Friday, June 1, 2012

Rag Rugs: A Delta Folk Art


Some of my fondest memories, at the age of 3 or 4, were the times I spent with the Turners in their tiny two room shotgun house that they rented from my grandparents.

Mrs. Turner was an artist with her quilt making--and, the left-over scraps of fabric were turned into rag rugs

Fast forward to the Fall of 2009 when John and I headed for Amish country in Ohio and the Country Living Magazine Country Fair. We went to numerous workshops, but the one on rag rugs brought back images in my mind of Mrs. Turner, as she sat at her loom with a basket full of fabric strips beside her.


In all the years I've collected handmade items, I've never found any rag rugs from this area, yet I knew it was a folk art that once was practiced in the Delta. I also knew I had to learn the technique.

Armed with a frame and a set of instructions, I came home and began my love affair with this vintage art form.

 In the past, wooden picture frames,
or a similar wooden shape, were used for the loom.
My loom is constructed of pine and finishing nails.


The process is very simple--anyone could learn it quickly.
Yes, even you!


The first step is to string the warp (vertical) with fabric strips.
I tear my strips--much quicker than cutting.

Then start weaving. . .


Right over; then under. . .Right over; then under. . .Right over; then under. . .
The rhythm of it is so relaxing,
and so, so simple. . . 


Rows are worked fairly equal on top and bottom. 
This keeps an even tension on the rug.


A close-up of the weave.


I use a crochet hook to pull the strips through the last couple of rows.


When the rug is completed, it's time to pull the metal rods out.


And, then, off the nails it comes!


It only took me a week to complete the rug!
It's of recycled fabric.
It's free. 
It'll last a lifetime.


During our Fall 2011 tours of the farm, I demonstrated weaving a rag rug for our visitors. It was a huge hit with the school groups, especially the boys!

Many visitors were quick to relate their own stories about these rugs. I enjoyed listening to each one and received some good tips.

There was one lady visitor who was very excited, saying,  
"I haven't seen these rugs since I was a child!" 
Then she told her story about the lady she knew who made them.

As she spoke, I again had visions of Mrs. Turner. 
She would be so proud.

Sharing with:
Barn Hop
Feathered Nest Friday , Inspiration Friday ,Vintage Inspiration


Please note: I am so sorry, but the design for this particular rag rug frame is John's own, so I cannot give the details for it. He has perfected it over the years. The looms may be purchased at Our Old Country Store--link in the right column.
Weavers in the past used any wood frame and spaced the nails according to the fabrics to be used. Thicker fabrics require wider spacing, but generally they were placed 1/2" -1 1/2".

To answer questions about weaving the strips, it's right strip over the left strip and the right one goes under the next warp. Then the original left strip becomes the right one, so it's right over left again. Continue across. Click on the tutorial photo for a better view of this process.  At the other side, just turn around and come back, using either the right over left again or switch to left over right.
 
The warp is strung with one continuous strip--up and down around the nails, as shown in the tutorial.
To begin the waft, simply run the strips under the first warp and start weaving.
 

18 comments:

Wanda Jo said...

I love these rugs! I decorate with primitives and would love to make rag rugs to go in my house. I will be emailing you soon. Thanks! Job well done.

Betty said...

I like the stories you tell with the posts.

Anonymous said...

These are made from old clothes? wow. I like the colors.

Marie said...

These rugs do last forever. I have one my grandmother made and it still looks good.

Kimberly said...

Love this!
Thanks for explaining so well.
I have just tackled knitting and want to weave next. This looks like a great project to try. Thanks for the tip re: tension.

Anonymous said...

This is really inspiring me to make a rug.

Hope you don't mind me saying, but your scripty font is really, really difficult to read!

The Farmer's Daughter said...

I used the script so it would look more like handwriting, but I agree. Sometimes it's hard to read. I'll see what I can do.
Thanks for letting me know. . .

Suttons said...

Love love love this post! I make pot holder rugs and have them in most every room now. I do believe I'll have to try making rag rugs now.

shellyrhds said...

I love these rugs and had my husband build me a frame like yours. The only problem I have is that I can't figure out how to string the warp. Do you tie each strip on at the top and bottom, weave it between the nails, or some other way? The way I did it the first time caused my woven strips to slide off the warp strips, so obviously it was a big duh moment for me.. any help would be appreciated!

Stephanie Smith said...

Thank you for the great project instructions! Right now I'm working on a large, round crochet rag rug. This will be next!!!

EllenaElizabeth said...

I just love that finished product and the technique looks like fun in itself. I did some weaving in grade 9..a long time ago...LOL It was for a school project and I've wanted to do a rug or something for years and years now. Heaven knows I have enough scraps for the strips.

MarmePurl said...

Most interesting. And I have all I need to give rag rug making a go. Now...Just how do you attach the warps to the nails to make a nice finished edge?

Michele said...

Question:
I am not sure I understand the weaving directions. It looks like you have two strips going at the same time. When you say "right over, right under," do you mean you go over and under with the right-most strip? I am having trouble visualizing the process.
Also, how far apart are the nails on your frame?

Nicole said...

your rugs are beautiful I'd love to know more about how you work them, is there any chance of a picture tutorial?
cant quite see how the weaving goes & also i am going to make my own frame, how far apart are the nails?

The Farmer's Daughter said...

I'm so sorry, but I can't give out the details on how to build John's rag rug loom. It is his own design--one that he has perfected over the years. They are for sale at Our Old Country Store.

This is an old craft. Weavers used any wooden frame to weave the rug. The spacing of the nails is up to you--depending on the fabric you'll be using--thicker fabric would require wider spacing.

The weaving is very simple--right strip over left and under the next warp. When you get to the other side, come back right over left again or switch to left over right. Either way will give you a nice rug.

The Boston Lady said...

Thank you for showing how to make these - I have always loved rag rugs, but could never figure out how they were made. Now I have a reference to go back to when I decide to take the plunge! I love the denim ones especially. Ann

GardenofDaisies said...

I enjoyed reading this older post about how you weave on your husband's looms. I see the differences from my daughter's little loom that she used to make a rug when she was growing up: the stretching rods on the side, and the way you twist two pieces along each row, working from both ends so you end in the middle and the way you continue the strips of fabric seamlessly. All those things create a more professional finished product. She sure had fun with it. Just like you said, it was very relaxing for her and she is so proud of the little rustic piece she made.

Caroline Gerardo said...

Beautiful and so kind of you to share something from your history.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...