Rainbow Rug Ready

For months now I’ve been creating a big pile of rags in the colours of the rainbow. Back in May I posted that I’d been cutting rag strips from the big bag of flanellette for weeks. I wove the Country Rug in June, as a test rug. Since then I’ve been preparing rags for the second rug.

Of the usual rainbow colours, I didn’t have much orange, yellow or green. Nor could I find much flannelette in those colours in online stores. So I bought solid colours of fabric and used fabric pens to add pattern. And then I dyed a pile of mostly white strips.

Several sessions followed of carefully laying out even sequences of pattern in each colour then and sewing them together with the overlocker.

And many hours of using a bias maker tool to fold over the edges of the strips so I could iron them flat. I now have a huge basket full of rag strips ready for weaving.

Next came winding the warp.

And finally, four months later, I’ve started weaving. But I’ll leave that to another post.

The Country Rug

While waiting for my flannelette orders to arrive two things happened. First, I wound up going in person to the shop I’d ordered from. It seems like everyone is coming out of isolation much faster than they went in. Which would be fine, if everyone was physical distancing. But that’s another grumble for another time and place…

I bought a half metre of plain purple and red flannelette as back up, figuring I could weave it as it was, or draw all over it with a black fabric pen to create an impression of pattern. Part of my order arrived faster than before, so I now had three pieces of fabric to cut up and weave.

However…

In the meantime, I’d hit upon another solution to the need for more strips for the rug. The problem with using the rest of the strips I’d already cut was that they were half an inch narrower, so they would form visibly thinner weft. But what if I cut strips half an inch wide and wrapped the 1 1/2 inch strips around them?!! That would bulk up the thinner strips equal to the larger.

I was certain it would work. So I plucked out some strips in colours that would suit – burgundy patterns and a plaid – and sewed those strips together with a thin filler strip at the centre, cut from strips in colours that didn’t match any of the batches I’d put together. Then I carefully folded in the edges and ironed them flat.

I got weaving, starting with the blue batch I’d already prepared, moving onto the burgundy plaid then the two burgundy patterns… and ran out of warp.

I didn’t even get to the point of cutting up the red plaid I’d ordered. And I also found that I didn’t have enough warp left to weave a 15 cm header. So some unweaving began. I removed the first batch of burgundy, then the second as without the first it was too bright against the rest of the rug.

Finally I was able to weave the header and finish the rug. All without using any of the fabric I’d bought. After I cut it off the rom I took it into the kitchen, I flung it out over the floor.

It looked good. I got out a measuring tape and noted the dimensions of the rug, and then the distance from the start to when I ran out of weft the first time. And I discovered that I had stopped a few scant inches shorter than the rug was supposed to be. All the waiting and adapting of strips and buying of more fabric had been totally unnecessary.

How could this be? I had measured the length of the rug on the loom by winding the tape around the front beam following the woven fabric. But I must have missed a round somehow. Such a doofus!

Well, at least I now have confirmed that my maths brought me reasonably close to the actual result, confirming that I can weigh strips to calculate how much square meterage of rug I’ll get from them.

Once I’d sewn the hems, I took a deep breath and threw the rug in the washing machine on the delicates-cold setting. Why? If the rugs are going to be sold, I need to be able to recommend how to wash them, and know whether I should prewash before selling them. The rug shrank about 5% in the weaving and another 5% in the washing. The hems shrank more, but a good stretch while they were wet got them almost back to the full width.

The next rug I want to make will be a colour gamut – a rainbow of warp yarns and a graduating rainbow of weft rags. I’m hoping to get a 2 x 1 metre rug. It’s for a friend’s daughter, either birthday or Christmas depending on when I finish!

The Rug of Waiting

As I mentioned a few posts ago, one of the batches of flannelette had a horsey-plaid-camo-sporty vibe, in greens, blues, greys and browns. I cut them into 2 inch wide strips before realising that I wasn’t going to get many strips out of the flannelette if I made them that wide, and switched to 1 1/2 inch wide strips.

