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How to Make a Toothbrush or Naalbinding Rag Rug

Instructions on making a toothbrush or naalbinding rag rug.

Making a toothbrush rag rug is a great family project that can involve all generations from grandparents down to pre-schoolers. This could be your new family tradition for lazy summer days or a project to work on during snow days. Making a rug is a great way for families to reconnect. You can create a new family heirloom every year using recycled clothing and other fabric you have around the house.

Prepare Strips

Cut or rip fabric into two to four inch wide strips. The lighter weight the fabric is the wider you will want the strips. If you cut the notches in the fabric, younger children will enjoy ripping them.

On each end of the strips you will want to cut a small slit in the fabric for joining the strips end to end as you work. To make the slits just fold over an inch at the end and cut a little snip at the fold.

Joining Strips

To join two strips together, feed one rag strip through the slit in the other. Loop the tail of that strip through it’s own slit and tug it tight.

Thread the Needle

A flat elongated wooden needle called a nalbinding or naalbinding needle is the traditional needle used to knot together this naalbinding rag rug. The use of an old style flat toothbrush handle with the head cut off and a hole in one end became a popular lacing needle in later generations, hence the name toothbrush rug. You can use any long flat lacing or binding needle that will be big enough for the rag to slip through. You can even use a popsicle stick with a hole drilled in the end. The idea is for the end to be somewhat pointed but dull with a big hole in the other end.

The Beginning Loops

Start by attaching two rag strips and pin them at the top knot to something like the arm of a chair or you can use a carabineer through the top loop and hook it on to something sturdy. This is to give you a method of maintaining tension as you begin your first loops. You can remove it later and just work on your lap or a table once your first couple of rows are completed.

The basic knot for this rag rug is a half hitch. It is made by using a core strip and a knotting strip. The core strip will remain the core throughout the entire rug.

Hold the knotting strip in your left hand. The core strip will hang straight down. Lets call the knotting strip blue and the core strip red.

With the blue strip, create a triangle that comes out to the left with the tail end crossing over the vertical red strip. You will have what looks like the number 4 with the red being the vertical line.

Loop the blue strip around the vertical to the back and bring it up through the hole created by the triangle.

Continue working this same knot down the vertical red strip making four to ten knots. More initial knots will create an oval and fewer will create a circle.

Making the Turn

After you get the number of initial knots that you want, you will have to turn the core up the other side where you will continue the knots. You can work from bottom toward the top but it is better to just turn the piece upside down and work it in a downward motion. You can use T-pins and a thick piece of cardboard so it is easy to move and turn the rug as you start.

As you knot the other side you will be making the same basic half hitch but you will loop it first through the loops that you already created. This attaches your new knots or loops to the old ones. Don’t pull them too tight because it gets really hard to thread your strip through the old knots if they are too tight.

Continue feeding the red core around the rug looping the blue knotting strip around the red core and through each knot on the body of the rug sequentially as you keep going around.

As you get to the turns you will want to increase your number of knots by going through the same hole in the body twice at each of the turns. You will recognize when to do this by just visually checking to see if your loops are getting too long and stretched out. It will be obvious when you need to increase.

Attaching New Strips

As you work around the rug you will run out of rag. Attach new rags as you go by looping a new one on to the core and a new one on to the knotting strip as needed. This is done using the slits on the ends of the strips.

You can change colors, use random colors or choose to work in a pattern. I would suggest that you not worry too much about the colors at first but instead just focus on the knotting technique.

Finishing

When the rug is the size that you want, just weave the ends of the rag strips into the looped knots on the rug. If you want to add to it later you can just begin again where you ended by pulling out the strips and attaching new strips.

Tutorial

Rag Rug Cafe has a series of tutorials from beginning to end. Just keep in mind that the tutorial does not mention increasing the stitches around the curves.

Other Techniques

How to Make a Braided Rag Rug

Rug Hooking Techniques

Make Your Own Floorcloth Rug

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Comments (4)

Very practical advice. The sketches are very useful.

Dotti

Very good directions and the illustrations are very precise and helpful.

Thanks so much! The illustrations were fun to make. Sometimes showing photographs just doesn't work as well. I have begun my second one and it is coming out much better now that I have learned to do the increase around the ends. Sometimes I find that I have to increase on the sides as well. You can make a basket or bowl by just pulling the knots tighter and not increasing much.

very nice .well done.....Thanks Judith

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