Fans of country style home decorating have helped to drive the renewed popularity in braided rugs. Long a staple in many homes, area rugs of all types were largely displaced by the almost ubiquitous use of wall to wall carpeting. More and more homeowners are opting for hardwood and other types of floor coverings. This change in home decorating preferences has sparked the renewed popularity of area rugs and braided rugs in particular.
Braided rugs take us back to a time in history when, for many people, resources were scarce. Cloth fabric and woolen yarns were woven and spun in the home, becoming the basis for all manner of clothing and linen. Leftover material was seldom wasted and people always found others uses for the scraps. The result was all manner of patchwork items being produced in the home including quilts and clothing. Even today, antique patchwork is a much sought after by collectors.
The practice of weaving and braiding rugs has long been a part of the worlds cultural history. From humble huts to palatial estates, rugs have served many purposes, from the artistic to the practical and often a little of both. For people of little means, rugs were indeed a comfortable alternative to a wooden or dirt floor.
In many cultures where cloth fabric was not available, rugs would be fashioned from other materials. Bamboo and other types of grass materials are becoming popular having been used for centuries in other parts of the world. Sea grasses, sisal, mountain grass and even material made from hemp have been crafted into beautiful, versatile and long-lasting area rugs.
In modern cultures, the use of natural and renewable types of materials in the creation of area rugs has become very popular with folks who are concerned about the environmental impact of their homing decorating choices. For example, many species of bamboo grow quite rapidly making it an excellent renewable material that can be very durable and versatile.
Getting back to the Early American affection for traditional braided rugs, color choices among truly antique braided and rag rugs are rather serendipitous. Since the color of available fabric or yarn was piecemeal, early braided rugs were likely to have a variegated color pattern, which many people feel adds to the quaint charm of these rugs.
Braided rugs are most often seen in two basic shapes, round and oval. It is not uncommon to see other shapes such as hearts or even squares. Square braided rugs will most often be made from flat braids that are easier to sew over at the corners. Braided floor runners are also popular. Not limited to just rugs, fabric braids can be seen in other home decor applications such as chair pads and place mats.
With proper care, a quality braided rug can last for many years. Of course, the emphasis is on quality. Braided rugs of a poor quality can be found at some discount retail outlets. Mass produced without regard to the use of quality materials and proper technique, a bargain rug may not be such a bargain. Even well made braids that are loosely stitched together will eventually fall apart. Make sure that the braids are stitched tightly together and that the rug should lays flat without any visible bulges or puckers.
Fabric choices vary from traditional wool to wool blends and polyesters. Most modern braided rugs are washable and should be able to withstand the same cleaning methods as quality carpet. Since braided rugs are reversible, they have an advantage over other types of area rugs. Flipping the rug occasionally will help to prevent premature wear.
The craft and origin of braided rugs has been the subject of some debate over the years. It is said that the art and craft of braided rugs has roots in the Native American culture. Indigenous cultures the world over have long and well documented histories of rug making. Others contend that the braided rug came to the New World with early European settlers, originally as rag rugs. Regardless of the how the braided rug arrived in North America, the popularity of these rugs has not diminished over the years.
Rag rug making has long been considered a folk art that is still widely practiced. Like many other types of weaving, rug making was a home based craft, borne out of necessity. Frontier settlers did have the luxury of climbing into the family wagon and heading to the local rug store. If something was needed for the home, be it a warm blanket or a rug, a way was found to make it.
As the term implies, rag rugs were made from any available scraps of fabric. Like quilting, the practice of utilizing available materials meant that color schemes and patterns were a secondary consideration. In essence, form followed function. Fabric dyeing, if done at all, made use of local plants, berries and roots. Again, the practice of fabric dyeing was not limited to European settlers. For centuries, Native Americans understood the power of nature to provide beauty and color. This understanding can be seen in virtually every aspect of Native American life.
Traditional braided rugs can be found in a wide variety of weaving styles and construction. Regardless of the fabric, weave or construction, properly made braided rugs share one common feature. Simply put, a proper rug must be made to lay flat on the floor. One sure sign of a poorly braided rug is curling and bunching. A properly made braided or rag rug will have a flat braid. Flat braids are sometimes referred to as tape braids. Flat braids are made by weaving around at least two parallel center cords.
Round braids are made by weaving around a single, round center cord. The practice of round braiding is a technique that can be found in more modern rug construction. Round braiding is a perfectly acceptable practice, though some less expensive round braid rugs have some problems. Use of a stiff center core in combination with a poor quality yarn will result in a rug that does wear very well. Cheap yarn abrading against a hard center core causes the yarn to wear prematurely, often exposing the center core material.
One of the more unique and beautiful characteristics of braided rugs is color. Makers of early braided rugs might have used whatever fabric or yarn was at hand. The result was a blend or variegation of many colors, often resulting in random patterns. The variegation in color made every rug unique much like patchwork quilts which did not rely on any particular pattern. Variegated rug patterns are perennial favorites among those folks prefer a very traditional look.
The practice of dyeing fabrics and yarns allowed weavers to create patterns of more uniform color. The choice of styles and patterns available today is quite diverse with some rugs following thematic patterns.
Quality braided rugs are easy to care for. Remember that these rugs have been around since before the introduction of such modern conveniences as the vacuum cleaner. Tightly sewn and woven braided rugs could be swept clean with stiff broom. Braided rugs are reversible and regularly turning the rug over greatly extends the life of the rug.