Friday, July 27, 2012

How I Made a Selvedge Rug

I looked up the spelling of selvedge since I wasn't absolutely positive I was spelling it correctly. The selvage (US English) or selvedge (British English) is the term for the self-finished edges of fabric. Well, who knew I have been spelling in British all this time? 

I am a bit surprised by all the interest in my selvedge/selvage rug. I think it's kind of dorky. I only made it 'cause I'm too much of a tightwad to throw out any fabric. I needed a rug to protect the floor under my roll around chair and figured those strips of otherwise useless fabric could somehow be put to work. There was really nothing to lose if it didn't work out. 

For anyone interested in making something similar, here is what I did. First off, you will need a whole bunch of selvedge strips. I'm talking a really large bag full. I have been saving them for over 2 years (and I do a lot of sewing!) The length isn't really important although long is a whole lot better than short. I'd say don't bother saving anything less than 8 inches unless you are making a rug for a mug, a mug rug as they are more commonly known. Also, when you cut selvedges off, cut at least a full inch wide and preferably more. I was really stingy and cut my edges really skinny. The result is that everything ends up white with almost no fabric showing to add color and pattern. If I had it to do over, I would be a little more generous when cutting the selvedges off. Next, you will need to rummage around in your stash and find a couple of yards of fabric that you are not really all that fond of. If you are like me you have friends that know you quilt and they give you stuff that they found in their mom's closet after she died when they cleaned out her house and they figure since you quilt you will love getting that box of polyester blend stuff from the 60s. Or maybe you yourself have a box of that stuff in your closet that you just can't bear to throw away. Now is the time to use it. Any old fabric will do, just so it has a decent thread count. Even an old sheet will do. This will be the underside of your rug so no one will see it unless you have friends who will peek under your rug. You can piece together several different fabrics if you don't have enough of something. That's what I did.

I was aiming for at least a 60" square rug. I constructed my rug in 3 sections, each finishes 20" wide and 58" long. It is sort of a quilt as you go technique. It could be done in square units, too, but this worked for me because it fit under my machine. Determine how big you want your finished rug to be and divide it into equal portions that will work for you. Mine was 3 sections because I ran out of selvedges and decided my rug was big enough. If I had more selvedge strips, I might have made another section. I didn't use any batting. You could I suppose but I didn't.

Start with your chosen backing fabric cut 2 inches wider than you want your finished section to be. This will allow for trimming to square up. On the WRONG side of the backing fabric lay the finished edge of a selvedge strip along the right edge of the backing. (If you choose to use batting, lay the batting between the backing and the selvedges.)

Lay a second selvedge along the first strip with the finished edge of the second strip overlapping the raw edge of the first strip by at least 1/4".
Topstitch close to the finished edge of the second selvedge through all three layers.
Continue sewing selvedges on top of the previous strip always keeping the raw edge to your left.
Sometimes you might have a strip that isn't quite long enough to go all the way across the backing section.
Simply fold under about 1/2" on the end of the next strip and overlap it on the previous strip and continue sewing.
They don't need to be exactly the same width. But when you sew the next strip down just be sure that you have enough overlap to cover the raw edge of the narrowest selvedge in the previous row. The next strip will secure it all down and there will be a small folded spot where the strips were overlapped.
Keep up this mindless sewing, taking breaks to maintain your sanity, until you have completely covered the entire backing section.
Repeat as needed making enough sections for your desired size rug. If you are making a mug rug it goes pretty quick. For anything larger, expect to spend a few days making sections. It gets kinda boring.

When you have run out of selvedges, go cut some more. Or you may decide that your rug is big enough like I did. Now, using your rotary cutter and a long straight edge trim your sections so they have nice straight edges.

Choose some sashing fabric to join your sections. I used some ugly maroon cotton/ poly blend fabric I had in a box of old fabric left from making shirts. In my sample here, I'm using some red broadcloth left over from making a shirt for my son. Cut 2.5" strips with the grain (not bias). Sew strips together as needed to equal the length of your sections. Fold in half and press like you would when making binding a quilt. Using 2 of these folded strips, sandwich a rug section between them, matching all the raw edges. Sew through all 6 layers of fabric (folded sashing strip, rug section, folded sashing strip) using a 1/4" seam. I used a universal Schmetz 80/12 needle and ordinary thread with no problem. By the way, you will use up a ton of thread. I don't know how much for sure but I cleared off dozens of partially filled bobbins of various colors that had been sitting around for awhile. 

This photo shows a folded sashing strip, topped by rug section, then second folded sashing strip on top.

Then sew them all together 1/4" from raw edges.

With the rug backing facing up, open and press only the sashing on the back side so the raw edge is covered. Do not turn the sashing on the RIGHT side of the rug yet. Lay another rug section backing side up and butt the edge to the first section. The sashing now overlaps the 2nd rug section. Since the sashing is doubled over, there are no raw edges to fold under. Pin the sashing in place. Sew the sashing to the rug section stitching close to the folded edge. Notice that the sashing on the RIGHT side is out of the way.

