny fabric scraps

What kind of rug is this?

   Im sharing my experience making a Standing Wool Rug.  This type  of  rag rug  is sometimes called a quillie rug or a beaded rug.  It is made by rolling tiny scraps of wool fabric into little beads and then stringing them together.
   Never heard of it before?  Don't feel badly, I hadn't either.  After scouring google and pinterest in search of everything I coud find on this subject, I have concluded that beaded rugs are not a common method of making a rag rug.  It used to be more common but has steadily declined in popularity since the end of world war 2.

Why make a beaded rug?

   I was very excited to discover this little known rugmaking technique.  So excited, that I have decided to share the rug I have been working on while it is still a work in progress. I was too excited to keep it to myself any longer.   I will update this post as I make progress.
   There are several things that I really like about this unique way to make rag rugs.  I will share some of my favorite things about beaded wool rugs as well as some drawbacks that may keep some from making a rug in this manner.

 All rag rugs are environmentally responsible, being made of recycled fabrics that otherwise would have been sent to a landfill.  What is special about beaded rug is that only the tiniest of pieces are needed.  Braided rugs or crocheted rugs require long strips of fabric.  A beaded rug can be made up completely  of scraps only a half of an inch wide and three inches long.  Pieces of recycled fabric that are too small for any other rag rug technique can be used here. 
​ Making a rug in this way does not require any special tools or any special skills.  If you do not know how to crochet or find rug braiding difficult, you will still be able to make a beaded rug.  Its that simple.  Most people have the materials needed for a standing wool rug in their homes already.​
  Another great thing about making a rolled standing wool rug is that it requires only the tiniest of scraps.  Pieces of wool that would be unusable to crochet or to braid are perfect for this project,

   Another unique aspect of beaded rugs is the potential they hold for really artistic designs.  I am making my rug with randomly placed colors, in a hit or miss style.  Random placement is simpler and easier.  I am glad that I chose to make my first project in this manner.  If one is inclined, very complicated and intricate patterns can be made 
One thing that I do not particularly enjoy about rag rug making is the scale of the projects.  I am sometimes jealous when I see others out in public with their dainty needle work projects.  I cannot pick up a rug that is six feet across and stuff it in my purse, so that my project is with me when I have time to take a few stitches.  Since I have been making my standing wool rug, that has changed.  I have an old makeup bag that I have filled with wool strips and everything else I need to roll and string the wool beads.  It fits in my purse so it goes everywhere I do.  now time that once dragged, waiting for the bus or waiting for my son to finish an appointment, goes by way to fast.  
  This is a very time consuming process.  If not for my ability to take this with me everywhere, I do not believe I would have the patience to make this rug.
These paintings by Gustav Klimpt  were the first thing I thought of when I first saw a beaded wool rug,  I would love to make a rug that uses the subtle color variations of the landscapes below.  I especially like the green and blue hillside and may attempt a beaded wool rug with a similar look in the future

you may not want to make a beaded rug.  This is why...

o  I have shared some of the reasons I am so excited about making a beaded wool rug.  Now I will disclose some of the aspects of these rugs that I am less enthusiastic about.

  The biggest drawback to making a beaded standing wool rug is the amount of time it takes.  I see that the finish line for this project is so far in the future for me that I decided to go ahead and share this project, even though it is unfinished.

   The process of rolling up the beads is very simple, but it is slow going.   If you like this idea, but don't have the time to commit to a rug, there are other options.  Table runners, placemats, trivets, or even coasters would all be  great made with beaded standing wool.  They could be made exactly like the rugs are, just smaller.

   Although only small pieces are needed to roll the beads, they cannot be made of just any fabric.  This is a standing wool rug and has to be made out of wool fabric.  thick and heavy wool fabric.   The kind you would find a coat or a blanket made from.   The fabric should be as dense and felted as possible before you begin working with it.  Your old pea coat should be washed on hot and tumble in the dryer before you cut it  into strips. 

  This is not a rug you can make to use up all your old t shirts or sheets.  They are just not dense enough.   Coat or blanket weight wool fabric by the yard is very expensive.  A much more economical and environmentally responsible  way to source fabric would be to look for either wool blankets or long wool overcoats in your local thrift store.   Asking friends and family for unwanted overcoats is also a good idea.
have some more wool to repurpose? I made a desk blotter and a mousepad and coasters wth recycled blanket wool

Materials Needed:

Wool Fabric:  dense and felted is best.  the best place to find this kind of wool fabric is in old wool blankets or wool topcoats.  Washing and drying the wool before you begin so that it felts is a good idea.  

