Quiet Friday: Thirteen Cushions

There is always room for more cushions and pillows. What better way to use handwoven fabric? Making cushions puts the fabric to use where it can be seen and touched. The very first project on my first floor loom was fabric for a throw pillow, with a cottolin warp and 16/2 linen weft. Unsightly selvedges are nowhere to be seen!

Cotton and linen cushion. Handwoven fabric.

First project on the Glimåkra Standard floor loom.

From the all-linen blue and brown dice weave cushions to the wild and hairy pillows with rya knots, each one makes a statement. Each one says, in its own way, “Welcome to our home.”

All-linen handwoven dice weave cushions.

Linen Dice Weave Cushions

Thirteen cushions, all handwoven. Karen Isenhower

 

Enjoy this little slide show video I made for you.

May your handwoven fabric be put to good use.

Happy Weaving and Sewing,
Karen

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What Rag Rugs Should Be

My goal for every rag rug I weave is to make a pleasant footpath that lasts through many, many seasons of wear. What makes an exceptional rag rug? Quality of workmanship and design. Tightly-packed weft, snug selvedges, and high quality materials produce a strong rug. And, great design includes an interplay of weave structure, color, detail elements, and functionality.

Tightly-packed weft in a double binding rag rug.

Tightly-packed weft in a double binding rag rug gives no hint of the opposite colors that show on the reverse side.

Double binding rag rug on the loom.

Double binding uses a two-block threading that determines where color changes can occur in the weft pattern.

Double binding rag rug being woven with two ski shuttles.

Two ski shuttles are used for weaving the two layers of a double binding rag rug. Consistent tight selvedges contribute to a long-lasting rug.

Strength is like a quality handcrafted rug that handles daily foot traffic. And joy is like the artist’s design, the colorful pattern, that is woven into the rug. Strength and joy go hand in hand. We see this in creation. And in our Creator, who gives of himself to those who come near. Be refreshed with strength and joy.

May you be refreshed.

With you,
Karen

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Second Half of the Rug

I have five yards of the blue fabric, and no more. I’m in a pickle if the blue runs out. The pile of blue is dwindling fast. No worries. Two simple habits resolve the issue. I don’t have to wonder if I will have enough blue to finish the rug.

Double binding rag rug on Glimakra Standard loom.

Almost out of blue fabric for the first half of the rug.

My secret?
1. Mark the halfway point on the measuring ribbon. This gives a point of reference.
2. When cutting fabric strips, divide the strips into two piles. Put one pile aside, reserving it for the second half of the rug.

Fabric strips ready for second half of rag rug.

Bottom drawer of the Elfa cart next to the loom holds the fabric strips that have been set aside.

This practice enables me to adjust the rug design, if needed, before it’s too late. On the current rug, the wide stripe across the middle just became a little wider.

Double binding rag rug. Karen Isenhower

Two shuttles carry the same fabric. This puts continuous weft color across the width of the warp.

Double binding rag rug in the making.

Marked measuring ribbon shows I have passed the halfway point of the weaving. The rest is all downhill!

What point of reference is there for leading a fulfilling life? Can we know if we have what’s needed to finish well? Our hearts search for truth. We know we need a reliable point of reference. Search for the Lord; seek him. He is the reference point of truth that brings coherence to our existence. We can trust our Grand Weaver to put aside for us everything we need to live a fulfilled life, all the way to the end.

May you have what you need when you need it.

Happy weaving,
Karen

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Tools Day: Ski Shuttles

Patterned rag rugs always use at least two shuttles. I often have four or five filled ski shuttles at the loom. A low profile ski shuttle is an excellent choice for weaving patterned rag rugs. Why?

  1. It fits pleasantly in the hand.
  2. It holds a large amount of fabric weft without being bulky.
  3. The wide base glides smoothly across the warp.
  4. The low profile fits easily through the narrower shed of a tight warp that is common for rug weaving. (Beware of ski shuttles that are taller, and may not fit as easily through a tight shed.)
  5. It is slender enough to send it out of the shed to go over or under outer warp ends, when needed.
Basket of ski shuttles ready for the next rag rug!

Basket of ski shuttles that are ready for the next rosepath rag rug!

My ski shuttles are made by Glimåkra, except for the beautiful cherry wood ski shuttle my husband made for me.

Hand crafted cherry wood ski shuttle, and rosepath rag rug just off the loom.

Newly completed rosepath rag rug is ready to be hemmed. Cherry wood ski shuttle is hand crafted by Steve Isenhower.

 

Ski Shuttle Dimensions (Glimåkra Single Ski)
Height: 1 1/4″ (3 cm)
Width: 2″ (5 cm)
Length: 19 1/2″ (50 cm) and 25″ (64 cm)

Why I like low profile ski shuttles for weaving rag rugs.

