Uncle Bobs Tips: Rug Guide

Braided Rugs

Braided rugs are area rugs made by braiding strips of fabric together. Braided rugs are the perfect accent to any room. Whether adorning your den, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallway, dining room or porch, braided rugs offer a dazzling array of design possibilities. Home decorators are reveling in the richness of braided rugs that combine traditional craftsmanship with the latest trends in home decor.

Braided rugs are not only beautiful - they are practical as well. Braided rugs are reversible, durable, and normally machine washable. Covering wood floors, linoleum, tile or wall- to- wall carpet, braided rugs help protect your highest traffic areas from wear and tear. Withstanding also the test of time, braided rugs have graced floors since the 1890's, and continue to be one of the best selling area rugs on the market.

Peaking in popularity between 1890 and 1910, braided rugs were all the rage during the Arts and Crafts movement. Although the decadence of the 1920's took the braided rug out of favor, by the 1930's interest in braided rugs sparked anew in the milieu of the Great Depression. Since then, enchantment with braided rugs has waxed and waned. Today, braided rugs can be bought in furniture stores, major retail stores, home furnishings specialty stores, and via online rug suppliers. You can find braided rugs in a wide array of sizes and color combinations, as well as in many rug shapes. Look for round braided rugs, oval braided rugs, square and rectangle braided rugs, heart-shaped braided rugs and many more. You can also make your own braided rugs.

Virtually any fabrics or yarns can be used to make a braided rug, from the simplest cottons to the finest wools. While color and design are the most important factors in selecting rug materials, other selection considerations include resistance to moisture and stains, strength against abrasion, environmental concerns, and price. Many contemporary braided rugs are made from highly durable 100% polypropylene which is unaffected by water, moisture and mildew.

There are two types of braiding machines made specifically for producing braided rugs: 3-carrier and 5-carrier rug braiders. 5-carrier rug braiders allow up to 5 colors in any strand of braid. Note that some braided rugs on the market today are braided using "harness braiders". These rugs are produced as cheaply as possible by wrapping a thin strand of inferior yarn around a tube. Tubular braided rugs are hard to maintain and their strands break easily. By using a long stitch length and a short stitch width, these braided rugs are sewn quickly at the expense of good quality.

There are many types of braids that can be used to construct braided rugs. Each type of braided rug creates a special texture that results in a very unique product. In standard braids, the outermost strands are brought to the center of the braid. There are no limits on the number of strands that can be used with a standard braid. A flat braid works the outermost strands over and under various combinations of one or two other strands, giving rise to striped, chevron or diamond patterns in the braid itself. In a flat braid, the more strands used, the wider the braid becomes. Right or left hand braids are flat braids worked only from one direction. Plaits are made of 4 to 12 strands, worked over and under one strand at a time. Round and square braids can be found in examples of old braided rugs. In ladder braids, one strand always remains in the center position without moving. Ladder braids make effective frames, especially when the stationary strand is selected to accent the colors of a rug, i.e. a ladder braid used to frame a hooked rug. Finally, false braids are made by wrapping one or two strips of fabric around a stationary core in a figure-eight pattern. These 'braids' are often used to join rounds of standard or flat braids into a rug, giving the rug a stronger structure than a rug laced or sewn together. False braids can also add a decorative touch to any rug type.

Caring for Braided Rugs

You will love your braided rugs for years to come if maintained properly. Proper care begins with unrolling your new braided rug. When first unrolled, a braided rug may have a bulge that prevents it from laying flat on the floor. This is a common result of being tightly rolled during shipping. Remove the bulge properly by laying the rug as flat as possible, and then, starting in the center of the braided rug, use a sweeping motion to push half of the bulge to the left and half to the right side of the braided rug. NOTE: Pushing the entire bulge to only one side of the rug may stretch and damage your braided rug!

Sprouting: Excess sprouts of yarn sometimes work their way to the surface of a braided rug. If this happens, clip sprouts off at the base with scissors. Do not pull the yarn out as this may damage your braided rug.

Repair: Should the rug stitches break and cause braids to separate, the rug should be repaired immediately to prevent further damage. Start just before the damaged area and stitch the braids together. Extend the stitches just beyond the damaged area and secure them with a knot.

Cleaning: Reverse and rotate braided rugs as they soil in order to evenly distribute traffic to both sides. Vacuum braided rugs regularly. Do not shake or beat braided rugs. Clean spills by blotting braided rugs with a cloth or sponge. Periodic professional cleaning is recommended.

NOTE: Always check for colorfastness before cleaning any rug. Using a damp white rag, blot an area of the rug. If any color comes off onto the rag, the dyes may run during cleaning.

Frequently rotate your braided rugs to minimize direct exposure to sunlight, and too. Keep woolen braided rugs away from furnace, stove, and chimney fumes that can mix with humidity in the atmosphere to form an acid that fades and deteriorates the appearance of wool. Protect your braided rug from dampness that will rot the threads and destroy the fibers of a rug over time.

Finally, while machine-made braided rugs are readily available, many people are bringing back the craft of hand-made braided rugs. Hand-made braided rugs are also known as "rag rugs", stemming from the practice of rug makers long ago who ripped apart old clothing to make new and useful articles - i.e., braided rugs. Many craft suppliers still provide instructions on how to make your own braided rug, offer braided rug kits, and sell braided rug supplies.

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