carpet art
April 8, 2011 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Say you had ideas for a series of artsy rug designs. You don't have the money for something like this, but are relatively crafty. Is it possible?

Other than having connections in the design industry, how could you go about getting something like this off the ground, even just on a one-off scale?

Other than the polyester hook rug kit I had as a kid (ugh), you never really hear of artists or hobbyists making rugs. Is it a viable medium? Is it just flat-out too expensive or tool-intensive? Would it be possible to either (1) carefully dye or bleach certain areas of a blank starter rug, (2) start with a high-pile rug and somehow shave areas down to create a relief pattern (maybe some can suggest a specific tool that would cut to a controlled depth), or (3) somehow cut and stitch together different colors of rug?

I'd ideally like to work in a 3x5 scale. I'd like to do pile rather than flat-weave carpet. I'm a patient, meticulous kind of worker, so any methods that are not mind-breakingly tedious should be fine.
posted by you're a kitty! to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You'd have to find and partner with someone who has the know-how (for which I have no suggestions), but for funding, it seems like this is the sort of thing that could possibly made perfect for kickstarter.
posted by brainmouse at 6:37 PM on April 8, 2011

It is possible to craft rugs at home! Back in the '70s, my mom did one. She had my dad build the frame/holder, and the mall had a dedicated shop that sold yarns and a type of mechanical latch hook. These days, I'd just google "latch hook" and start checking out your supply options. Can't vouch for the cost efficiency though.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:50 PM on April 8, 2011

If latch hooking is out, maybe rug punching would work for you? You use a tool called a punch needle to push loops of yarn through a heavy burlap backing, so you get a tufted surface. Sometimes you stop there, with a loopy surface, but this company has instructions for shearing the loops to form a velvetlike pile.

Note: I've never tried this shearing myself, and I have no experience with this particular company, but this is the closest I've seen to what (I think) you're looking for.
posted by Quietgal at 7:10 PM on April 8, 2011

You need to look into rya rugs! My father made one when I was growing up, and it was totally easy. He'd sit in his chair while we watched tv/a movie and stitch yarn into the backing and then snip the loops. It's a pretty deep pile rug, but as long that's ok all you need is backing, yarn, and a big, not-even-sharp needle to pull it through the backing. You could make more or less as crazy a pattern as you like, and if you trim the yarn at differing heights you could also make a relief pattern.
posted by lhputtgrass at 9:06 PM on April 8, 2011

I was looking at this tutorial the other day on how to make a rug using gridded anti-slip floor matting. You could definitely do this on a larger scale.

The other method that's relatively easy is the latch hook way mentioned above. You control the pile height after you make it. If you can lay it out on a grid, you can latch hook it. I have loads of craft books from the 70s with detailed instructions. Just go to a used book shop and check out their offerings. I think the kits nowadays are mainly meant for pillows, so a book would help you organize a larger project. Rug yarn here; other supplies here. By my cursory calculations, the acrylic rug yarn would cost you about $95 for a 3'x5' rug. And since above you mention hating polyester, you can get wool rug yarn here, but it's going to quadruple your cost.
posted by Kronur at 1:23 AM on April 9, 2011

OKay, not sure if you're looking for the more rustic looking type rugs, like the rya rugs that were mentioned, or more clean-lined densely woven commercial type rugs, as is shown in your link.
Several years back I made a runner for my hallway from carpet remnants from the local rug store. It was mainly a background field of all one color with random color shapes set into it. I had used templates of different shapes to draw and then cut out these shapes in the background field, then using the same templates cut out the shapes in the other various carpet remnants, and then inserted them into the wholes that I had made in the background field.
I think I used contact adhesive on muslin over the patched in areas to hold it all together.

A few things; it's harder to cut through carpet backing than you might think, and perhaps I was using the wrong tool (a box cutter) but that part was the most time consuming task. I was cutting out complicated starburst and other organic shapes. Also, not sure about longevity of the rug. Mine lasted at least a few years until I no longer needed it because I moved into a hallway-less apt. It didn't seem to be falling apart at all though..As far as the outer edging, I had mine sized from wall to wall in the hallway, so it wasn't much of and issue. I believe I had the ends all adhesived and muslined to prevent unraveling, Using my very sharp sewing scissors I hand trimmed the edge areas to a beveled edge.

Now, the rug in the image looks very complicated. The larger fields of color would be no problem, quite easy, in fact, and by buying remnants of different pile height you can easily achieve the 3D effect you like, especially if you hand sculpt the edges with scissors However, the small details like the road and the farmhouse (if that's what it is) would be very tricky to hand cut out of the backing, I would think.
For something like this I would probably give it another layer of muslin over the the fully finished patched together pieces.
Also, you may be able to get a small rug shop to edge it for you. When I've bought pieces of carpet to use as a rug and had them edge it for me, it was pretty inexpensive.
Also thinking that if you make nice with your local rug shop, they may be willing to give you a bunch of the smaller fields of color, the scraps that they cut off and usually just toss when cutting a rug to size.
Or at least a discounted price for a big bag of them, if you bought a few of the larger remnants, and then tell them you needed it for an art project, which this surely is.
posted by newpotato at 5:00 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

This may or may not suit your needs, but you should do a little research on hooked rugs in the Waldboro style. Disclaimer: I'm a hooker, but not that kind, and have never attempted a Waldboro rug.

If you were going to try to make a sculpted rug relatively inexpensively, as a practice piece, you could sign up for's email list and wait for one of the 40 percent off coupons so you could buy a piece of linen burlap. Run a double straight stitch around the edge to keep it from fraying and draw your design.

Hit all of the local thrift shops for 100 percent wool skirts, pants and blazers and wash and dry them at the highest temperatures possible, making sure to clean out the lint catcher often (fire hazard). Dye using Cushings dyes or a variety of natural materials,; you'll need about five times the surface area of what you're hooking (that is, if you have a 1' x 1' square of solid color, pile five 1' x 1' pieces of dyed wool on top of it, and that should be enough material to cover that area). Then cut into about 1/4"-wide strips.

Go get some books on basic hooking and have at it. Pencil hooks can be had relatively inexpensively, but if you're going to be hooking for any length of time, you should consider the more expensive hooks with a rounded handle. Much more comfortable. Rug hooking requires basically one stitch, but it takes a little bit of practice to get it right consistently. Once you do, it becomes automatic.

That said--I don't know Waldboro, and urge you to get hold of the book linked above. A 3' x 5' is a BIG undertaking. You might consider getting on touch with local hookers for help. Pick up a copy of Rug Hooking, too; try their site for local resources, guilds, teachers, classes, etc. Good luck!
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:05 AM on April 9, 2011

I was going to come in to suggest you buy carpet samples and remnants and work to attach them together collage style. I saw a post on about it. I think newpotato nailed it above.
posted by lizbunny at 7:15 AM on April 9, 2011

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thanks for all your ideas. I guess by the second link (landscape rugs) link I meant something in that pile style, but not that specific thing - I'm not trying to do landscapes. I will probably end up trying both the stitching-together-samples suggestion from newpotato, and perhaps some amount of electric trimmer to control the 3-D effect in certain areas. If anyone has a suggestion for the type of tool I'd need to do that, that would be great.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2011

Response by poster: I found a company that makes (industrial-scale) rug carvers, which I obviously can't afford. Does anyone know of a similar multi-use tool that I might be able to use for the same purpose?
posted by you're a kitty! at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2011

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