WEAVING PROJECT #59 Twill Rag Rug – Natalie Roberts Purpose:
WEAVING PROJECT #59 Twill Rag Rug – Natalie Roberts
Dec. 2011 – Mar. 2012
Purpose: To get my Savonia loom back together and refresh my memory on how to tie up the
countermarche. To make a rug with rags saved up for the last 20 years. To make a thicker, stiffer rug
than what I have made in the past, and than the rag placemats in project #58. To see if a diamond twill
pattern works in a rug. To honor the memory of my father’s sister, Edith Johnson, by using the warp she
gave to me about 30 years ago.
Equipment: 10 harness Savonia Countermarche, set up with 8 harnesses. Reed is “50 120”: 120 cm, or
about 40 inches wide, and has 12 dents per inch. Stick shuttle. Nilus LeClerc temple.
Tie up: In early to mid October I assembled the Savonia loom for the first time in a dozen years. All parts
present. Hooray! In late October, 2011 I read Joanne Tallarovic, “Countermarche: Pure and Simple”,
WJ, Winter 1983-1984, pp. 85 to 87, an article given to me by Celeste Holmes of Tangled Webs. I
discovered that I should start over with the “locking pins” placed through the jacks at the top of the
loom and follow her procedure. I determined, after passing a warp thread from back to front, that I
needed to lower the first shaft about ¾ inch, then continue lowering the rest of the lams and treadles.
The tie up that was on the loom when I packed it away in 1999 was for a double weave blanket. In
order to create point twill, I would have to change the tie up. The instructions for the Savonia are in
Swedish and I could not understand how to tie it up. In mid December, I found Carol Strickler’s
“standard tie up” in A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns”, p. 9, Figure 9. (Interweave Press, 1991,
Loveland, CO) and used it. In this notation, an “o” means a harness is raised so the warp goes over and
the weft goes under. A blank means the weft goes over and shows.
Tie Up to Treadles
o o 6
o o 3
It was not until after I threaded the reed and heddles and did a test piece that I discovered I had no
tabby! Now I know what the extra two treadles and harnesses in the bottom of the box are for! I must
add them when I prepare the next warp.
Warp: 340 warps of 5/2 linen, natural white, about 72 inches long. Final dimensions of the rug are:
52 inch woven length
8 inches of braided fringe (4 on each end)
25 ½ inches wide (plus ¼ inches of draw in to make a total width on the loom of 26 ¾ inches)
My aunt Edith wound this warp and chained it tightly, probably for placemats, in about 1984. She
learned to weave from her mother in Sweden and then again in her 60’s and 70’s. She gave me the
warp when her vision was no longer good enough to continue weaving. She was a very quiet,
introverted person, and I hardly remember the occasion of her giving it to me. I never saw her at
the loom. I think she went to a senior center where they had one. She did some beautiful work.
Her cotton placemats had complex rose and chariot wheel motifs. However, as she got older and
poorer, she could only afford large diameter synthetic yarn, possibly for knitting. I think she was not
happy with having to do that. She made a long, green, variegated throw for a sofa for someone on
commission, but they didn’t like it, and refused to pay. So my mother took it and passed it on to me.
It has lasted forever on our couch, despite receiving bad treatment. I still have some of her place
mats and pillow covers.
I put the reed on the dining room table and threaded it with Edith’s warp, marking the center of the
reed with green thread as advised by Mary Black in The Key to Weaving, 2nd Revised Edition, p. 8
(Macmillan, 1980, New York.) In order to change from a placemat warp to a rug warp, I had to add quite
a few new ones myself and double them, threading two heddles on the same harness every time, so
they would function together and make the warp strong enough for a rug. I moved the threaded reed
and warp downstairs and spread it across the loom just in time to cook Christmas dinner on the table.
I set the reed in the beater so the lease sticks and extra length stretched out over the bench at the front
of the loom. I pulled the warp through the reed towards the back a bit, with Karl’s help, to separate the
sticky threads. The warp was about 4 yards long. Sleying it was a royal pain because Edith’s threads had
been chained so tightly for 30 years they didn’t want to lay straight while mine were compliant. We had
about five “hanks” and not quite enough space to the wall to untangle everything. I wasn’t sure it would
be evenly tensioned, but it worked out fine, thanks to help from my patient husband, Karl.
