When proper warp and filling are secured, experimental weaving may begin. If the loom is an old-fashioned wooden one, it will weave only in yard widths, and this yard width takes four hundred and fifty threads of warp. Warping the loom is really the only difficult or troublesome part of plain weaving, and therefore it is best to put in as long a warp as one is likely to use in one colour. One and a half pounds of cotton rags will make one yard of weaving.
The simplest trial will be the weaving of white filling, either old or new, with a warp of medium indigo blue. Of course each warp must be long enough to weave several rugs; and the first one, to make the experiment as simple as possible, should be of white rags alone upon a blue warp. There must be an allowance of five inches of warp for fringe before the weaving is begun, and ten inches at the end of the rug to make a fringe for both first and second rugs. Sometimes the warp is set in groups of three, with a corresponding interval between, and this—if the tension is firm and the rags soft—gives a sort of honeycomb effect which is very good.
The grouping of the warp is especially desirable in one-coloured rugs, as it gives a variation of surface which is really attractive.
When woven, the rug should measure three feet by six, without the fringe. This is to be knotted, allowing six threads to a knot. This kind of bath-rug—which is the simplest thing possible in weaving—will be found to be truly valuable, both for use and effect. If the filling is sufficiently heavy, and especially if it is made of half-worn rags, it will be soft to the feet, and can be as easily washed as a white counterpane; in fact, it can be thrown on the grass in a heavy shower and allowed to wash and bleach itself.
Several variations can be made upon this blue warp in the way of borders and color-splashes by using any indigo-dyed material mixed with the white rags. Cheap blue ginghams, “domestics” or half-worn and somewhat faded blue denims will be of the right depth of color, but as a rule new denim is of too dark a blue to introduce with pure white filling.
The illustration called “The Onteora Rug” is made by using a proportion of a half-pound of blue rags to the two and a half of white required to make up the three pounds of cotton filling required in a six-foot rug. This half-pound of blue should be distributed through the rug in three portions, and the two and a half pounds of white also into three, so as to insure an equal share of blue to every third of the rug. After this division is made it is quite immaterial how it goes together. The blue rags may be long, short or medium, and the effect is almost certain to be equally good.
The side border in “The Lois Rug,” which is made upon the same blue warp, is separately woven, and afterward added to the plain white rug with blue ends, but an irregular side border can easily be made by sewing the rags in lengths of a half-yard, alternating the blue and white, and keeping the white rags in the centre of the rug while weaving.
These three or four variations of style in what we may call washable rugs are almost equally good where red warp is used, substituting Turkey red rags with the white filling instead of blue. An orange warp can be used for an orange and white rug, mixing the white filling with ordinary orange cotton cloth.
The effect may be reversed by using a white warp with a red, blue or yellow filling, making the borders and splashes with white. One of the best experiments in plain weaving I have seen is a red rug of the “Lois” style, using white warp and mixed white and green gingham rags for the borders, while the body of the rug is in shaded red rags.
This, however, brings us to the question of color in fillings, which must be treated separately.
THE ONTEORA RUG
Of course, variations of all kinds can be made in washable rugs. Light and dark blue rags can be used in large proportion with white ones to make a “hit or miss,” and where a darker rug is considered better for household use it can be made entirely of dark and light blue on a white warp; the same thing can be done in reds, yellows and greens. Brown can be used with good effect mixed with orange, using orange warp; or orange, green and brown will make a good combination on a white warp. In almost every variety of rug except where blue warp is used a red stripe in the border will be found an improvement.
A very close, evenly distributed red warp, with white filling, will make a pink rug good enough and pretty enough for the daintiest bedroom. If it is begun and finished with a half-inch of the same warp used as filling, it makes a sort of border; and this, with the red fringe, completes what every one will acknowledge is an exceptionally good piece of floor furnishing.
In using woolen rags, which are apt to be much darker in colour than cotton, a white, red or yellow warp is more apt to be effective than either a green or a blue; in fact, it is quite safe to say that light filling should go with dark warp and dark filling with light or white.
