Saturday, October 14, 2017

Twined Rug Weaving. And two tips.

Here it is, by popular demand!  (Meaning a couple of you emailed me after an earlier post and said that you WOULD be interested in seeing rug weaving.  Thank you.)

I have always wanted to weave rag rugs and even bought a table loom right before I moved down here 30 years ago.  It sat in my attic for 25 years and then I gave it to Heather.  She hasn't used it either, lol.

Then twined weaving bumped into me on Pinterest.  I love Pinterest.  If I were still working I would hate Pinterest.  But retired people have time for Pinterest.

Twined weaving requires only a simple frame loom, and a ridiculously easy over-and-under weaving by hand technique.  There are lots of instructions online for building the loom but I bought mine from Libby Lula  It makes a 25" x 42" rug, and is adjustable for smaller sizes.  One of the keys to its wonderfulness is that there are metal rods on each outside edge.  You weave around these as you go and take them out at the end.  These keep the rug absolutely rectangular.  You can see one of these rods in the photo below.

I bought a couple of books to learn the technique, but YouTube videos are more helpful.  The books did tell me that a rug takes about 15 yards of fabric and I found this to be roughly true.

I spent a couple of hours on Pinterest just looking a pictures of twined rugs and deciding what I did and didn't like.   I REALLY recommend doing this!  I'm NOT going to try to give you a tutorial on weaving (see YouTube for that) but I will share my aesthetic decisions with you here.  

  • No solid or works-as-solid fabrics.  The technique requires you to knot the strips together as you weave.  Knots hide in patterned fabric.  Knots visually leap off the rug at you and bite you on the nose on solid fabrics.  Granted, this is not obvious in the photo above, but it is obvious in person.
  • I like a color scheme rather than total randomness.  But I am saving all the leftovers and will probably use them in a random rug sometime.
  • I like a stripe at each end.
    • 24 rows of the assortment of colors, then
    • 12 rows of the stripe color, then back to assortment
    • on my first rug I cut 2 yards of the stripe fabric (36 strips) and that was enough.  On my second rug it was not quite enough and I had to cut 2 more strips.  I could, of course, just have made one of the stripes a bit shorter, but I had the extra fabric.

You begin at one end, work your way to more or less halfway, and then flip the loom over and start again from the other end.  So you finish up in the middle.

The last couple of rows are the hardest because you have to work in a very tight space.

These photos show the back side, and these rugs are definitely NOT reversible.  While you are working you can poke some of the knots to the back side.  Which ends up looking like a hot mess.

At the end you tie the strips together.  See directions in a book or on YouTube.

Rug #1, the back

Rug #1, the front

Now here is one of the best things about this loom.  When you are finished you pull out the metal rods on the sides and then slide the rug off the pegs.  And it is DONE.  As in COMPLETELY FINISHED.  No binding.  No further fussing around with it.  DONE.  Throw it down on the floor.  I love this moment.

Rug #1 went to a daughter but didn't really fit where she wanted it so it is coming back over here and she will get Rug #3 in the correct size for her bathroom.

Got a bit ahead of myself there.  Before I dove into weaving the first rug, I began with a small sample mat of 2.5" strips (because I have a bazillion of them). The strips were too fat.   Not the only problem (obviously) but that was what the sample was for:  to discover all the ways I could mess it up.  As you can see, I was VERY good at discovering ways to make it look horrible.

ha ha ha ha ha.  O, en español, ja ja ja ja ja

But by the time I had finished I had learned a lot, including how to go around the corners at the end of the rows.  Ridiculously simple, but it still took me quite a while to figure it out.  And amazingly, all problems were solved by the end of this one little mat and Rug #1 shown above turned out very well.

So I ended up cutting my strips 2 inches instead of 2.5.  Here's what I cut:
  • One yard each of SEVEN light to light/medium fabrics
  • One yard each of SEVEN medium to medium dark fabrics
  • Two yards of the stripe color (could also be one of the light or dark fabrics)
  • Yes, this gives you SIXTEEN yards rather than 15.  Wouldn't you rather have a bit left over than come up short?  
This quantity worked out fine on the first two rugs. On the third (and the one in progress now) I used up some of the leftovers from the first two, and some half-yard cuts. 

On each row you are weaving with two strands, which is why I suggest sorting them into light(ish) and dark(ish) colors.  The idea is to have some contrast going on.

You start by stringing the warp around the pegs.  You can use lots of different things, but I like polypropylene cord.  The first rug this took me an hour and a half to warp.  After you get it on there, you go back to the beginning and start tightening it up.  This means that it is REALLY loose by the time you get to the other end.  And it kept leaping off the loom and that's why it took an hour and a half.  And quite a bit of, ahem, LANGUAGE.

This photo is from Rug #2, and by that time I had it figured out.  A simple matter of tying twine around the top and bottom of the loom to persuade the warp to stay in place while you tighten it up.  This is one of my two tips if you try your hand at twined weaving.

Rug #2 was for the other daughter's kitchen, which will soon be freshened up with paint in tones of green and yellow.

This time I chose a fabric for the stripe that had more going on.  Not as solid-y.  Better, but could be better still.   At the knots there is a bit of the back of the fabric that is hard to hide, and the back of printed fabric is much lighter or even white.  These disappear in the assorted fabrics but are still kind of obvious on my blue with white fabric in Rug #2. Hand dyed fabric might solve the problem, but in Rug #3 I will be trying a printier print.