I figured this batch would be my first rug. After working out the size of rug the rags should make using the rough equations I’d come up with based on Tom’s ook, I considered the rug’s design. Do I mix up the strips, or weave bands of each colour? I hung the strips over the front beam of the loom, then tried mixing them up. Nope. Didn’t look anywhere near as good as when they were arranged in groups of the same colour, going from green to brown to grey to blue. But there was quite a jump from green to brown. I had two strips of an khaki camo which would fill that transition nicely, so I googled camo flannelette… and found only one shop in Australia that had any. I ordered some, but the shop was supposed to ring me to get my details and they never did. I also found some nice grey-blue plaid in another shop, and bought two metres of it because it was cheaper that way. I waited for the order to arrive but when it arrived it was not really the same sort of fabric, so I decided I would just weave the rug as it was.

(I did consider contacting the woman I’d bought the flannelette scraps from to ask if she had any more in camo, but I didn’t want to risk ending up with another enormous bag of it! At least not until I knew I wanted to keep making these rugs.)

Black seemed the obvious warp colour, but just black or should I add variation? In Tom’s book there are a couple of projects with staggered stripes of a second colour in the warp. I wanted to try this some time. Well why not this time? But of the colours I had, would any suit? Not really. So I ordered another cone, in grey.

More waiting for an order to arrive. In the meantime, I had been joining strips. In Gerlinde’s class she’d shown us how to overlock them together quickly, and her method certainly was satisfyingly fast.

No shuttle of mine was going to hold the whole rug’s worth of strips, so I did them in batches of the same colour. That also meant I could add a batch of camo or plaid when the fabric arrived. After the joining was done I used a bias binding thingamejig and iron to turn the edges of the strips in. Then I wound them onto rag shuttles.

With the rags ready, and the grey warp yarn having arrived, and the Lotas loom free, it was time to get warping. I got winding, and a niggle started straight away. The yarn was thinner than expected. The project in Tom’s book had a very dense sett – 16epi – compared to what I was used to for rugs. Gerlinde’s recommendation had been 6. I’d reduced that to 12 for this project. I reasoned that I should stick to the instructions, but once I began sleying the reed I knew it just wasn’t right. The warp would cover the rag waaay more than I wanted. So I rethreaded… while watching Eurovision on SBSOnDemand.

So where the warp staggered from black to grey, from 1 grey/1 black, I rethreaded to 2 grey/2 blacks. Then, when I wove, I wove 1/2, 3/4 rather than 1/3, 2/4 so that I had two warp ends together all the way across, effectively halving the sett to 6epi.

I wove a three 15cm header, then got weaving and immediately knew I’d been right. The balance of weft and warp looked great. The warp colour pattern was breaking up the bands of colour enough to unify them but not obscure them. The Lotus was coping with the heavy beating well. The rag was nice to work with. It was all very enjoyable and a relief to FINALLY be weaving.

Then I hit the next snag: I ran out of rag strips two thirds of the way to my intended length.

Well, this was the test rug!

I needed more rag strips. So I considered the colourway so far. Green to brown to grey to blue. Combing through the flannelette rags I hadn’t yet cut up, I found some dark blue with red designs. Perhaps I could transition from blue to red. I looked for flannelette I could buy online. Mostly pastels, a few brights and tie-dye effects, but also plenty of plaids. I ordered a metre each of a dark blue and red tie-dye, and a red plaid.

I’ve cut up the small bundle of rags in blue and red, joined and ironed them. I knew I’d have to wait until the order arrived before I could finish the rug. And the shop I’d ordered from had taken two weeks to deliver last time.

So it was time to start another project. A scarf on the rigid heddle? Or a quick one on the Jane before the next class? Or something else? Sewing? Machine knitting? Jewellery?

Or maybe none of the above, as RSI has flared up in my left wrist. Hmm.

Strips

I’ve been cutting strips out of the flannelette scraps for weeks now. I started out using a self-sharpening quilter’s cutting square and a rotary cutter, but after a couple of hour-long sessions my hand began to hurt – my right hand from pressing down with the cutter and the left from pressing on the square to hold it still.

