Wool Rag Rugs?

I have a generous selection of gorgeous wool yardage that was given to me a few years ago. I had said I would weave rag rugs with it. But I haven’t. …until now. What took me so long? Uncertainty. I haven’t seen wool rag rugs. What warp should I use? What sett? What problems await? I felt timid about walking into the unknown.

Cutting wool fabric for rag rugs.

Wool fabric has been washed and dried before cutting into strips for rag rug weaving.

Wool strips for a spaced rep rag rug.

Four different wool fabrics have been chosen for this spaced rep rag rug.

Last week I came across a recent Väv magazine. Lo and behold, here is a spaced rep rag rug with wool fabric weft! My loom is already dressed for spaced rep rag rugs. Here I go!

Spaced rep rag rug with wool fabric strips.

After a warp thread header, narrow fabric strips are woven for the hem of the rug. The wool selvedges are surprisingly soft.

Wool weft rag rugs.

Weaving in the morning. A pick of brown 12/6 cotton warp thread follows the pick of wool fabric, except when changing blocks. Weaving consecutive fabric strips changes the blocks.

Ten years ago a kind, elderly gentleman sat next to me on an airplane. He gave me sage advice I never want to forget,

Put your future in the hands of the one who holds the future.

We speak of past, present, and future. But for the Lord, the present has already been. The future has already happened. It’s as if the wool rug that I try to imagine and weave has already been positioned in the foyer of the Father’s house to comfort road-weary feet that enter. Amazing!

May your future be better than you imagine.

All the best,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Julia says:

    Oh YES! A wool rag rug sings of warm toes in winter. Beautiful, beautiful.

  • Beth says:

    Lovely! I’ll bet the wool will be a bit more squishy to the foot than cotton.

  • Nanette says:

    After a similar gift I wove some wool rag rugs years ago, but I used wool warp (commercial New Zealand “rug wool” from R & M) and they seemed much appreciated as gifts. But I spaced the warp (probably 6 epi) and wove them bound weave in twill and plain weave patterns. Now, I have received another such gift and am planning to do the same. (And thanks for the reminder about pre-washing…can’t remember if I did or not!) Really like your blocks, tho….!

  • Karen says:

    I was lucky to take a Shaker rug workshop from Mary Elva Erf many years ago. We wove lovely runners with wool….and the book came out a couple of years ago….love those chevron patterns in the runner……
    This for after the rugs!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, I’m glad to know about this book by Mary Elva Erf — I just ordered a copy! Looks very interesting. Thanks so much for the tip.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Laurie Mrvos says:

    Karen –
    This rug is gorgeous. Those tones are so lovely and calming. Love the texture. I know it will be cherished, wherever it ends up. Beautiful work.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laurie, I am very pleased with how it is turning out so far. The proof is in the putting–how it looks and feels when I put it on the floor. 🙂

      Thank you so much for your kind compliments!
      Karen

  • Kathryn says:

    Hi Karen,

    I just love your blog:)

    This is a beautiful rug.

    This post came at a good time for me. Last year I bought an entire bolt of beautiful wool yardage with the intention of weaving a rag rug. However, I wanted to do something different versus my usual plain weave rag rug.

    As a relatively new weaver I have never done rep weave, nor have I ever heard of spaced rep weave. However, it looks like the perfect weave for rag rugs due to the fact that it compliments both the warp and weft.

    I’m going to give it a try, but can you point me in the direction of a resource where I might be able to find a pattern/draft for warping/weaving using spaced rep? Or, can you share with me the set you used? Also, it looks like you cut your wool rags at around 1″ — is that correct?

    Thanks so much for all the inspiration:)

    Kathryn

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathryn, It makes me happy that you enjoy what you find here.

      You’re right, spaced rep weave is a great choice for rag rugs because you can design with the warp and enjoy the colors and patterns of the fabric weft.

      For this rug I started with a draft in Favorite Rag Rugs by Tina Ignell, a rug called “A Night in June.” I don’t know if the book is still in print.
      My warp is 12/6 cotton, in three different colors. I changed the design somewhat from the book, but it’s the same general idea.

