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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