First up, what fabric can you use?
If you can cut it and crochet it, you can use it! I use fabric from many sources including: clothes, bed linens, curtains, and fabric remnants. Different fabrics have different properties. Knit fabrics like t-shirts and velour and polyester have stretch to them and will feel different on the hook than woven fabrics that don’t have stretch. Knits will not fray and will give a smoother appearance when crocheted, while woven fabrics will fray and your rug will have strings that poke out.
Try lots of different sources of fabric and see what you like to work with and what fabrics give you a look you like.
Things I use a lot: t-shirts, bed sheets, polyester double knit fabric remnants
Things I avoid: terry cloth towels (too much mess and too thick), upholstery fabric (too thick and usually white on the backside), sweaters that aren’t animal fibers (will unravel if you cut them into strips), denim (too thick and tough on my hands).
Another source of fabric I use is mill ends. These brand-new fabrics (pre-consumer) but I still consider them recycled because they are industrial waste. Huge bolts of fabric are cut smaller by manufacturers to make bedsheets, pillow cases, etc from the new fabric. The ends that are too small to make anything are left over and essentially waste to the factory. There are some pros and cons to using mill ends. Pros: you can get a lot of fabric of the exact same weight and shade which is great if you want to make a large rug all one color, or want to make several small rugs that match exactly. Cons: this fabric is brand new, never been worn, washed, or broken in. Sometimes this fabric is difficult to crochet with because it is so new, it isn’t soft or stretchy (if it is a woven fabric, like most I’ve found are) like a nice old bedsheet. Another con is that while sometimes this fabric is cut to a perfect size where you can crochet it right off the roll, most times it is too wide and you’ll need to cut it down to size.
Now that you know what fabrics to use, where can you get them?
All of my fabrics are second-hand, and I’ve made A LOT of rugs, so you know you don’t need to buy new fabric to make rugs.
Take a look in your closet. I bet you have some clothes that you don’t wear anymore, or don’t fit, or maybe have gone out of style. My first rugs were made from clothes I didn’t wear anymore.
My favorite places to shop for fabrics are thrift stores. I’ll check out the linens section. Many thrift stores also have a craft section and sometimes you can find donated “new” fabrics, maybe someone bought some fabric from the store but never got around to doing the project they had in mind. Or just browse around in the clothing sections looking for fabrics that catch your attention. Here’s a tip, go to the XL section in the men’s. The prices are usually the same, but you get more fabric for your money!
Yard sales can also be a good place to find fabric. I don’t usually go to them because it can be hit or miss when it comes to fabric. A one-family sale might have one set of sheets they are selling. But if you can find an ad for a sale that says a sewer is clearing out their stash, that’s a good one to hit. Sales organized by churches or organizations are usually much better than single-family sales. They often have many people donating to the sale, which means more chances there will be a good selection of linens or craft fabrics. Also, many of these sales want to raise money, and then be rid of all of the inventory at the end, so often times they’ll offer a “fill a bag” sale for the last hour, so head on over and fill up some bags to bulk up your stash.
I get asked a lot about where to find the mill ends that I use. There are a few places I have found. One good place to find them is to do a search on ebay. Search “rug fabric roll” and you’ll find some sellers selling off their old mill ends. You can also do a similar search on etsy.com and you might find some, but not as many as on ebay. Another place I have found mill ends is from a fabric warehouse in Iowa. You can see what they have to offer on their website www.inweave.com. Click on the “fabric by the pound” on the left side. The fabric is sold in different amounts and you’ll get an assortment, which is a nice way of saying, you have no control over what you’ll get.
I am diligent about washing all of the fabric that comes into my house before I fold it and put it in my stash or use it. I highly suggest you do the same. Fabric that have been stored in closets can have a musty smell, fabrics coming from thrift stores may not have been washed before they were donated, or they might have a musty smell as well. I don’t wash the mill ends because they are on rolls, but I’ll often wash the rug right after I crochet it to start to soften up that new fabric.
Now, hit those thrift stores and yard sales and get some fabric to try out. Next time I’ll tell you how I cut fabric.