Turn everything over so the right side is facing up and NOW press the RIGHT side sashing over the butted sections of your rug. The folded edge of the top sashing will line up with the stitched line of the sashing on the BACK side. Pin and stitch the RIGHT side sashing close to the folded edge.

Repeat, joining all your rug sections together. Measure the perimeter of your rug. 

To finish the rug, cut 2.5" binding strips of your chosen fabric. I ran out of the ugly maroon fabric so I switched to some green. You could piece together a rainbow of different fabrics and use up a bunch of unloved fabric scraps. When you have enough 2.5"strips sewn together to go around the entire perimeter of your rug, fold the binding in half & press. This type of binding is easy to apply and will take heavy wear on the edge of your rug. Use your favorite method to attach the binding. I usually sew it on by machine, then turn finish the binding by hand. However, on my rug I sewed the binding to the backside by machine then turned the binding to the front and finished sewing the binding down by machine as well.

I didn't put anything special on the back of my rug. It doesn't skooch around at all unless I catch the edge with one of the wheels on my chair. I do have one edge anchored under the legs of my sewing table. It does a great job of camouflaging all the snippets & threads that miss the wastebasket. I expected it to turn out rather heavy and rigid with all those stiff selvedges but it turned out to be very light weight. If I ever make another one, I will probably add a batting layer, maybe an old blanket, to add some weight and body.

If there are any questions or my instructions have just confused you, please don't hesitate to send me an email. And  let me know if you make a rug. I'd love to see a picture. My next selvedge project will be something smaller. I need some new potholders.


Janet O. said...

I send my selvages off to others who make things with them, so I personally will not be using your excellent (and entertaining) tutorial. But I have a feeling these will be showing up in several sewing rooms throughout blogland. : )

*karendianne. said...

I really enjoy reading. You have a great voice in addition to all the cool stuff you do.

Linda C said...

Thanks for the tutorial. My selvedge basket is overflowing and l think this is a great way to use them and also a visual link to remind me of favorite fabrics used in my quilts.

Gayle said...

Sounds like a very time intensive project! I doubt I'll make one myself (cuz I prefer hooked rugs made of wool) but I look forward to seeing other people's versions after they read your tutorial!

Hey, one of your small wall quilts in your sewing room photo inspired me to make one of my own! I shared it on my blog a couple days ago.

Purple Pam said...

You provided a great tutorial. Now I am going to save my selvages instead of giving them away! I do not do as much sewing as you do so it may take me quite a while to amass enough fabric for your project. Have you sent a picture of your rug over to the Selvage Blog yet? They will certainly drool over this one for sure.

Wendy said...

Great way to use those salvages. I haven't collected them but maybe I should have.

Ruth said...

I really like the looks of your rug. Thanks for the tutorial. I started saving selvages several years ago because everyone else was doing it and I don't like to waste anything, but the only thing that I have made with them is 3 potholders. The rug is a good idea! Maybe I will make one someday in the future.

Quiltingranny said...

I toss all mine out, but now that you said to save an inch above that might work. I was sewing them together and faster than that, they would pull apart! Thanks for sharing!

FabricFascination said...

Love your rug and tutorial. Thanks for sharing it.

June Calender said...

I have a huge bag of selvages and have been reading Karen's blog--where I found the link to you-- for ages (knew her when I was in Empire Quilters in NYC). I keep looking for THE selvage project that will work for me. Maybe this is it. it's a very clear tutorial and heaven knows I've got plenty of potential backing fabric too. I'm glad to see your blog and will probably return. You write with wit and clarity.

Carol said...

I love this tutorial -- your rug looks great in your sewing room. Now to find the time for a new project!

Sherrie said...

A fabulous way to use up the ends and all fabric scraps, I love quilting and sewing myself. I saw a photo of a bag some one made from the selvedge edges in a craft magazine a few years ago ...waste not want not. Sherrie from Simpleliving :)

Elizabeth said...

this is só good.. I like it so much. I am going to do this to.
Groeten uit Nederland.

Carol said...

I had to make time to do this! I came close to throwing out my stash of selvages a couple of weeks ago and I'm so glad I didn't. Thanks a million for the instructions.

Khristina aka Khris said...

Thanks for sharing your tutorial Julie. I have put shared your link on Freebies For Crafters..hugs Khris

Danielle Hudson said...

I love this ! I will be making one;)

Samuel Eldred said...

Your rug is awesome! I will encourage my wife to make one for our home because she like to sew and make creative stuff for our house. You don't need to be a master sewer to be able to follow your directions to the letter because of the photos you provided. More DIY soon!

Samuel Eldred