I had a 5-metre-long front hall that was covered with a very sad-looking gray rug. I wanted to have something bright and colorful to bring some happiness into the hallway. Like many sewists, I had plenty of fabrics that I had stored for a while that I hadn’t found any use for. I decided to cut them into rag wefts and weave them into a rug. I love rag rugs that all my grandmothers wove. A few decades ago everyone knew somebody who wove rag rugs but nowadays it is more common to go and buy mass-produced rugs that are cheaper but well… more boring.
Here is my YouTube video on this project:
How to cut rags for rag rugs
There are many ways you can cut up fabrics and old clothes into wefts. You can just cut about 2 cm wide long strips. Then you can sew them together at the ends or make small holes to the ends and loop them like this:
The looping method leads to thicker spots on your weave but you may choose to accept this.
Another popular method that is particularly useful for cutting teeshirts and pants is this zig-zag method:
Here you’ll end up a little bit of bulk at turns but it doesn’t look too bad.
One way to cut a really long strip without needing to sewstrips to each other is to sew the fabric into a tube. Then cut horizontal strips so that you leave about two inches or 5 cm of one edge uncut. Then you connect each strip to one right above to make a giant spiral like this:
Preparing the loom for the rug
I take my loop apart after each weaving project so I first needed to assemble the frame. As the September was unusually warm in Finland, I decided to make use of our glazed terrace. The terrace turned out to be even better weaving spot because I could tie my loom to the floorboards which prevented the loom from moving while I wove. Besides, the view was nice!
As weaving rag rugs is popular, you can buy basic rug warps ready-made. I bought 10 m long cotton warp that suits most rug projects.
My husband helped me to wrap the warp to the warp beam. I may have overdone a bit with the warp sticks! Somebody told me I didn’t need to put sticks after every turn but I didn’t know that.
Threading the heddles and the reed comb was easy as this was a simple plain weave and I had only 2 yarns/cm.
Weaving the rag rug
Before starting the rug, I wove a few rows with some thick cotton weft that originally came with my loom. These rows helped to even out the warp.
I had to weave first a bit to get some kind of idea what the rug would look like with different weft combinations. Traditionally the rag rug is woven with three shuttles. You could use just one but the edges wouldn’t look as nice with just one. Edges also look nicer if you always put the shuttle in from the side where the first warp yarn goes down and keep the shuttles always in the same order. I got into the habit of putting the shuttle I had just used in front of me and taking the next shuttle so that the weft from that shuttle went over the previous weft.
Quite quickly I then decided to make a white stripe that turns into yellow, then darkens and turns green – not that my stripes were even colour but that was the general idea. I didn’t really measure much but tried to keep each color area about 12 cm long or so.
I asked S if she wanted to try and after trying a bit, she got really into it. She “promoted” me to head designer and shuttle-filler while she took over the weaving. I didn’t complain as she did a good job of it. She could also weave quite fast as I kept filling the shuttles as fast as she kept emptying them. If S didn’t have to go to school, she might have woven half of the rug! Still, she wove over a meter.
At some point, I forgot to mark down how much I had already woven. I had to take the rug out of the fabric beam and measure it. This also gave me a good opportunity to see the pattern I had created on a bigger scale.
Here is the final rug on the floor. It is about 5 m long. I had to unravel a few centimeters at one end to make the rug fit the floor. You can see that at first, I was still establishing the pattern. The first part of the rug lacks the yellow stripe. However, I decided to keep even the first stripes just to see the whole process on the rug. Besides, it is useful to have darker colors in the area, where people may walk on it with their shoes on.
I’m really happy with how this rug came out and now I like our hallway much more. I’m sure this will not be the last rag rug from me! I had 5 meters of warp left but as the weather was cooling down, I had to wrap the rest of the warp onto the warp beam and store it for the next summer.
Finally, to change the subject a bit, I gave a speech at a seminar at the Craft Museum of Finland in Jyväskylä last Thursday. If you understand Finnish and are interested to hear about how we determine what belongs under the umbrella of handicrafts (“käsityö”), check out the video at the museum’s YouTube channel here.
Thank you for reading and see you soon with more crafts and fun!