Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Sea Shore Inspired Toothbrush Rug

Toothbrush rugs are thought to be Scandinavian in origin, before being taken across to America, where they are more commonly known as Amish rugs. They were traditionally made using thin lengths of scrap material and the handle of an old tooth brush - hence the name.

Back when they were made from wood, toothbrushes would have a hole drilled in the end to enable it to be hung up by the sink (in fact, if you look at most modern plastic tooth brushes they still have a dimple in the end of the handle). Once the head of the brush was no longer useable, you would simple chop the end off, and use it as a large needle to make a rug.

I still use a toothbrush handle (although a plastic one) to make my rugs and old cotton sheets in a range of colours (washed thoroughly first), as they are hard wearing, easy to wash and a great way of recycling.

To make a toothbrush rug you will need:

Fabric strips of your choice - cotton or lightweight fabrics are easiest to use when you are starting out.

(Note - if using duvet covers with a printed design, make sure the intensity of the print is almost the same on the reverse side of the material otherwise, when the strips are knotted, you will be left with the majority of the paler material showing in the rug).

A toothbrush needle

A safety pin

Pair of scissors

An old cushion

A flat surface to work on (table / floor etc)

How to do it:

Cut or rip a piece of fabric lengthways into strips of about 1.5 inches wide. If you rip the strips, you will need to pull out any loose threads. Ripping the strips can also create a lot of dust, so rip them either outside or in a well ventilated area.

Take two of the strips and cut a small slit near each end of both strips. (I am using strips of contrasting fabric for illustrative purposes but would usually use two strips of the same colour to make a rug).

You will now need to join the two strips together to form a flat knot.

Thread the end of one of the strands (Strand A) through the slit on the other strand (Strand B)

Now thread the far end of Stand A, through the slit on Strand A

Gently pull all the way through

To make a knot

Push the point of the safety pin through the knot and attach it to an old cushion or something similar.. This will act as an anchor, enabling you to form your first round of stitches.

Knotting The First Round

Thread the end of the left hand strip of material through the hole in the toothbrush needle. This is the LIVE STRAND. The right hand strip of material is known as the CORE STRAND.

To make a stitch, cross the live strand over the core strand, then pass it behind the core and thread it back through the loop you have made. Pull this live strand reasonably tight to form the first stitch.

 Repeat 5 more times.

 You should now have a row of 6 stitches

Unpin the material from the cushion and remove the safety pin. Remove the toothbrush needle from the live strand and thread it onto the core strand. Push the end of the toothbrush needle through the very first stitch you made in the chain to form a ring of stitches.

Knotting The Second Round

Rethread the toothbrush needle onto the live strand.

Push needle back through the first stitch, but this time, pass the live strand under the core strand and back up through the loop, in the same way that you made the first row of stitches. Repeat this step - making another stitch in the first stitch of the first round. Continue around the ring, working in a counter clockwise direction, making two stitches in each stitch from the previous round. Your second round should now have 12 stitches in total.

NB - if you are left handed, the right hand strand of material is the LIVE strand, the left hand strand, the CORE and you will work in a CLOCKWISE direction.

(It may help to re-pin the safety pin into the first stitch in round 1 so you can easily identify where each round begins).


Round Three

Again make two new stitches in each of the stitches from the previous round, making a total of 24 stitches.

Round Four

For the fourth round, make one stitch in each of the stitches from the previous round = 24 stitches.

CHANGE COLOUR OF BOTH THE LIVE & CORE STRANDS. (again I am using contrasting colours for demonstration purposes).

The live strand will naturally twist whilst you are working with it. Simply hold the rug in one hand and let the needle and live strand fall, and allow it to untwist itself.

Break off any loose cottons as you go.

To  add new strips of material or change colour of strands , use the same flat knot you used to connect the very first two strips of material.

Round Five

For the fifth round, make two stitches in the first stitch from the previous round and then a single stitch in the next two stitches from the previous round. Continue this pattern all around the circle until you come back to the place where you changed colour.

Round Six & Seven

Make two more rounds with a single stitch in each

Round  Eight Onwards
After round seven, there is no set pattern for making a toothbrush rug as it depends on the type of material being used and the tension of the stitches. However, to enable the circle to grow bigger without curling up, you will need to make additional stitches every so often ( similar to round five). For the first few rounds, this may be needed every second stitch or third stitch.

When the stitches are too tight together, too many increases have been made, when the stitches are too loose / long, more increases are needed.

The two most common problems are either;

The edges curling up like a bowl
This is either because the tension of the core strand is too tight (to correct work on a flat surface and regularly press the rug out flat with the palms of your hands) OR because there are not enough stitches  (to correct add more).

The edges start to go wavy
This is an indication that there are too many stitches being put in. Again, ensure you work on a flat surface so you can keep a check of what is happening, an make several rounds of single stitches until it evens out again.

