Something Old in a New Way

This rug is using up bits and pieces. Normally, I begin with a few choice fabrics in five-yard lengths to create a specific rag rug design. Not this time. With the exception of the grey print, there is not enough of any one color to suit me. Some favorite prints are here, but in very small amounts. Other fabrics have been around too long; it’s time to use them up. And some, like the denim, are in short lengths, which means annoyingly frequent joins. My task is to take these misfits and make something worthwhile.

Double binding rag rug on the loom.

Double binding rag rug that is using up fabric stash pieces. Wide white stripes across the width in regular intervals give definition to the uneven assortment of fabric scraps.

Even though I can’t guarantee the results with this mishmash, I am taking the dive. It is good to try something new, or do something old in a new way. Take fabric that is leftover, outdated, or unsuitable for anything else, and turn it into an artisan rag rug. Can I take ordinary and turn it into extraordinary? It is worth a try.

Do what you know, and take it further than you think you can. Go where you don’t usually go. Step out a little deeper to practice what you already know. Let the struggle push you to find new horizons. You could end up with a charming rag rug.

May this be your day to go a little deeper.

Happy Weaving,

1 Comment

  • linda says:

    with the bits and peaces try a tapistery. one of my students did this what a beauty. Your tapisteries are very nice so go for it.linda

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Wear and Tear Rag Rugs

If the ends are not secured first, before hemming, the rug will unravel. Therefore, I end the weaving with ten rows of rug warp, and then three inches/eight cm of a scrap fabric header. When I cut the rug from the loom I leave four inches/ten cm of warp for tying knots.

Information for hemming rag rugs.

Walking weights hold the rug in place while I carefully remove the header and tie knots.

The header is removed little by little as I make my way across the rug, tying pairs of warp ends into square knots, and cinching them up to the edge of the rug. I trim the ends to 1/2 inch/1 cm. Next, I fold and steam press the hem. With a blunt tapestry needle and a length of warp yarn 1 1/2 times the width of the rug, I stitch the hem closed by catching the warp threads. The warp ends are fully secured and closed up in the hem. This rug will endure through years and years of wear and tear.

Tips for hand hemming rag rugs.

First I stitch the side of the hem closed, and then I stitch the hem, catching the warp ends with a blunt tapestry needle. This creates a nearly invisible hem seam, making the rug completely reversible.

Guard what you believe. It is what you believe that determines what you think, from which your behavior is formed. When beliefs are convictions, rather than mere philosophical ideas, they are firmly knotted in place, hemmed in by wisdom and truth. Nothing will unravel this cloth.

May your convictions stand the test of time.

Happy Finishing,

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Cutting Off and Tying Back On

Efficiency isn’t always faster. I cut these two rugs off even though there is still warp on the loom, because an empty cloth beam enables me to get optimum warp tension for the next rug. It does take additional time and effort to tie back on, but I get better results in the long run. So I call it efficient.

Two double binding twill rag rugs just off the loom. Karen Isenhower

Just off the loom, two double binding twill rag rugs. Next step is finishing the ends, and then hemming.

Listening is like that. Most of us think we are too busy to learn new things. But listening well increases our learning capacity. It does take effort, but it is the kind of effort that brings rewards. Good listening habits increase learning efficiency.

How do you hear? Since listening is key to learning and growing, consider these four ways of listening.

  1. Casual listening. In one ear and out the other.
  2. Convenient listening. Interested only as long as it is easy.
  3. Distracted listening. Divided attention.
  4. “Receiving” listening. Fully engaged attention, with fertile soil for seeds of learning to grow.

“Receiving” listening takes effort and attentiveness, but is the most efficient kind of listening because it produces the best results. None of the effort is wasted, and little by little you see the seeds of learning begin to grow into fruit to share with others.

I would love to have you join me in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, August 27-29, 2015. I will be at Red Scottie Fibers at the Shoppes at Fleece ‘N Flax to teach a Double Binding (Dubbelbindning) Rag Rug Workshop. I will take you through the steps to design and weave one of these beautiful rag rugs of your own. Small class size; few openings left. Contact me if you would like more information.

May you hear and be heard.



  • Jenny says:

    I’m interested in the class in August! Please tell me more

  • Melody says:

    As I am a “novice” when it comes to weaving rugs I totally agree with you on this Karen! I made the mistake of fully loading my loom with warp with the intent of creating one rug after another—-since I did not use a tension box (a big mistake) I am noticing that by the time I am mid-way between one completed rug and the next that my warp tension has changed dramatically. So I decided to cut each completed rug and re-tie then begin another rug just to make sure the tension is right. I plan on buying a tension box for my old Union #36 and plan to warp only enough to cover a few rugs at a time!

