How to Get Creative with Weaving Rag Rugs

Weaving rag rugs is nearly limitless in terms of possibility. With a little creativity and know-how, you can create a lasting rug that’s truly unique to your own taste and needs. Just make sure to use good rug-weaving technique, as outlined by Tom Knisely in his video Weave a Good Rug. He covers everything from equipment to finishing techniques, all with the goal of helping you successfully create rugs that look and wear the way you want them to.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to play. Here are a few tips for shaking up your rag rugs!

1. Experiment with Structure and Threading

Weaving with rags allows you to experiment with structure and threading. Just make sure you use good rug weaving technique!
“Colorworks Krokbragd Rug:” Great for practicing rag weaving color design. Click here for instructions!

When designing, consider the number of colors you want or have to work with, the number of shafts you want to work with, and the durability and requirements of your rugs. A bath mat sees very different kinds of wear than a doormat.

In general, you’ll want an unbalanced weave to improve your rug’s stability. Simple weft-facing plain weave or twill produces a great rug, but there are many more options. Boundweave, especially krokbragd, works wonderfully for rag rugs as long as you plan your colors so they show up clearly. Check out the “Colorworks Krokbragd Rug” from the Best of Handwoven: Weaving with Rags collection for a great example. Pile weaves like double corduroy are also excellent choices for weaving rags.

It’s even possible to use rags in the warp, if done very carefully. The “Summer Berries, Autumn Leaves” rug is a great example from the Weaving with Rags collection. It’s woven in a doubleweave variation that creates a sturdy rug with two interlocking cushy layers.

2. Expand Your Definition of “Rag”

One way of weaving with rags is to use t-shirts to make yarn.
Learn how to make “calamari” t-shirt yarn!

The most traditional and economical way of weaving rag rugs is to use clothing and other fabric scraps gathered from your own home or purchased from a thrift store.

T-shirts are a favorite, although they tend to cause erratic draw-in. Make sure to create your t-shirt yarn “calamari” style, meaning you cut long loops that are stretched and tied together (click here for a free tutorial) to keep your selvedges more even. Denim and even pantyhose are other options for material.

One favorite option is to buy sari, kimono, and batik rags or rag yarns. You can also simply purchase cloth to cut into strips, or premade cloth or rag yarn. Poppana “yarn” is a common choice, made of cloth strips cut on the bias.

Weaving with rags opens up tons of possibilities for exciting rag rugs. Now you can learn how to weave a rag rug with your own creative ideas.
“Cotton Rag Rug” and “Summer Berries, Autumn Leaves Rug” from Best of Handwoven: Weaving with Rags. Click here to download the eBook and take your rag-weaving skills to the next level!

3. Seek Out New Textures

When weaving rag rugs, don't be afraid to try new things, like in this rag rug with a twisted weft.
The “Country Charm Rug” from Best of Handwoven: Weaving with Rugs twists two materials together in the weft for distinctive texture.

Even in simple plain weave, there are lots of creative ways to vary your texture. The easiest method is one you’ll have a hard time avoiding: unevenly cut rag strips. Learning to embrace and work with the variance this produces in your work is key to enjoying rag weaving.

Combining two very different types of rags together is another very effective way to get texture. One option is to twist two rug strips together, as in the “Country Charm Rug,” where designer Alma Benedict twisted beige wool coat fabric with upholstery-weight velvet in varying colors.

Accents can also create texture. Tying knots in your rags creates accent wefts, as in the Ragtime Vests (the vests themselves are somewhat dated, but the knotting technique is worth experimenting with!) from the Weaving with Rags collection. You can also add contrasting, textured, or different-sized accent rags with inlay techniques.

Also experiment with raveling the edges of your rags. In the Weaving with Rags collection, there’s a great technique for doing this with denim, which creates a nice white pile against a blue backdrop.

4. Weaving Rag Rugs of Many Colors

Weaving with Rags is your complete guide to rag weaving, including weaving rag rugs and more.
Click here to try out the 10 diverse rag-weaving projects in Best of Handwoven: Weaving with Rags

Finally, there’s the coloring of your rags to consider. Obviously you can choose rags that are already colored the way you want them. Buying a whole rainbow of t-shirts is a common choice. You can then experiment with long stripes of the same color, repeating sequences, or a random mix of colors.

Try weaving patterned rags as well. The size of the pattern, the contrast, and the density of the pattern will all vary the effect you get in your final weaving. Flannel rags can create interesting color depth, as you can see in the “Cotton Rag Rug” from the Weaving with Rags collection.

Don’t limit yourself to the “right” side of the fabric; using both the right and wrong sides strategically when weaving rag rugs is a great way to create patterning, and it adds interest by making your rug reversible!

Many people also dye their rags custom colors. Doing a subtle over-dye on a variety of colors can give you a palette of similar colors for rich depth, or you might want to dye all your rags to match exactly.

When weaving rag rugs, the only constraints are your imagination and of course the durability the rug. Lean heavily on Tom Knisely’s advice in Weave a Good Rug, and start experimenting using the techniques you’ll learn in Best of Handwoven: Weaving with Rags!

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P.S. Anyone planning on weaving rag rugs in the near future? Let me know what materials, techniques, and embellishments you’re using in the comments!

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Rugs and Rag Weaving
Andrea Lotz

About Andrea Lotz

Andrea is a long-time knitter, but a new weaver. She's so excited to learn and grow as part of this community as her weaving skills expand. Come along on the journey with me!

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