Looking at the amount of cutting still to do, I nearly gave up on the whole idea. Instead I delved into the back of the sewing cupboard and found this electric rotary cutter:

I’d used it before, and knew the resulting strips are in no way as neat as those cut with a rotary blade and square, but perfect edges don’t really matter for rag rugs strips. The cutter also has some annoying tendencies, but I eventually worked out how to minimise them.

It’s not faster than doing it by hand, but my hands didn’t complain – and my back didn’t so long as I kept sessions down to half and hour to an hour. After a couple of weeks I had got through over half the scraps and had enough for a large rainbow inspired rug, a ‘brights and whites’ rug, and a smaller mat of earthy colours.

I stopped then, figuring that I ought to work out whether I hated weaving the stuff before spending months cutting it all up. In the meantime, I’d bought $400 worth of rug cotton in six colours plus black.

Purchased a bias binding jigamething from Spotlight.

And consulted this book:

I wanted to get an idea what width of rug I should warp up for. Tom shows the results of a test he did, where he bought a yard of several kinds of fabric and wove it on the same warp, to see how many inches of fabric he got.

This would be a useful rough guide if he’d mentioned what the fabric width had been to begin with.

Flannelette on the Spotlight website is 112 cm wide, so I decided to gamble that it was sold at the same width in the US, too. Based on the guess that his fabric had been 112 x 91 cm. Doing the math, I worked out this was pretty close to 100 x 100cm. I laid out strips until I’d covered that much area of my dining table, then weighed them.

So to know how big a rug could be, I can take the weight of all the strips for it and divide that by the weight of the 100 x 100 cm batch. Then I multiply the width by length of Tom’s sample to get the square meterage of his sample rug. Then I multiply the weight of my batch by the square meterage to get the square meterage of my potential rug.

All I need to do then is divide the square meterage of my rug by the width of the rug I want to make, and I get the length. Or divide the square meterage of my rug by the length I want to get the width.

To be honest, I won’t really know if this will work until I try it. I might be wrong about the width of Tom’s fabric. I might have the math all wrong. But I’ve got the weight of 100 x 100 of flannelette and the weight of the rags for a rug, so after the first rug I can use those numbers to make a more accurate square meterage number to work out the slightly less rough size of future rugs.

But before I get to that point, I need to sew together a LOT of strips, use the bias binding jig to help me iron them into tubes, finish the jacket I’m weaving on the Lotas, and warp the loom.

It’s slow going, but I’m in no rush.

Distractions

For the weeks leading up to the start of the weaving course I was in a bit of project limbo. The Katie loom was out of bounds, as I needed it for class. I didn’t want to put anything on the floor loom, as there might be a task set in the class to do at home that I’d more easily weave on it. The knitters loom was free now, but I’d been intending to use it to teach a friend weaving so I didn’t want to put something on that yet.

I did a lot of planning of projects on my To-Do List, but you can only do that for so long. I bought some leather conditioner and, with Paul’s help, treated the leather sofas. I baked. I did some mending. I planned out some knitting machine projects. And finally, I knit a scarf out of some colourful i-cord I bought at a destash sale.

And then forgot to take a photo.

Three weeks ago my Dad’s neighbour died, at 87. Last year she decided he should adopt her cat when she died. He agreed so long as it was written in her will – no chance of fights with her relatives over who got the cat. Off they went to a solicitor and it was revealed that her last will had everything going to a cult she had been involved in previously but wasn’t any more, and didn’t want her estate going to now. When it came to choosing a new executor she didn’t know who to choose, so Dad volunteered.