    • Karen says:

      I don’t really mind tying back on. I have to take it into consideration, though, in planning the warp. When I forget to do that, the last rug is shorter than I want. :)
      I’ve never used a tension box, but I’ve never put on more than eleven yards at one time. So far…

      Happy weaving,

  • linda says:

    I’m going to assume you warp back to front. I also have never used a tension box and am not sure exactly how it works( More Stuff??). I learned to warp front to back an d even with 15-18 yrd warps have not yet (40 years weaving) had a tension problem. I tried back to front, but found it quite slow and aquard for me. In fact some production weavers I know warp back to front 15 yard warps, cut off finished material, tie on to old warp, and roll the new warp right on the back beam and weave away. The tension control comes when the weaver ties on to the front beam when warping front to back. I know it may be hard to give up back to front, but this may solve the problem. If you do switch let me know how it works, love, peace, and joy, linda

  • linda says:

    as always your work is beautiful. linda

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Linda!

      I do warp back to front, following traditional Swedish procedures. It has been a very reliable process for me, so I don’t see myself switching. I know others, like you, have had great success with front to back warping. It’s great that there are multiple ways to get good results!

      I always love your input and appreciate your years of experience!

      Happy weaving,

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One Treadle Short

I faced a dead end with this six-shaft weave. The draft requires seven treadles in order to include true plain weave. And I do want plain weave for the hems. That is a problem. This loom has only six treadles. So these double binding twill rag rugs were put on hold while I thought about it.

And then I had an idea. What if… I tie the sixth treadle as if it were the seventh treadle, enabling me to weave the plain weave hem. And then, undo the treadle and re-tie it as the sixth treadle for weaving the body of the rug? It works! Essentially, I created seven treadles out of six. What seemed like a dead end became the point of discovering something new.

Changing treadle tie-up to make six treadles into seven.

With this tie-up, the fifth and sixth treadles (counting right to left) are able to weave an even plain weave. The sixth treadle is actually tied up as the seventh treadle, which is only needed for the plain weave hems at the beginning and end of the rug, paired with treadle five. To change the treadle tie-up, the upper and lower lamms for the first and second shafts (counting back to front) need to be switched. That’s all.

Changing treadle tie-up to make six treadles into seven.

Treadle tie-up now follows the draft as written for the first six treadles to produce the twill weave for the body of the rug.

Underneath view of Vavstuga treadle tie-up system. Makes changing tie-ups a breeze.

Under-the-treadle view of the Vävstuga treadle tie-up system. This tie-up system with beads and pointed dowels (or knitting needles) makes changing the tie-up a breeze.

Can you imagine the dead end the friends and family of Jesus felt when they saw his body go limp on the cross? ……………………………………………………………………………………

Easter is about the excitement of knowing Someone who died and came back to life. In the Easter story, the angel tells the women who arrive at the tomb, “I know you seek Jesus, the Crucified. He is now Jesus, the Risen.” For these women, this moment changed everything. What had seemed like a dreadful dead end became the point of discovering new life. Indeed, even now, a dead end is often the starting point of finding new life in the Risen one.

May you discover something new.



  • Liberty says:

    Sometimes we just have to stop and think about something for a bit to find a different way!!
    Happy Easter!

  • linda says:

    Karen: I’ve had the same “not enough tredles problem” I had my husband make more tredles for the 8 harness Maycomber. I now have 14 tredles. He drilled more holes in the lambs for tie ups and away i go. I don’t use all of them all the time, but when I need them they’re there. They were added on the right and left so I could stay centered on the bench and the edges would behave.

    Hint: if you do not use a stretcherlike Karen and one edge is looking sloppy slide your butt just a smidge toward that side and the problem will correct itself. Weave on, linda

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda,
      Steve may add treadles to this loom some day. So far, I rarely need more than six. I agree, it is nice to have them when you need them, though!


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Which Side Is Up?

Two shuttles required! With double binding rag rugs, each weft pick is double. The two wefts fall into place above and under each other, creating a two-sided fabric. The solid green that is visible on the top of this rug forms a different shape underneath. On the top side it looks like a cross from this angle. Underneath, it looks like a capital “I.” As in, “Me, myself, and I.”

Double binding twill rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Rug design is formed two rag picks at a time. Ski shuttles are an efficient way to carry the weft picks across the warp.

One interesting thing about designing double binding rag rugs is that I end up with two rugs in one. Simply turn the rug over for a different look. When the cross is up, the “I” is not seen. Flip the rug over, and the “I” is seen, but the cross remains hidden.

Pride can ruin people. The essence of pride is comparing yourself to others, and putting yourself above. Like most people, I find it hard to deny my own flattery. But being humble means refusing an inflated view of yourself. During this week when the cross of Christ is remembered around the world, I want to make sure my “I” is under the cross. The one who humbled Himself more than we can imagine leads the way. Woven in, behind the cross, my “I” finds its true identity–no more, no less.

May you show your humble side.

Isenhower with an “I,”


  • Janie says:

    Would you mind sharing the draft for this rug? I am just at the point of wanting to do a double binding rug and am wondering how to get the variation in structure on each pick. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Janie,

      The draft for this rug is from “Swedish Rag Rugs 35 New Designs,” by VävMagasinet. “Happy Weaving,” from VävMagasinet is another book that has a double binding draft. Almost any Scandinavian rag rug book has double binding drafts.

      The variation in structure happens with the threading. Basically, there are two blocks; and since there is an upper and lower layer, the two blocks “trade places” from the front side to the back side.

      I will send you an email with a little more information.

      Happy Weaving,

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