There is an extremely good style of rag rug made at Isle Lamotte, in Vermont, where very dark blue or green woolen rags are woven upon a white warp, with a design of arrows in white at regular intervals at the sides. This design is made by turning back the filling at a given point and introducing a piece of white filling, which in turn is turned back when the length needed for the design is woven and another dark one introduced, each one to be turned back at the necessary place and taken up in the next row. Of course, while the design is in progress one must use several pieces of filling in each row of weaving.
The black border can only be made by introducing a large number of short pieces of the contrasting colour which is to be used in the design and tacking them in place as the weaving proceeds. Of course, in this case thin cloth should be used for the colour-blocks, as otherwise the doubling of texture would make an uneven surface. If the rug is a woolen one, not liable to be washed, this variation of color in pattern can be cleverly made by brushing the applied color pieces lightly with glue. Of course, in this case the design will show only on the upper side of the rug. In fact, the only way to make the design show equally on both sides is by turning back the warp, as in the arrow design, or by actually cutting out and sewing in pieces of colour.
By following out the device of using glue for fastening the bits of colour which make border designs many new and very interesting effects can be obtained, as most block and angle forms can be produced by lines made in weaving. It is only where the rug must be constantly subject to washing that they are not desirable. It must be remembered that the warp threads bind them into place, after they are glue-fastened.
Large rugs for centres of rooms can be made of woolen rags by weaving a separate narrow border for the two sides. If the first piece is three feet wide by eight in length, and a foot-wide border is added at the sides, it will make a rug five feet wide by eight feet long; or if two eight-foot lengths are sewn together, with a foot-wide border, it will make an eight-by-eight centre rug. The border should be of black or very dark coloured filling. In making a bordered rug, two dark ends must be woven on the central length of the rug—that is, one foot of black or dark rags can be woven on each end and six feet of the “hit or miss” effect in the middle. This gives a strip of eight feet long, including two dark ends. The separate narrow width, one foot wide and sixteen feet in length, must be added to this, eight feet on either side. The border must be very strongly sewn in order to give the same strength as in the rest of the rug.
The same plan can be carried out in larger rugs, by sewing breadths together and adding a border, but they are not easily lifted, and are apt to pull apart by their own weight. Still, the fact remains that very excellent and handsome rugs can be made from rags, in any size required to cover the floor of a room, by sewing the breadths and adding borders, and if care and taste are used in the combinations as good an effect can be secured as in a much more costly flooring.
The ultimate success of all these different methods of weaving rag rugs depends upon the amount of beauty that can be put into them. They possess all the necessary qualities of durability, usefulness and inexpensiveness, but if they cannot be made beautiful other estimable qualities will not secure the wide popularity they deserve. Durable and beautiful colour will always make them salable, and good colour is easily attainable if the value of it is understood.
There are two ways of compassing this necessity. One is to buy, if possible, in piece ends and mill waste, such materials as Turkey red, blue and green ginghams, and blue domestics and denims, as well as all the dark colours which come in tailors’ cuttings. The other and better alternative is to buy the waste of white cotton mills and dye it.
For the best class of rugs—those which include beauty as well as usefulness, and which will consequently bring a much larger price if sold—it is quite worth while to buy cheap muslins and calicoes; and as quality—that is, coarseness or fineness—is perfectly immaterial, it is possible to buy them at from four to five cents per yard. These goods can be torn lengthwise, which saves nearly the whole labor of sewing them, and from eight to ten yards, according to their fineness, will make a yard of weaving. The best textile for this is undoubtedly unbleached muslin, even approaching the quality called “cheesecloth.” This can easily be dyed if one wishes dark instead of light colours, and it makes a light, strong, elastic rug which is very satisfactory.
In rag carpet weaving in homesteads and farmhouses—and it is so truly a domestic art that it is to be hoped this kind of weaving will be confined principally to them—some one of the household should be skilled in simple dyeing. This is very important, as better and cheaper rugs can be made if the weaver can get what she wants in color by having it dyed in the house, rather than by the chance of finding it among the rags she buys.