Oh boy, is he regretting that now. So much work. So much stress. When it first happened he was so wound up that I was truly afraid he’d have a heart attack. And the woman’s house… tiny but filled with so much stuff, all mixed in together. Like a fractal, really. Every room, every cupboard, every drawer, every shelf, every box, every bag, every basket filled with the same combination of objects: cards, letters, cat calendars, Christmas decorations, ornaments, jewellery, stationary, craft supplies, crocheted and knitted soft toys, snacks, religious item, table linens like doilies and such, scarves, candles, soaps, money and documents. The only kinds of objects that weren’t mixed together and spread through most parts of the house were her clothes (her wardrobe was surprisingly well-ordered) and cooking utensils (she didn’t cook).

It was like someone had got her old house, picked it up and shaken it vigorously, and tipped it into this one.

She had no children, her niece is sick and her nephew said “just chuck it all in a skip”. That’s the point where Paul and I got sucked into the vortex that is clearing someone’s house. And it’s a good thing we did. Among the mess we’ve found some amazing old things.

Most of the work has been sorting things into categories. I spent half a day with a friend culling and sorting craft supplies, only to find several baskets and boxes of it later. I spend another half of a day sorting Christmas decorations, only to find several baskets and boxes of it later. She had eleven Christmas trees. ELEVEN. I think she’d saved every greeting card and letter and calendar of her entire 87 years – all mixed in with everything else – as it filled two large recycling bins. I never want to see another greeting card, and my dislike of Christmas has deepened into a full-bodied loathing. I’m beginning to shudder when I see yet another cute picture of a cat or a dog, cut from a magazine or calendar or pet food packaging.

And yet… everything about her belongings spoke of a woman who loved life. And people. And animals. She had a zany and colourful fashion sense and was creative and artistic. She was spiritual but not set in her beliefs, as she had items relating to just about every religion that exists and even a book on alien abduction. She lived in the moment. She didn’t own much of worth but she enjoyed what she had. People near and far loved her. There wasn’t a snobby bone in her frail old body. I’d like to have met her more than just the once.

But I am very thankful that Dad has agreed that he won’t become anyone’s executor again!

Sakiori Runner II

After finishing the sakori runner, I had more kimono rag strips left over than I anticipated. So I considered how I could use them up. Placemats? I did the math and found I’d only be able to make four. Another runner? It wouldn’t be as long, and I didn’t have any more of the light blue warp in the centre of the last one. But I knew it would weave up fast, and if my friend didn’t want a third runner, then I could sell it in the Guild shop.

So I wound the warp, dressed the loom and got weaving. I had it woven in two days.

And my friend said “yes, please!” to another runner.

The Sakiori Runner

Among the fabric my friends donated for the Memories Rug was a kimono that I didn’t end up needing. So, of course, I’ve been wondering what to do with it. I found a kimono-to-vest sakiori project in an issue of Handwoven, and decided to rip up the kimono to make it. But in the weeks since I did, it kept bothering me that I really don’t need another vest. What else could I weave? The idea of a table runner appealed. When the 40 Hour Fun Runner came off the loom and proved a bit short, I decided that I’d make another runner out of the kimono fabric and give it to the same friend.

I used up some 8/2 cotton winding the warp, and when that ran out I added a darker blue to the edges.

The weaving was easy – and so much faster than weft-faced clasped weft. Good for podcast listening. And something happened that hasn’t occurred with my floor loom before. I was able to release the spring holding the tension brake from the front, and crank on the warp, without any threads snapping. I still had to stand up, reach over the loom and press the brake back in place afterwards, but it was so good not having to crank from the side of the loom.

I wondered if the runner was going to be a bit plain, but when I took it off the loom I found it looked great. It was 3 metres long pre-washed.

After washing, I finished the ends by sewing on a strip of the kimono’s collar. It shrank a little, down to about 285cm. I have quite a bit of kimono rag left, so I’m thinking of weaving some placemats to match it. Not exactly, as I ran out of the middle colour. But I have a slightly different blue that will do perfectly well.

