I once saw a pricey designer “labyrinth” carpet in a catalog and wondered if I could re-create the effect cheaply by taking electric hair clippers to a piece of ordinary carpet. Long story short: it works. A maze pattern on green carpet is great for the “hedge maze” look, but your design could be anything!

Project Steps

Measure, measure, measure.

Measure your carpet section (mine was 74″×71″), the area you want the rug to fill (74″×41″), the width of your shaver head (1.75″), and the width of your masking tape (1.875″). Write it all down someplace.

Design the maze.

Verify that you have enough carpet to make the rug you want, and that your masking tape is at least as wide as the head of your clipper. They don’t have to be exactly the same, but they should be within 1/4″ of each other.

Divide the length and width of the area you want to cover by the width of your tape and round to the nearest odd integer. In my case:

  • x = 74″ / 1.875″ = 39.47 (39)
  • y = 41″ / 1.875″ = 21.87 (21)

Work out a maze on a square grid that is x by y units (39×21, in my case). You can design on paper or in software, or you can generate the maze procedurally. I used John Lauro’s simple web-based maze maker at makezine.com/go/mazegen.

Lay out the grid.

Starting from the best corner of your

carpet, adhere a strip of tape all the way along one edge. If one side of your design is longer than the other, lay out the longer dimension first.

Apply a short “spacer” strip beside the full strip at each end, to make sure you’re spacing the corridors consistently, then add another full strip. Keep alternating full strips and spacers until the total number of strips equals the number of units in your maze’s short dimension.

Repeat the process along the other dimension, starting from the same corner, until you have a complete grid covering the full area of your design.

Cut out the pattern.

Using a new, sharp hobby knife blade, cut out individual squares from the grid to form the corridors in your maze plan.

Peel up the cut-out squares with your fingers and discard them.

NOTE: If your plan has walls on all four sides, and no wall or corridor is wider than one unit anywhere, you should be able to lay it out just by cutting single squares from this grid. Otherwise, you may have to add short sections of tape, here and there, to form “off grid” walls.

Clip the corridors.

Plug in your clippers and trim the carpet about 3/8″ shorter in the corridor areas.

Watch the length of the carpet piles coming off in front of the blade to monitor the depth of the cut. It doesn’t have to be too precise. You can try using guide combs on your clippers, but I found them more trouble than they were worth.

Oil your clipper blades frequently, and take a break now and again to let them cool off.

TIP: Practice on a piece of scrap carpet, and work on a smooth floor that’s easy to clean up.

TIP: No downward force is needed besides the clipper’s weight.

Cut to shape.

Following the outside edge of the tape, cut the perimeter of the rug to shape with carpet shears or a utility knife.

My plan was designed to use the entire width of the piece of carpet I had purchased, so I only had to make one cut, as shown. Depending on your plan, you may have to make two perimeter cuts.

Clean up.

Remove the tape. Just grab it and pull.

Inspect the corridors for shallow areas, bumps, or other imperfections. Touch them up with the clippers as needed.

Pick up the rug, shake it out hard, and sweep up the loose trimmings. Give it a good vacuuming, and you’re done.

NOTE: The carpet backing may be visible at the edges at first, but a few weeks’ use will round them over.

Going further.

The tedious bit was not the trimming, but applying the pattern. I considered mounting a projector on the ceiling so I could project the pattern onto the carpet, but the tape trick won out for simplicity and cost. There must be better ways to solve the pattern problem: Chalk? Washable paint? Freehand cutting? Let us know in the comments!


This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 36, page 140.