And a good way down I discovered that I hadn't been scrunching the rows up hard enough.  It was easy enough to go back and fix (photo below) but it took a while.  Now after every three rows I push the fabric up into the rows above as hard as I can.  It compresses quite a bit.

I'm not sure if this is really necessary, but I want a really dense rug.

BTW, the only tools you need are:

  • the loom
  • a pair of scissors
  • rotary cutter and mat
    • some folks tear the strips rather than cutting, but I would rather spend the time cutting instead of pulling all those loose threads off of a million torn strips.
  • HEMOSTATS.  Incredibly useful for pulling and poking and shifting.

Rug #2
I kept rough track of the time I spent.  Rug #1 took a full 60 hours.  But about 2/3 of the way through I stopped and spent a fair amount of time thinking about technique.  Tightened up my technique and it went much faster.  Rug #2 took about 45 hours. 

60 and 45 wonderful fun filled hours.  In fact, much more than 60 or 45 hours of pleasure, because when I was not weaving I was gazing at them in admiration and adoration.  Seriously.  These are seriously gorgeous.

I am not going to give you a tutorial on weaving, but what else DO I have to offer?  Tips on not-really-random color placement, using up those leftovers and half-yard cuts.

I laid out 18 markers on my large table.  Markers sounds very elegant for what they actually were, which was scraps of painters tape with numbers 1 through 18 written in Sharpie.  Because 1 yard cut into 2 inch strips makes 18 strips.

If I had a whole yard of something, I laid one strip next to each number.  For the half-yards, I matched up similar colors and alternated them.  The strips shown below are from the same fabric line, so they really are going to be indistinguishable in the rug.

For the scraps I just tried to go for a similar value and spread them out evenly.  or almost evenly.  or whatever.

coulda done a better job of distribution!
As I open each of the 18 bags, I sort them into sets of one light and one dark, because you are always weaving two strips at a time.  And when I open the next bag, I have the same or similar fabrics, and I sort them into DIFFERENT sets of lights and darks.  Mixing it up.  Increasing the pseudo-randominess.


My third rug is a custom size made to fit my daughter's bathroom.  Shorter than the first two, but just as wide.  I roughly figured out how much shorter and decided that instead of the 7 darks and 7 lights for the full size rug, that 6 and 6 would work.

So now I have 18 strip sets, each containing 6 dark and 6 light.  Dark and light are relative terms, I just want some kind of contrast.  Each set goes into a plastic bag, and the painters tape number (1 through 18) goes on the outside of the bag.  I use them in order.  And this dear readers, is what ensures that colors are evenly distributed over the surface of the rug and you don't end up with all the greens in one spot and all the oranges somewhere else.

And you certainly could have figured all of that out by yourself!   But I have read quite a bit about these rugs by now, and haven't seen this discussed.


And I'm back from my annual trip to California to see four of the people I love the most.  Here's one of them.

And here's another one, wearing a skirt that she sewed on her pink Singer 99 hand crank.

Nellie loves sewing.  She finished 2 skirts while I was there and started a third, which I finished for her before I left.  She also made a lined zippered bag.

And Clinton wasn't much interested in sewing until he got his new Cub Scouts uniform.  Then we sewed the patches on together, using his dragon-embellished black Singer Spartan hand crank.


I have some thoughts about teaching the very young to sew.  Is anybody interested in hearing them? 

I am aware that most of my followers (love all you guys!  using "guys" as a non-gender specific term) are interested in vintage sewing machines.  There was a lengthy period when working on sewing machines fit the constraints of my life very well.  I have far fewer constraints now.  The people I was taking care of are both gone to their undoubted rewards (Mr. Enabler, and The World's Best Mother-In-Law).

So I can actually leave the house whenever I want to, and do things like go to California, and just generally run riot in the streets.  I actually went to Walmart AFTER DINNER tonight for example.  But I spend far less time with my nose in the innards of a sewing machine.  There will still be sewing machines in this blog, never fear.  Just not as many as before.

So if you are interested in some thoughts on teaching children to sew, leave a note in the comments below. 


  1. Love the rugs! Yes, I would like your thoughts on sewing with kids. I have 2 grandchildren, 5 and 7, and have a 99 handcrank, but can't seem to get them interested.

  2. I too would appreciate any thoughts on teaching children to sew. I have upcoming grandchildren and numerous vintage machines.
    By the way, I truly appreciate your blog and have read all entries since subscribing a number of years ago. Thank you! Rebecca

  3. Thanks for circling back to the rug weaving! I remember several of my mom's cousins created "rag rugs" this way - I remember seeing looms at their homes. I really like this type of rug, but I'm not sure I can see myself making them. Maybe when I retire and can really enjoy Pinterest, I'll get inspired!

  4. I really like the colors of Rug #2. Hopefully, in the next few years, I'll be teaching my (soon to be) first grand how to sew.

  5. I am one of those guy "guys" who read your blog and I have FIVE dgd's, all 5 years old and younger. I have assembled a collection (5) of Singers with 27, 28, 127, and 128's with original hand cranks to use with them. I taught myself to sew by sewing clothes for them and plan on introducing all five to sewing. I have some ideas about how to start them but would very much appreciate hearing some of your ideas as well. BTW, I live just down I-85 from you in High Point.

    John Thomas in NC

  6. Thanks for the post and great tips: even I also think that hard work is the most important aspect of getting success. area rug cleaning tips


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