The Saga of the “Big Rug”

I tend to be in a hurry to get started on new projects and, as a consequence, sometimes learn important things after the fact. This has definitely been true in a recent project I call “The Big Rug”:

Crochet squares for a big rug
The Big Rug: First Draft

Six crochet squares for a new version of the big rug
Six crochet squares for a new version of the big rug

The story begins with an afghan I began in June of 2008 to enter in the 2008 North Carolina State Fair. After working feverishly for months, I did enter it, but it was not entirely completed as I only managed to join 1271 of the planned 1681 little squares. The afghan did not win a prize, but I persisted, and in July of 2009, I finished adding the last 410 squares and was the proud owner of a 6′ x 6′ afghan that I planned to hang over the fireplace in the living room.

This posed one small problem.

The afghan did not coordinate at all with the throw rug in the room. My solution: to make a rug that would be similar to the afghan that would hang on the wall.

After reviewing possible materials, I decided on Lamb’s Pride Bulky weight wool because of the assortment of colors. I began crocheting squares that measured about 4″ x 4″ and then joined them. At some point after I had crocheted and joined the squares, I decided that I needed to “fix” the dye, and I soaked a 19 x 5 square strip of squares in a vinegar solution.

As best I could tell, the vinegar solution did fix the dye, but what was more obvious was that the fibers had relaxed and the squares which had previously appeared densely crocheted now had visible gaps. If I were going to use it as a rug, it would need to be felted. The finished piece would be far too large to fit in any washing machine I’ve ever known of, so I began searching the internet for alternative felting procedures. I eventually found a video of an Iranian rug maker making felted rugs from roving by rolling the wet rugs in fabric. The length of the video (15 minutes) made the process seem deceptively simple, and for several months after watching it, I had fantasies that I would place my future rug between large pieces of burlap and follow the lead of the Iranian rug maker.

I did a trial run of the method I was considering with a much smaller rug. It took about 10 times as long as I expected, and while it came out reasonably well, I was concerned that I would not be able to get as consistent a result with a rug that was about 12 to 15 times larger in square area.

After reviewing the available options: a) plow ahead b) unravel and start over, I decided on “b.” I soaked the several hundred remaining squares in a vinegar solution and dried them, so all the yarn would have had the same chemical treatment. I then unraveled each square and reclaimed the yarn, which I have used to make new, larger squares that measure 6″ x 6″ and will not require felting.