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  • Writer's pictureKate

Activity of the day: Rag rug doormat, bath mat, bedside toe warmer, medieval tapestry... method 1!

If it's not just socks you've got waiting for a new purpose, this is a great way to use old worn out clothes, curtains, sheets- whatever you have that has gone into holes and past the point it can go to the charity shop. Although using small children's clothes for this gets not at all funny very quickly (the fabric strips they make are too small)- so instead, I'd recommend worn out small person clothes make great dishcloths when cut up!

We've used two different ways of making a rag rug today: With a peg loom and with a very basic loom frame. Both make woven type rugs. There are loads more ways to make rag rugs- from pulling lengths of cloth through a base piece to stitching onto a base or crocheting the whole thing (which has the advantage that you can make the rug any shape you like). The methods we've used have the advantage that they're very easy to work on once set up and allow lots of collaboration with different ages, inclinations and abilities. As they're pretty long winded methods, I'm going to explain one today and one tomorrow, with the easier method for weaving first- though the other method is far easier to set up and to explain!

Peg loom rag rug

Getting to the "once set up" stage is a little onerous with this method, but stick with it! As you'll see below, the materials you use to make the loom are quite flexible. I reckon it would be very feasible to make a Lego peg loom- though it would be quite tiny so would need to use very small pieces of fabric (and would make a beautifully delicate place mat or scarf rather than a rug... just an idea...). Due to the size of the pegs and the lack of frame it makes a fairly loose weave rug- or a "soft and wuffly" rug, as our finished item has been described by its new owner...

You will need:

  • A length of wood longer than the finished width you want your rug to be- I used a bit of 2x4 which was in the shed.

  • Straightish sticks at least finger thick and about 10-15cm long (dowels or just whatever twigs you can find- mine are mostly fruit tree cuttings)- these will be spaced at about 4cm centres so a 45cm wide rug will need 12 sticks- these are the pegs in the peg loom's name

  • A drill

  • An about- 6-7mm timber drill bit to drill holes through the pegs

  • An about- 10-12mm timber drill bit, to drill holes for the pegs to stand in

  • Secateurs, loppers or a saw to cut the pegs to size

  • Possibly a knife or vegetable peeler to pare down the ends of the pegs if they're too wide to go in the holes you drill (mine were- and my next size bit was 22mm, which was much too big- so I whittled the pegs down).

  • Lots of scrap fabric- preferably some quite lightweight (like old sheets or shirts) or string to make the warp, then anything you like for weaving the weft.

  • A crochet hook or squashed paperclip for threading the pegs

Step 1: Measure your peg hole placements on your large timber and drill most of the way through the wood (it's not a disaster if you go all the way through, but nice to know the peg won't wobble through by mistake when you're weaving).

Step 2: Cut the pegs to 10-15cm long

Step 3: Drill a hole in one end of the pegs and fit the other end into the holes in the big timber. The pegs need to go in reasonably easily but not be too wobbly- you want them secure enough to weave but loose enough to take in and out. You're aiming to end up with this (though the observant may note there are 14 holes but only 12 pegs- deliberate error to make sure you're looking...):

Step 4: Time to thread your loom warp.

Tear fabric into strips about 2cm wide- use scissors to start each strip then rip down the length of the fabric (this is something all my kids LOVE doing- it's quite noisy but also surprisingly dusty after a few pieces so people with sensory sensitivities may be a lot less keen):

Step 5: Thread one strip through the hole in each peg. Tie another strip of fabric (preferably a different colour so you can see what you're doing) to each threaded strip:

Step 6: Set the length of your rug. Tie together the warp threads so a thread from one peg is tied to a thread from the next peg across, as shown below. The knots should be as far away from the pegs as you want the rug to be long (obviously you can undo and move these later if you change your mind about how big you want the rug to be). This will stop your weaving falling off the bottom of the warp- but you will need to undo these later so don't do any of these setup knots too tightly!:

You might notice that there are bumps in the blue fabric (worn out shirt!) about half way down. These are joins in the fabric used to make the strips longer- more on that below for when you need to do the same (even if you don't need it for the warp, you will for the weft which is woven as a single strip).

Brief interlude: Joining fabric strips. You can tie strips together with a knot, but these will be quite lumpy to weave with, so instead, as demonstrated by the 7 year old below:

  • Line up the ends of two pieces of fabric so they're making a single long extended piece and overlapping by about 5cm, with the new piece on top of the old (which will be woven into your rug already at one end).

  • Fold the overlap in half.

  • Cut a small hole in the middle of the overlap, taking care not to go close to the end of either piece.

  • Thread the end of the new piece up through the hole (remember, the new piece should be overlapping the old and ON TOP of it)

  • Pull until the two strips are joined with a neat fake knot.

  • If the two pieces just fell apart, either the fabric tore- try again, and cut the hole further from the edges this time- or you had the strips the wrong way around or threaded top to bottom. Try again with the pieces the other way around this time. Both these things will happen sometimes!

Step 7: Start the weft weaving!

Shown below in 2 colours again for ease: Tie a strip of cloth (these can be a bit wider than the warp strips and heavier fabrics as they don't have to fit through the peg holes) onto the first peg, then weave around alternating pegs up and down the line until your weaving is most of the way up the pegs. Make sure you are weaving OVER the warp threads- they should end up squashed down by your weft weaving. This stage is great for everyone to join in with (just like tearing the fabric- except without the noise and dust issues!)

Step 8: Empty the pegs ready for more weaving. Carefully remove each peg in turn from its socket. Pull the peg up while pushing the weaving down onto the warp threads, so the peg is freed. Put the peg back into its socket ready for more weaving. The picture below shows a bit of overenthusiasm with all the pegs removed and the first section of weaving being pushed onto the warp threads- this is OK, but it's much easier not to lose a peg into the rug (yes, we did, yes, we rescued it- these rugs are very forgiving!) if you persuade your assistants not to pull everything out at once!

Step 9: Repeat steps 7 and 8 until the rug is the size and density you want. As these are loose weave, making a bathmat/bedside rug sized rug took only a couple of rather laid back hours and was very friendly work with different people tearing fabric, joining fabric and weaving.

Step 10: Tie off the ends. This is a multi-step step...

Untie all the pegs

Knot pairs of warp threads from the pegs together securely, then knot together threads between pairs, so that the weft weaving can't slip off.

Repeat at the other end of the rug, retying the knots at the bottom (this is why I said not to tie them too tightly...) so that the rug is slightly compressed and the weft won't slip about too much.

Cut any excess tassles to whatever length you like

And congratulations, you now have a lovely rag rug!

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