Weaving width determines which ski shuttle length to use. The shorter shuttle works with any weaving width. The longer shuttle works only for wider weaving widths (30″ or more) and for spaces with plenty of clearance at the sides of the loom. The low profile of the shuttles is seen in relation to the height of the reed in the beater.

 

How to Wind a Ski Shuttle

1 — Hold ski shuttle vertically. Start with one tapered end of the fabric strip coming across the top of the ski shuttle. Hold the tapered end with your thumb while you start winding the fabric strip onto the shuttle with your other hand.

How to wind a ski shuttle.

 

2 — Continue wrapping the fabric strip around the length of the shuttle, straightening the fabric as you go.

How to wind a ski shuttle for rag rugs.

 

3 — Finish winding when you have a tail of fabric remaining.

How to wind a ski shuttle.

May your shuttles be a good fit for your hands.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Pam says:

    What a beautiful cherry wood shuttle your husband made. Giving a hand made gift is giving a part of yourself. What a loving gift. Cherry wood is a very hard wood. Perfect choice for a shuttle’s smooth durable surface.
    How wide is the fabric weft?I love the colors you selected for this rug.
    Great pictures. Very informative. Thanks, Karen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pam,

      The cherry wood has a nice feel, too. I like holding it in my hands.

      The fabric for the rosepath rug is cut 3/4″ wide. The batik fabric for the double binding rug is lightweight, so I am cutting it a little wider, about 7/8″ wide.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Denise says:

    I really appreciate your tips, Karen. Are you weaving with a single strip of fabric as opposed to two strips? If so, why?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Denise,

      My first response is — it’s easier. 😉
      Weaving with a single weft strip does make a lighter rug, but I don’t necessarily see that as a disadvantage. I use doubled weft fabric strips if I want to do some color gradation in the rug, but otherwise, I like the simplicity of weaving with one fabric strip on the shuttle. Weaving with two fabric strips on the shuttle can be tricky if the fabric strips are not exactly the same length. However, I have been thinking of doubling the weft for the rosepath pattern picks on the next rug to accentuate a raised look for the pattern…

      The double binding rug is two layers thick, so using one weft strip on each shuttle makes sense to me.

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Debbie Moyes says:

    Your rugs are gorgeous and whatever the draft is, makes the rug look so sophisticated! And it looks fun to weave. I don’t really understand what a double binding rag rug is and what the threading is….

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie,

      Double binding is very fun to weave. There are two layers being woven at one time. First, throw a pick for one layer, and then throw a pick for the other layer. It feels like magic every time you beat the two layers together.

      I listed some resources for double binding in my response to Maggie in the comments at the end of My Favorite Thing to Weave, if you are interested.

      All the best,
      Karen

      • Debbie Moyes says:

        Thank you! I just ordered The Big Book of Rugs (sounds like a children’s Golden book title!) and am looking forward to figuring out what you are doing.

        • Karen says:

          Debbie, in The Big Book of Weaving (I think that’s the book you mean), this 8-shaft rug (p.144) is called “Rag Rug x 2.” The book doesn’t mention the words “double binding,” but calls it “weft enhanced plain weave.”
          The other example of double binding in the book is “Checked Fabric,” p.96, and they call the weave technique “Reinforced weft weave structure,” but it is actually a simplified double binding structure. You can use that draft to weave rag rugs if you adjust it to 8 epi and use fabric strips 3/4″ wide. Arrange the two blocks as you please. I have done many rag rugs with this draft.

          Have fun!
          Karen

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How to Begin a Rag Rug

It is not enough to be pretty; a good rag rug must also be sturdy. Four crucial steps give a rag rug the solid foundation it needs to get off to a great start, and to be ready for the strong beat required to make a rug that lasts.

How to Begin a Rag Rug

1 Space

  • leave enough warp to tie and finish ends after the rug is cut from the loom

Assuming there is a sample at the beginning of the warp, leave space after the sample. Leave about 4″ (10 cm) of empty warp. Then, using two warping slats, place one slat in each plain weave shed. The slats act as a spacer, and as a firm backstop for beating in the waste rags. (Leave about 8″ / 20 cm of space between each rug, from header to header.)

How to begin a rag rug. Four crucial steps.

Empty warp is followed by a pair of warping slats, scrap weft, warp yarn header, and beginning of hem. Measurements are marked on twill tape for reference while weaving.

2 Waste rags

  • a place to attach the temple
  • prevent the header from unraveling when the rug is cut from the loom

Weave with scrap fabric strips, 1 – 2″ (2.5 – 5 cm) wide, for 2″ (5 cm). Attach the temple as soon as possible.

3 Header

  • secures the rug weft
  • gives the rug a firm edge

Use warp yarn to weave a 3/8″ (1 cm) weft-faced header. Arrange the weft in small arcs across the width of the shed. Treadle the next shed and beat in the weft.

