There’s no doubt about it: braided rugs are back! Rarely a day goes by without our samples being excitedly thumbed through. Perhaps it’s because, as Norma and Elizabeth Sturges—authors of The Braided Rug Book—put it, braided rugs represent “hearth, home, comfort, family, and love.” Isn’t it amazing that a simple rug can conjure up all of that?!
In the early years, wooden floors of American homes were covered with straw or rush-woven mats. These primitive coverings didn’t contribute much to a home’s comfort or warmth. While European rugs were available beginning around 1750, only the wealthy could afford woolen imports, so the average American used the straw they had. Wool did become readily obtainable in the states in the early 1800s, and, around 1839, the power loom made commercially produced rugs available. However, these coverings were still too expensive for the general public. So, New England housewives got crafty. They already knew how to braid straw mats, why not try the technique with wool, they thought. And the braided rug was born.
Braided rugs were an extremely popular floor covering then, as they were more durable, warmer, and more decorative than their straw counterparts, all while remaining affordable options. Also called “rag rugs,” they could be created from leftover scraps of materials and even strips torn from old clothes and blankets.
It’s thought that the braided rug reached its height of popularity in the early 1900s, during the Arts and Crafts movement. The housing boom and its promotion of wall-to-wall carpeting that occurred after World War II brought their—as well as area rugs in general—decline. Unfortunately, the craft of rug braiding experienced a decline in popularity, too, leaving fewer expert rug braiders to carry on the long-standing folk art tradition.
Rag Rugs Rise Again
Trends come and go, and despite going out of fashion in the 60s, braided rugs are now back on the scene. In fact, since many are taking a “green” approach to furnishing their homes and are opting for area rugs over carpeting—which can negatively affect indoor air quality—rugs in general are experiencing a rise in popularity. Just as they were in the 1800s, rag rugs are durable, comfortable, and affordable choices. They’re reversible and can be made of a myriad of materials—from chenille to cotton and acrylic to wool. They’re also, as mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post, symbolic of a simpler time.
We’ve Got You (Well, Really Your Floor) Covered
Rug & Home carries braided rugs by Colonial Mills, a Rhode Island manufacturer who is the leader in braided rugs and who blends old-school craftsmanship with innovative design. Their braided rugs are 100% U.S.A. designed and manufactured, plus, their styles and designs are fashion-forward with colors and patterns to coordinate with today’s home decors. You’ll find samples for almost every braided rug in their product line in our stores, and our design associates are happy to go through them with you to help find and order the best option. While you may begrudge the ordering process (and we don’t blame you; it’s nice to leave with a new purchase in-hand), we offer our braided rugs this way so you can get exactly the size, colors and materials needed for your space. And because it’s Rug & Home, you can get them for 30% off the suggested retail price!
Big On Braids?
We’d love to hear why you’re single-handedly helping bring braided rugs back in style. Do you choose them for durability? Their cottage feel? Their symbolism? Comment here! Or, email us photos of braided rugs in your home, and we’ll upload them to our customer Facebook album!
Sources: We consulted a variety of sources for this post. A Google search of “The History of Braided Rugs” brings up many articles. If you’re interested in learning the craft of braiding rugs, check out the book we mentioned published by local publisher Lark Books: The Braided Rug Book by Norma and Elizabeth Sturges, which also includes a detailed history of the craft. You can read a preview HERE.