Saturday, September 5, 2015

Reflections of a Rag Rug


I have been weaving since 1997. Since that time I have been collecting rags in the form of old sheets, clothes and other fabrics. One end of my attic is full of baskets of discarded fabric of one type or another. One basket is just full of old jeans. And all alone they have sat for years and years. 
Back when I first started weaving I wanted to save up enough of this scrap fabric to someday make rag rugs but in the meantime I learned to weave with wool yarn, cotton yarn and the wondrous chenille yarns that make such soft and sultry scarves.

I was first introduced to weaving at an art festival in Magdalena, NM. I fell in love with Navajo weaving and watched in utter amazement as a wonderful Navajo woman named Isabel wove while sitting on a pillow on the floor. It was magical how she skillfully wove each piece of weft yarn by hand in and out of the warp. I was mesmerized. Next I saw Swedish looms and the colorful rugs and tapestries that the woman in this weaving community had on the walls of the display.

I had never considered myself crafty or creative but this...this I wanted to do.
And so I bought a Swedish loom from a neighbor down the road that happened to be a successful weaver, well known in the weaving circles of my state and beyond. The loom was  then  25 years old and she had maintained it lovingly. It is a  beautiful piece of furniture that,, once purchased, became a working piece of art in the home we had just built. And then I bought a book and taught myself to weave. 

That was in 1997 and I still weave on that loom. My husband built me a Navajo style loom then too but I never did get the hang of the tension of the warp. I never actually completed my first project on it. Probably because the talented Navajo women teach their craft to others orally and by demonstrations and not by writing books so it was just harder to learn. But I did learn  how to make all of the staples on my Swedish floor loom. Staples like scarves and place mats, baby blankets...all the easy but fun stuff. I gave most of it away as gifts and sold a few things too. It was fun and I even thought I would sell my weaving for a living and in 2005 I quit my job to build our second, and current, straw bale home and then I was going to switch careers and weave full time. That didn't happen and in fact I took a 3 year hiatus from weaving. But slowly I got around to weaving again and when I did it was with rags. 

I finally completed my first rag rug a few years ago. I had a couple of hurdles to get past and it took me a long time to figure them out. One was that I hate to sew. All of that fabric in those baskets were going to need to be cut up. That was actually the first hurdle. Cutting up jeans, shirts and whatever else had accumulated in those baskets over the years was going to be painful...literally... to cut each "rag" into the strips I was going to need to fashion a rug out of these seeming rags. And then the second hurdle...sewing the short strips into long ones. Did I mention I hate to sew? 

Over the years I met a few rag rug experts at shows and shops. I learned two important concepts... the tearing of sheets into strips and, the best of all, NO sewing needed. The sewing machine that I bought several years ago still sits, mostly untouched. I don't care. If you saw the shirt I attempted to make for myself in Home Ec class you would understand my disdain. You would also understand my new found glee that it wouldn't be necessary to dust off that machine and become one with it after all. 

This is my third rag rug. Its dimensions are 33X66" and it is called 
Raspberry Cactus Sky

The part of weaving a rag rug that I love the most is what is captured in the photo above. As I put together different color of sheets, warp yarn and accent pieces I have a general idea of the color combination but I have absolutely no idea what those combinations are going to create as a finished rug. And the beauty of that is I don't even know what the creation is until I take it off the loom and unroll it. But for each 6-8" that I have in front of me at all times I have ongoing glimpses of what the finale will look like. I am fascinated at each crank of the loom wheel. 

It is a humbling sort of experience for me. I love how the rug actually seems to make itself. I just place the different color fabric in random order. Sometimes following a sequence I become comfortable with and other times totally changing it up just to see what comes into my 6-8" window next.
Then when I unroll it I get to see what it is that it wanted to be. I am as astounded as anyone could be by what my eyes behold. And this brings me much joy. 


I am almost done braiding the ends and then my beautiful Raspberry Cactus Sky will be for sale. I am selling my rugs for $150 presently. I think this is a fair price at this point. I have been weaving for 18 years minus that 3 year break so there is a bit of experience in the mix. If you are interested let me know via email at terri.sunflower@gmail.com

If you have read to this point I thank you. I want to write about weaving as a way to honor the act of the craft itself. Selling a rug or two while doing that would be a bonus and was an afterthought so don't feel obligated just because you read to this point. In fact, I would love a comment or two about this blog and anything you've read here on Rainwalker Mesa. Life is good here. Thanks for stopping by... 


2 comments:

Noelle Marie said...

Such a beautiful post, Terri!! I love your writing, and although I know nothing about crafty things like weaving rugs, I was inspired by your post and I can feel the passion and love pouring out of your writing. I'm sure your beautiful rag rugs carry your powerful energy and will greatly bless everyone who buys one! I think the price you have chosen is AWESOME. Congratulations on this new exciting venture in your life!! You are RADIANT!!!

Good Luck Duck said...

Really beautiful work, Terri. You're putting all that oxygen down there to good use. ;o)