My husband showed us all his love by whittling…

4 whittled wands and a whittled needle

Can you guess which one is mine ?

OK – so that was pretty obvious.  Luke has made wands for the kids, (including an extra friend) who are going through a Harry Potter phase.  I was also a lucky recipient of a tool that is going to work magic – a hand made needle for rag-rug making.

Wooden Needle for Toothbrush Rug making

The needle is made of a piece of fallen Hakea branch, that has been hand-carved, sanded and oiled, just for me.

Toothbrush-Rug making from old clothes

I have been planning on re-purposing some old clothes – turning them into rag-rugs for ages.  I can’t stand throwing out (as in, putting them in the bin) old, worn or stained clothes, that are too yucky to send to the salvos (thrift store).  I started stockpiling them ages ago, they are mainly old t-shirts, but the stripy fabric above is cut from one leg of some old pyjama pants.

The stretch fabric is cut into 1" wide strips

I just cut the fabric in a spiral, all the way up the leg, so that it ended up all in a strip 1″ wide.  It curls up on itself, but sadly the more vibrant colour ended up on the inside of the curl.

The rug I am making is actually called a “toothbrush rug” because the needles for this method were often made of old toothbrushes that had the bristle-end cut off, and filed to a point.  The fabric is threaded through the hole that the toothbrushes used to have on the end (presumable to hang them up).

The stitch used to make the toothbrush rug

The rug is made with two separate strips of 1″ wide fabric, and the stitch is basically a version of buttonhole stitch, where one strip goes in through your previously worked knots, under the other strip and  back through its own loop.  When a strip is running out, you simply join another by looping them through small slits cut in the ends of them, it is rather ingenious.  You can have a look at the series of tutorials that I used, which start here.

More rag-rug making (toothbrush rug)

Just be aware that the tutorials make no mentions of making “increases” as you go around, and as the comments discuss, you will need to make “increases”, if you give this a go.  That’s why my baby-rug has that safety-pin in it.  It marks the beginning of a new circle, and I am changing the ratio of ordinary stitches to “increases” each time I go around.  I’m winging it, but it seems to be working OK.

It seems to be coming along fairly quickly – it almost takes longer to cut up the old clothes, than it does to knot them back together.  I can blame starting a new project on the wonderful Jodie, who gave me the nudge I needed to turn stockpiling into useful re-purposing.  She proposed a rag-a-long, and it seems that I am joining in!

Anyone else?



25 thoughts on “My husband showed us all his love by whittling…

  1. Hi Clare, I have just linked over to show off your needle – Can I borrow and post one of your photos.
    Also you are the first winner of a prize, just because, so can you email me your address?

  2. Hi! I’m rag rugging-along too, but it seems you’ve got a head start! Your description of the toothbruah method almost had me changing my mind from a plaited version, but only almost 🙂 Look forward to seeing your finished creation. (Might give the toothbrush method a go afterwards though!)

  3. It is strange that I am totally jealous of the needle? I came over to you from Jodie’s 🙂 I’ve never heard of a “toothbrush rug”. It looks super already! I’m going to use shirts to make mine too, but I think I’m going to braid, I need it to be mindless!

  4. Looks like you’ve started something Claire. Won’t join in but am happy to sit back and watch the spectacle of it all.

  5. This is brilliant. I agree, I hate putting things that are not good enough for the op shop in the bin. I’m going to start collecting right now and I think I’ll make it a summer project for when I’m stuck inside because it’s too hot for me to go outside. Thank you so much – you are always inspiring.

  6. Very nice. Can you tell me how you add a stitch to start the next row. I have had this issue on my first attempt and the rug curled so looking for the solution. Thanks for sharing

    • Hi Carrie,
      Even though I marked the point that I thought of as the next row, it really doesn’t have a definite start/end of a row.
      It is really one continuous spiral.
      After the first few times around, I stopped marking.
      Once I was changing colour, it became more obvious that it was a “new circle” when I reach the point where I had switched colours, again.

      As for increasing, you just add extra stitches by adding 2 stitches into one hole, every so often, as you travel around the rug.
      I’m afraid it isn’t very scientific, you just get a feel for where you need to add stitches.
      I added quite a few in the first few rows (maybe a third more stitches from the second to third and third to fourth row) but added less per row as the rug got bigger and bigger.
      My center ended up slightly ripply, but when you stand on the finished rug it tends to flatten out, unless the ripples are really extreme.

      You may need to pull out some of your stitches where it curls up, and do them again with new extra stitches every fourth or fifth stitch for example.

      Good Luck

  7. Hi, I would love some information on your needle. Where can I buy one or does your husband make them to sell? If so, I would buy one from him! I love the history of the toothbrush rug and am very interested in creating one. Your tutorial has inspired me! Sheri

    • Hi Sheri,
      My husband has only made two of the wooden needles, from fallen branches in our backyard. He was happy to sit and carve them for me, but it was an experiment, and not something he would like to do as a production line.
      I think there are places that you can buy them, listed online, but mostly people make their own, from old toothbrushes or found objects like wire and electrical tape/gaffer tape.

      You can see one made of wire and tape here…

  8. Hi! In looking up tutorials for toothbrush rugs, yours popped up. It is nicely photographed. Would you happen to have one that shows the beginning or how to start it? Thanks!

  9. I come from the crochet world and there is a simple way to determine how many increases you need per round and how they should be spaced out to form an even circle. In crochet the common number of stitches in the center ring is 6 or 8. In my example I’ll use 6 but the method works for any number of stitches. Every round after the center you need to add 6 stitches. For round 2, you make 2 stitches in every stitch of round 1 for a total of 12 stitches. Round 3 you make 2 stitches in the 1st stitch of round 2 followed by 1 stitch in each of the next two, follow the pattern of 2, 1, 1 for a total number of 18 stitches in round 3. Round 4 you use a pattern of 2, 1, 1, 1 for a total of 24. Round 5 you use a pattern of 2, 1, 1, 1, 1 for a total of 30. Each round increases by 6 stitches. I’ve got into a habit of counting each part of the repeating pattern for the round. Notice how the number of stitches in the pattern are the round number +1, so for round 5 I count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6., with stitches 1 and 2 being the increase. This helps me get into a nice rhythm and usually eliminates the need to recount the stitches in the round later. I know I have the correct number of stitches in the round if the last stitch of my pattern is in the last stitch of the previous round. If you miss an increase in a round you don’t have to rip out stitches fix it, just make an extra increase in the next round. A safety pin or large paper clip make great stitch markers

  10. Perhaps turning the fabric inside out before spiral cutting, would result in the opposite curl and the colours on the outside.
    I have some lovely bamboo toothbrushes and will try creating my own needle when they are done great idea. Thanks for sharing.

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