In order to thread the heddles, I made a cartoon and taped it on breast beam, ticking off the heddle
eyes as I threaded them. A pattern of 28 was repeated 12 times (336 threads in all) with 2 extra
selvedges at each side, making a total of 340. After threading the heddles and tying them to the back
beam rod, I put piles of heavy books on the hanks on top of the desk. They slid forward as I turned the
back beam crank and inserted sticks in the back beam across the warp. Eventually they all got wound up
and started to look like a single unit. I laboriously checked the warps in the string heddles to ensure
they were not crossed. I found one and fixed it. I also found a knot in one warp thread where the fiber
company had joined two ends and Edith or I had not noticed it. I marked it with red ink so I can handle
it when it gets to the working action part.
Weave structure and Threading: I wanted 8 harness pointed twill.
Loom front left
x x . . .
Selv- (Repeat 11X)
28 thread pattern
1 2 3 4 5 6
x x o o o o
o o o
o o o
o o o o
I am not 100% sure about the notation on the threading. An “x” indicates a threaded heddle eye.
Treadling: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, repeated over and over, except as noted below, under Weft.
I made a rough diagram on graph paper, then, at Karl’s urging, a model with cloth strips, taking a photo
of it (See Figure 1.) When the idea was clear in my mind, I just followed it like a musical improvisation.
However, there was a problem. The twill pattern required a starting each different color block on
treadle 8 and working to 7, 6, and so on. I also decided the colors should be separated by narrow white
bands. Putting the two together meant that, when doing the white bands, I needed to treadle
backwards a couple of shots and then forward again so I could end up at treadle 8. I thought it would
work, but there were long floats on the reverse side that I didn’t notice until too late. Also, I got mixed
up after reaching the middle of the rug, when I was supposed to reverse everything. Therefore the
number of shots in the notation below is only approximate.
1. ½ inch of a header of white linen warp.
2. Forest green cotton rag from a bed sheet, 1 ¾ inch wide, 18 shots, making a panel of 2 twill
points, or “zigzag rows”
3. White cotton rag, 4 shots, making a narrow separating band
4. Medium blue cotton rag, from a bed sheet, 1 ¾ inch wide, 9 shots, making 1 twill point or
5. Repeat white cotton band
6. Repeat forest green panel
7. Repeat white cotton band
8. Lavender cotton fabric, 9 shots, making 1 twill point
9. Repeat white cotton band
10. Repeat forest green panel
11. Repeat white cotton band
12. Dark purple cotton fabric, 6 shots, making a narrow ½ twill point
13. Repeat white cotton band
14. Repeat forest green panel
15. Repeat white cotton band
16. Medium blue cotton rag, 20 shots, reversing the treadling in the middle, making a twill diamond
17. Repeat white cotton band
18. Repeat medium blue diamond panel. This is the middle. From here, do everything in reverse.
The fabric and rags were washed, dried and ironed before cutting. Weft strips were cut with scissors
(See Figure 2), leaving diagonals at the end and join points. The rag cutter saved no time, but a scissor
sharpener, purchased at Walmart was very useful.
Braided a 4 inch fringe and tied the ends with overhand knots.
Tied down long warp floats on the reverse side by hand sewing linen warp across, hiding them in
the cracks of color change.
Whipped the edges of the headers with linen warp to secure the loose wefts.
I need to attach the 9th and 10th treadles and figure out how to add a tabby.
When you ad lib with treadling, going back and forth, be sure to check the reverse for long
Large brightly contrasting color patterns don’t look very good on the floor.
Braided fringes are much better than unbraided ones.
Using a temple helps helps control draw in
The edge is even better when you twist the rag weft several times when rounding the turn.
Though laborious, it makes a tighter, neater edge.
A cheap rag cutter is worthless. It doesn’t save time. On the other hand, sharp scissors do. A
scissors sharpener is wonderful.
I am getting tired of working with rags. I had to buy as much fabric as I used from my supply.
Maybe it is time to give them away.
Figure 1: The Model of Cloth Strips.
Figure 2: Cutting the Cloth Strips
Figure 3: The first two bands
Figure 5: Underside
Figure 6: Project 59 Twill Rag Rug
Figure 8: Detail of Center Diamonds
Figure 7: Detail of Fringe