A couple of years ago I took a floor cloth class at a community center. It was so much fun even though there was no way to finish my design all in one day. Patience is your best friend when you are making a floor cloth!
My angel design came from a free pattern in a rug hooking calendar although I did draw her freehand since she was relatively simple. The designs around the edges were done by using large circle, small circle, rectangle, and square cardboard templates.
There are many things that you may use for your floor cloth foundation. If you want to make it the old fashioned way you’ll use duck canvas and will have to shrink, prime, and hem it. You can buy pre-shrunk and even pre-primed pieces which saves you a lot of time. You can even use the back of a piece of linoleum. One place to buy your canvas (and they have several types) is Fredrix Floor Cloths
They also have a great tutorial on hemming right on their website. I’ve ordered from them and they have very nice quality canvas – I especially like the type that you don’t have to hem. If this is the first time you’ve made a floor cloth, you may want to try something smaller like a placemat.
In any event, if you are using canvas that has not been primed, you’ll want to prime both the back (one coat) and front (two coats) with acrylic gesso. Gesso is a primer that almost looks like white glue and seals the canvas so that paint won’t be absorbed into it. Make sure that you let the gesso dry for 24 hours – although gesso does dry quickly and you will probably be able to do all 3 coats in one day.
Now you’re ready to begin your design. When you are designing your floor cloth think from the bottom forward. First the background, then the design, then antiquing if that is part of your design. I’ll give you the steps I used for mine. All paints were acrylic and for any colors that overlapped, the bottom coat had to be dry.
1. Two coats of light tan with a bit of golden mustard color went over the whole rug
2. Taped off a 4 ½ inch border (my rug is 5 feet by 3 feet) with painter’s tape
3. Drew my angel design and words with a pencil
4. Two coats of reddish brown for the border
5. Face a rosy flesh, body green, and wings an off white
6. Crown a light yellow
7. Star cheeks and lips of rosy light pink and whites of eyes
8. Outline of crown, head, nose, eyes, lips with light brown
9. Then filled in the blue eyes and the reddish lip line and bead necklace
10. Now that the border was completely dry, I could lean on it to paint the words in black
11. Using my large circle, drew around the cardboard template all the way around the border. Each of the circles was painted with a color that was pleasing to me – just mixed them up as I liked
12. Using my square or rectangle, drew around the cardboard template on each painted circle. Again, using varied pleasing colors to fill in the squares/rectangles
13. Using the small circle, drew a ‘button’ in the center of my pennies and painted them various colors
14. Of course as Flat Betty says – “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing” so I had to add various colored ‘stitched lines’ to each of the pennies
15. Is she done YET? Not quite. Because I knew this would be used at my front door and because I have three large dogs who are frequently rushing the front door, and because I love the primitive style – I used an Apple Butter Brown antiquing acrylic gel, watered way down (because you can always make it stronger but once it’s on your rug, it’s there to stay) and dabbed it on with a sea sponge (or you can use a terrycloth washcloth) and rubbed it out
16. OK, now the design part of the rug is finished. On to the sealing. You must give it at least three (and five is even better) coats of a good non-yellowing (sometimes called marine) polyurethane. It is an opaque white color in the can but dries clear. Brush it on lightly in even strokes and make sure there are no bubbles. Be sure the day is not humid because it won’t dry well. Be sure to dry at least 24 hours between coats
17. If desired you may apply a final coat of paste wax using a soft cloth and buffing the surface after the wax dries
To maintain your floor cloth you will want to either dry or wet mop it when needed. And once a year add another coat of polyurethane after cleaning it thoroughly first. In spite of my dogs and wear and tear, mine is still looking really great. And I’ve been lazy and haven’t added any extra coats of polyurethane either.
PS A tip for doing eyes that I learned as a dollmaker. If you want to be sure they are even, draw the one on the right side (as you are facing it) if you are right-handed, then turn your picture upside down and draw the one on the left side.