This Rug in Particular

No improvising this time. Creating a rug to fit a particular space means staying true to the plan. In my measured design, each graph square represents two inches (5 cm) of woven length. So, I am not playing around with shortened or lengthened blocks. And no surprise colors, either. Every element has been determined in advance. I am paying close attention, being sure to measure accurately as I go. I keep thinking of my sister’s entryway, hopeful that this rug will be just right. (Sometimes I do play around with the design as I weave, like I described in Tools Day: Graph Paper)

Cotton yardage ready to cut for weaving rag rugs.

New cotton yardage is ready for cutting into strips for weaving double binding twill rag rugs. I am choosing four out of these six fabrics for this rug design.

Design graph for weaving a patterned rag rug.

Design graph sits on the cart next to my loom. A sliver of each selected fabric is scotch-taped to its color block on the graph for reference.

If I only consider the fun of weaving another rag rug, and fail to keep in mind the intended destination, I may create an interesting rug, but it won’t end up inside my sister’s doorway. The “fun” will be short-lived, and will produce disappointment or regret instead of finished satisfaction. That reminds me of something C.S. Lewis once said:

Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither.

Double-binding twill rag rug on the loom.

Double-binding twill rag rug on the loom.

Dream of heaven. It’s the place where God Himself removes every cause of tears. No death, no mourning, or crying, or pain. Every thread and every color will be in place, as it should be. Just imagine the Grand Weaver, making preparations for our home coming, as He places the final handwoven rug on the floor. Perfect fit.

May you dream big.

To the Finish,


  • John O'Shaughnessy says:

    So beautiful as it weaves . Thanks for this post.

  • Joanna says:

    Beautiful! Karen, how wide have you cut your rags and is the width what makes such amazingly flat turns at your color changes? I don’t like to think I’m an envious person, but oh my, your skills are putting me to the test!

    • Karen says:

      As a matter of fact… Shhh… I do have a little secret for getting flat turns at the color changes. I didn’t like the bulges I had been getting at color changes, so I started experimenting with reducing the width of the fabric strip when beginning or ending a color. I simply trim down the tapered end to about half its width, so there is less bulk where the end of the strip is woven back on itself.

      About the width of these strips… MOST OFTEN, my rag rugs are sett at 8 epi, and the rags are cut at 3/4″. BUT this warp has a sett of 6 epi, so I’m using wider strips than usual. With this current rug, I am cutting the strips at 1″; however, this is a heavier fabric than I usually have–almost light upholstery weight. With the “normal” lightweight cotton of the previous rug, the strips were 1 1/4″.

      Anyway, I think the two things that make the biggest difference at the turns is 1) turning the fabric strip in a consistent manner at the selvedge, and 2) pulling the fabric strip taut at the selvedge.

      I’m not sure if that is skill, or if it’s just knowing the little tricks. But I’m honored by your kind compliment!

      There you have it. :)

  • Sandy says:

    It is looking beautiful. I really must try this sometime….your posts are very inspirational to me as a new weaver.

    And…I have that same cart next to my loom. :-)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy,

      In a way, every weaver is a new weaver, because there is so much to learn. Welcome to the club!
      Yay for Ikea! I don’t know how I would do it without that cart.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Happy weaving,

  • Cindy Quinn says:

    To me, your posts are such delightful gifts and I always look forward to them. I’m grateful for all techniques, helpful insight and beautiful photography you share as I work to relearn how to weave on my antique Kessinich 4S jack loom that’s been in storage for 20 years. My fondness for rag rugs keeps my interests piqued; how are you piecing your strips together in this rug using this weight of cotton?

    • Karen says:

      Cindy, your kind words really touch me. I appreciate that so much.

      That’s wonderful that you are firing up your antique loom to get back to weaving. That is exciting. Of course, rag rugs… That’s the most fun!

      I don’t do any piecing. I trim the ends of my fabric strips to a long taper, and I overlap the tapered ends in the shed. That’s all there is to it. I don’t do any folding, sewing, or pressing the fabric strips. I take the easy way out and just wrap them on my ski shuttle and go. If you want a smoother look, you’ll need to do more prep work; but this is how I do it. I like simple.

      Happy weaving,

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Tools Day: Temples

Draw-in happens. It is a natural part of weaving. Sending a weft thread across the warp, weaving over and under, naturally pulls the warp threads closer together–this is draw-in. But excessive draw-in ruins selvedges, causes warp ends to fray and/or break, and wastes time because it creates problems. The width across the fell line needs to be the same as the width of the warp in the reed. If the cloth is narrower at the fell line, there is abrasion on the outer warp ends from the reed, as the beater comes to the cloth.