      I am using a metric 40/10 reed, which is equivalent to a 10-dent reed. 1 end per heddle, 2 ends per dent. So, the sett is 8 ends per cm, or 20 ends per inch. This is woven on 4 shafts with 2 treadles, threaded like rep weave.

      I am cutting the wool strips at 1.5 cm, which is about 5/8″. I normally cut rag rug fabric at 3/4″, but because this is a closer sett I am cutting the strips a little narrower. And for the hem, I am cutting the strips just a little more than 1/4″.

      These are great questions. Thanks for asking! I look forward to hearing how your wool rag rug is coming along!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kathryn says:

    Thanks so much Karen for the thoughtful reply. Recently, I was lucky enough to locate a copy of Tina’s book from a used bookstore here in Oregon. It’s a great source of inspiration!

    Happy weaving:)

    • Karen says:

      Kathryn, I am so happy to know that you have a copy of the book! I know it can be hard to come by. Yay, you have some great projects there you can try.

      All the best,
      Karen

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What a Web We Weave

Threading errors happen. But you can reduce their occurrence. After beaming a warp, I count the warp ends into threading groups before I start threading. Always. This is the first step in reducing threading errors.

Beamed linen warp. Tied into threading groups.

Beamed linen warp. Ends are counted into threading groups, and tied in loose slip knots.

The second step in nearly eliminating threading errors is to check every threaded group right after it’s threaded, thread by thread. These intentional steps expose mistakes early in the process. I would rather find an error now than later.

Threading ten shafts.

After a group of warp ends is threaded I check every thread to make sure it is on the correct shaft.

Threading ten shafts. How to avoid errors.

View from the back beam. Every thread is now in its proper place. Two ends had ended up on wrong shafts, so threads were taken back out and corrections made. Threading ten shafts can get confusing, so it is critical that I check my work.

Did the spider check for threading errors before weaving her intricate pattern? Did she know her invisible web could be seen on a dew-rich foggy morning?

Napping spider on her almost invisible web.

Napping spider on her almost invisible web.

Spider's web in dew-rich foggy morning.

Early morning dew reveals the outlines of the spider’s web. Not wanting to be seen, the spider quickly climbs away to hide when I come close to her woven threads.

Our world tells us to make enemies, and hate haters. To grip what is mine, and demand my rights. It’s in my human nature to be that way. But love is different. Love your enemy, do good instead of hate, pray for those who mistreat you. Is that possible? Yes, if you know the love of God firsthand. Love makes you different. It changes you, making you want to take account of your attitudes, and check your motives. Count threading groups, and check the threading. There will be errors as you weave, but they are learning experiences, not fights. Remember, the invisible web we weave may not be as invisible as we think.

May you be different.

With love,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Annie says:

    Good morning, Karen!

    I have never seen ten shafts threaded before. The first thing that came to mind was “This must have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s line “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” The play it appears in is escaping me for the moment. In comparing the spider web to the one on your loom, the spider web seems rather simple!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts this morning. Have a wonderful day and weekend.

    Annie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie,
      Shakespeare’s quote is certainly on target.

      I watched the spider start weaving her web a couple weeks ago. Very meticulous and precise, it seemed. So fascinating! It’s amazing how something so fragile can be so strong. As far as simple? Yes, mine is considerably more complicated…and will last a bit longer, too.

      Thanks for chiming in! I enjoy hearing your thoughts!
      Karen

  • Cat Wycliff says:

    What a lovely way to describe how love makes us different. And your practical ideas on re-threading and checking it twice deserve to often be repeated. I need to remind myself of your patient practice.

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Two Threads Are Better than One

Here’s a secret: Two threads are better than one. To measure a warp, I always, without exception, wind the warp with two or more threads together. A warp that is wound with a single thread is prone to tangle as threads twist around each other. A warp wound with pairs of threads won’t do that.

Winding a linen warp. Always 2 threads together.

Choke ties secure the warp bout around the starting pin on the warping reel.

Smooth warping tip: Always wind a warp with at least two threads at a time.

I hold two threads in my right hand, with my little finger separating them, to wind the warp. My left hand turns the warping reel. I purchase enough thread to be able to wind with two tubes at a time. Any thread that remains unused goes toward another project.

