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twined rag rug 'how to'  RSS feed

 
Judith Browning
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it's time to start collecting materials.
....I am long time floor loom weaver. but along with that I taught a twined rag rug class for over ten years at a local folk school and thought that it might be fun to teach an online class (for free) over the winter for anyone interested.
I thought I would post now so there is plenty of time to discuss and collect materials.....if anyone wants to give it a go we could have a work along 'class' right here at permies.
The materials that I (and my classes) use are recycled all cotton knit t'shirts but the technique can be done with woven fabrics, even blue jeans.
As soon as I get even one person who is interested, I'll start posting some of my handouts from my classes, more pictures and be ready to answer questions.
Twining is not weaving, it is a technique of fabric construction that can't be duplicated by machine and is possibly one of the oldests forms of constructed fabric. Originally done with yarns and other fibers the method was revived in the thirties and forties as a way to make rugs from recycled material. No loom, just a simple wooden frame to stretch the warp material ...a simple project, made to whatever size rug you want.
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Judith Browning
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a student's rug begun on a frame.....
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R Scott
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I am definitely interested in how to do this without a loom.
 
Judith Browning
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great, R Scott....here is the first handouts about selecting and preparing materials. if your are using woven fabric ripping or cutting with scissors works ok...knits, I found, are easier to cut with a rotary cutter on a mat. I also have a crank cutter that is wonderful for heavier materials like denim.
For my classes we used a heavy hemp twine as the warp, It was from ecolution and I was able to get it wholesale. It is hard to find anymore and the hemp I see sold for beading, etc. isn't as good a quality but should work.
More traditionally these rugs were made with the same cut strips for warp as are used in the weft. Whatever is chosen for the warp (the stationary verticle material that you will twine around) needs to take some tension.
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R Scott
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How do you make the frame? what is the spacing for the warp?
 
Judith Browning
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For my classes I ended up buying pine 1"X4" boards for the frame and 1/4" x 2" bolts with wingnuts to secure...one end has just one bolt and a series of holes on the verticle boards so that it is adjustable for a smaller rug and so that the whole thing can be taken apart.
Before I taught this as a class though my frames were made of whatever I could find around our place....window frames old picture frames and once an aluminum tent pole frame....that I worked a double long piece by working circularly around the frame.

For these rug frames in the pictures, the very small finishing nails are spaced at one half inch. If the warp was thicker or thinner you would space them accordingly.
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this frame has been adjusted to make a smaller project
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no handout on making the frame, just my notes for class...might be legible enough.
 
Judith Browning
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a few more 'handouts'.
rug-class-003.jpg
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Judith Browning
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more information...a handout on how to twine.

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Deb Stephens
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Judith, this is really interesting and I am definitely going to make a rug using your method (even have some organic hemp twine on hand, so all set). A couple of things I am wondering about though... I have always made small rugs using old t-shirts pretty much like you are doing here, but instead of twine, I use pieces of t-shirt for the warp as well and weave the strips in and out in a basket weave pattern. What I end up with is a very sturdy rug that looks exactly like a large pot-holder (remember those little pot-holder looms we all had as kids?) Those I've made are super thick (like 3/8" to nearly 1/2") and quite dense/heavy. They hold up incredibly well, but do seem to take an enormous amount of "yarn" to make. My questions are, how does your version compare with my type of weave for thickness and durability? How about quantities of t-shirt strips required -- would they be about the same, do you think? Does the twine make your version somewhat weaker (since I am assuming that if the twine is severed, the weave will simply fall off at that point) or does having the twine covered with thick t-shirt strips on both sides protect it from most potential damage? One last thing... how straight is the finished product -- any noticible stretching or skewing?

Sorry for so many questions! Maybe it would be easier if I just made a placemat-sized piece of each to compare.
 
Dan Boone
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My mother collected 100% wool fabrics from thrift stores, tore/cut them into strips, and then braided the strips into long thin colorful ropes from which she constructed oval or circular rugs by spiraling them snd sewing them together. No frame used of any kind. Resulting rugs were thick, soft, warm, durable, and attractive.

My father once told me that when he met my mother, she was living in a tiny rental house and making a rug bigger than her living room (by folding it up all four walls). After they hit it off, she invited him to move in "but not until the rug is done, because there isn't room." He says it took about four more months...
 
