Tools Day: Weaving Rag Rugs

Handwoven rag rugs hold a fascinating appeal for many people. Does it have to do with the secure feeling of being home? After all, rag rugs are to be walked on at home, are they not? You don’t expect them at work, in the marketplace, or in palaces. A walked-on rag rug says, “Home, sweet home.”

Besides a sturdy floor loom (mine is a Glimakra countermarch loom), only a few good tools are needed to weave a rag rug. There are many different ways to prepare and weave fabric strips to make rugs, but I would like to show you how I do it with the tools that serve me well.

For cutting fabric strips:

  • Olfa Cutting Mat (24 x 36 inch) – Large enough to cut long strips.
  • Olfa Lip Edge Ruler (24 inch) – Essential for consistency and ease of measuring. The lip of the ruler catches the edge of the mat and keeps the ruler from shifting as you cut.
  • Olfa Deluxe Rotary Cutter (60 mm) – The 60 mm blade easily cuts through several layers of fabric (much better than a 45 mm blade). My other brand rotary cutter did not hold up to extensive use.
  • Ansell HyFlex Kevlar Cut Resistant Glove – My woodcarving husband suggested this for me. The cutter blade is dangerously sharp, so the protective glove is a wise idea.
Tools for cutting fabric into strips for rag rugs.

Pre-washed cotton fabric, cut into 3/4-inch (2 cm) strips, to use as weft in rag rugs.

For weaving rag rugs:

  • Temple – This tool stretches the weaving to the width that is consistent with the width of the warp as it comes through the reed. I wouldn’t attempt to weave a rug without this tool.
Temple in use while weaving rag rug.

Sharp teeth at ends of the temple grip the selvedges to keep the weaving at a constant width.

  • Turquoise Cart from Ikea – Not particularly essential (a chair with a box would do), but entirely useful. Why not have a pleasant and organized way to keep the fabric strips, shuttles, and supplies close at hand?
Ikea cart beside the loom while weaving rag rugs.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. This turquoise cart from Ikea is perfect for keeping all the fabric strips in order as I weave.

  • Ski Shuttles – My favorite ski shuttle, of course, is the beautiful cherrywood shuttle that Steve made for me–a delight to see and to touch. This type of shuttle is perfect for the way I weave rag rugs. A five-yard strip of fabric, cut with tapered ends, is easily wound on the shuttle. When the shuttle is empty, I wind on another fabric strip. I overlap the tapered fabric ends in the shed. There is no ripping, sewing, folding, or pressing. Simple, seamless, secure.
Weaving rag rugs with handmade cherry ski shuttle.

Handmade cherrywood ski shuttle glides through the shed with ease.

May you rest in the comfort of your home, sweet home.

Happily Weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Judith says:

    Just found your blog researching rag weft prep for rugs. I am an
    experienced weaver but not with rags. I am doing a small rug. I cut 1 1/2″ strips of recycled cotton stitched all together neatly and folded in
    half and pressed them. To me this will make a nice tidy looking rug
    like yours! Do you fold your weft after you cut it??

    I like your blog!

  • Karen says:

    Hi, Judith,

    Great question! I do not fold or press the strips. That doesn’t seem necessary. I just lay them in the shed as is. Cutting the fabric strips with a sharp blade helps reduce any frayed edges.

    I know it is common to stitch the strips together and to fold them, but I have never seen the need to add that much effort to the preparation–as long as I’m getting good results.
    You could try it both ways – folded and not folded – and see if it makes a difference for you.

    Let me know how it turns out!
    Karen

  • Judith says:

    Thanks Karen
    I find your style interesting because your rag weaving really looks
    very nicely finished. I could certainly have done without all this prep
    work I’ve done!

  • Birthe P says:

    Hello Karen!
    Just found your blog this morning in my search for inspiration – I want to weave rugs using left-over yarns (many strands as one weft) and/or fabric strips on a cotton warp. I have been thinking about weaving rosepath – I think that would look great!
    Your blog looks very interesting and informative – I’ll return to read more. Thanks 🙂
    – Birthe P

  • Karen says:

    Hi, Birthe,
    I’m so glad you came. Welcome!

    What a great way to use leftover yarns. I’ll have to try that sometime.
    You can’t go wrong weaving rosepath!

    Happy Weaving,
    Karen

  • Gail earl says:

    Hi Karen.
    Do you double you rag strips before you weave them..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gail, For most of my rag rugs I do not double the 3/4-inch rag strips. I have done some rugs with doubled strips. It just depends on what kind of rug I’m weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Gail earl says:

    Hi Karen.
    I hit something before i had my email down. It wont let me put lower case for the first letter so if you respond to the above question about doubling the 3/4 inch rags use lower case g

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