I am particular about this warp. It’s linen, so consistency matters. Tangles would disrupt the even tension the linen needs. I have dräll in five-shaft satin in mind as I take each careful step to dress the loom. I expanded the loom to ten shafts to be able to weave this! Expect happy weaving, to be sure, but imagine how pleasant it will be to hold this dreamed-of cloth in my hand. That future cloth gives meaning to my present efforts at the loom.

One of my weaving spaces.

Various stages of weaving. Winding 16/2 unbleached line linen to warp the Standard loom. The Baby Loom (Glimåkra Ideal) in the background is in the middle of rag-rug weaving.

Ten shafts for dräll in five-shaft satin.

Ten shafts in place on the Big Loom (Glimåkra Standard) to prepare the loom for weaving dräll in five-shaft satin.

There must be meaning beyond this life for us to find meaning in this life. The end of the weaving is the beginning of the life of the cloth. There is purposeful preparation by the Grand Weaver, with a precisely measured warp. The back-and-forth shuttle is like the ticking of a clock, or the passing of years. The end is the beginning. Can you imagine the splendid setting the Grand Weaver has in mind for his hand-woven cloth?

May you keep the end in mind.

Yours,
Karen

7 Comments

  • Cindy Bills says:

    Yes, praise God! And thank you for the tip about winding two or more threads at once. I had never heard that before. I’m going to try it on my next warp. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, Let me know how it goes when you wind with two threads. I’m curious to see what kind of difference it makes for you.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    So I am wondering why ten shafts with a five shaft pattern? Will you be doing a double weave?
    As you know, I am a Rigid Heddle weaver, however, I am fascinated by floor looms and I am toying with the idea of learning how to weave on one. I have just ordered the draft book to learn how to read patterns and have started to research the different types of floor looms.
    I am curious to know why you chose the two looms that you mention here.
    Annie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, You have some great questions!
      I can weave the satin with 5 shafts, but it would be the same all over. Ten shafts enable me to weave a pattern with two blocks. This gives the characteristic squares or rectangles in the fabric. It is still a single warp and weft, not a double weave structure.

      Your second question gives me an idea for another blog post – Why I weave on Swedish Looms. You can look for that in the near future. For now, I will say that I am fascinated with the simplicity, durability, and functionality of the Swedish countermarch looms. Everything about these looms work with anything I want to weave, from hearty rag rugs to fine linen lace, and make it a joy to dress the loom and weave.

      (Back when I was researching floor looms, like you are, a few well-meaning people told me the countermarch loom would be too complicated and/or too big. They were wrong. 🙂

      Thank you for asking!
      Karen

      • Annie says:

        Thank you for sharing that information, Karen. I have a clearer picture of your project now.

        And a better understanding of the Glimakra loom.

        Annie

  • Anonymous says:

    Your blog is very inspirational! Thank you.
    Linda

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Quiet Friday: Day at the Drawloom

There is a unique and special weaving place I have been privileged to enjoy on a few occasions. Homestead Fiber Crafts in Waco, Texas. You can immerse yourself in weaving there, in a setting that is entirely peaceful and pleasant. A rare find. And the people there are an important part of the treasure. Plus, tea and fresh biscotti from the bakery. And sometimes, homemade chocolate chip cookies, too.

(Don’t miss my little slideshow at the end of this post. Watch all the way to the end to see my favorite side of the finished piece.)

Last year, I heard about Fiber Crafts’ Weaving Extravaganza, where looms are dressed for various projects and you can reserve a loom for the day (or half day). And their big, beautiful drawloom was included. Sign me up! I wove a towel with chicks and “EGGS.” Sure, there are some pattern mistakes. But that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of this learning experience.

Drawloom weaving.

Last year’s drawloom piece.

Now, this week I am at the drawloom again, relishing every moment. A black warp sets the stage for elegance, and I choose a poinsettia pattern that has been drawn on a piece of graph paper. Red and blue linen weft become brilliant in the black warp. I learn how easy it is to make an error in the pattern. And how hard it is to undo an error. But skill comes with practice. Finally, on my fifth (and sixth, and seventh) row of poinsettias, I complete the pattern without errors. And, the pattern mistakes on those first four rows only serve to prove the adage, “Practice makes perfect.”

