My husband’s grandmother Olga Born came through Ellis Island in the 1920s. Olga was a wonderful seamstress, knitter, and crocheter, but her biggest claim to fame lay in her huge braided rag rugs. Never one to spend a penny that she didn’t have, Olga scoured thrift stores for men’s suits, then deconstructed them and cut them into strips for braiding. Needless to say, while all of her rugs were beautiful, they were also mostly dark gray, brown, and black. We still have them but they don’t blend well with a contemporary décor.
Enter Tom Knisely and his video Weaving with Rags: Making Rag Rugs and More. In the video Tom shows how to weave with rags. His beautiful rugs fit any décor—modern, country, minimalist, you name it. Not only does he show you how to weave rugs, but also how using certain rags with the right warp can create placemats and scarves. Who knew that a silky warp and rags cut thinly could create a beautiful and supple scarf?
Beginners and experienced weavers will find Tom’s workshop helpful. There are tips on picking fabrics, how to plan a project, and how to estimate fabric needs, whether you’re buying new fabric or cutting up pairs of jeans. (This last lesson would have helped me a few years back when I ended up with a shoebox worth of rag strips left over from a rag rug project. What do I do with them now?)
Once you’ve planned and cut or torn rags, it’s time to shift into the nitty gritty of winding the warp, threading the loom, and weaving. I remember the slew of mistakes I made on my first rag rug project, and wished Tom had been around to guide me. He’s woven hundreds of rugs, and in the process he has learned better ways of weaving hems, warping stripes, and laying in rag weft. The video ends with instructions on finishing and washing rag rugs, and what looms work best for rag rug projects. Even if you have woven rag rugs before, you’ll gain valuable tips for your next project.
Published October 24, 2017 Revised December 20, 2020