Newest crafting craze rug tufting isn’t so tough

Keaton Wade from Tuft-A-Rug teaching Abby Bustin and Julia O’Leary how to make handmade smiley-face rugs by tufting.
Keaton Wade from Tuft-A-Rug teaching Abby Bustin and Julia O’Leary how to make handmade smiley-face rugs by tufting.

By Julia O’Leary and Abby Bustin
Medill Reports

Rug tufting is the newest crafting craze taking over social media. #Rugtok on TikTok has garnered millions of views. It’s the hottest DIY (do it yourself) project – and you really can do it yourself! With the help of Keaton Wade from Tuft-A-Rug, Illinois’s first rug-tufting workshop, you can create handmade rugs for your home. 




BUSTIN: Hey, Chicago. I’m Abby Bustin. 

O’LEARY: And I’m Julia O’Leary. Today we’re going to introduce you to a popular trend taking over social media. 

BUSTIN: #Rugtok on TikTok has captured the attention of millions of viewers.

O’LEARY: Rug tufting is a fun new way to personalize your space with handmade rugs. 

BUSTIN: We stopped by Illinois’s first rug-tufting workshop called Tough to Rug to unravel this unique craft.

BUSTIN: We are so excited to introduce Keaton, owner of Tuft-A-Rug.

KEATON: Hi. I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

O’LEARY: Well, we’re so excited you’re here too. So we want everyone to see just how fun rug tufting is. And we caught a little glimpse of your studio, but can you tell us where to start this process?

KEATON: So first things first, we’re going to pick out an image. I already got a smiley face here to start for you guys to go. Now, I did the outline. We go to a little demo. So we’re going to use the machine, and then we’ll get you guys stuff too.

BUSTIN: All right, let’s start. 

O’LEARY: And what kind of designs can you do? OK, so we’re practicing in the corner. 

KEATON: You can do almost any design. The easiest things are going to be things that you can actually set and trace. We do have some people come in and freehand some stuff, but as long as you can trace it, you can test it. 

BUSTIN: OK. Let’s get started, Jules. 

O’LEARY: All right, so we’re turning it on?

KEATON: We’re going to apply pressure. Oh. Oh, that’s perfect. That’s perfect. 

BUSTIN: All right, I think I’m getting the hang of this. OK, hold on. 

O’LEARY: What’s really nice about this is that it looks way thicker on this side. OK. I’m making crooked lines back here, but you have no idea what I’m doing back here because it looks so much fuller. So this is beginner friendly?  

KEATON: Oh, yeah. It’s very, very, very beginner friendly. Very beginner friendly. Super forgiving, because it does get fluffy on the other side. When you’re working with nice big details, smaller details tend to be a little bit more difficult, but yeah, beginner friendly for everybody. 

BUSTIN: OK, now how did you get started doing all with all this? I’m going to get started. Tell us about your business. 

KEATON: So it started off as just like a hobby, and then it turned into once I kind of got good at the edge of something, I guess, um, a lot of people say to ask me to get certain rugs made for them. And then once that happened, I kind of like, was like, “Well, maybe I can teach people how to do it.” Thought of Build-A-Bear Workshop, hence Tuft-A-Rug. 

O’LEARY: Did you say Build-A-Bear? 


BUSTIN: I talked to a little bit different clientele than you have normally comes in. 

KEATON: Yeah. So our target market is about 25 to 35. So it’s not kids, but it’s just adults or kids looking to just kind of try a new DIY craft. 

O’LEARY: OK, so date night is most popular?

KEATON: Date night is the most popular. Probably a little more pressure in there, Abby. OK. All right. 

O’LEARY: So I’m look at my team and how am I doing? They’re crooked back here, but I know those are great pressures. 

BUSTIN: Now, this is us tufting, but what are you trying to do? Like, don’t you take over? 

KEATON: So after the customers get done with this part, we do the finishing process. We apply a latex glue, a little cotton backing, and then we cut it out and shave it down. So it’s all nice. 

O’LEARY: And you have some examples here that you brought to me. 

KEATON: Yeah. I got one here. This one is going to be the finish process. This is going to be cut, shaved and cut out. OK. This guy here is going to be cut out but not shaved yet. So you see, it’s a little hairy.

O’LEARY: OK. So how long any after the two since you do this process, after the customers leave your store, how long does it take for that? Like the glue to dry and for you to do the second half of the process? 

KEATON: A lot of factors going to do it because it is a latex. So if it’s warm outside, if it’s humid, it could take the glue. Can take up to two to three  days to dry. Oh, wow. And then after that, it takes us about three or four weeks to get the whole process finished for customers to come back and pick them up. 

O’LEARY: OK. So now I know these smileys are never done before, show stopping and I love that for us. But what are some of your favorite designs that you’ve seen? 

KEATON: Our most popular designs are anime. Anime characters like your favorite cartoon character, Powerpuff Girls, Pokémon, stuff like that. 

O’LEARY: Well, that’s fun. I like that. And what are some of the ones that you’ve done that stand out to you?

KEATON: My favorite one would probably be an anime character just because anime characters are super colorful. A lot of details that go into so it’s super challenging.

O’LEARY: Yeah, and we’re keeping it simple here too, with kind of like one color and another one filled in. But how long does it take if we used multiple colors and really made a bigger rug this size frame? 

KEATON: As you see here, these take about two to three  hours, kind of depends on the colors, the design and everything like that. We do have bigger frames, and those guys take about four days. 

O’LEARY: OK, great. Well, now that we’re almost wrapping up our smileys here, Keaton, if people are interested in trying this tufting, where can they find you? How do they go about looking? 

KEATON: So we are located in the Fox Valley Mall and or Illinois. You can find us on Instagram at @tuftarug_workshop. Perfect.

O’LEARY: Great. Well, this was so much fun. I love this. Thank you. That people keep going and tufting rugs because this is such a fun way to personalize your home. 

BUSTIN: Thank you so much. 

KEATON: Thanks, guys. 

O’LEARY: Thanks for watching. We’ll see you next time.


Julia O’Leary and Abby Bustin are video graduate students at Medill.