Here’s a short Instagram clip of the sights and sounds of sitting at the drawloom in a room with other active weaving looms.

Myrehed combination drawloom frame

Myrehed combination drawloom frame.

Glimakra Julia loom. Drawloom towels hanging on wall. Homestead in Waco.

Other drawloom towel examples hang on the wall beside my friend Elisabeth. She is weaving a beautiful cotton waffle weave towel on a Glimåkra Julia loom.

May you expand your experience.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Susie Weitzel says:

    Thanks for your posts and beautiful videos. It makes my chaotic world a little more serene.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am so happy for you, Karen! What a wonderful opportunity!

    I must admit that I had to go to the Glimarkra site to read up on the drawloom. It sounds incredibly complex! Your poinsettias are beautiful but I think I like the hens and eggs best.

    The Homestead Fiber crafts is on my bucket list. I am hoping to take some classes there later next year.

    Have a blessed day.

    Annie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I’m glad you looked at the Glimakra site as a resource. It has great information about different types of looms. I read up on drawlooms there, too, recently.
      I hope you get a chance to visit Homestead. It’s such a pleasant place!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • D’Anne says:

    FUN! Love those chickens! It’s amazing what one can do on the drawloom! I spent several days weaving on one once, made a beautiful pattern and decided I did not want to own one. I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi D’Anne, Those chickens are pretty cute! While I was weaving, I was thinking, hmmm, how can I work it out to get one of these drawlooms in my home… hahaha. someday, maybe…

      Karen

  • Martha Witcher says:

    What a lovely and peaceful day you had at the draw loom. One of these days I just have to find somewhere near MN to learn the basics of draw loom, it has been calling to me for years. Love the chickens!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Martha, It was a very satisfying time at the loom. Minnesota surely has some drawlooms with all the Scandinavian weaving that comes from that region. I hope you find a chance to do that! You’ll enjoy it!

      All the best,
      Karen

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Making this Autumn Rag Rug

I enjoy making it up as I go—changing blocks and switching colors. That’s what I did for the first quarter of this long rug. Then, I made notes of what I did so I could reverse the pattern to the middle of the rug. The entire sequence, then, is repeated for the second half. And now, there are only six more inches to weave on this autumn-toned rug.

Rag rug on the loom. Spaced rep.

First rug on this warp is almost complete.

Because of experience I gained by weaving towels with thick and thin threads, I am quite comfortable designing this rug on the loom. Fabric strips and rug warp = thick and thin. I understand it. On the other hand, for every weaving concept I understand, I realize how much more I don’t know at all. Who can be good at it all?

Cloth beam fills up with a long rag rug.

Cloth beam is wrapped with this long rag rug. Kumihimo braided cord that is attached to my Gingher snips hangs on the corner of the breast beam. I “wear” the snips when I sit down to weave.

Rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Thick and thin weft enables interesting patterns in the spaced rep rag rug.

I am pretty good at being “good.” But I’m far from perfect. We know that Jesus went about doing good and helping people. So, yes, we can follow his example. But there’s a problem. Being good is not good enough. Our good will never reach perfection. Fortunately, Jesus gave us more than a good example. He gave his life so that we could receive forgiveness for everything in us that is not good. And that is what we call good news!

May your cloth beam fill up with woven goods.

Happy weaving,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Joann says:

    Karen,
    I always look forward to your posts. Thank you for showing us your weaving and your love for the Savoir Jesus
    Joann

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joann, It’s a special pleasure for me to have someone like you with whom I can share my weaving progress and my thoughts.

      Blessings,
      Karen

  • Julia Weldon says:

    Your words: “for every weaving concept I understand, I realize how much more I don’t know at all” remind me of the quotes my high school bible teacher had above the chalk board. This quote has stayed with me ever since,”The bigger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.”

    Your rug is lovely and will warm some feet soon.

  • Annie says:

    I love the way your mind works, Karen, and your hands. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. The brighten my day.

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