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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Harvesting a Bumper Crop of Rugs from my looms...


I just took a bumper crop of rugs off my looms in my studio. 
It was a "Harvest of Rugs"   

(please note, this is not an ad to sell these rugs, 
they are already spoken for by a gal named Jean in Lodi, WI) 

I thought I would share with you some of the work I do in my weaving studio, located in my home.  I have four large rug looms, a 60" wide blanket loom and a variety of other smaller table looms, spinning wheels and antique circular sockknitting machines.  It's a real Fiber Fest around here, I tell ya!

As for the rugs, the process of unrolling 3 or 4 or 5 rugs at a time from a loom is a heart-quickening event for me.  Seeing them for the first time in their entirety, flat out the way I envisioned them as I wove.

When weaving a rug, the weaver really only sees about a foot worth at a time as you weave it.  Each time the warp is advanced to get more space to weave on, the finished rug is rolled down and underneath, unseen until the run is completed and cut free.  It is the final step to a lot preparatory work.

  (see the side view photo of a loom below -  the warp string comes off the back of the loom and passes through the harnesses and reed where it is woven, then the rug curls down and around a beam to make a roll of finished rugs) 

BACK OF LOOM                                                            FRONT OF LOOM

Here are some closeups of the rugs in the group photo above, 
and I will explain how each one is made.

This first rug is woven in a twill pattern for the threading... and I just place in fabric in random stripes. 
The special twill threading pre-deigned on the loom makes the diagonal patterns. 
The striping is random and is sometimes called "Hit N Miss" fashion.  
For perspective, the rug is about 6' long and 30" wide.

The next set of rugs are made from flannel sheets-- a set of blue ones and a set of green ones.  There was enough fabric to make 2 rugs of each color.  The flannel weaves up nicely and makes a thick rug.  For the stripes, I used a thin strip of burgundy white and tan fringey selvage.  More about fringey selvages with the next rug down the list.   And Allegra gave these rugs her "Butt Stamp of Approval"!

Now WHAT is Fringey Selvage you might ask?  Well, it's simply recycling at it's finest!  Factories make huge rolls of fabric, and the selvage edge is sometimes nothing more than a long rope of fringey stringy ends that they cut off the ends of the rolls before shipping to fabric retail stores.  The factories normally dispose of this stringy rope into the landfills.   

Some innovative weavers came across it and said: "Hey, let's see if we can weave a rug outta this!"   It is now commonly purchased in large bales from these places and snatched up by the creative rug weavers to have a new life as a rug, instead of rotting away in a landfill.   Jean in Lodi had purchased a batch of this fringy selvage- enough to weave this rug.   Every other row is selvage and every other row a narrow strip of cotton sheeting to add body and oomph to the rug.   Kinda a retro 60's shag look, huh?

Next rug up on the list is probably Norwegian, Scandinavian or some other Slavic county in origin of the design, I am not sure.  I call it an "Arrow Rug".   The borders are accented with carefully twisted sections of contrasting rags to create the arrow designs.   I have done a few of these now, and they are striking. 

The two contrasting fabrics in the arrow rows have to be only half of the thickness of the regular rows so the rug is even.  I pre-twist them ahead of time and insert them in the loom to line up the arrow points.

I really like this next rug,  it's from light yellow, blue polka dot, and turquoise cotton fabrics in a pattern.
This is a longer runner too.  I sometimes weave till I run out of that specific fabric.  Repeating the colors in a harmonious pattern.  The colorway reminds me of a summer beach seaside cottage.
(also approved by my photography assistant, Allegra) 

I like weaving rag rugs with cotton fabrics.  These next two long runners have some random placements of prints from floral bed sheets.  Again, recycling the fabrics is much better than setting in a landfill. 

Here is the whole stack of rugs ready to be shipped off to their new owner....  
This represents many hours work.   

From carefully warping up the looms  (putting on 350-450 strands 100 yards long of string, winding evenly under tension with no snarls).   Then time is spent cutting up the fabric rags, planning out the rugs, calculating the amounts of each color and ratio of what is needed to make a pleasing rug.  Finally, winding up the shuttles and weaving in the header or hem yarns.  THEN you finally get around to the actual weaving, which can take from 2-4 hours per rug on average. 

