In the Studio

Braid-A-Long 2012 Day 2 – Starting A Braid

Hi Braid-A-Longers and Freinds,

It’s day 2 on our Braid-A-Long and I bet you are all getting super antsy to start braiding that t-shirt yarn you’ve cut up aren’t you?

So today’s lesson is all how to START the braid, and here’s what I want you to do.  We are going to practice.  Yes, practice.  We are going to start SEVERAL, as in a minimum of 3, braids.  What???

The reason why I want you all to practice this initial step is to get a good starter center of the braided rug.  This is important!  For the success of the rest of the rug your center needs to be completely FLAT and not buckle in any way.  It is a little tricky because these t-shirts stretch and are prone to act in a way that is entirely not how you intend.  So we are going to practice and may the best center win!!!

So go grab your yarn and let’s begin.

With TWO pieces of yarn, one that is about 1 yard in length and another that is about 18 inches in length…DSCF0809

Stitch the shorter length into the longer length in a T formation like so…DSCF0810 DSCF0816 Clip your threads and let the yarn roll back onto itself again.  Now start the braid by taking the RIGHT yarn OVER the CENTER yarn…DSCF0820 And then the LEFT yarn OVER the yarn you just passed into the center position…DSCF0821 Then again with the new RIGHT yarn over the new CENTER and continue this…DSCF0822 until you have used up all but 6-8 inches of your length of yarns…DSCF0824 This is your starter braid.

Now go make up at least 3 of these!

And when you are ready we are going to move over to the machine and sew the braid together…

Position your braid so it makes a shepherds crook to the LEFT.  The bent over portion is about 2 inches…DSCF0880 Position this under your pressure foot and set your stitch to a zig-zag stitch as wide as it will go and a medium length.  Now begin zig zagging…DSCF0881 Continue going around and around, pushing the two edges together until you have a disc about the size of a coaster…DSCF0909 Be sure to keep the Feeder braid (what is being fed into the machine) loose, you almost have to give it a slight (very slight) push forward as you press the two edges together.  You don’t want to stretch it too much or you’ll end up with a cup instead of a coaster!  Slight cupping is normal, but just slight!  Your goal, my fearless braiders, is to get your practice braids FLAT!DSCF0911

Now go and practice…leave a little bit of a tail at the end to add on another yarn, which I’ll show you that tomorrow!DSCF0918

Have fun!!

And I want to see your braids!  So don’t forget to go to Flickr and join the Sewingforlife! Project Group okay?!

Be back tomorrow with more braiding fun!


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16 thoughts on “Braid-A-Long 2012 Day 2 – Starting A Braid”

  1. I have never made a braided rug but think it would make an interesting and beautiful addition in my kitchen. You missed the most basic step of collecting your t-shirts. How many different colours make an interesting piece? How many shirts are needed for an average rug, say 3X4 ft.?

    1. This is under the assumption you are inundated with t-shirts, there isn’t a need for a most basic step, it’s already overflowing from your closet…

      But you can always purchase them if you wish from the local thrift shop or ask you neighbors.

      Colors are subjective, use whatever you have on hand, or make it monotone. This is a scrap project so it is up to you.

      Assuming you are going to make a rectangular rug 3′ x 4′ you would probably need about 20 t-shirts, that is my best guess. As I’ve never made a 3′ x 4′ I can only guess on that matter but I would wager you’d need about 20.


  2. Sorry, I found the answer to one question but still am unsure how many different colours to select to make a beautiful rug. I noticed you used different shades of blue and green with the hit of bright yellow. Would you recommend just using one hit of bright colour and keeping with tone on tone for the rest?

    1. Don’t get too hung up on colors. You will be surprised at just how beautiful your rug will be with all different colors. On the rug you mentioned I did use some of my favorite colors in that with splashes of yellow. I liked the way it came out but they are all different. One thing I like to do is have one of the colors be a lighter color, it adds sparkle and as I get out toward the border I add in darker colors. By the edge there is a dark outer ring.


  3. I’m having trouble with feeding the braids in the sewing machine… Any tips on getting started?

    1. Hi Cassie,
      I use a Bernina sewing machine and the braid takes a little bit of a push to get under the pressure foot. But once it gets started it is not difficult to sew. The sewing ‘squashes’ the fibers down a little.

      Is yours just not fitting under the foot?


  4. HI.
    I hope you can help me even thought this tutorial has been posted some time ago.
    I’m glad you suggested doing practice braids to get the feel of the project. I thought I had it down but as I start my actual rug I see that it’s starting to cup up. I thought I was keeping the braid loose like you suggested but it’s still curling in the center. Do you have any advice as to how I can keep it from curling up and will the rest of the rug flatten out the middle or should I start over?
    Thanks! ~Christine

    1. Hi Christine,
      Think of the center of this round rug like a spring coil. The tighter you wind up the coil the more pressure you are putting on the center. When the coil starts to relax it is going to cup up because that tension doesn’t have anywhere to go, but up! You can experiment with this by braiding a long long piece and on a table start to coil the braid around itself. You’ll see that the center will uncoil very quickly if the outer coils become too tight.
      Don’t despair though, then center, even if it cups, as long as you keep all the outer coils loose loose loose, once you wash it and dry it, stretch it out by walking on it, it will lie flat from walking on it. If worse comes to worse you can always unstitch the center and remove some of the center, then re-stitch. Not ideal but it works. These rugs are fairly forgiving.
      If indeed you are still having difficulty I would suggest making an oval instead of a circle. The oval has long straight runs and will only curve at either end and you won’t get that center cupping. Just have fun with it and do your best!

  5. I have tried several times to sew the rug and each time it cups and won’t lay flat. Please help I’m getting very frustrated!

    1. keep it loose and flat. if it cups in the center you can always seam rip the stitching and remove some braid, then re-sew.

  6. I’m having some of the same issues as people have listed above. I’m attempting to make quite a large area rug, and have loved the process and think it really can turn out to be beautiful, but I have to keep ripping out and starting over. At about 16 inches across, it seems to be mostly flat, but as I begin to add more, it becomes terribly mishapped. One problem I’m having with my machine is that I am unable to put my presser foot all the way down, so I’ve been trying to control the stitching with it up. It makes for sloppier work than I’d prefer, but I’d wager a rug this size might take me a year to hand stitch! Do you think this problem with my machine is adding to my misshaped rug, or am I still starting with too tight of a center? Want to give it one more go before I give in and rip it up and make an oval rug instead.

    1. That is certainly possible. Does your machine have the ability to raise and or lower the pressure foot adjustment? I have asked previous inquiries to send me photos of what they are talking about and I never get any so if you do have photos please share on the flickr site and we can all answer.

  7. Hi! I know it’s been a while but I am hoping you can help. I am trying to sew mine with my machine. I have to leave the foot up and give it a little push but the top turns out fine. The bottom is a total mess and the stitch is not right at all. What settings are you using? I’ve tried changing stitch length and tension but nothing seems to help.

    1. If the bottom is a mess, your tension, or threading is off. If it were me I would pull all the thread out of the machine. Wind a completely new bobbin (sometimes the thread on the bobbin can be the problem) to eliminate that. Then re-thread the machine, put a new needle on and with a sandwich of about 4 pieces of fabric do a test run. Make sure your thread is between the tension discs for the upper thread (this could be your problem as well). If just going through this sandwich your bottom tension is all whacked you need to turn your dial up in numbers until your tension is perfected. Then sew your rug. The other thing is, your machine may disengage the tension when your presser foot is up. Take your foot off the machine and put your presser foot lever ‘down’ with just the needle and see if that helps. I’m sorry for your troubles! Hope this helps!

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