Quiet Friday: Weave a Bag with Handles

Voila! A rag-weave bag with the handles woven in. First, the handle straps were woven on my band loom. And then, I wove the straps into the rag-weave bag on my floor loom. Lastly, I cut the weaving from the loom and sewed the bag together. This is a warp for double binding rag rugs. I take advantage of this double cloth structure to make handles that are extremely secure. The pictures show how it all comes together. (Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Bag shows my first attempt at this feat. Be sure to read the comments. My amazing readers helped me develop the idea for this workable solution.)

As a bonus, at the end of this post you will see a new video that demonstrates my method of cutting fabric strips for weaving rag rugs.

1. Weave bag handles. (First seen on Is My Weft Showing?)

Unwoven warp (length equal to the rag rug warp width on the loom, plus 2″/5cm) comes before and after each of two bag handles, which are woven to desired length. Unwoven warp is held together at the beginning, and in between the two handles, and at the end, with 1″/2.5cm of woven band.

Bag handle woven on band loom. Karen Isenhower

2. Insert unwoven band warp for one handle.

Weave approximately 1/3 of the bag.

Cut the two handle straps apart in the middle of the 1″/2.5cm woven section that separates the two lengths of unwoven band warp. Entering from the right-hand side, insert one unwoven band warp, used here as weft, into the first shed of the double binding weave, with 1/2″/1cm of the band-woven handle strap reaching into the shed. Tap the weft in with the beater, but do not beat it in firmly, yet.

Steps for weaving handle into rag weave bag.

Weave handle into rag weave bag. How to.

3. Insert unwoven band warp for the second handle.

Entering from the left-hand side, insert the unwoven band warp, used as weft, from the second handle strap into the second shed of the double binding weave, with 1/2″/1cm of the band-woven handle strap reaching into the shed. Beat firmly, packing in both layers of weft together.

Weave handle into rag weave bag on the loom.

4. Weave the center 1/3 of the bag.

Step-by-step weaving handle into bag.

5. Insert remaining unwoven warp of first handle.

Repeat Step 2 with the unwoven band warp attached to the handle on the right-hand side. Make sure the handle strap is not twisted.

Inserting bag handles during weaving. Tutorial.

6. Insert remaining unwoven warp of second handle.

Repeat Step 3 with the unwoven band warp attached to the handle on the left-hand side. Make sure the handle strap is not twisted.

How to insert bag handles into the weaving.

7. Weave the final 1/3 of the bag.

Double binding rag rug bag.

8. Finishing work.

Cut rag-weave bag from the loom. Remove header and knot the ends. Press. (For more about finishing the ends, see Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Finishing and Wear and Tear Rag Rugs)

Finishing ends to make bag.

9. Stitch the bag.

Fold the bag, right sides together. Stitch side seams. Turn right side out. For whimsical detail, form box corners on the outside, and stitch in place by hand with warp thread. (You could form box corners on the inside just as well, stitching flattened corners by machine or by hand.)

Creating a rag rug bag.

10. Take your bag with you wherever you go.

Rag rug bag with woven handles. Karen Isenhower

Rag rug bag detail. Karen Isenhower

May your ideas turn into fruitful efforts.

Happy weaving,


  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Hi Karen,
    I am really looking forward to making a rag rug, I haven’t tried one yet and I’m thinking if doing one next. I see the kind of shuttles you are using and I’m thinking of buying one like that. What length are yours? I just need a little advice on them. Do you like that kind?
    Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liberty,
      I think you will love making a rag rug!

      I use 19 1/2″ ski shuttles from Glimakra (besides the one my hubby made for me out of cherry). These shuttles work great for rag weaving. They have a low profile, so they fit through the shed easily, yet they hold a lot of weft. It is also very easy to wind the fabric strips on this type of shuttle. I find that it helps to have at least two ski shuttles, even for a plain, plain weave rag rug, especially if you plan to use more than one color of fabric.

      Send me a pic when you have some of your rag rug woven. I’d love to see it!!

      Happy weaving,

  • Liberty says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for the advice. I just ordered a ski shuttle and some rug warp to give it a try!!! I have been wanting to make something different. So far it’s been just dish towels and scarves. I’ll let you know how I’m doing!

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Choosing Rag Rug Fabric is Like Song Writing

Choosing fabric for a rag rug reminds me of song writing. I like to start with a pretty melody. Add some harmony. Write a good accompaniment to finish the song. Be sure to include a good balance of harmony and dissonance to make the music exciting. That’s a good description of my thought process for selecting fabric for a rag rug design.

  1. Start with a melody–a fabric in the color(s) that you want to use in your design.
  2. Add harmony–one other fabric that compliments the first one.
  3. Write the accompaniment–with the chosen pair of fabrics on the table (or in the shopping cart at the fabric store), lay other fabrics beside them, one at a time. Select compatible colors that enhance the “melody” and “harmony.” Eliminate fabrics that “sing a different tune;” but don’t be afraid of unusual combinations. Some dissonance can work in your favor to add interest and excitement to the mix.

Here are a few examples of fabric combinations I am playing around with as I plan my next double binding rag rug design.

Fabric combinations for rag rug planning. Simple tutorial.