Now, this next tidbit is what I do with a short section of rags, too small of an amount to weave into a rug. 

I weave a tote bag, and braid the handles right on the loom as I weave the bag.  
They are a secure part of the bag and not just a sewn on strap.  
Next I sew the side seams and add a button once it is off the loom. 
I use this one for my laptop case!

Here are a set of rugs that I made using a whole different technique called "Clasped Wefts".   It makes a wonderful patchwork design... by starting one color of rag from one side of the loom, and the other color of rag from the other side, then I "clasp" the rags around each other and send them back to their respective sides of the loom again.   Each time I change the color, I clasp in a new section of the rug... creating blocks or patches!   (p.s. these two rugs ARE for sale) 

Now on to another technique that I am just beginning to work with.  
These last two rugs are just pure fun!  I have one done and just started another.  

Again, this is the fine art of recycling and keeping things out of the landfills.  A colorful sock knitting company takes all the irregular and mistake socks and slices them up the length of the sock and trashes them!   A weaving friend in New York, by the name of Hilary, has been able to procure them to weave into rugs.   Once woven into the rug in various spots, we have dubbed them "Caterpillar Rugs"!  Aren't they just the most interesting rugs?     Hilary's shop is :   http://www.crazyasaloom.com/

She sent some to try. I gave them the name of Hilary's Hilarious Caterpillar Rugs!~ 

I think I will tie colored fringes on these instead of a sewn hem like my other rugs.  They sure are fun!  

These will be for sale once I complete them. Available in my Etsy shop:



  1. The rugs are beautiful. I love the way that you use recycled material in them. When we had our stick home I used to do a lot of sewing and had lots of scraps of material leftover. When we sold the house I didn't want to throw them away. I was able to find someone who made quilts and they were able to use the material. I hate to throw things away if I think they can have a second life.

    Keep up the fabulous work!

    Kevin and Ruth

  2. Beautiful, beautiful rugs Karen--you are so talented!

  3. The rugs are awesome!! Thanks for sharing them with us. I will go on your Etsy site and window shop. I'm thinking I really like the recycled material. I like the fringy selvage rug and the caterpillar rug. Does the caterpillar rug have to have white as the background? White might be tough in a MH especially with dogs. Would I just give you my color preference?

    Thanks for sharing your awesome talent.

    Mike & Gerri (happytrails)

  4. Oh Gerri, I can make the caterpillar rugs from any color....

    For solid background I have some hunter green, deep burgundy, and even some dark denim blue.

    The rugs can be about 30 inches wide and however long you want them. I charge $1.25 a running inch.

    Let me know! pfundt@gmail.com

  5. Oh Gerri, I can make the caterpillar rugs from any color....

    For solid background I have some hunter green, deep burgundy, and even some dark denim blue.

    The rugs can be about 30 inches wide and however long you want them. I charge $1.25 a running inch.

    Let me know! pfundt@gmail.com

  6. What a great post! I really learned a lot. I had no idea how those rugs were made. Now, I do. :) I especially liked the very last picture, as I was having trouble visualizing how you used rags in the loom.

    All of the rugs are gorgeous!

  7. You are truly an artist! Thank you for showing us some of your beautiful work. I, too, appreciate the recycling of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

  8. Oh my Karen, what talent! These rugs are just awesome..Love them all.
    If I only still had my big stick and bricks house in Ma....

  9. Beautiful work. I don't know how you do it, I have trouble just tying my shoes. Thank heaven for Velcro! ;c)

  10. Beautiful work. I don't know how you do it, I have trouble just tying my shoes. Thank heaven for Velcro! ;c)

  11. What a beautiful group of rugs though I really like your bag.

    I have a weaved rug that a friend of mine did for me that is in the hallway of our motor home. It is in different shades of blue.

    So good to get caught up with you and Steve. Sure love to see the pics of your grands!

  12. Gorgeous! These all of rugs attractive and colorful.
    large rugs


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