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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rag Rug Weaving Tips

I was reading a weaving friend's blog today, and she was having some trouble with weaving her rag rug.  I thought I could put a few tips on here, that I have learned from other weavers.

I just started weaving a rag rug yesterday, so I will use it as an example.

First of all, my usual rag rugs are warped with rug warp or a similar weight sturdy yarn.  They are spaced  12 epi in a 12 dent reed and threaded 1-2-3-4 or 4-3-2-1.  (click a photo to enlarge)

Each warp yarn gets its own heddle.  As you can see in the above photo, the warp is threaded 4-3-2-1 until the last 4 threads.  Instead of threading them 4-3-2-1, I thread them 4-4-3-3.  You will see why in a minute.
The last 4 warp threads are threaded 2 per dent through the last 2 dents in the reed for a sturdy selvedge.

 Weaving for a hem can cause some problems, because the yarn used for the hem is so much thinner than the rags used for the body of the rug.  There are a couple things that can be done to minimize the draw-in that can happen.  If I'm using rug warp for my hem, I will double it.  I quite often use a thicker yarn, such as Sugar and Cream yarn used to knit dishrags, and I usually use a single strand of that size yarn.  I weave my hems with a standard tabby (harnesses 1 - 3 alternating with harnesses 2 - 4).

As shown in the above photo, I use my paperclip temple, which I have described in an earlier post.  Anchor the hem weft and angle in the shed.  Change sheds but don't beat yet.
(Sorry, this weft is angled in the other direction, but you get the idea)
With the shed changed, pull the weft into an arch, down to the opposite fell line and beat.  Do this for each pick of your hem.  It creates a bit of flex in the hem that doesn't happen with an angled weft.  A bit of practice will help you decide how big of an arch you need.

I use different treadles from the tabby hems to weave the rags.
I raise harness 1-2 together, and 3-4 together.  That gives me doubled warp threads sett at 6 epi.
I think it helps make a sturdier rug.

Here is the start of my latest rag rug that I'm weaving from a knit I found in my stash.  I showed the fabric in my previous post.  This fabric is the thickness of that icky old polyester double knit everyone sewed with years and years ago.  I cut the strips 1 1/4" wide and it was just right.

I sew my strips together with the following method:
Place two strips at right angles, right sides together.  For illustration purposes, I have marked my stitching line.  I don't really mark my strips.  That's what eyeballing is for!
Stitch from the top corner to the corner of the underneath strip.  I like to backstitch a couple stitches at each end of the seam, but a small stitch length without the backstitch would also work.  Add another strip to the end of the second strip and continue sewing ends together without cutting the threads.  To avoid tangling your strips, wait to cut the threads until you are ready to wind them on your shuttle.  When winding onto the shuttle, trim the seam allowance to 1/4", removing a small triangle. If I am folding my strips so only one side shows, I finger press the seam open to reduce bulk in one spot.  If I'm not folding my strips, I don't do anything to the seam except trim it to 1/4".

Thick hems can be hard on sewing machines if proper technique isn't used.  I will show my method of sewing hems on a home sewing machine in a future post, so stay tuned!


  1. Great post. I'll save this one to use it when I'm going to weave a rug.

  2. After reviewing countless other weaving sites, blogs and books, I have repeatedly returned to this one for the 'low down' on basic rag rug weaving instruction. Sometimes, as a new weaver, I need "simple"... if only just to give me the confidence to try or to experiment for myself. Thanks for sharing your learned wisdom. My Fanny and I appreciate your mentorship!

  3. dear Jenny, I've been trying to set up my loom in a block weave for rag rugs, so far I've only found patterns for 6 harness looms, not 4 harness. Do you have a pattern that you can share for a 4 harness loom? Thanks Cherry Bowers, in Grant Mi.

  4. Hello Cherry,
    I hope you are able to check back to read this. I have only done a couple rugs that I would call block weave. Please write to me at jbellairs at gmail dot com and we can discuss what you are looking for. Do you have The Rugweaver's Handbook? A good resourse that I believe is out of print at this time, but still available in many shops that deal with weaving.
    Jenny, in Charlevoix the Beautiful (by the tip of the ring finger on the mitt)

  5. Lovely post! Lots of good ideas to try. Janet Meaney's book is excellent! I just finished a block weave on a loom with only 2 shafts and am thrilled with out it turned out. Now off to check out the rest of your site!

  6. OMG!!! I love this post. Shows how much
    effort goes into making a Rug. Keep
    up the great work and I'm bookmarking this page.

  7. When you are doubling your end / selvage 44 33 shouldn't your beginning be 33 44 or am I totally messed up.

  8. (Edited comment from the author) Kathryn, I'm sorry if I made you confused. I thread from the middle to the outside edges. Thread as you normally would. When you are done, go back and change the last four threads on each end to whatever is next in your threading order. In the example above, on the right end, I was threading 4-3-2-1 from the middle. The fifth thread from the end is on the first shaft, so the next thread in order is on 4. Put 2 threads on shaft 4, and the next two on shaft 3. Write again if I am still not making sense to you.

  9. jenny,,,have you ever woven a rug using wool roving? if so, can you comment?

  10. Jenny:
    First visit, first read, and it is well done!
    How do I soom up the font size for my old eyes?

    Jeanne C: Re rug of wool roving:
    Search Bonnie Data at Weavolution. Here saddle blankets/rugs are rovings.

  11. I just started weaving and my idea is to concentrate on rugs and I really enjoyed reading all the info here.Thank you

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  13. Jenny
    Thank you. always looking to learn more, your pictures are very good and this was very helpful. Linking from Rug Talk is such a good idea.

    Thanks again

  14. what are you using for tension clips

    1. I think I was using large paper clips, string and weights in these photos. Tarp clamps would be another option or purchasing a temple.

  15. Hi Jenny!

    I'm getting ready to do a few more rag rugs and thought I'd stop by. This is my go-to place for rag rug info. Been a while. Wishing you well.

    Tom Z in IL

  16. Thanks Tom! If you are on the Facebook Rug Weaving group, make sure to post some pictures of your completed rugs. Did you sell your WD? Who got it?

    I'm doing fine, with good results at my check-ups every three months. I have been so busy weaving and teaching weaving that I haven't made time to update my poor blog.

  17. as a new weaver I appreciate these instructions!! I will be doing my first rug this fall!

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  19. Thankyou author for sharing your work. The internet need more of this. Very well explained and informative. Meanwhile, if you are in need and looking for a rug cleaning service, feel free to message us or visit our website. We offer you this at a very affordable price. Thank you and Godbless!

  20. Hello,

    I am very much a beginner so my apologies. I followed your threading for rag rugs but am wondering what the treadle tie up is.

    Thank you very much.
    Amber Marshall