Starting with the blue fabric at the top, I added the bold multi-color print as harmony. The black acts as contrast. The two remaining pieces could be used as accents.

Choosing fabric for double binding rag rug.

Bold multicolor print takes the melody line, and the red batik adds harmony. Two more selections bring out the yellow-green and the reds and oranges in the melody piece.

How to select fabrics for weaving rag rugs.

Dark print with green as the base color is complemented with the reddish brown. Other fabrics are included to add contrast and interest.

Process for choosing rag rug fabrics. Short tutorial.

Summer print is enhanced with the harmonizing light pink. Dark pink in small portions makes a good contrast. White serves as a unifying backdrop. Two more prints, used sparingly, could be added for interest.

You can view my double binding rag rugs on Etsy to examine some of the fabric choices I have made for previous rugs.

Classic Check; Autumn Clouds; Improvisation; Woodland Walk; Black and Red SquaresForest at Dawn; Opportunity in Disguise; Painting Sunsets.

May you find a good balance of harmony and dissonance.

With a song in my heart,


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Graphed Design Directs Weaving

Like sorting laundry, I separated the fabric into darks and lights for this design. I am hopeful that with the simple distinction of dark and light, the overall symmetrical design will be evident. We will not be able to judge the success of this idea until it comes off the loom.

Double binding rag rug on the loom.

Cloth tape has units of inches marked on it for measuring the rug on the loom. Tape is moved and pinned for each woven section of the design.

Sometimes I question the plan, even though it is drawn out on graph paper. I wonder how the finished rug will look. But then I remind myself that I see the cloth from the breast beam to the fell line, which is a very small segment of the whole design. I have to trust that the graphed design is the way to go, and I make up my mind to stick with it.

God loves all of us. It takes courage to love Him back. We love God by walking in His ways. That is not always easy. It means learning His plan with a humble heart, and making adjustments to our thoughts and actions. It is also recognizing that we see a very small segment of the overall picture. To go my own way instead would be short-sighted. The designer knew what He was doing in the beginning. Surely, He will carry His good plan through to the end.

May your designs come to life.


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When a New Rag Rug Is Unrolled

Despite the fact that I have been looking at the thing all the while I am weaving it, no matter how well I have planned, or how many hours spent warping and weaving, there is always an element of surprise when the woven thing is cut from the loom! When first rolled off, you only see the back side… But what about the front? How will the rug look on the floor? Did the colors work out? Are there any weaving mistakes that show?

Rag rug unrolled from the loom. Karen Isenhower

Rag rug is unrolled from the cloth beam, giving the first complete view of the underside of the weaving.

My first reaction is usually, “Wow! This is fantastic! I made that??!” My later reaction is often, “Oh, that looks stupid unrefined. I’m embarrassed to show this to anyone.” Do you ever go through this? I finally end up with a more rational view, valuing the accomplishment and fixing any errors that are fixable. All the while, making note of what to do or not do the next time. (Similarly, don’t measure the rug until it has been on the floor for a couple days. You won’t get a true reading until the threads have relaxed.)

Willpower, good intentions, and positive thinking can only go so far in giving me a realistic view of what I can accomplish, and how to face failures. I need grace. God’s grace enables me to have a truthful view of reality, and the requisite humility and courage to express it.

May all your surprises be better than you expect.

To see the front of this finished double binding rag rug, “Forest at Dawn,” visit my Etsy Shop. (A special discount as my Thank You to my blog friends: Use coupon code friend615 to receive 20% off this rug, or any other item in the shop during the month of June.)

Happy Weaving,


  • Trish says:

    I so admire your weaving and the philosophy that goes hand in hand with your art. Being new I keep hoping I won’t make any mistakes if I’m careful, but I’ve rethought this and acknowledge mistakes are part of learning the skills and acquiring virtues such as patience and grace. Soon I will be ready to put this into practice!

    • Karen says:

      Trish, you have really touched me with your thoughtful sentiments. I love what you are saying about seeing mistakes as being part of the learning process!

      Thank you for leaving your thoughts here,

  • linda says:

    I’ve been weaving for 40+ years. I’m not fast anymore and can not produce like Karen, but I love weaving. The big thing I’ve learned is Nothing is truly perfect. when I go back and look at pieces I see where I could have done better. Don’t ever beat yourself up about your weaving, because you have created a masterpiece just right for now. She is always accepting. PL&J, linda

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Never Ending Ideas to Weave

Every patterned rag rug is a new adventure. I can’t imagine being a production weaver who weaves the same thing over and over. I still have childlike wonder when I see a pattern develop on the loom, and then again when the woven cloth is unrolled and cut off. There is an endless supply of ideas to weave. One fascinating idea after another.

Patterned rag rug on the loom.

First third of rug as seen under the breast beam.

When I was a child, our family had a table prayer that we spoke together at mealtimes. “God is great; God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. A-men.” These simple words bring back pleasant memories and a smile, and remind me of truths I hold dear. God is good. He has a storehouse of abundant goodness for those who come and take refuge in him. And that supply from his storehouse is endless–one good thing after another.

By the way, the first rug from this warp (Quiet Friday: Checkered Rug) is now in my Etsy Shop.

May you never run out of good ideas.


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