Practice, Practice,…

It was 1981 when I took my first weaving class and bought my first loom. Until now, my weaving has always been with 22/2 cottolin, linen, 8/2 and 20/2 cotton, preferring weave structures like twill, huck, and satin. Currently, I am still in the early stages of weaving my first rag rug, and I’ll be honest, rag rug weaving is taking some time to grow on me. Immediately after starting to weave this rug, I KNEW I preferred weaving with finer threads. But what can I say, I live in a rustic log home with plank floors that have been wanting rag rugs on them for a long, long time.

I have woven quite a few 14″ to 16″ wide table runners with 8/4 cotton rug warp and batik fabric for weft (above). For these, I cut the fabric 1.5″ wide, then fold and press the fabric as if making double-fold bias tape, only it is not cut on the bias. Why go to all that trouble? Because the “rag” runners are made for display on tables, close to the viewer. I do not like the “hairy” look, and do not want all those little threads working their way out. These runners look very nice with tableware and exceptionally nice with pottery (below).

However, Joe, a good weaving friend of mine, has been urging me for a long time to give rag rug weaving a try. I’ve long been an admirer of Scandinavian design, and have quite a number of Swedish rag rug weaving books for inspiration. I enjoyed designing the stripe warp and choosing the rug warp colors. It is getting the weft into the shed and folding the weft it in half (when both sides are not equal in color) that I am not yet particularly adept at. I may be the slowest rag rug weaver around, but am trying to give this a fair chance.

This is my first 28″ wide rag rug, 8/4 cotton rug warp, and cotton/poly sheets for weft. For the past couple years I’ve been haunting the local thrift shops for sheets, on the lookout for good solid colors, prints, and plaids that have COLOR and not mostly white with pastel flowers, though I have some of those, too. So I was excited recently to find a wine/blue/green plaid sheet with almost perfect colors in for my stripe rug warp.

After washing the fitted sheet (no flat sheet, perhaps another area weaver found it first?), it was time to “slice & dice,” rotary cutting it into 2″ strips, then sew them together, and wind onto a ski shuttle.

Last night, I wove a few rows of the plaid to see the color effects and it’s looking as good as I’d hoped.

Like the green and white ticking stripe at the beginning of the rug, the colors in the plaid are coming randomly to the surface within each row, giving a nice mottled effect.

Depending on the quantity of strips (size of sheet), I’m dividing the number of strips in half or thirds (more if the sheet is queen or king size), depending on how often I want that color to appear in the rug. I had “mapped out” my colors/design on graph paper using colored pencils, but I’ve already changed it a bit so need to revise my plan before I go much further as I would like this rug to be balanced.

After taking about a month off from the studio I had hoped to finish this rug this week, but I fell on Tuesday, injuring my shoulder, so there has been a slight delay while I gave it the rest it needed. After weaving those few rows last night (the first weaving since falling), I went to bed and could not sleep for the pain. No weaving today, the heating pad will be my friend tonight!
The rag rugs need to be woven and I’m looking forward to seeing them on my floors! As with most things in life, I’ll get better at rag rug weaving with more practice.

5 thoughts on “Practice, Practice,…”

  1. I started weaving rag rugs a few years ago and now I'm hooked. Being a structure type person I weave them in double binding patterns, giving me blocks to play with. I have an appalling stash of old sheets but have learned to avoid the ones that are lighter colored on the back. Too much trouble to have to fold them. My favorites are plaid flannels and I do envy you that beautiful one.

  2. Hi; you, also, might be interested to try a (Swedish) weave structure which works well in rag rug weaving, called "interlaced double-face weave (in Swedish – Dubbelbindning). One can create a chequerboard effect, but there are many other possibilities.A recent publication with some examples of this technique is "Swedish Rag Rugs, 35 New Designs", edited by Lillemor Johansson.P.S. Your rugs look beautiful.

  3. Thank you for the compliments on my first rag rugs! Yes, it is Rugs by Joe who was trying to convince me to weave rag rugs. He is a wealth of knowledge on the subject.The double-binding technique could well be the next rag rug technique I try. I had planned to warp up next for towels and runners, and still will, but perhaps on another loom and keep the larger CM for rugs awhile longer. Yes, that plaid sheet was an unusual find up here. I do have some interesting sheets put away, along with the usual plainer and florals. I'm looking forward to seeing how they weave up as far as color changes in the weaving.The newer rag rugs books have wonderful, inspiring examples of what can be done with rag rag weaving!

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