The pile of samples that sits on top of my printer / photocopier is growing slowing, and gives me a little pleasure in doing so. This week I took my first rag sample off the loom – after the linen warp came apart. The good thing is – I know why. It was a salutary lesson. I know I have to be more careful, more exact. As a result, and before going any further, I spent a little time with my library of valuable books, mostly acquired with my tapestry loom, books I am still discovering from the pile of fifty or more that are still unshelved. Very slowly I’m learning how to read and digest (though not wholly understand) Peter Collingwood’s classic The Techniques of Rug Making – if you want to dip into this it is available from the Arizona Universityy archive as a PDF. This week I made a little progress with a few necessary pages of this book, and came to understand what I have been doing wrong / badly. So, time to be careful I thought. And it’s paying off.
Before I go into the whys and wherefores let me tell you about my new warp. After linen I’m now trying an ecru Pure Bourette Silk – described as Chinese No.817 – 17/8nm from Texere. I have a cone of this in my ‘warp’ drawer (I keep some of my yarn in a rather unusual filing cabinet that used to house trays of cassette and DAT tapes). It was a treat to put on the loom and I’ve threaded a warp of 80 ends (no selvedge extras this time) using the same spaced pattern on a 8 reed as my previous samples with the intention of making a 96cm by 48cm rug. The intention is to put into practice just two, possibly three of the patterns I’ve learnt and worked with in my recent sampling. Colours? A grey and a cream 2-ply wool, and possible a cherry red (but just a touch).
With Collingwood open on the little folding table I have by my loom I started reading his advice about the header and found a really thick chunky yarn to weave about 12cm or so. I tried weaving three picks and then beating down. The result was I’d quickly got the selvedge ends absolutely perpendicular for once, rather than tapering in slightly. I then placed a temple at the edge of the header so as to keep the selvedge ends at 90 degrees. So far so good.
How to start the weft? Collingwood proposes something different than beginning ‘the normal way’, i.e. an end hanging out in the first pick, is tucked into the second pick, the resulting double thickness of the weft will not beat down to cover the warp and the latter will show at this point. His ‘proposal’ he illustrates in a diagram that also shows the same technique being used to join weft ends together. My problem with this is that his diagram shows weaving with multiple ends – do rug weavers do this?
Clearly so. I’m not quite sure I want to. Anyway I’ve attempted to start my weft following his instructions – not easy. The next thing to consider – and right from the start – is what to do with the protruding ends of the weft? I’ve fiddled and fudged this one for a long time because the ‘right’ method I know is darning in these ends . . . and I don’t sew (yet). Anyway, I’m decided upon trying this and intend to leave such protruding ends ready for darning. Collingwood has his own way of doing this – with a blunted needle and a fine wire ‘noose’ made from a dismantled wire healed (no nylon healds when the book was published). Then to the pick itself, what Collingwood calls ‘waving the weft’. I’m not ignorant of this approach, but trying now – as illustrated below – it does work and stops that drawing in when the weft is beaten.
So to summarise – let’s be really pedantic – a) holding the right selvedge thread throw a diagonal line across the warp, b) wave the weft with the shed open – we’ll leave out the 8 stage instruction paragraphs for this ‘wave’, c) change the shed and beat. And it works beautifully.
Now you can see in the top image those ends left for darning in, and the result of the pick and pick technique I’ve been struggling with over the past fortnight. I’m almost there with the selvedge turns. I know by the time I’ve finished this piece I will have mastered the technique – having a really perpendicular selvedge end certainly helps. Below is as far as I’ve got . . .
It’s certainly an improvement on my earlier samples, don’t you think?
During the week I’ve had occasional moments of exploration and discovery. Nice to share some of these here if only as a place to archive them. My first such ‘find’ was in the Celebration issue of the journal Selvedge. This was a review of an exhibition about Prayer Rugs at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. Great place, been there, but sadly not since I’ve had an abiding interest in weave. The exhibition is called Portable Mosques: the sacred space of the prayer rug. The image below says it all – a 19C rug by Tedor Turduc.
Another discovery was a book on my ‘pile’ mentioned earlier. I’m still thinking and researching woven rag rug making and was surprised to find a book by John Hinchcliffe and Angela Jeffs that had several chapters devoted to this approach. Published back in the 70s by Orbis it’s full a good diagrams and colour illustrations. I haven’t read it thoroughly yet, but it is enlarging my view of the whole rags to rug thing.
In this book there’s a short section on a plain weave technique from Sweden known as Rolaken. It was developed ‘to overcome the problem of slits left in the woven fabric as a result of using the Kelim method. Basically the weft of the two colours begin used are interlocked so that they do not leave a slit. The shuttles carrying the two colours work towards one another and are interlocked before they return. This is really, in essence, a tapestry technique and Rolaken rugs are often known as tapestry rugs. Here’s a Swedish floral rug were the motifs have been introduced by inlaying. Might try this.
From Sweden to British Columbia now and the Doukhobor weave. Quite where I came across a reference to this weaving tradition I can’t recall, but I ended up at this web site. There are three pages devoted to the background of this weave and many more that tell the story of this emjgre Russian community in a remote part of Canada, a community who pioneered communal living. There are four types of rugs illustrated: rag rungs, woven weft rugs,knotted pile rugs and tapestry rugs. One web page is devoted to blow by blow instructions of how to make a rag rug in the Doukhobor style. Fascinating.
Finally, nearer home in West Yorkshire, I had a engaging talk with Clare whose blog Clarabella I’ve occasionally looked at. She’s currently advertising a number of workshops illustrated here. The first in late July is on Natural Dyeing – this I gather is Clare’s particular interest. There’s also a workshop in August called Slow Stitches. I like the idea of this – says he who can’t sew (yet). I’m tempted to sign up. Clare was saying she was reading the monograph about Ethel Mairet by Margot Coates and remembered my interest in this pioneer of weaving and dyeing. Longtime readers of this blog will know I researched Mairet during my Bradford College studies and visited the Mairet archive at The Craft Study Centre. In case you missed that blog – July 2009 – you can read it here.