Category Archives: rag rug weaving

First Rag Rug

Here it is, my first real rag rug completed and on the floor! Looking at it now, I like the warp stripes and colors, as well as the weft colors. It lays quite flat, selvedges are nicely even, and only a tiny bit of “smile.”

It seems to meet the tests of a good rag rug ~~ you can’t put your fingers through anywhere, and when rolled up and stood on the floor it stands. Another “test” I read in the book “Finnish American Rag Rugs” is hold the rolled up rug in your hand, palm up, at shoulder level, the rug should not droop, and happily, it doesn’t.

The rug passed another test here, too, right after taking these photos, I walked over to the computer to download them, turned around, and there was a cat already laying on the rug. No, I’m not ready for a 50 pound Keeshond and five cats to enjoy this rug just yet, so yes, I picked it back up off the floor.

Another view of my first rag rug.

Details: 8/4 cotton rug warp, sett 12 epi. Good tension when weaving, beat hard, change sheds, beat hard again, and I used a temple. Weft strips are sheets purchased at thrift stores, cut into 1 1/2″ strips and the strips were sewn together. When winding the ski shuttles, I wound the weft on folded in half and when placing the weft into the shed, made sure it was still folded.

Hems at each end are cutton rug warp, two threads per shed using a double-bobbin shuttle. I started by weaving an inch or so of string, then 3 1/2″ hem, and reverse at the other end. I cut the rug from the loom, machine sewed each end 3″ from the first “rag” row, rotary cut just outside the machine sewn line, then pin and sew the hem. The finished rug measures 28″ wide, 55″ long.

The warp has been tied on again. I’ll use some of the same strips/colors so they are ready to use, but I’ll need another three or four colors so must get those cut into strips and ends sewn which shouldn’t take long. The second rug shouldn’t take as long now that I’ve gotten a bit of experience.

I visited Susan Johnson’s blog, “Avalanche Looms” earlier this week (link is on the list on the right of the screen) and found a post “Rags, Rags, Rags & More Rags,” where she writes about her love of old rag rugs and a new book just out, “Finnish-American Rag Rugs” by Yvonne R. Lockwood. I emailed Susan and ordered a copy from her which I found tucked in-between the mailboxes today when I arrived home.

Eagerly tearing into the package I found a large 11″ x 9″ book, about an inch thick, and 249 pages, full of the rag rugs weavers of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you’re like me and like to read not only about an art or craft, but the PEOPLE who do it, I think we will really enjoy this book. In addition to color and b&w photos of rugs and weavers, it looks like an interesting history/record.

In my brief look at this book, I saw photos of various Finnish and American looms, weavers at the looms, finished rugs, and so much more. I had to laugh at photos of their “stashes!

After finishing up this blog entry, I’ll be upstairs in flannel PJ’s, with this book in my hands, eagerly reading. The timing for this book was perfect for me, arriving while weaving my first real rag rugs!

Today was a work at the gallery day for me and I took a spinning wheel and basket of Coopworth roving to work on, along with the book “Damask and Opphamta” and printed out notes (emails) from several drawloom weavers offering suggestions for adjusting my drawloom. They enabled me to list everything I need to check and adjust on the loom to get it working properly. A good, productive day!

It is Art Education Month in WI and Artistree Gallery invited K-5 students, both from the Land O’Lakes Elementary School and Home School students, to create artworks to be displayed for a couple weeks at the gallery. Gallery artists removed their works from the big wall, the kids works were framed and hung, and a reception was held this past Saturday.

Their works are bright, colorful, cheerful and wonderful to enjoy. I had several visitors at the gallery today coming in to see them. Congratulations, Art Students and Teachers!

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.