To Finish

When you have made the rug to the desired size (or run out of material), thread the tails of both strands through the nest two stitch spaces and then weave the ends towards the centre of the rug through the rows for about two inches. Make sure you finish on the underside of the rug.to continue stitching as before.

To add further rows at a later date, simply un-weave the strand ends and attach new strands.

For added security, you could also sew the ends into place with needle and cotton.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


The word 'werifesteria' has just arrived in a posting on a social media site I use. I wasn't sure about the word, I'm not entirely convinced it's real but the accompanying picture of woodland intrigued me as I seem to have developed an addiction to trees.

Supposedly an old English verb, it means ' to wander longingly through the forest in search of adventure'. It's not a word I've heard before and considering I'm now 42 and  feel I now almost qualify as an old Englander,  I should have done if it were real.  But if it isn't a real word, it should be.

Being fortunate to be paid to spend time in the woods connecting young people with trees, I'm always looking for ways of encouraging teenagers to wander through the woods to look for adventure and mystery for surely, if you don't know what you are looking for, this is when you will discover the unexpected. The drum of a woodpecker, the bracket fungus on a dying oak, the sett of a badger or a carpet of bluebells.

I've been using the John Muir Award as a way of attaching meaning to the seemingly aimless wanderings, building on John Muir's legacy of exploration and discovery, as many young people are uncertain about venturing into the natural spaces around them. To create both a way of capturing their personal discoveries and achievements and a personal memento of their time in the woods, I've been creating a journal of discovery for each participant to write, draw, scribble and stamp muddy footprints into.

The word WERIFESTERIA will be entering the journals.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

A Lick of Paint

Freezing cold today and after a week working out in the woods, I decided to hide away indoors and finally unpack the remaining boxes in the kitchen from my house move almost a year ago. Whilst unpacking I decided I needed more shelving space so decided to upcycle an old display cabinet I picked up for £7.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Has it really been a year!

Wow! It's been ages since I last wrote on this page and so much has happened.

Left the beaches of Devon for the woods of the Cotswolds which sadly means almost no driftwood inspired makes any more. Boo! On the other side, my new job means lots of new woodland inspired makes. Yey!

My New Years resolution will be to try and write more posts on here and my blog about woodland and tree related crafts and activities - I'm getting quite good at spoon carving and keep meaning to learn to make cord from nettles.

At the moment I'm trying to create a woodland journal based on the diaries of the great Victorian plant hunters to help inspire teenagers to explore and discover the natural world. I really like Keri Smith's 'Wreck It' series of journals which encourage you to break the rules as far as keeping everything neat and tidy.

I'll keep you all posted.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

You're never too old to play!

The autumnal weather of the past weekend provided some amazing lighting for some arty farty shots. And of course, where there's a beach and where there are boulders, then by law, you have to stack them on top of each other. Mr Goldsworthy, you have a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

SeaShore Jar

Another busy day, what with a full day at work and playing catch up on a one of the new Future Learn courses. Been trying to get my head around the inequality of land ownership and access in Nepal. Why - I do not really know.

But anyway, managed to set aside a few minutes to make a couple of seashore jars from some old glass jars, a bit or garden twine, a shell and glass beads. They only take minutes to make, but removing the original lables takes forever. anyway - you may feel like making one so here's how to do it.

Start with a clean, dry glass jar.

Using a craft glue - I use Copydex, paint a wide band around the jar with the glue. I leave about an inch gap at the bottom of the jar and stop about two thirds of the way up. Now wrap the twine around the jar on top of the glue, pressing it firmly down as you go. Snip off the end of the twine when you have reached as far up the jar as you wish to go.

Paint another bans around the neck of the jar - probably about a centimeter wide. Wrap more twine three times around the neck of the jar and tie the ends in a double knot or reef knot to secure, leaving both ends of the twine long enough to hang to the base of the jar.

Thread a shell onto one end of the twine and secure into place with a double knot or reef knot. Now add a large bead to the end of both pieces of twine and secure on with a knot.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Wow - It's shocking to think that this is my first post since February. What have I been doing instead? To be honest, I'm not really sure. 

It's been a hectic summer or workshops, shows and day to day work, with an evening a week of youth club thrown in. And now, it's a hectic autumn of applying for jobs and driving around the country for interviews as my full time job is coming to an end at the end of the year.

I have one last driftwood workshop before the year is out. This time we'll be making driftwood Christmas trees and decorations. Again at the local marine education centre. So I have spent a fair bit of this weekend gathering driftwood, particularly as I was hoping the super storm would bring some ideal pieces of wood in with the tide. Fortunately, (although unfortunately on the driftwood gathering front), the storm was not as severe as predicted, so not a huge amount was collected.

But I did manage to catch a few stormy wave shots though.