Photo by Getty Images/alecsoms
I’m not a very experienced crocheter, but I’ve made a habit of saving old jeans until I have enough to crochet a rug. It’s a project that’s forgiving of mistakes, and it makes use of the perfectly fine fabric hiding in unwearable pants. My kitchen sports a denim rug just the right size to fit in front of the sink, and the perfect thickness to make long cooking marathons more comfortable. These instructions are more of a recipe than a pattern — because the materials are recycled, your rug will be a little different from mine.
For this project, don’t use jeans that are more hole than fabric, or those with stubborn stains or grease spots that won’t wash out.
Cutting Up the Jeans
You can compost the discarded cotton fabric if you have a compost bin or pile, or you can use it to stuff other home projects, such as cat and dog toys.
Step 1: Lay out a pair of jeans flat, and cut off each leg just below the crotch. Discard the top section. Remove the cuffs and discard them, too.
Step 2: Start cutting straight across the bottom of one of the cut-off legs, about 1 inch from the edge, and stop between ½ and 1 inch from the far edge.
2a: Continue making parallel cuts from the same side of the leg, until the whole leg is fringed.
Step 3: Rotate the leg so the uncut strip is on top.
3a: Cut diagonally up from the bottom edge to meet the first cut on the left.
3b: Continue cutting from lower right to upper left of each pair of cuts, turning the leg into a single spiral strip of denim. It’s fine if the strip has sharp angles or lumps, because they won’t be noticeable in the finished rug.
Step 4: Wind the strip into a ball. I sometimes use a tennis ball as the core, but you can also wind the strip around your hand a few times, then slide the loop off and wind the rest of the fabric around that core.
Step 5: When you reach the end of a strip, turn the next jean leg into a spiral strip, and position the strips right sides together.
5a: Attach the strips, either by hand sewing or with a sewing machine.
5b: Wind the new strip onto the ball.
Step 6: Repeat Steps 1 through 5 until you run out of jeans. If you’re working with noticeably different shades of denim, you can arrange the strips to create stripes or a gradient in your rug. Keep in mind that the center of the ball will become the outer edge of the rug.
Making the Rug
Readers familiar with crochet can use a doily pattern, if desired, to make a fancy, lacy rug. These instructions use only chain and single crochet stitches.
Step 7: For a circular rug, make a slip knot with the end of your ball of denim, leaving a short tail, and chain 2. For an oval rug, chain about half the desired finished length.
Step 8: Incorporate the tail from the slip knot into the first few stitches of the rug.
For a circular rug, work single crochet stitches into the first chain and slip knot. You’ll need to work multiple times into each stitch to make the center of the rug lie flat.
For an oval rug, work 2 single crochet stitches into the second chain from the hook, then 1 stitch per chain to the end. Work 4 stitches into the slip knot, then continue down the other side of the chain, ending with 2 stitches in the final chain.
Step 9: The circular rug will continue in a spiral; you’ll start out working several stitches into each stitch below. Gradually change to only 1 stitch per stitch below. You’ll occasionally need to work twice into a stitch below to keep the rug lying flat. It’s hard to give an exact pattern, because the increases needed will vary based on your tension and the width of the denim strips you cut.
The oval rug will continue as started, with dense increases at the ends and straight work along the sides. Adjust the increases at the ends as necessary to keep the rug lying flat; as it gets bigger, you’ll need more increases spaced around the ends. The exact pattern of increases will vary depending on your tension and the width of the denim strips you cut.
Step 10: When the rug is the size you want (or you run out of material), leave about 6 inches of tail to weave inward, toward the center of the rug. You can do this with your hook or with a large, blunt needle.
Caitlin Wilson is a Capper’s Farmer editor and lifelong textile enthusiast. You can find her projects, successes, and failures on her blog, Sunshine and Roses.