How to make a tapestry floor rug

Good things take time. Three and a half years ago I saw a rug online that was made out of old tapestries and decided I’d like to make my own (the original photo is below but unfortunately I don’t have the original source).

I began collecting wool tapestries from op-shops and Trade Me* and have been piling them up in my studio ever since. Friends got in on the game too – with Helen sending me a big blue sailing ship that I’ve just realised is also in the bottom, left corner of the original rug – and tapestries coming up in conversations at family gatherings.

Last weekend I finally began my rug and today I finished it.

Here’s how to make your own tapestry rug… 

To begin, collect wool tapestries – you’re making a rug so you want something that can take some wear and tear so ignore all those dainty embroideries.

Sort your tapestries to see what works well together. Don't rush this stage. Then pin them together - rights sides together - one at a time and sew them one at a time. HINT: use a leather-grade sewing needle on your machine. It's much thicker and can handle the extra work better.

After each pin 'n' sew check the front. Some of my tapestries were misshapen so I had to sew at angles other than along the borders to create straight lines.

Use a hot, steamy iron to steam the seams flat as you go – that will make sure everything is sewn together in the right place and that the rug is sitting flat.

Once you’re done, trim off any excess edges off the back that are creating excess bulk under the rug. After all, the end game is that it will sit flat on the floor.

Select a backing fabric. I had two brand new burlap sacks to hand so sewed them together by hand using a huge needle and string. Burlap was the perfect material because it's robust and holds its shape, which let me stretch the tapestries into a proper rectangle.

Pin and then hand-sew your tapestries onto the backing. This will bend all your pins, be really difficult and hurt your hands. I did this stage over two days using a mix of thick string and 4x doubled over sewing thread on my needle.

Ta-da. This is the rug in the room-of-future-child. Now we need to get onto painting the room.

Detail of the rug and my yellow weekend socks. You can also see 'Le Clipper' (bottom left) from Helen.

One more for luck.

*A word on collecting tapestries – the op-shop ones will be cheap but on Trade Me you get better options. Also, I bought quite a few from op-shops that were framed and stuck to cardboard. Those were pretty easy to break out of the frame and rip away from the cardboard.

Any questions just ask in the comments section and I’ll answer them so you can get onto making your own tapestry rug.


12 Responses to How to make a tapestry floor rug

  1. Julie says:

    That looks to be such a success, Emma, well worth the hard work. I was so pleased to see the little tapestry I had done at about 10 yrs old in the middle, I had quite forgotten that I had given it to you.An excellent weekend’s work. Love, Julie.

  2. Sarah Laing says:

    I love it, it’s really cool! Will people be allowed to walk over it?

    • tomandemma says:

      Absolutely! Maybe not in their muddy gumboots but it’s made to be stepped on. The room it’s in is so tiny I don’t imagine traffic will be too heavy though…

  3. Lynn Taylor says:

    Love it – such a cool way to honour all that stitching.

  4. Catherine says:

    I still reckon this is one of the coolest craft projects I’ve seen. That Grandfather I was telling you about has lots of tapestries he’s made over the years…

    • tomandemma says:

      Great! Get Grandad to load up your car with his tapestries, find some sacking and you’re onto a winner. The sacking was so thick I didn’t need anything in the middle either.

  5. Brian says:

    I luff it too…there is this french guy (canny remember who) who covers furniture/ chaise with tapestries and they look divine, I’ve been collecting to do that but now that I’ve seen the rug…that’s my next project. The boats look wicked and of course Gainsborough Blue Boy is rockin’ that corner

  6. sandra says:

    Wow, very nice work!! I just happened on your work here by chance and I’m glad I did. Thank you for the inspiration.

  7. […] a while back Emma McCleary made this fabulous tapestry floor rug. She saw a photograph of one online, spent a year or so collecting tapestries from op-shops. (I […]

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    […]How to make a tapestry floor rug « Small Town Stories[…]…

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