What do you look for in a handwoven rag rug? How do you detect quality of craftsmanship? I look at the selvedges. First thing. I look for selvedges that are nice and tight, and that have a uniform twist at the edge. A few simple steps, consistently practiced, produce the kind of quality you can see and feel. It’s one more reason I find delight in weaving rag rugs.
Five Steps for Firm Selvedges on a Rag Rug
Throw the shuttle, leaving a loop of the fabric-strip weft at the selvedge.
Hold the weft out taut, and turn the weft under twice at the selvedge.
Untwist the weft in the shed, straightening it, as needed.
The temple is one of my favorite tools. I have a collection of them. I happily use a temple for almost everything I weave. And I certainly wouldn’t dream of weaving a rag rug without one!
Rag rugs are especially susceptible to draw-in, and a temple helps reduce that by maintaining the proper width of the rug. Draw-in distorts the shape of a rug, contributes to uneven warp tension, and can make selvedge threads break. A temple also aids in getting tight selvedges, and enables the firmest beat possible. (My favorite temples to use, even for rugs, are the wooden ones made by Glimåkra.)
Set the temple to the proper width. (The video below shows how I do it.)
You can set the temple into the cloth as soon as there is is enough woven for two or three teeth to sink into. Then, move the temple up when you have woven enough to set all the teeth into the cloth.
Even with a temple, place adequate weft through the shed. The tool works best in conjunction with careful weaving practices.
Watch out for the sharp points! I get pricked when I forget and reach around the selvedge to straighten something out.
Make sure the temple is far enough back from the fell line that it won’t scrape the edge of your beater. I have a scar on my beater because it was hitting the temple. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice until the damage was done.
Move the temple frequently. For consistency at the selvedges on a rag rug, I move the temple at least every inch.
Remove the temple by moving the slider with one hand, while holding the center part down with the other hand. Keep the pin in place and the temple will draw up in the center. Then, disengage the teeth from the cloth on both sides.
The weft makes or breaks a weaving project. 16/1 linen weft requires careful weaving, but the quality of Swedish Bockens linen won’t disappoint. If you use superior quality warp thread, like this Swedish Bockens Nialin (cottolin), it makes perfect sense to choose a weft that equals that degree of excellence.
When I weave useful items on my loom, I want them to stand the test of time. I want these plattväv towels and table runner to outlive me. So, no skimping on quality. Time and patience are woven into the cloth, with artisan details and carefully applied skills. Perfection? No, not this side of heaven. But making the most of what I’ve been given is one way I show gratitude to my Maker.
We have much to be grateful for. The Lord’s enduring love is of measureless worth and quality. It’s the basis for our unwavering hope, which sustains us through every adversity. This isn’t a knowledge of the love of God. This is the actual love of God, poured into willing hearts. Love changes everything. This love is the weft that makes perfect sense for the completion of something as valued as you or me. What if every fiber of our being reflected the love of God? How beautiful!
May your finest qualities be seen and cherished.
PS Plattväv towel kit is in development. The kit includes a pre-wound warp and sufficient weft to weave four hand towels, and one companion short table runner/table square. PLUS, special access to one or two short instructional videos.
After a few weeks of having to refrain from weaving, I am thankful that there was warp to weave one more rug. The quality of warp thread matters because it is the core of the rug. Never underestimate the value of good, strong warp thread for weaving rag rugs.
I like to use 12/6 cotton from Bockens. This rug warp is a six-strand thread with high twist. The smooth, nearly-unbreakable thread enables me to ratchet up the tension on the warp. That high tension helps produce sturdy, tightly packed rugs with tidy selvedges. Knowing you are making a rug that will last is a very satisfying and enjoyable weaving experience.
With finishing nearly complete, this rag rug will be enjoyed on the floor of someone’s home. Most people aren’t aware of the structural elements of a rag rug, but they do notice quality in the finished work. People, too, have an inner core–the heart. The heart matters. The strength of our inward framework determines our outward attitudes and actions. Since true quality is found in a life that serves others, most everything comes down to a matter of the heart.
Does this color enhance or detract? Is there enough contrast between background and pattern? Is five centimeters of plain weave between pattern sections too long, or too short? I ask myself questions as I weave a new design. I consider all the technical aspects, as well. Warp tension, treadling finesse, and shuttle shuffling. Attention to detail matters.
Details begin in the planning stage with design, choice of materials, and colors. While weaving rosepath rag rugs, consistency counts. I aim for a consistently firm beat and good, tight selvedges. All of these elements contribute to quality. And as I grow in my weaving skills, overall quality improves.
A person’s character is defined by their motivations. It’s not what you do, but why you do it. It is not enough to look good. I can buy a cheap rug that looks good. But if I could examine how it was made, I might find the shortcuts that diminished its quality. Our inward motivations are revealed in our outward behaviors. The cheap rug fades and comes apart all too quickly. By examining our own motives we build quality of character. The result is not only lovely, but durable, too.