Section Necklaces

The jewellery making itch has well and truly passed, now. The last few pieces were section necklaces. I’d bought a mini beading mat, which was great for the short sections and bracelets but too small for the longer sections. So I ordered a full size one, and it made designing much easier:

I finished the black one:

I now have three necklaces with interchangeable lower sections. The green one was made by a friend with a few sections made by me. The purple I made out of beads I had and some given to me by another friend. The black one is mostly made from jewellery I bought from an op shop:

That’s enough, I think. I’m keeping them in these old wooden dishes because there’s no room left on my costume jewellery pinboard and the pins don’t hold heavy pieces well:

It’s a Given

Post accessory overhaul, I had lots of repurposing and rehoming to do. Mostly rehoming, but I had put aside a few things to frog, unweave, or refashion. I also kept finding more scarves! All were in the craft room, already awaiting refashioning or frogging.

I didn’t want to add a pile of yarn to my stash. Neither did I want to turn everything into new accessories for me. I was fine with making some to give away, so that’s mostly what I set out to do.

One very long scarf was shortened to make two. A scarf, neckwarmer and two pairs of wristwarmers were frogged. A scarf was unwoven. Out came the circular knitting machines. I turned the neckwarmer and wristwarmer yarns into a beanies to give away:

I bought an extra ball of yarn so I could add pompoms to the ends of this scarf:

And I brought out the Knitters Loom and warped up to weave a honeycomb scarf using handspun from a frogged scarf as the feature yarn:

That left me with a ball of very colourful handspun and a batch of blue speckled alpaca to repurpose.

The blue speckled yarn has already been knit on the circular machines several times, and is beginning to feel a bit worse for wear. Though I love the yarn, I’ve just not loved anything I’ve made from it so far. Time to try weaving it, I think.

Creative Fidgeting Consciously

So my thoughts about the sustainability of making had me opening my visual journal and exploring the “eco-ness” of four of my hobbies: craft, art, cooking and gardening.

Gardening was the least worrying, as I like to repurpose things, grow food, buy organic weed killer (in bulk to reduce packaging) and put plastic pots in the recycling. I’d already decided to switch from plastic to cane or fabric carriers for weeds. I think I’m doing okay there.

Cooking produces a lot of packaging, but I’m already reducing that as much as possible and making my own nut butter, crackers and other things you can’t easily buy without non-recyclable packaging.

Craft has some issues – mainly the use of toxic dyes and inks – but I probably buy second hand materials and repurpose things as much as, if not more than, new. In fact, reusing, repurposing and refashioning is pretty much a hobby in itself. Even my mosaics have mostly been about fixing or repurposing something.

Art is… actually quite problematic. Natural pigment isn’t always better than synthetic – cadmium is carcinogenic, for example – but (I think) synthetic comes from petrochemicals. Stretched canvasses are so cheap these days I wonder if, like cheap clothes, they’re made by underpaid workers, I hate to think where the wood comes from as most cheap wood is stripped from old growth rainforests, and I have no idea what the fabric is made of (probably plastic – and the surface coating repels watery paint, so it isn’t gesso). Then there’s waste. I’ve alway struggled to decide what to do with artwork that doesn’t turn out well. Doing something frequently enough to get good at it can leave you with lot of unwanted work headed for landfill.

Thinking about this, I realised that working on paper more might be better, as it can be recycled. Oils are still better than acrylic, since I work with a spatula mostly and wipe the excess on rags. When I do use brushes I let the turps I wash them in sit until the paint particles settle, then tip off and reuse the turps. I keep old brushes for rough work, then stirrers. In the past I’ve taken the canvas off unwanted paintings and sewn it into bags, then recovered the frame with new cotton or linen canvas, which makes stretched canvasses more reusable than canvas boards. However, making my own canvas boards may eliminate the possibility I’m using wood stripped from rainforests or plastic fabric. I even thought about weaving my own canvas fabric, but it would be slow and occupy the loom when I want to weave other projects.

After my brainstorming session, I went out into the studio and considered the art supplies I have. I realised it will take quite a while before I need anything new. So there’s not a lot I can do to make my art practise more sustainable right now. I’ll keep these ideas in mind for when I do run out of materials, and reach for paper based art methods over canvas more often.