Fitting Multistrand Borders Around Rugs

Christine here:  My husband comes from a family with no tradition of braided rugs.  In fact, his family has some stunning oriental rugs that now are in our house.  The story is:  his father was a surgeon in Philadelphia who was called in on a consult for a young girl who was very sick.  My father-in-law performed surgery on her and she recovered fully.  The girl’s family were oriental rug merchants, and, when they heard that my father-in-law was newly married and setting up a new home, they guided his purchases and gave him a good price on some beautiful rugs.

So, not only are these rugs beautiful, but they are the rugs that my husband grew up with and are associated with deep pride in his father’s work.

These rugs are all over our home.  The only rooms that don’t have orientals are my fabric room, the bathroom, and the 3rd floor that has wall-to-wall carpet left over from previous owners.  I’ve put down a bunch of my braided rugs on the wall-to-wall carpet, but otherwise they get given away or stacked up in a pile.

This is a long-winded justification for why I have recently been working on a rectangular rug and putting a multistrand around it.  I’ve been cleaning out my fabric room, trying to organize a mountain of various crafts, and I came upon a rug that I had started back early in my braiding.  It was a long rectangle made out of teals and blues.  In my inexperience, I had screwed up the triple corners and it was a bit lop-sided.  But, my husband walked past it and said, “Hey, I like those colors.  I like the rug.”

This comment stands out because my husband NEVER comments on my rugs.  I am not complaining about this:  we each are very independent people who have our own interests and muddle along quite happily together, and I understand his perspective on wanting the orientals all over the house given his history.  But, it also means that if he ever does comment on a rug of mine, I am seriously motivated to work on it.

This rug was a disaster.  Cheap wool that was a bit too thin and too polyester-y, wonky corners, and to make things worse, I had switched to heavier fabric about 10″ away from the center so that the edges were ruffling all around.

I am not a fan of re-work, ever.  If I am going to undo lacing or take out a row… well, I’d rather just figure out a way to work with my mistakes than undo anything.  So that’s what I did.

I liked the fabric that was heavier in the outer row, and decided I would just continue to work with that weight because I can’t stand working with thin stuff anymore.  I figured out that, to make that ruffled edge lay flat, I needed to decrease about 8 times on the long sides and about 3 times on the short sides.  I also made double corners for one row rather than triples to pull the too-pointy corners in.  Yes, I know you’re never supposed to decrease on straight sides.  But hey, it worked.  The ruffles pulled flat and the corners… improved.

Then, in honor of my multistrand book that I am eternally writing, I decided to put a nice zig zag multistrand around it with 13 strands.  I chose 13 because I had a short side with 39 braid loops, and I thought it would work out.  But, my multistrand loops are longer than my braid loops, so, after braiding about 5 sets… it didn’t work out.  One set on my multistrand (13 MS loops) corresponded to 17 braid loops, even with the multistrand tightened up nicely.  And, when I tried to figure out how to place the multistrand and have all the corners match up… it didn’t work.

This issue is not so much of a problem when you have a narrow multistrand, made of only 5 or 6 strands.  The malleability of the multistrand and the fact that you can tighten or loosen it a bit means that you have a bit of leeway in fitting multistrands around cornered shapes.


In the above diagram, you can see that there are two ways that a multistrand with sets that are 6″ long can fit around a 2′ X 3′ rectangle.  One has a miter line at each corner, and one has a box around each corner.  Measuring from the inner rectangle and counting points, there are 4 MS sets on the short sides, and 6 MS sets on the long sides.  (In the diagram right, they are displaced by 1/2 set, but it still ends up being 4 X 6 sets).

I tried to fit my 13-str multistrand around my own rug, but there was just no way that it would fit and have all of the corners the same.

Then I tried having the 2 corners different.  I added 1/2 set to the long side, making the rectangle 2′ X 3’3″.  MS-around-rectangle-2 I have a rather long rectangle in the real rug, so I tried to convince myself that corners being different on opposite ends wouldn’t be that obvious.  But, even this variation wouldn’t work out mathematically for my own rug (my sets are almost 9″, and even 4.5″ is a lot to have to “fudge.”)


Then I tried adding 1/2 set to both sides.  You end up with the diagram left, in which opposite corners are equal.  I finally got the real multistrand to fit, but… on my short side of my real rug, I can only get 3 sets, and having them off-center like that was really obvious.  It just didn’t look right.

So, finally, in desperation, I made a list.  I put the number of loops on short and long sides in a table, and added 3 to each figure for 6 rows, figuring out the number of loops on my short and long sides for each of the next 6 rows. (Three times six is 18, which is only 1 more loop than my set, so it covered the full range of possibilities).   I looked for a combination within a row that was within a few loops of multiples of my set, which was 17 braid loops.  After 3 more rows, I came up with a 3 X 6 set combination that was close enough that I can make it work.

So, once I finish my multistrand (half-way done at present), and 3 more rows around my rectangle, I will show you my poor rescued rug.  In the meantime, I had fun figuring out the math associated with placing a large multistrand around a cornered shape — hope you found the ideas for multistrand placement useful.

4 thoughts on “Fitting Multistrand Borders Around Rugs

  1. You really went through a lot to make it work. I admire your stick-to-it attitude. 13 strands was huge. i need to do more multistrands to add to rugs. I guess that is my new goal congratulations Christine on figuring it all out.

  2. Oh my goodness, that sounds so difficult!! I admire your ambition to keep it from defeating you! I’ve always wanted to try this technique on a rug but think I’ll start on an oval, maybe it
    will be easier! Can’t wait to see your final outcome and pictures!!

Comments are closed.