Two things work together to help prevent excessive draw-in:

1) Angling the weft. Placing the weft across the warp at an angle adds extra length to the weft, which helps to accommodate for the natural draw-in.

2) Using a temple (stretcher). The purpose of a temple is to maintain consistency in the width of the cloth. It does this by “stretching” the cloth out, holding it in place with little spikes on each end of the tool. Moving the temple frequently uses the tool to its best advantage. I move mine about every inch of weaving. For more instruction on how to set a temple, please see one of my most popular posts, Tools Day: Temple Technique.

I weave with a temple more often than not. The temple must be set properly, to the precise width, so I have several sizes in my growing collection of temples. Sometimes it works to combine two different sizes to get the measurement that is needed.

My first temple was a make-do tool that I used with my rigid heddle loom on lightweight weaving. It is not adjustable, so it only works with one specific warp width.

Make-do temple for a rigid heddle loom.

Slat with clothes pins glued on the ends makes a simple lightweight temple for a rigid heddle loom.

My wooden temples are from Glimåkra. They serve me well, and are the ones I use most often. Since they are adjustable, they cover a wide range of possible widths.

Wooden temples (Glimakra) for weaving.

Wooden temples (mine are Glimåkra) work well for any type of weaving.

Switching parts to two sizes of temples. Info about temples on the blog.

Switching parts on two different sizes of temples can increase the range of possible sizes. And, yes, some of my temples have an extra hole, added by my husband, to increase the range of the temples’ adjustability.

Tips for using a temple!

Perfect width of temple for this cotton lace-weave scarf found with combination of two different sizes.

Handmade extension for temple. Temple tips...

Steve made an extension for my longest temple when I needed a really l-o-o-o-o-ng temple. He used finishing nails for the little spikes. It’s perfect!

The metal temples are heavier, with thicker teeth, and work well for coarser weaving, especially rugs.

Metal temples for weaving, especially rag rugs.

Metal temples work well for weaving rugs. Like the wooden temples, these also have interchangeable parts, which can extend the range of possible widths.

Temple in place in scrap weft between rag rugs. Temple tips.

Temple is set in the scrap weft between rag rugs. Ready for the start of another rag rug!

May your selvedges shine, and your broken ends be few.

Happy Weaving,


  • John O'Shaughnessy says:

    I have a temple / draw-in question. I’m weaving towels using 8/2 cotton at 18 epi. I’ve been using a wooden temple from Glimåkra similar to yours. I match the temple width to the width of the warp in the reed. I’ve been throwing the shuttle leaving a bubble, changing shafts, and then beating. Things start out fine but as the weaving continues the draw-in continues to get worse so that I have to abandon the temple as I’ve run out of adjustment. Then I attach weights to the selvedge edges to try and keep the draw-in in check. The edges get compressed looking. If I’m using colored weft with a white warp the edges even turn white as things get tighter there. Maybe I need to get another wooden temple and substitute the smaller one as I continue weaving after the first one runs out of adjustment. It’s just a lot of draw-in.3″ in a 20″ width measured in the reed. Help!
    Thank you,

    • Karen says:

      Hi John, just know you’re not alone. Most weavers have struggled with the same things you describe; at least I know I have.
      I think you will resolve the problem if you leave more weft in the shed. Instead of a bubble, put the weft at a 45 degree angle. I suggest doing some sampling, and experiment with the weft. See what happens if you increase or decrease the angle, and find the optimum angle that keeps your weaving at the width that matches the warp in the reed.
      The problem with adjusting the temple, or changing to a smaller size temple, is the outer warp ends will get too much abrasion from the reed. 8/2 cotton may be able to handle that, but if you weave with something finer, or more delicate, like linen, your ends will break like crazy. Ask me how I know. :)
      Any other words of advice from my weaving friends here? Please leave your suggestions, too.
      All the best,

  • Sue Hommel says:

    I find I get the best selvedges by beating the weft with an open shed as well.

  • linda says:

    It takes a little practice, but you can prevent draw in by
    ! throw the shuttle at a 30-40 degree angle.
    2, insert your pointer finger in the shed 3-4 warp threads
    3.grasp the edge,between your thumb and pointer finger
    4. flick your wrist away from the weaving
    5. take your feet off the pedles and beat.
    If you find one edge is not as nice as the other slide your butt to the not so good side just a little. It works every time and you don’t have to rely on another “gizmo” to get perfect edges, linda

  • John O'Shaughnessy says:

    Thanks everyone for the helpful suggestions. I really appreciate it !

