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Weaving Rugs


The process of weaving has many consistent and universal rules but depending on what you are weaving, there are also many differences.  Silk and fine wool scarves need a soft touch and a gentle hand.  Kitchen towels need a firm tension and a sharp beat.  Rugs need high tension and a super strong beat that is often augmented by a weighted beater.  I don't have a weighted beater on any of my looms but I can beat pretty darned hard when I put my mind and muscles to it.  

My hand woven rugs started off as a fiber blend of alpaca and llama with some added wool.  I first discovered jute-cored yarn some years ago and decided this was something I could work with.  We had a stash of fiber we had dyed and we sent it off to a mill in Montana to spin the yarn.  It came back as wonderful stiff heavy yarn that varied from 1/4" to 1/2" in diameter.  I warped up my loom with thick linen yarn and wove some rugs.  I hadn't really considered the treatment I was going to use for the end of each rug.  I decided on fringe but then didn't really leave it long enough to twist or braid properly.  I wasn't very happy with the final results.  The rugs themselves were fine but the ends were a disaster.  In the end I gave them all to my grandkids for their bedrooms.  They love them and aren't the least bit critical of how my fringe looks.

Over the years I've woven rugs on a couple of different looms.  The Cranbrook is the ideal rug loom.  It is hugely large and hugely strong so you can really crank up the warp tension.  The treadles lock in place so you can maneuver the jute-cored weft through the shed without having to keep your foot on the treadle.  And the countermarche loom design means the treadles aren't heavy so you can weave and weave without it being a huge workout.  Sounds great but I only wove one rug on my Cranbrook before I realized that loom was not for me.  It took up a huge amount of space for something I kept making excuses not to use.  That loom has gone to a wonderful man, Steve Harris, who loves it and weaves everything from blankets to kitchen towels to rugs on it.

I also wove some rugs on an 4 shaft Norwood loom that was originally Peggy's and which she had decided to replace with an 8 shaft Schacht.  This was another loom that I didn't really bond with.  It worked fine but again I was making excuses to not weave on it.  It now lives outside Oxford, MS with Jennifer Mounicou and the last I heard, she was making beautiful things with it.

Recently I've woven some rugs on my 8 shaft Gilmore.  I love this loom and use it all the time for kitchen towels.  The most recent run of rugs is woven with some jute-cored yarn that is mostly wool.  We had it spun up white and then dyed the yarn when we got it back from the mill.  My first warp was only 6 yards long which ended up giving me three very nice rugs.  They will get hemmed right after Christmas.  I used a cotton seine twine that I really liked.  It only comes in white so for the next run of rugs I'm using some cotton rug warp yarn that comes in all sorts of colors.

I put 12 yards of warp on this time.  That should give me lots of room to use up my big jute-cored yarn and the last of my cotton-cored yarn that's all alpaca.  I should have some warp left so I'll start in on my stash of old blue jeans.  A blue jean rug would be a great addition!