Scissors or rotary cutter and healing mat

Strong, thick thread: 
There are many types of thread that could be used.  It is important that it is very strong because the thread is the only thing holding the rug together.  After quite a bit of experimentation, I developed some strong opinions about what kind of thread is best for making a rolled beaded standing wool rug.  There are only two types of thread that I will use for the remainder of this job.   My favorite "thread" is embroidery floss.  I don't separate the strands.  I thread the entire width through my needle and actually double it over to begin.  I found that the floss was strong and did not tangle.  Any color can be used because it will not show on the finished rug.  Embroidery floss can be found inexpensively on many websites.   My second favorite thread was Singer brand button and carpet thread.  I picked it up at a grocery store when I was away from my home and had run out of floss.  It did not easily tangle.  It was thick and strong and easy to see as I worked.  

Needle:    The needle has to have a large enough eye to sew using embroidery floss.  It is also a lot easier to work with an extra long needle.  I have heard doll needles recommended, but found those to be too flimsy feeling and easily bent.  I found a 6.9 inch sewing needle with a large eye by googling "7 inch sewing needle".  This was a very inexpensive purchase and it really has made this project so much easier and more enjoyable to work on.

Thimble/ needle gripper/ needle puller:  Pushing a 7" long needle through dozens of layers of dense felted wool is not an easy task.  Stores sell needle grippers meant for quilters hand sewing through many layers of fabric.  I found those to be a little bit difficult to locate as well as a  little overpriced.  I tried silicone thimbles as well as grippies rings designed for counting money and sold with office supplies.  I also tried using a piece of non slip rug pad, as well as  a thick rubber band from around the broccoli at the grocery store.  All of the methods I mentioned worked fine..  They all improved my grip and made it a lot easier to pull the needle through my wool beads,  but there was one thing I tried that I found to work far better than any other thing I tried.  My favorite needle puller is a balloon.  The regular, inexpensive, rubbery kind that you may already have in your junk drawer.  An uninflated balloon beat every other tool  by far.  Plus, It did not get lost among all my wool cuttings hen I set it down.

How to make a recycled wool beaded rag rug:

First, I prepared my wool strips.  I tried to keep my strips to about three inches long and about 3/4 of an inch wide.  The width of your strips will determine the height of your final rug.  

It does not matter what the face of the fabric looks like, you will only see the edges when finished

This uses a lot of strips.  I estimate that it takes the equivalent of a yard of fabric to make one square foot of rug.  I prepared some strips ahead of time and for the rest, I stop and mae them as needed.
Once you have the wool strips prepared, it is time to thread the needle.  

I used the full strand of embroidery floss, doubled and tied in a knot at the end.  I like working with a 7 inch needle, but a shorter one would be fine, if that is all that you have
Take one strip of wool and roll it into a tight little cylinder.  Make sure it is not loose.  Loose beads will not stay standing and your rug will be too loose

Once rolled
I bring my needle back through the bead perpendicular to the direction my thread first went through originally
you can proceed one of two ways:
option one: keep rolling beads and stringing them on your thread until you have reached the leength you desire.   sew together the beads inti either rows or in a round until the rug reaches the size you want or you run out of beads

option two:  as each bead is strung onto the thread, stich through it again, securing it to the beads next to it, shaping the rug as you go

I like the second option.  I had problems with tangling when I tried to make the rug the first way.

I feel like I did a much better job securing each and every bead to its neighbors when I worked each one individually

Either way; Make sure to sew the wool together as securely as possible.  The threads are the only thing holding it all together, if one breaks or if it loosens up too much, your rug may fall apart.

the end: for now

rug should be finished so that the sides are hidden
This is as far as I am making this rug.  I am rolling beads and sewing them to the rug one at a time.   I will be on this step for as long as it takes.  I was too excited about this recycled rag rug to wait any longer to share it.  I will add an updated post when I complete the next steps. 
  Im not certain how exactly I will do it, but as the last step, some kind  of binding will be needed.  I will want to hide the threads that will be visible along the sides.   Let me know if you try this project. do you have ideas for how to best finish the edges?


This post first appeared on Reragg: No Scrap Wasted, please read the originial post: here

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