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Hand-Hemmed Rag Rug

A good rug lasts many, many years. The finest rugs outlast their owners, being handed down as useable heirlooms, like the two aged rag rugs I have that were woven long ago by my grandmother’s neighbor. I get excited about making colorful rugs that are meant to be walked on for years and years.

Finishing rag rug warp ends before hemming.

First step after cutting the rug from the loom is pulling out scrap rag weft with a long tapestry needle, and securing warp ends by tying groups of ends into square knots. Walking weights (again!) hold the rug in place.

I am hemming this rug by hand, using 12/6 cotton seine twine rug warp and a tapestry needle. This makes a tidy hem, with nearly invisible stitching. I secure the ends of the hemming thread by weaving them back and forth into the woven hem with the tapestry needle. (Refer to Related Posts in the sidebar to see other ways I finish rug hems.)

Hand-stitched rag rug hem.

After trimming the warp ends to 1/2 inch, the hem is folded under twice and pressed. Hem is stitched down, including the selvedge sides, with short stitches in the rug warp.

Pursue truth. That means doing what it takes to find answers. It’s as simple as examining what we are walking on. What are we basing our life on? It means seeing the created and looking for the Creator. Taking a closer look at a unique rug that catches our attention, we see evidence of the weaver and the stitching hand. Discovering truth is like finding a handmade rug that is intriguing enough to put on display, yet is placed on the floor to satisfy our needs for daily living. It gives our feet a sure place to walk, and it’s worthy of being handed down for generations.

Finished double-binding twill rag rug. Karen Isenhower

Finished double-binding twill rag rug.

May you experience a satisfying walk through life in all respects.

(This rug is called “Improvisation,” and you can find it in the Warped for Good Etsy Shop.)

Weaving rugs,


  • linda says:

    You are so right. One of my students did a rag rug in 36″strips then we sewed them together like a braided rug. She got a 9×12 rug out of it. She used old jeans cut into strips for the weft . The rug resides on the Cape in a summer home, and the washed out denim works well in the sea side community.
    I still have the first item I wove: a raya mixed with warp faced. too bad I didn’t choose a better yarn for the weft. Next rug will make use of venition blind twill tape. why not. (new computer can’t find spell check) linda

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Tools Day: Graph Paper

I am using graph paper and colored pencils again to design double-binding rag rugs. Twill double-binding rag rugs this time. The draft comes from Swedish Rag Rugs 35 New Designs, by Lillemor Johansson. The graph paper squares are great for playing out my own ideas. I am not aiming for specific color combinations with this exercise. And I don’t strictly follow my colored design when I weave, but instead use it as a guide that suggests a design pathway. This allows me to improvise at the loom as I see the cloth taking shape.

Graph paper and colored pencils for rag rug design ideas.

Graph paper for playing with design ideas, using Prismacolor pencils.

Rag rug design experiments on graph paper.

Experiments with wide and thin blocks of color, unevenly spaced.

Twill double-binding rag rug on the loom.

Putting design experiments to the test. The twill structure gives more substance to the rug than plain weave, as well as adding to the textural appearance in the design.

May your best designs materialize.


1 Comment

  • […] No improvising this time. Creating a rug to fit a particular space means staying true to the plan. In my measured design, each graph square represents two inches (5 cm) of woven length. So, I am not playing around with shortened or lengthened blocks. And no surprise colors, either. Every element has been determined in advance. I am paying close attention, being sure to measure accurately as I go. I keep thinking of my sister’s entryway, hopeful that this rug will be just right. (Sometimes I do play around with the design as I weave, like I described in Tools Day: Graph Paper) […]

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Rag Rug Results

Isn’t it amazing how many different things you can try on one tie-up? All you need is color, time, and a craving to learn. It has been exciting to try some fresh ideas for double binding rugs. Now I have new patterned rag rugs, ready to hem!

New "crop" of rugs, ready for hemming.

Variety of rag rugs from one tie-up.

Lessons abound in life. There are amazing things to learn with the Lord by your side. Jesus is friend and coach. He governs and carries. The diverse and satisfying results are woven into your life experiences.

May you see positive results.

Happy weaving,

PS The rugs are now hemmed. One rug has been sold, and two of the rugs are in my Etsy shop.

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