Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rag Rugs

Kitchen-New-countersVirrVarA few months ago I started weaving a series of 3 rag rugs, for that most banal of reasons: they will match my new kitchen!

It is light green, dark green and white…not so much from choice, but because the walls are vitrolite historic structural glass.

GreenragrugI used to weave rag rugs many many years ago, in fact the ones I have are at least 30 years old! They are so useful; I put them near the door in the winter, and leave my wet boots on them to dry.

I use them under the Christmas tree, or on a table that has houseplants on it. They can be machine washed and dried.

I am  very low tech, I cut the strips with scissors. CuttingFabric

I did not like how wavy the fabric got when I tried tearing it. My strips are fairly narrow, about 3/4” wide.

I fold the fabric and cut a point at the ends, so I can overlap the strips during the weaving and not have a big lump.

I discovered years ago that sometimes the ugliest fabric makes the prettiest rug. zoerugdetailW

Bright green fabric with large pink frogs was very dramatic when woven, but I felt a little cruel squishing the frogs into blips of pink!

I love the way striped fabric looks when cut across the stripes. Like a tapestry design but much much easier!

Some of these fabrics were purchased for 39c per yard, about 20 years ago.

boomboomThis crazy cartoony fabric had many printing errors but I bought about 10 yards of it, and have gotten a lot of good use from it. Besides that, it makes me laugh.

They were in the scrap bin at my favorite fabric warehouse, Lorraine Fabrics, in Pawtucket, RI. 

The Kokopelli fabric was upstairs with the $1.99 quilting fabrics. I love knowing that those tiny specks of black are little kokopellis hiding in my rug.

kokopelliWhen I first started weaving rag rugs, I cut up old wool skirts and pants that I bought at the thrift store.

They had special days when you could buy a bag full of clothes for $3. It was a pain cutting them up, but the wool did make nice rugs, heavier than my cotton ones.

redrugWLater, when I started buying fabric, a quilter friend became quite angry at me for “ruining” good quilting fabrics by cutting them up.

I was a bit perplexed, as I thought I was making something beautiful, but I guess it’s hard to appreciate the lovely patterns on the fabric when it’s cut up and woven.

Ioverlappingedgesn case you don’t already think I’m a bit obsessive, I lay the fabric strips into the shed very carefully to make sure the right side of the fabric is always facing up (most fabrics have a definite right side). So my rugs have a right and a wrong side. One can twist the fabric in the shed to make a pattern of light and dark, but mostly I just like the dark (printed) side up.

I also like to overlap in such a way that the new color nestles under the old color and it makes a nice kind of a pointy join. I guess we all have our little obsessions!

Yield Once upon a time, about 30 years ago, I wove a large tapestry using fabric strips. It was based on a small watercolor of a “yield” sign.

I really enjoyed playing with the colors and patterns of the fabrics.

If you look carefully, you can see those squished pink frogs.Yielddetail2

The only problem was that it was so noisy weaving it, using a beater (and you have to beat HARD for rag rugs), in the room right next door to my baby’s room.

The only time I had for weaving was when she was napping, and my weaving would waken her immediately, so I got very little done.

Hotchkiss StarsI discovered soon after that weaving a tapestry, Gobelin style (using leashes instead of harnesses and treadles) could be completely silent, and that’s part of the story of how I became a tapestry weaver.

Sara Hotchkiss weaves gorgeous rag rugs and tapestries, and exhibits them at her Old Point Comfort Gallery in Waldoboro, Maine. The annual Studio Open House is August 6th and 7th, so if you’re in the area, check it out.

If you’re not in the area, maybe you should be! Maine is a lovely spot for a summer vacation!Hotchkiss Rug

I still don’t understand how she makes her joins without messy lumps, which was a problem for me.

Sara weaves rugs in all sizes from small mats, to large room-sized rugs, and she will custom design and weave whatever you need for your house.


Sherri Woodard Coffey said...

Love this about rag rugs! I've been saving some wool fabric for years, thinking I would "get around to it." Ha! And i've always admired Sara's work.

Sherri Woodard Coffey said...

Forgot to add that I also love the rag rugs of Claudia Mills.

K Spoering said...

I've been saving bulky wool yarn and old wool clothing to put together in a rag rug. You have inspired me, Jan, maybe I'll get to it sooner than later. We'll be going to Maine in the fall, as that is also a nice time to visit Maine!