When I was growing up in Oklahoma, we lived in an old neighborhood that had a nice mix of families with young children and older couples. Only a couple of homes on our block had air conditioners, so the women usually spent part of their summer afternoons sitting and visiting each other on their porches. Many of them did some type of needlework while they talked.
Mrs. McCormick, who lived next door, was my favorite. She would bring out her basket filled with colorful fabric strips wound into balls, and proceed to knot those strips into rugs using a comical giant needle her husband fashioned out of an old toothbrush. Once she tried to teach me how to make the knots and gave me some strips to work on, but I was little and it was hard, so mostly we just chatted while I watched her work.
I thought of Mrs. McCormick and those rugs years later when my son was a little boy, and I wanted to make a big rug for his room. The library didn’t have any information about toothbrush rugs, so I decided to try crochet instead, which produces a rug with a similar look. I was really happy with it, and for awhile I went on a binge of rag rug-making.
A few days ago, I decided to make a new rug for the kitchen. This time I easily found instructions online for the toothbrush technique, so I made a needle just like Mrs. McCormick’s, and was excited to start knotting. The thing is, after a several rows I just didn’t like the process as well as my old crocheted rugs, and it looked sort of messy in comparison. I really wanted to use my big toothbrush needle, but after a few unsatisfactory attempts, I finally gave up and went back to my familiar crocheted rug.
With a rotary cutter, I cut my strips 1 1/2″ to 2″ wide, depending on the thickness of the fabric, and sewed the ends together on my machine. I didn’t use a pattern, but just occasionally added extra stitches to maintain the rug shape and make sure it stayed nice and flat. The rugs have a wonderful old-fashioned look; they are thick (about 1/2″), heavy, and require lots of fabric (the two outside green rows are an entire twin flat sheet). Anyway, it’s a great way to use up any old bed sheets or ugly yardage you might have lying around, since the prints are almost indistinguishable in the rug.