Rag Rug Tips

I love weaving rag rugs. Maybe you do, too. Or, maybe you are just beginning to explore the idea of weaving rag rugs.

Here are a few thoughts and practices that have helped me at the loom. Hopefully, you’ll find something here that helps you, too.

(ATTENTION: The draft for the  Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug from March/April 2017 Handwoven is written for a sinking shed loom. Therefore, for a jack loom, you must tie up the “white” empty squares instead of the numbered squares for the pattern to show right side up as you weave.)

Weaving Rag Rugs

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug. Karen Isenhower
Making paths of roses. Rosepath.
  • Tight warp tension is best for weaving a sturdy, tightly packed rag rug.
  • Use a strong warp yarn, with a tight twist, such as Bockens 12/6 cotton, that will withstand tight warp tension and rag rug wear and tear.
  • Use a temple to keep the weaving width of the rug at the fell line equal to the width in the reed. Advancing the temple frequently will help keep draw-in to a minimum, and make it easier to get a firm beat with the beater.
  • If the fabric has an unprinted side or a lighter side, either straighten the fabric in the shed to show the preferred side, or allow the fabric to fall as it may to give a mottled look. Some variation in the weft can be a desirable design element.
  • Turn the fabric strip under twice at the selvedge. For consistency, turn it the same direction each time.
  • Pull the weft snug at the selvedge. (A tight warp tension helps with this.) Loose turns at the selvedge will gradually produce slack warp ends at the selvedges.
  • To weave more than one rug, include 8-10” of warp between rugs. Fill the space with scrap weft and/or warping slats.

Weaving Rosepath Rag Rugs

Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug, as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.
Swedish Rosepath Rag Rug, as seen in March/April 2017 Handwoven.
  • Sometimes the rosepath pattern weft will not go all the way to the selvedge. Make sure the weft going into the shed catches the outermost warp end. If needed, push the outermost warp end up or down, for the shuttle to pass through, to make this happen.
  • When using two shuttles, be sure to catch the “idle” weft at the selvedge by crossing over or under the idle weft with the “working” weft. (If the idle weft goes over the selvedge ends, send the working weft over it. If the idle weft goes under the selvedge ends, send the working weft under it.)

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Very Happy Weaving to you,

21 thoughts on “Rag Rug Tips

  1. Karen, what does “Turn the fabric strip under twice at the selvedge” mean? Maybe it is just morning, but I can’t picture this in my brain. Lol

    1. Hi, Leigh, Thanks for asking!

      The objective is to put a twist in the fabric strip at the selvedge. So, after beating in the fabric strip weft, lay in the fabric strip weft for the next row, and before pulling it taut, take the “loop” of fabric strip weft at the selvedge in your fingers and twist it (turn it down) twice.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Good morning Karen,
        I still do not understand this Karen.
        Do I just pull it down or do I twist it around?
        Warmly from Whitehorse Yukon ,Canada

  2. Hi Karen,

    I am working your rosepath rug on a big Macomber floor loom. This is my first attempt at weaving a rag rug and the project is going well. Your tip about buying fabric in 5 yard increments now makes perfect sense. I bought the minimum fabric required and find I spend a lot of time fiddling with the weft joints. I’m getting pretty good at it, but will definitely use 5 yard pieces for the 2nd and 3rd rugs!
    A couple questions, if you get a chance to respond—
    1) There are a lot of weft tails to work in with all the color changes. (I carry the off-white up the selvage when working with the two dark colors, but it doesn’t make sense to me to carry any of the other colors—correct??).
    2) I work the tails back into the same shed after beating in the new strip. Do you have any clever tips on how you work in the tails?
    3) With the loom warped and threaded for this particular rosepath pattern, how might I work the 2 remaining rugs (I put on enough warp to make 3 rugs) with some variation? Not sure if I will need to rethread. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Carol, I’m happy to hear first rag rug project is going well. Congratulations!
      When I buy 5-yard pieces I always have some leftover, which I like. It gives me a good selection in my fabric stash to choose from over time.
      Great questions!
      1. I would do what you are doing, carrying the off-white up the side. I don’t usually carry more than one color (fabric) up the side, so it doesn’t get to bulky at the selvedge.
      2.I do work in the wefts tail exactly the way you describe. Another little “trick” that I often do is to start the shuttle an inch or two in from the selvedge, going toward the selvedge. Insert the shuttle into the shed in the warp and pull the fabric strip so that the tail is caught, lightly beat in the tail, and then weave the strip as usual, going back into the shed. (I’m not sure if I wrote that in a way that makes sense.) The end tail, then, you still need to work back in as usual.
      3. There are many possibilities with this rosepath threading (no need to rethread). One thing you can try is to arrange the pattern areas differently. Change the spacing so there is more plain weave, or less, in between. Or, repeat one of the pattern sections at the borders of the rug, and make them a darker color. You can change the treadling to get different effects, too. For example, you can omit the “dot” in the center of the main pattern, or omit the 3rd or the 6th treadle in the secondary pattern. I hope this gives you some ideas!

      Thank you for stepping out to try this rag rug on your loom! I’d love to see pictures when you take your rugs off the loom. You can send pictures to karen at WarpedforGood dot com.
      Happy Weaving,

  3. Thank you, Karen.

    The tail tip, to start in from the selvedge, is absolutely brilliant!! After catching the tail, do you give the strip the double turn down before re-entering the shed?
    It is not yet 6am and I have gone from one eye barely open to full-on cannot wait to get at the loom to try that.

