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What I’ve been up to: The Rag Rug

Working on the rag rug

Where does all the time go? Is it really near the end of September already? This month has seemed to just fly by me. While I have been keeping myself busy this past month catching up on reading, spending time with family that came to visit and other endeavors to stay social offline, I hate to admit I haven’t done much in the way of crafting or creating. Oh, I’ve worked some on this project or that, but not enough for me to really feel I’ve been productive. Having said that, here is a glimpse at one of the projects I currently have underway:

Each warp is made from 4 strands of yarn, tied to the pole in the middle, making the warps 8 strands thick. There are in the neighborhood of 60-70ish warps.

I would say this is my major project right now. For those of you who know me on Facebook, you’re already familiar with it. For the rest of you, this is new info.
I’ve had the book Twined Rag Rugs by Bobbie Irwin in my possession for a few years now,  and, part wanting to experiment with something different and part needing a rug for my living room anyway, I decided to begin this project.
I don’t have any kind of a loom frame, and I don’t have the tools, space or woodworking know-how to create the kind of frame Irwin uses. I went to a hardward store and purchased an 8ft wooden closet pole. To this pole I tied long strings of yarn.
For the wefts, I cut strips of fabric about 3 inches wide. I wanted to start of using what I already had. This includes an old satin bed sheet set that I’ve been keeping for a few years. I admit, I’m a bit of a fabric hoarder – some of my fabric I have been toting around since I was in middle school, never sure what to do with it, but feeling I could do _something_ with it. However, I didn’t quite have enough black and red fabric to complete the rug, so I did have to acquire more, which I got from secondhand sources. Not being able to find enough of what I needed, I attempted to dye strips of white using Rit. Epic Fail. Rit sucks.
To create the repeating design pattern I made use of another book sitting unused on my reference shelf – Gold and Silver Needlepoint by Maggie Lane. I bought it at The Book Rack in Springfield, IL a couple of years ago. (support local/independent sellers!) I took one of her repeating designs used in a section of background and expanded it. Not so secret Secret: Any design that uses graph paper can be used for knitting, crochet, weaving, or needlepoint.
The weaving technique I am using is called taaniko, sometimes spelled with only one “a”. Irwin introduces in on page 64. This is a twined weaving technique perfected by the Maori in New Zealand.

After the completion of 5 rows...

As beautiful as taaniko work is, this was almost a lost art only 20-30 years ago. Indeed, twining in general is a craft trying to survive. Considering that it takes considerable time (each row on my rug has taken me approximately an hour), I can see how some might be dissuaded from even attempting it. To quote a good friend of mine from a comment she wrote on my Facebook, “…just sayin, there’s easier ways to do those things…”. Indeed, in this day and age there are faster, easier ways to do a great many crafts. Sewing machines have become increasingly computerized, most of your store-bought knitted items use a knitting machine, and some weeks back I rented a DVD on fused art quilts (essentially making use of fusible web to bond fabrics together). While I’m certainly not about to knock any of these things, I kind of have this love and respect for the old traditions of craft. Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me… but, when I do this kind of labor intensive work, I feel a sense of connection to all the people who have gone before me. I love feeling like I’m helping to preserve methodology, or bring something back from the dead.

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3 thoughts on “What I’ve been up to: The Rag Rug

  1. Pingback: Baby Spoiling « A'Cloth the World

  2. Pingback: Finishing the Rag Rug: What I have learned « A'Cloth the World

  3. Pingback: Free to a Good Home! | A'Cloth the World

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