Weaving header for rag rug. How to.

With temple in place, the header is woven with 12/6 cotton, the warp yarn. Forming small waves in the weft places more weft in the shed, which helps prevent draw-in.

4 Hem

  • thinner rag weave, to be turned under and stitched

Cut fabric into narrow strips, 1/4″ (.5 cm) wide. Weave hem to desired length, with enough to fold under itself for finishing.

–Repeat the four steps in reverse order at the end of the rug.–

How to begin a good, sturdy rag rug!

Ready for the body of the rug! A good, strong beat will not disturb this layered foundation.

It takes courage to live by faith. Courage is the backbone against which life circumstances can push. Faith is knowing God has a higher purpose for the circumstances we find ourselves in. A rag rug with this firm starting point will not only look good, but be ready for a purpose. And so will we.

May you live courageously.

With faith,
Karen

13 Comments

  • Gerda says:

    This is a very timely post for me. My rotary cutter arrives on Tuesday and I am planning my very first rag rug. I finally have a Toika Liisa up and running so can undertake to weave something that requires heavy beating. Do you add any weights to your beater to get more sturdy rugs? Thanks so much for taking the time to explain, photograph and film. Your posts are a great read and so much more than just showing your achievement. Much appreciated! Looking forward to seeing your rug finished (and mine started)!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gerda,

      I’m excited for you and your new adventure with rag rugs! I do not add weights to my beater. I can get a very strong beat with my overslung beater, because of the natural momentum in the swinging beater.
      My practice is: 1. place the weft 2. beat in that open shed 3. change sheds 4. beat twice
      After a while, you get a pretty good rhythm with that sequence. Though, with rag rugs it’s never “fast,” but that’s okay with me. 🙂

      Very happy weaving!
      Karen

  • Susan says:

    Thanks so much for the post. May I ask what end per inch are you using?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Susan,

      The sett for this project is 8 ends per inch. I am using an 8 dent reed, with 1 end per heddle and 1 end per dent. (Except for selvedges, which are 2 ends per heddle/ 2 ends per dent/ 2 times each side.)

      Karen

  • Ruth says:

    Thank you for sharing your techniques for weaving rag rugs and increasing my knowledge and excitement for weaving rugs. I had not thought of using narrower rags for the hem – I’ve always used coordinating yarn. Your rag technique will be used on my next rug. I am looking forward to seeing your finished project along with any tips you have for finishing your hems. Several people I weave with use glue and/or another adhesive to secure the warp ends in addition to the knots they tie before the hem is sewn down. I’m curious to learn of your techniques. Blessings!

  • Tobie says:

    This post is so timely.
    I don’t seem to get sturdy enough weaving. I do not know if my weft is too thin or I am not beating hard enough. I weave on a Macomber which is a heavy loom.
    I’ve been using t-shirts for weft and now have some old sheets to dye and cut. How wide are your strips?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tobie,

      I’m glad this post came at a good time for you!
      I cut my strips 3/4″ wide unless the fabric is very lightweight, in which case I cut them a little bit wider. I use only pre-washed cotton fabric. I’ve never used t-shirts or knit fabric for rugs, so I can’t tell you anything about that.

      Several factors contribute to a solid, sturdy rug. Here are a few that come to mind:
      –Tight warp – I don’t know how much you can tighten the warp on your Macomber, but I keep the warp very tight on my Glimakra.
      –Find the sett that works for your weft and your loom. My usual sett is 8 epi. If the weft is not packing in tight, you might try 6 epi.
      –Strong beat. I beat once with an open shed, then change sheds and beat twice. Some people add weight to the beater. I haven’t needed added weight with my overslung beater.
      –Make sure your selvedges are tight. Loose selvedges will weaken the entire rug. I twist the weft twice and pull it tight around the outer selvedge.
      –Use a temple. This helps with the beat and with getting tight selvedges.

      Hope that helps,
      Karen

  • Kathy says:

    This is wonderful information! Thank you! I just got an older Kessenich loom, which is pretty heavy and solid, and I’d like to try a rag rug soon. Are you using plain weave for the rug? When you twist the weft twice, do you turn the ski shuttle around itself, too? Also, do you iron the fabric strips in half? Or do you iron both long edges to the center? If you iron both to the center, do you fold it in half so they are on the inside? Thank you so much! Kathy

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathy, Great questions!
      Many of my rag rugs are patterned weaves, like rosepath, which includes plain weave for the hem and between the pattern picks.
      When I twist the weft, I do not turn the ski shuttle around. By holding the other end of the weft taut I can easily straighten the fabric strip in the shed.
      I do not iron or fold the fabric strips at all. I cut them 3/4″ and lay them in the shed as is.

      Happy rag rug weaving!

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