Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sett Solutions and Binding a Denim Rag Rug

After correcting the two threading errors on my second warp on the Weaver's Delight, I planned on weaving a denim rug next.

The loom was warped at 12 epi and set up to weave plain weave.  That was no problem at all with the rug at the left.  The fabric used for the weft was a polyester double-knit, so I didn't have any problems with the weft packing in tightly.

It took several attempts with the denim to get an acceptable rug.  Twelve ends per inch would not work with denim, or at least not with the plain weave I was attempting.  I had done a sample before on the tail end of a previous warp with strips cut 3/4" wide. It worked out great, so I wasn't anticipating problems. 

I could not get the denim to pack in tightly.  Then I remembered that my sample was set at 12 ends per inch, but it was a twill variation (Chicken Tracks), which essentially changes the ends per inch on each pick to six instead of twelve.  That allowed a nice tight weave.

Rather than re-thread, I changed the cams on the loom to the twill set-up.  It is just a simple 2-2 twill, and it made all the difference to how the denim packs down.  The 3/4" wide strips were just right.  An alternative could have been woven with plain weave with doubled ends set at six ends per inch.  I wouldn't attempt a rug with regular rug warp at only 6 epi.  It needs to be doubled to be strong enough for a sturdy rug.

Because I started over so many times before getting something that I liked, I neglected to start over again to give a proper header for a hem at the beginning.  To solve that problem, I looked in my Rag Rug Handbook for instructions for binding a rug.

I tied off my warp before removing it from the loom.  This photo is the start of the rug.  If I had been thinking ahead, I would have just glued the header and let it dry, thus avoiding the need for all the knots.  That is what I did at the end of the rug.

On the cutting table, I trimmed the warp close to the knots.

I used denim for the binding at both ends of the rug.  I wanted the binding to be about 1" wide when finished, so I cut two strips about 3 3/4" wide and a little longer than the width of the rug.
With the right side of the binding against the rug and even with the edge, I stitch through the two layers at the first denim pick.

This is not a project for an ordinary home sewing machine.  I am using my industrial upholstery machine.

Fold the hem ends as shown in the photo and stitch the ends even with the edge of the rug.
I didn't like how the hard warp knots felt under my feet, so I put some glue on the header, let it dry, and then cut through the knots to remove them. 
The hem ends were trimmed to reduce the bulk and then turned right side out.
The hem is turned up to the first line of stitching and then top-stitched.  I am sewing through four layers of denim on the main part of the binding plus the rug, and on the ends, eight layers of denim.

I don't think this would be my first choice for a hem, but I was glad I had the option.
I wish I had taken a better photo of the finished rug, but it's gone now, with no chance for a do-over. I gave it to our daughter Carolyn and her husband Eric for a Christmas gift.  The finished size is approximately 30" x 50".


  1. I came upon your work purely by chance and it is so what I want to do that I have saved your page. I am a grandmother working as a transcriber in Brittany, France have a counterbalance loom downstairs which I must, one day, have the courage to heddle up and work with and I have a stash of material that would be great to use for rugs. Your work is wonderful, the fact that you share is also.

    1. Dust off that loom and get weaving! You don't need courage to warp up a loom, just patience. (And maybe a friendly helper!)

  2. I will when I stop typing today (at about midnight) look at your blog - thank you.

  3. Great tips and photos..... makes me wish I had a more "industrial" type sewing machine!!!!

  4. Happened on to your blog throw Weavers Tech. You are very thorough and the photos are great. My 38-year-old Bernina would not take those layers I don't think. Thanks, will check back.

  5. HEY-THERE-JENNY ! ! ! ! ! ! GOOD-THINK'N-on-that BIND'N ! ! ! ! !
    We both are really BLESSED with our " HEAVY-WEIGHT-SINGERS ", as usual - - - - GREAT-BLOG-JOB on your sharing ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  6. HEY-THERE-JENNY ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Forgot to ask what thread you recommend for that H/D-JOB you were do'n - - - - - we are still us'n that old, big, spoolanylon that you saw when you stopped-by, might run-out 4 y'all-git-bk ! ! ! ! ! !

    1. Lou, I wish I could get hold of you and Betty. If you see this, please reply.

  7. Thanks for the great photos on the binding - it really looks great! I'll try that on my next rug.

  8. Jenny,
    I love how you explain the problems you encountered and use them as teaching tools for others. You're visuals are outstanding and very clear. Thanks so much for sharing this. The twill/plain problem is an interesting one. I'll have to remember that. My WD is only set up for plain weave, so I guess it's 1/2 inch strips... or no denim! :-(

    Tom Z. in IL

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  10. Hi,
    How firm are rag rugs?. I always wanted to buy or make one but I am worried about rug firmness.Is it possible to make a rag rug which is as rigid as machine made rugs i.e., lies flat on the floor and resist bending and wrinkling. I don't want it to be like a blanket
    thanks for sharing

    1. Adam, I'm sorry I didn't see your comment and question until today. Yes, rag rugs can be made very firm and won't curl. They can also turn out floppy. There are a lot of factors that affect they way a rug turns out.

      The first is the sturdiness of the loom. It must be able to withstand the heavy beating required. The heavier the beater, the easier it will be on your shoulders and arms.

      Stiffness of the fabric used makes a difference. The stiffer and heavier the fabric, the thinner the strips need to be cut.

      How far apart the warp threads are set also can affect how tightly the rug weft can be packed. If the warp is sett too far apart, the thread needs to be doubled to make the rug strong enough to stand up to wear.

      I tend to set up my loom at 12 warp ends per inch. I tie up my treadles in the standard way for six treadles, so I can weave plain weave for the hems and a twill variation for the body of the rug. For a basic rug, I thread 1-2-3-4 and repeat. Hems are treadles 1-3 vs 2-4, allowing a lot of extra weft in the shed before beating (called bubbling). If I want a plain weave look to the body, I will treadle 1-2 vs 3-4 or 1-4 vs 2-3 it will give the look of doubled threads but still allow plain weave in the hems.

      Don't cut all your rags until you test how they will weave. Cut enough for a couple inches and try them out. You may waste a little that way, but not your whole pile.

      Sampling and experience will be your best friend's when it comes to making rugs.

  11. I really love the way you finished the end off. Great idea. Hope you don't mind if I copy it.

    1. The technique was in the Rag Rug Handbook by Paula Pfaff and Janet Meany. I highly recommend purchasing their new reprint of their old standard.