Quiet Friday: Rag Rug Finishing

How many people get to have a handmade article right under their feet? You come in from the world, with your feet dusty and weary; you look down, and the rug says, “Welcome home.”

After the weaving is complete, the only thing left is finishing. For rags rugs, that means securing the warp ends, and finishing the ends with fringe or stitched hems. I prefer the look of hems over fringe, so my rugs usually have turned-under hems (occasionally, I do a bound hem, but I’ll save that for another time). The hem area is woven with narrower strips (about 1/4 in. or 1/2 cm) than the rest of the rag rug, to make it less bulky for turning under, and it lays nice and flat on the floor. Ah, rosepath rag rugs, I shall truly miss seeing you on the loom!

Rosepath Rag Rugs rolled up on cloth beam. Karen Isenhower

The end is the beginning. The end of the warp means the rugs are ready to be unrolled from the cloth beam.

Rosepath rag rugs unfurled from the loom.

Rosepath rag rugs being unrolled and cut from the loom. This always feels like the moment of truth: I ask myself, “How do they look?” (Note, this view is the underside of the rugs.)

Upholstery needle helps separate warp ends from header to secure ends of rag rug.

Step 1. An upholstery needle helps separate warp ends from the header. A clothespin keeps finished ends out of the way.

Securing rag rug hem with square knots.

Step 2. Secure the hem with square knots. Four ends at a time, pulled out of the header, are firmly tied into knots.

Finishing rag rug with square knots, and trimming warp ends.

Step 3. Trim the warp ends about 3/4 in / 2 cm from the knots.

Steps for finishing rag rug hems. How-to pics.

Step 4. Fold hem edge to the back side of the rug, keeping the knotted ends inside the fold. Press. Fold again to complete the turned hem. Press.

Stitching rag rug hem. Steps for finishing rag rugs.

Step 5. Stitch close to the fold of the hem. Stitch the side edges of the hem closed. Be sure to use sewing thread in the needle that matches the underside of the rug, and bobbin thread that matches the top of the rug.

Rosepath rag rug. Karen Isenhower

Rosepath rag rug, hemmed and ready, with the look of a breath of fresh air.

Rosepath Rag Rug. Welcome home! Karen Isenhower

Let’s call this one the “Welcome Home” rug. We’d love to have you stay a while.

May weary feet find your home to be a welcoming place.

Still being finished,
Karen

15 Comments

  • Laurie says:

    Ok – now I really want to try my hand at rag rug weaving. Alas, I don’t think that my 4-H Leclerc Artisat could handle it, as the upholstery sample I wove on her last summer seemed to be a stretch. Those rugs are so beautiful. I’m so pleased for you.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Laurie! Your kind words mean a lot.

      I have been told that some looms are not well-suited for the very tight tension needed for good rugs. But I don’t have experience with jack looms. The only looms I have experience with are Glimakra countermarch looms. Maybe there’s another loom in your future?? Looms do seem to have a way of multiplying.

  • Cyndi says:

    They look fabulous! Who knew coloring in all those little blocks would come to this!

  • Judith says:

    Hi Karen
    Thank you for the yarn information! Very helpful.
    Your rugs are amazing. So beautiful.
    In response to Laura … Leclerc beater bars (jack and counterbalance) are also on the light side. I found attaching ankle exercise weights to each side
    really helped with rag rugs when I owned a Leclerc jack loom. I love my Glimakra for its strength and weight!

    • Laurie says:

      Dear Judith,

      Thank you for the great advice. I noticed that Leclerc sells weighted beater bars for almost all of their looms, but not for the Artisat. I will put your advice to work someday soon. I had thought about adding four harnesses (and back-hinged treddles) to my beloved loom, but have decided that instead I will most likely get an 8 shaft countermarche – somewhere down the road. (way down the road, but that’s ok!) Karen – you’re right, those looms do have a way of multiplying!

  • Karen says:

    You are very welcome, Judith! Glad the information was helpful.

    I’m thrilled you like the rugs. It’s always a relief to hear positive comments about finished work. It’s hard for me to be objective about my own work.

    Thanks for pitching in to help Laura! We’re becoming our own little community… Yay!

  • suzy says:

    How do you thread the salvages so you don’t end up with floats along the sides?
    I made one rose path rug, but ended up with untidy salvages. Suzy

    • Karen says:

      Hi Suzy, That’s a really great question! Thanks for asking.

      For rosepath rugs, I do not thread the selvedges any differently than the rest, except that I often double warp ends in the last two outer heddles and dents for durability.

      It is tricky, though; like you said, you can get pesky floats at the edges. For me, it’s a little bit of trial and error in sampling that helps me end up with tidy selvedges.

      A few things to keep in mind:

      1. With rosepath you have two different weft shuttles. This gives you an advantage at the selvedges because there is usually a way to catch the selvedge with the second shuttle if it’s not caught with the first. Usually, it helps if you start both shuttles from the same side.

      2. Remember that when using two shuttles, if the previous weft went under the outer warp, take the second weft under the first one before entering the shed. If the previous weft went over the outer warp, take the second weft over the first one before entering the shed. If under, go under. If over, go over. This will usually lock in the weft and eliminate a float.

      3. However… Sometimes #1 and #2 don’t work because the number of passes works against you. In this case, you can “cheat” and sneak the weft out of the shed to go over or under the outer warp. (This slows you down, but if the rosepath is just used as accents in the rug, it’s not a big problem. I had one rug in the set above that “forced” me to “cheat” this way.)

      4. Experiment. Sometimes you think you have #3, but if you simply start the wefts from the other side it will work out.

      I hope this helps!

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Suzy says:

    Thanks for the tips, are you weaving with floating selvedges?
    I have tried to thread for a plain weave selvedge, but still experimenting.
    Your rugs are so beautiful.
    Suzy

    • Karen says:

      I never use floating selvedges.

      Keep experimenting. That’s fun to do, and you learn so much in the process!

      Thanks for the compliment. I’m glad you like the rugs.

      Karen

  • terri says:

    Hi Karen,
    I love your rugs. Do you sell them? I need 4 rugs made. I would love to work with you.

    Terri Hill

    • Karen says:

      Hi Terri,
      I’m so pleased you like the rugs!

      I’ll put it this way – Yes, I would like to sell the rugs I make. I just haven’t yet.
      Generally, I don’t do commissions, but I would still love to talk. Please send me an email – karen at warpedforgood dot com.

      I look forward to connecting with you.
      Karen

  • TomZ says:

    Beautiful work my friend. Just dabbling in it myself. Doing place mats, just to get my feet wet. Wondering about the hem. Now I get it.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you so much for the compliment, Tom! Place mats are a perfect choice for getting your toes in the water. These hems are easy to stitch by hand, too. Just stitch up the side of the hem, and then catch the warp threads going across with your needle; and lastly, stitch down the other side of the hem.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

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