Judith Browning
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Dan Boone wrote:My mother collected 100% wool fabrics from thrift stores, tore/cut them into strips, and then braided the strips into long thin colorful ropes from which she constructed oval or circular rugs by spiraling them snd sewing them together. No frame used of any kind. Resulting rugs were thick, soft, warm, durable, and attractive.

My father once told me that when he met my mother, she was living in a tiny rental house and making a rug bigger than her living room (by folding it up all four walls). After they hit it off, she invited him to move in "but not until the rug is done, because there isn't room." He says it took about four more months...


Dan, that is a great story.....does anyone still have the rug?
 
Deb Stephens
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Dan Boone wrote:My mother collected 100% wool fabrics from thrift stores, tore/cut them into strips, and then braided the strips into long thin colorful ropes from which she constructed oval or circular rugs by spiraling them snd sewing them together. No frame used of any kind. Resulting rugs were thick, soft, warm, durable, and attractive.

My father once told me that when he met my mother, she was living in a tiny rental house and making a rug bigger than her living room (by folding it up all four walls). After they hit it off, she invited him to move in "but not until the rug is done, because there isn't room." He says it took about four more months...


That really is a wonderful story, Dan. I have similar memories of my Grandma making braided rugs in the winter evenings while she rocked in front of the big fireplace in her old farmhouse living room. Those rugs cushioned every room in the house -- and it was a BIG house. I don't think I ever saw her when she wasn't making something. She was a very industrious woman!
 
Judith Browning
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Deb Stephens wrote:Judith, this is really interesting and I am definitely going to make a rug using your method (even have some organic hemp twine on hand, so all set). A couple of things I am wondering about though... I have always made small rugs using old t-shirts pretty much like you are doing here, but instead of twine, I use pieces of t-shirt for the warp as well and weave the strips in and out in a basket weave pattern. What I end up with is a very sturdy rug that looks exactly like a large pot-holder (remember those little pot-holder looms we all had as kids?) Those I've made are super thick (like 3/8" to nearly 1/2") and quite dense/heavy. They hold up incredibly well, but do seem to take an enormous amount of "yarn" to make. My questions are, how does your version compare with my type of weave for thickness and durability? How about quantities of t-shirt strips required -- would they be about the same, do you think? Does the twine make your version somewhat weaker (since I am assuming that if the twine is severed, the weave will simply fall off at that point) or does having the twine covered with thick t-shirt strips on both sides protect it from most potential damage? One last thing... how straight is the finished product -- any noticible stretching or skewing?

Sorry for so many questions! Maybe it would be easier if I just made a placemat-sized piece of each to compare.

I learned about twining through Peter Collingwood's "The Techniques of Rug Weaving" . He had just a few examples of off loom rugs and twined was one....I learned about twined RAG rugs gradually after trying some tiny twining with wool yarns and thought this was way too slow for me.
The other book that others have used (I have not) as a guide is Bobby Irwin's "Twined Rag Rugs". In it she shows how to use cloth as the warp and weft as that is how she learned. I avoided her book while I was teaching my class and just recently bought it....some things that I do are the same and some not.
...so I am saying you can use either hemp or cloth as the warp....if cloth I would go for something that has no stretch...I think knits would stretch too much. Because the weft completely surrounds the warp the warp needs to be under tension.
Generally it is a weft faced 'weave'.
Yes these are thick....a good half inch and take about 4 pounds of tshirts to make a large one......my students made me come up with a figure...I always just said more than you can imagine, get more
They hold up wonderfully....we have one of my first ones (twenty years old) that we use as a door mat...I won't picture it here as it hasn't been washed in awhile...it is still solid but badly stained. It is large enough though I need to take it to a front load washer to really clean it good. It is very heavy when wet so like many things, a quilt, handwovens...you want to be careful lifting when sopping wet
The downside to thick cotton rugs, of course, is that they take forever to dry and you don't want to use them as a bathmat or somewhere where they will stay wet.
The edges are as straight as your skill.....like with weaving it takes practice and building a rhythm, once your fingers know the motion the edges will be perfect. With this thick of a material though a half inch variance is acceptable and unavoidable.

The big advantage to a twined rug over woven is that you can use many tapestry techniques...and on a large scale so that the work is relatively fast. When I sold them I did only wall hangings.......my prices were not 'rag' rug prices and these are not fast to make...especially the first one or two.
...anything else?
EDIT...I see in the above paragraph it looks like I've contradicted myself...what I intended to say was that the work "is relatively fast compared to traditional tapestry" twined rugs are still a slow go as compared to floor loom rag rugs, etc.
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wall hanging
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small wall hanging
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twining every third warp causes heavier weft on surface and warps to show on reverse...
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a somewhat used doormat
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a few more rugs in my work room
 
Judith Browning
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Does the twine make your version somewhat weaker (since I am assuming that if the twine is severed, the weave will simply fall off at that point) or does having the twine covered with thick t-shirt strips on both sides protect it from most potential damage?


The weft completely covers the warp, whether it is fabric strips or hemp...or wool or any other material. Durability is the main reason that I used hemp as a warp....cotton, whether yarn or fabric strips, is prone to mildew and not nearly as strong and durable. Linen would work well also. The wear on the rug, though, is on the surface of the weft and fringe if the rug is fringed.
I think I haven't been clear about differentiating between hemp 'twine' and 'twining'. Twining is a method of making fabric and has nothing to do with any of the twines available to work with....hemp, jute, sisal....it just happens that I twine with twine

next handouts...........
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Judith Browning
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from an old textbook...
hemp-001.jpg
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Deb Stephens
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Thanks Judith for your detailed answers -- AND for those great photos of your work. (I especially like that colorful rug on your work table.) Your rugs are real art! I would feel guilty putting any of those on a floor. I am definitely going to do one in this style because I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to add that level of decoration to a simple basket weave. All my stuff has been utilitarian to this point, so I'm looking forward to making something really beautiful using your excellent instructions. Thanks so much for posting this.
 
Dan Boone
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Judith Browning wrote:Dan, that is a great story.....does anyone still have the rug?


That particular rug? I do not know who got it. If Mom kept it, we wore it out. Growing up we had half a dozen of these rugs and Mom made several more that I remember, but as they would wear and become soiled, she would sometimes unwind them, cut out the worst worn sections of "rope" and then reassemble a smaller rope. I believe there are still one or two small ovals -- heavily soiled and stinking of cigarette detritus -- in our cabin that I grew up in and that my father inhabited (rather like a cave bear) for nearly twenty years after Mom passed away in 1993. One of my sisters has several very nice rugs, but I know she went through an industrious phase of making her own a couple of decades back, and I'm not sure if she still has any of Mom's. It was a bone of contention among my sisters that my father apparently sold Mom's boxes and boxes of thrift-store woolen fabric -- all carefully cut into strips and sorted by color -- at a garage sale after Mom's death. After Dad passed away one of my sisters spent some few hours going through old storage trying to find any boxes that Dad might have missed.
 
Judith Browning
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thanks, Dan. I bet someone enjoyed your mom's rugs for a long time. I have been one of those who benefits from thrift store finds like your mother's cut wool strips....so you can be sure they made somebody happy and got put to good use.
This reminded me to post another couple 'handouts'....
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Judith Browning
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I think that this is the same hemp twine/yarn that I was ordering for years from 'ecolution' ....grown and processed in Romania. I am not sure if it is certified organic but is grown that way apparently. http://hempbasics.com/shop/Item/6-Strand-Natural-Hemp-Yarn

I used the 6 strand for my rugs. I see that they offer the 'twine' on small balls and call the other 'yarn' . I think that what they now call 'yarn' is what I used in the past when it was called 'twine'. At the time I was ordering wholesale so was paying half of the prices listed....$19 for a kilo spool (2.2#) plus shipping. Now it is $21 for 1#.

I think these are still at a good price. The shipping footprint is not good though.
I've never ordered from this company so have no advice or knowledge about their business They do mechanically process and use peroxide for their white twine and yarns.

For one fairly large rug you just need a few ounces of twine/yarn. Because the rugs are so time consuming and last only as long as the warp, I suggest using something high quality for the warp threads. There are hemp yarns and twines available lots of places but some, esp. Chinese hemp, have been chemically processed and then extruded....these have an almost papery feel to them and won't last in a rug.
If you can, untwist a little...look for something with an identifiable long fiber.
 
Judith Browning
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Two strand twining is used in the Chilkat blankets



Here is an example of early traditional twining to show some contrast to twined rag rugs
wikipedia article

By Mary Ebbetts Hunt (Anisalaga), 1823-1919 - Christie's, LotFinder: entry 5745787 (sale 3566, lot 4) (apparently didn't reach its reserve?), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30089792
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Judith Browning
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There are a lot of good videos on twining out there. I thought this one might be the most helpful here if someone wanted to warp with fabric as explained in Bobby Irwin's book Twined Rag Rugs.

 
Judith Browning
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Twined Rag Rugs by Bobby Irwin
The book introduces numerous pattern and equipment options with step-by-step diagrams and photographs for nine samplers and ten full-sized rugs.

available at:
amazon us
 
Julia Winter
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These rugs are lovely.

When I was in Fiji, I noticed that they made old clothes into rugs, but in an interesting way. They sewed folded over triangles onto a circular base, they overlapped like flower petals or fish scales. I think it allowed the cotton fabric to absorb water and then dry a little faster than a more solid throw rug. They tended to be used at doorways and by showers.

It's way too hot there to need a quilt, but the little round rugs were a great way to re-use old bits of fabic.
 
Marta Schulenburg
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I would love to print the handouts but I can't find where they are files to print, just part of the posts. Is there a way to individually print the handouts?
I love the look of these rugs! Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
 
Judith Browning
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Marta Schulenburg wrote:I would love to print the handouts but I can't find where they are files to print, just part of the posts. Is there a way to individually print the handouts?
I love the look of these rugs! Thank you so much for sharing your experience!


Thanks Marta and you are welcome!....I think maybe you could try highlighting what you would like to print?

I'll see if I can find a way to attach my file of handouts to a post here, that's a good idea.
It may take me awhile to find it and then figure out how to attach though
 
Marta Schulenburg
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I will try doing that...highlighting and printing. Thanks again!
 
Judith Browning
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The best I can do is to send the handouts as attachments in an email...I couldn't figure out how to attach here without them showing up full size again.
My email is at my profile here at permies, so if anyone would like them sent that way to print out more easily just let me know.
 
Judith Browning
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Judith Browning wrote:
Marta Schulenburg wrote:I would love to print the handouts but I can't find where they are files to print, just part of the posts. Is there a way to individually print the handouts?
I love the look of these rugs! Thank you so much for sharing your experience!


Thanks Marta and you are welcome!....I think maybe you could try highlighting what you would like to print?

I'll see if I can find a way to attach my file of handouts to a post here, that's a good idea.
It may take me awhile to find it and then figure out how to attach though


One other way, I just remembered...since all of the handouts in this thread are attachments as separate pictures, you can just click on one at a time and then choose 'save file as' or whatever, and save to your computer...then print from there and if all else fails, just email me as I mention in an above post and I'll send them that way.
 
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Any thoughts on using a rigid heddle loom to twine a rug?  I would just use the heddle to hold the warp, not to do any weaving with it.  I would still use the twineing technique to make the rug.
I need a rug for the front hall now that mud season is about to start.  I'm re-reading the thread, but I can't remember if you said how many warp per inch would be good for a hard wearing rug?
 
Judith Browning
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R Ranson wrote:Any thoughts on using a rigid heddle loom to twine a rug?  I would just use the heddle to hold the warp, not to do any weaving with it.  I would still use the twineing technique to make the rug.
I need a rug for the front hall now that mud season is about to start.  I'm re-reading the thread, but I can't remember if you said how many warp per inch would be good for a hard wearing rug?


a rigid heddle would work if the frame is stout enough...the tension needs to be fairly firm for the weft to pack in well. There's no take up in the warp so really most anything large enough that will hold it stationary will work fine.  I've used wooden window frames and part of an aluminum tent frame at times.

Once you are twining the thickness of the weft will determine the set as much as anything. 
My rugs are all two double ends per inch.  I wind on four ends per inch and then twine two as one end.  I like the way the rug lays with double warps and it isn't any harder to work.  This is with 6 ply hemp and cotton knit weft cut around an inch wide (more or less) depending on how thick the knit is. 

When I first tried twining I just warped my floor loom and used some half inch strips of woven cloth and a 12 epi warp worked double (so 6 epi)...very very slow but nice firm placemat weight...too slow for me after using a shuttle for years though.  The wider strips work up quickly and with the dble. warps make a good firm rug when well packed.
 
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