    All the information you provided is most helpful and I will send you a pic of the finished rug. As I think about doing that, I am reminded of a quote by photographer Ray Congdon, “Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly first”. Hmmm…maybe I will send you a pic of my third rug…

    Again, thank you Karen, for your quick and detailed response. You have a most generous spirit!!

    1. Good morning, Carol!
      Yes, I do the same double-turn with the strip at the selvedge, but I do it after the shuttle has gone through. I leave enough excess to do the turning, and then pull it snug.

      I learned the tail trick from Becky at Vavstuga. She did it with thread on a boat shuttle, so I thought, why not also try it with fabric strips on a ski shuttle?

      I’m eager to see your rugs!
      All the best,

  4. Karen, I just love your web site, it is a source of inspiration and great information.

    I am gearing up to make my first rug – and of course it has to be a rosepath rag rug. My question is this: is it possible (or ill advised) to weave rosepath on opposites with rags?

    My hunch is that the imagry wouldn’t be as crisp as the rugs woven with wool, and that the rags might make it too thick.

    1. Hi Leslie, I appreciate your kinds words so much! That means a lot to me.

      I have not done rosepath on opposites for a rag rug, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be done. I think you’re right that the imagery would not be crisp, and it may be tricky to get the right sett and thickness to cut the fabric strips. I think it’s worth a try, though!

      For your *first* rag rug, I suggest going with a regular rosepath rag rug. After weaving a few simpler rag rugs you will have a better idea of what is possible and what adjustments you might need to make to have success with rosepath on opposites. Have fun!

      Happy Weaving!

  5. Hi, Karen. Thank you for this post, even though I am coming late to the party. Since the pandemic started, I finally gave in to my long-wish to weave rag rugs, and not having a loom, made one from old stretcher bars in my painting studio (I’m an artist) and nails. It worked out well, then my sweet hubby gave me a Kromski rigid heddle loom, 24″, as an encouraging gift. It’s fun to use and does make the weaving go faster, but I just can’t seem to get as tight of a tension as I am sure is needed for more durable rag rugs. When I increase the tension, the cog at the front beam slips, or if I leave it looser, the heddle falls down when in the up position. And in any case, I can’t get it beaten tight enough to really be sturdy fabric. Is this just the wrong loom to make rag rungs with? Thoughts for me?

    1. Hi Nancy, It’s true that a rigid heddle loom won’t hold as tight a warp as a floor loom. But that’s doesn’t mean you can’t do some rag weaving. I have woven with fabric strip weft on my rigid heddle loom to make bags, hot pads, and mug rugs. If you want to do something as big as a rug, you need to set the tension as tight, but no tighter than the pawls on the loom will readily hold. Know that your rug will not be as compact and sturdy as one made on a Swedish floor loom, but it should be fine.

      Yes, it will help if you cut your fabric strips narrow. Most of my rag rugs have 3/4” fabric strips. My rugs on the drawloom have 1 cm strips. For rag weaving for bags I have used 1/4” strips. It’s a good idea to do some sampling, to see what you can get your loom to do. You will be the expert for your loom!

      Happy weaving,

  6. I just wrote the query about maybe having the wrong loom for making rag rugs. Maybe I need to make my material strips thinner? (I just read your post of June 2, 2020 and your photos make them look pretty thin.) What is your recommended width for them?
    Thank you,

  7. Hi Nancy, just wondering what EPI your warp is set at? I bought the Bockins Seine Twine and working with it currently on Pendleton Wool Selvage. 6 EPI plain weave. What is your normal set for the Rosepath pattern and your “go to” rag rug set for this warp?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Kathleen, The sett for my rosepath rag rugs is 8 EPI. I use Bockens 12/6 cotton seine twine for all my rag rugs. I don’t have experience with wool selvage for weft, so I don’t know how much it compacts. Most of my fabric strips are cut at 3/4″, and sometimes the fabric strips for the rosepath pattern may be a little wider. If you twist a strand of the wool selvage and compare it to a twisted length of 3/4″ fabric strip, you might be able to compare the difference in thickness, and go from there.

      I think the wool selvages will give you a beautiful rosepath patterned rug. I usually like it best when there is plenty of value contrast between the ground weave and the pattern weave, so the rosepath pattern really shows off. With your wool, that would be stunning!

      Happy weaving,

  8. I want to try weaving a spaced-rep wool rug with 12/6 seine on a Swedish countermarche loom. My wool is rags rather than yardage. Can you please suggest a sett? TX in advance.

    1. Hi Fran, It will depend on the weight of your wool and how wide you cut the wool for weft. For spaced rep, using 2 cm (3/4″) cotton fabric strips, my sett is 8 ends per cm (approx. 20 epi). I did successfully weave one rug with wool strips at that sett. I don’t remember what width I cut the wool, but it was smaller than 2 cm. You could experiment with the width. Or, you could try a sett that is a little coarser, like 7 epc (approx. 18 epi.)

      I hope that helps!

  9. Hi. Really appreciate sites like yours…. I live on the very southern tip of Africa with so little help here! I am looking at the threading and treadle pattern on rose pattern rag rug on interwoven of march/April 2017 ( great to be able to download), but I am missing something…. Is every other pick a tabby pick? is this a feature of rosepath? I am cross referencing with marguerite davidsons Swedish rose path where it does not show a tabby every second pick… am I meant to know I must put it in? Please help!

    1. Hi Sally, If you follow the treadling draft in the article, you see that a tabby pick does come between each rosepath pattern pick. You can do rosepath with or without a tabby pick. This rug does include the tabby pick.

      All the best,

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