Friday, March 2, 2012

ROUND IN CIRCLES AGAIN: THE CROCHETED ROUND RUG REVISITED

More than two years ago, I wrote a post on crocheting the round rug - also called the circle rug. That post was a celebration for  having finished my first round rug. (See related post below.) Having made what I thought was a good effort and spent time in what seemed to be endless hours of rounds of crocheted and pulled out stitches, my first rug was quite nice. Since then, somewhat embarrassed to say, I’ve not made any more rugs like that. There are some reasons for that. The first is the fact that I’m much more of a knitter than a crocheter. The second is the rather unfortunate conclusion that my stash of leftover yarn, none of which was wool rug yarn, produced an initially nice-looking rug but one that captured every speck of dirt and lint on the floor and didn’t wear well under foot steps either. I removed it from the floor and later repositioned it on the back of the bench that sits at my dining room table. It looks pretty there. On the other hand, there are two benches at my table, so one is cheerfully decorated with a rug and the other one isn’t.

A round rug will look good any where in your home.
It was the unadorned bench that inspired me to make another circle rug and it’s also the theme of this post. Having spent too much time stressing on knitting better mittens, I was in the mood to do a simple crochet project, so I decided to make a round rug out of a several hunks of leftover yarn. Basically, I didn't follow any written pattern, I just used my K hook, and half-double crocheted in rounds until I had a rug the same size as the other one that’s in our dining room. I’ve learned a few things about crochet over the past months and, happily, my experience with crocheting the current rug is different. So, I wanted to share some ideas that have come to me in the process of making my new rug.

These rustic-looking rugs hold some secrets
What goes around and around (like the rows of this kind of rug) comes around. That’s the story of the circle rug. Ever since the US colonies (and before no doubt), almost every home had one or more round or oval rugs, made from wool yarn or rags, depending on the financial situation of the household. I remember back in the fifties, that the round rug was a popular floor covering for what were the first family rooms – back then we called them “rec-rooms".

Since that time, the handmade round rug has dwindled in popularity and is more associated with grandmas than with the younger generations. Still sometimes they are found as an element of down-home style in a bedroom or sitting room. And there are still plenty of modern-type craftspeople that produce all kinds of crocheted rugs –both room-size, floor rugs and mini-rugs that serve as hot-mats and table covers. The mini-versions make well-appreciated gifts and sell well at craft fairs. Also, many of these round rugs are made from rags or repurposed/leftover yarn, and as such represent the true spirit of trash-to-treasure projects.

Beyond all that and on a more mystical note, it’s said that the old handmade circle rug was symbolic of a never-ending journey and, for the meditative types, the crocheting of each succesive row could be part of a prayer daisy chain (mandala-effect).

Why round rugs are, at first, bothersome to make
A lot of people think that crocheting rugs is a real chore that takes too many hours and calls for expert hooking skills. Well, yes, and no. There are a few common problems that are seen with these projects. First, be prepared to spend a lot of hours learning how to make even looking stitches. Second, sometimes, in the middle of making the rows (really concentric circles), a kind of ripple forms at the outer edges. If that happens, you've used too much yardage. You’ll need to unravel some rows until the rug lies flat and re-do the stitches. You can do one of two things to prevent this situation – usually after the first “disaster” - make fewer extra stitches as you increase or use a tighter tension in all the stitches. Third, if you see a sort of big bubble forming somewhere, then your outer rows have too little yardage. You’ll need to correct the problem by ripping out some rows and then using a looser tension or making additional stitches. All in all, you don’t have to see exact circles or absolute flatness as you crochet your rug. You can overcome minor variations from “perfection” by washing the finished item and letting it dry flat.

Having experience all of the above bothersome moments, I offer here a simple patterns and some hints about what I’ve learned while making two crocheted round rugs. Here's the pattern for this rug. You'll see that this one varies a bit from the one described in a previous post.

Pattern for a 39″ crocheted round rug
Materials
Size 10.5 or K crochet hook
About 8 large skeins of rug yarn or the equivalent in a variety of leftover, worsted weight yarns
Darning needle
Measuring tape (a gauge for width of concentric circles and to let you know when you've finished)
Scissors

Instructions
Use a double strand of yarn throughout. It’s easier if you take the trouble to wind both strands of yarn into balls. This helps in maintaining even tension in your stitches.

- To make the center ring, attach the strands of yarn to the hook with a slipstitch and chain five stitches. Join the chain to create a circle. Pull tight into something of a knot.

- For the second row, insert the hook into the stitches of the center ring instead of into the outer part of the stitches and single crochet.

- Make half double crochet stitches with a few increases at equal distance in successive rows and chain one stitch (upwards) to start new rows.

- Keep adding rows until your rug reaches 39 inches or the width you decide to make it.

- For the final row, single crochet all stitches for a tighter edge. When the last row is complete join the yarn to the first stitch in the next to last row with a slipstitch. Cut off about 5 inches of remaining yarn and fasten off by pulling the yarn through the last loops on the hook. Finish off the rug by pulling all loose threads toward the back. Use the darning needle to weave the ends into the stitches.

- You can stop there with what’s sure to be a nice-looking rug or adorn it more by adding a fringe made up of strands of all the colors in your rug or only with the color of the last rows. Or you can make a looped edge (single crochet paired with two chains) to finish off your rug.

Notes
If at the end you discover something of a loose hole in the exact middle of your rug, you can chain stitch an even smaller circle (with just a few stitches) and “plug up’ the hole by sewing the smaller one inside the larger.

When yarn rugs get dusty, just take them outside and beat them. When really dirty, small rugs can be cleaned in the washing machine on gentle cycle and line dried. Larger rugs should be sent to the dry cleaners.

I never use a stitch marker and continue row on row making my color changes visible. This gives the rug a bit of a spiral look instead of exact circles. I also don’t worry about differences in number of rows with each color since one of my goals is to use up my yarn stash. I like these little variations because they give the product a more ‘artistic” or folksy look. You can be careful with these details if you wish. If you do, your rug will look more “traditional” than mine.

Note:
While I said (above) that you would need only 2 strands of worsted weight, I might have been wrong. As I continued crocheting my rug, I found that some of the yarn that was supposed to be worsted weight was lighter than what I started with and ended up using 3 strands in order to make it match in thickness. So, if you're using different weight yarns, like I was, you'll probably need to make the same kind of adjustments.

Related posts
Crochet a round rug
UNRAVEL OLD SWEATERS AND KNIT NEW THINGS.
DOING HANDICRAFTS IS USEFUL AND FUN
EMBRACE A SIMPLE HOME
LEARN TO MAKE SMART, THRIFTY AND EVER SO USEFUL TIE QUILTS
CHECK OUT THIS QUILTED TABLE RUNNER IN BRIGHT SUMMER COLORS

No comments: