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How to make a rag rug

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I don’t usually put tutorials straight in the blog but I couldn’t wait to finish my rug to show you this!

I will eventually put the measurements of the loom and detailed instructions for several projects on the small looms page but I really wanted to show you this much now 🙂

About 6 months ago I saw some vintage rag rug looms on ebay. Postage from the US to Australia was prohibitive because they were so heavy, so I copied down the measurements in the description and my Dad made me one.

My Dad made me this rag rug loom

It’s about 20 inches long with a cup hook at the front for tensioning the warp, two posts at the back for sitting your spools of warp on, and a perpendicular piece of wood with two slits in it for keeping the warp tensioned and at an angle so you can get your hands underneath for speedy knot tying (for the sake of this tutorial I’m going to call this the “tensioning post”). If you’re a woodworker please feel free to make and sell these. We need to keep the old crafts alive!

Here’s how to make the ghiordes knots. (I have read the ghiordes rhymes with forties, but I’ve never heard anyone say it out loud)!

Fabrics cut for making a rag pile rug

First, cut your strips of fabric. For my first try I have cut them 1 x 3 inches. I’m using fabrics that are mostly cotton that were left over from a Suffolk puff quilt that I made last year. (I’m going to experiment with other fabrics later on).

Tensioning the warp on a rag rug loom

Tie your two warp ends together and put the knot in front of the cup hook. Pull the warp tight, thread it into the slots on the upright bit of wood and make a few loops over the outside edges to keep it tight.

How to make the ghiordes knot #1

Take one of the strips of fabric and fold it in half lengthwise. Hold it across the top of the warp. (I usually make knots with two hands but one hand was holding the camera).

How to make the ghiordes knot #2

Fold the ends to the back, around the warp threads.

How to make the ghiordes knot #3

Pull the ends to the front, between the two warp threads. Use the ends to pull the knot down towards the cup hook. As you add more knots, keep pulling them down towards the ones already formed as you pull them tight.

Close up of ghiordes knots on the rag rug loom

This is what a length of finished knots will look like.

When you have made a lot of knots it will become difficult to tighten new ones because the warp will want to pull them apart again. When this happens, untie the warp threads from the tensioning post, take the other end of your warp off the cup hook, move it along and retie the warps on the tensioning post. The last ghiordes knot you made should be in front of the cup hook.

Keep making knots until you run out of warp or it’s long enough. Whichever comes first.
To make a rug you twist your length of knots into a large flat spiral, keeping the pile on one side. Stitch the fabric together on the back with a strong thread. I don’t have any tips for this part yet as I haven’t got that far.

You can also use these knotted lengths for other things. I’m going to try making some with 6 inch long strips of fabric, then trap it in the seam of a cushion for a rag strip fringe.

Crazy boa fringe made on the rag rug loom

I also made a long piece with yarn. I could see making three long strips and tying them together at regular intervals with another piece of yarn to make a big, thick, fluffy boa.
I’m going to have fun playing with this. It’s remarkably quick to make. I’ll show you the rug when it’s finished 🙂

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Posted in Weaving

6 Comments

  1. sunshine

    I have about 10 feet of length that my husbands 95 year old grandmother made in the 1930’s. It just sits in a box at the moment as I am using my scrapes for other things currently some day though I would like to make it a little longer and make a plant doily out of it. I think it would be absorbent for any spills.
    take care
    sunshine

  2. catsmum

    nononononono Sarah please
    I don’t need any more obsession enabling!!!
    oh and btw the link to your book appears to be broken
    ‘Twas nice chatting to you today

  3. Erik Felker

    I was delighted to see that someone else likes to make that kind of rag rug! I make something similar,but with four warps and no knot. I use an inkle loom, which is easily available, although the result looks nothing like an inkle band. Let me know if you would like to see a sample.

  4. Misty

    I was wandering if you could provide the loom details. I have a popular mechanics book that has instructions but I find the loom instructions are sketch on the details. Any help you could provide on your loom would be nice. It seems a much simpler style of loom.
    Thank you.

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