The art of weaving is one of the most interesting and fascinating pursuits, and it is easily learned by those who are willing to master the technique of the loom, and to pay attention to the numerous details that make for good weaving. Not only can beautiful and economical rugs be made for the home, but a thorough knowledge of the craft fits a girl to impart to others what she has learned.
In charitable work weaving has been an immense benefit, giving employment to those who need it, not only in the weaving but in the preparation of the material, which requires only unskilled labour, and can readily be done by women incapable of understanding weaving itself.
It is now a number of years since the revival of hand-weaving in America. At first there was so little written on the subject, that, in order to understand it thoroughly, experiments had to be made not only in weaving, but in the kind of material to use, and in the dyeing of the fabrics.
The chief difference between the original Colonial rug and those made to-day is that the Colonial ones were made from worn-out clothing, which was torn into strips, sewed, and wound into balls, resulting in a motley chain of materials and colours which were woven "hit or miss" into rag carpeting. Those more fastidious as to colour, collected the roots and barks of trees from which to make vegetable dyes, and evolved the most beautiful colours. After being dyed the rags appeared in charming, rich colours, which in many cases have retained their brilliancy after years of service. These home - dyed rugs of the "hit or miss" variety fitted in with the simple surroundings of Colonial days, but the requirements of to-day are more stringent, and rugs must be made of new materials, or of remnants, which when dyed possess the same qualities as new materials.
Rugs can be made from many kinds of materials, such as lawns, cretonnes, denims, sateens, ginghams, ducks, cotton flannels, ticking, rope, roving yarns, and canton flannels. Unbleached muslin offers a field of great variety, as it can be dyed the exact colours required. The question of cost is not determined by the price of material per yard, as sometimes light material at six cents a yard will make a more costly rug than a heavy material at fifteen cents. If light material is used, it must be torn into wider strips, as it weaves into such a small space; it is more economical to buy a bulky material that can be cut into narrow strips.
Labour is another important item to consider in the making of rugs. It has been proved that to buy short remnants is extravagant, as the time spent in sewing the pieces together, and the delay in tearing and cutting them afterwards into strips, owing to the seams, is more costly than paying for material that is better adapted for the purpose. Remnants that have become marked, or have been discarded on account of imperfect weaving, and are known as seconds, are the best kind to buy, as they can often be found in pieces of 10 and 15 yards in length. After experimenting in various widths of materials it has been found that three-quarters of an inch is the most suitable for all purposes.
If a rough fuzzy rug is required, the material must be torn, as the rough edge can only be obtained in this way. Denims are peculiarly attractive after they are woven, because of this soft, fluffy edge, which shows on the surface of the rug when completed. Unbleached muslin has the same quality. If a very neat rug is required, new material must be purchased, and after removing the piece of wood upon which it is wound, it can be tightly bound and fastened securely with tape. It can then be placed upon a table, and a heavy meat saw with a weight at the end can be used to cut it into slices, so that in a few minutes a bolt of 50 yards is ready to be wound. To ensure the strips being perfectly even, the table should be marked in inches, as it is essential to good workmanship that each strip should be exactly the same width. Most people cut with scissors when they require a smooth finished rug, but this is an appalling waste of time, and if the work is given out costs six cents a pound to have it done by some old woman who makes her living by cutting materials for rag - carpet weavers. The small outlay required in purchasing a good knife will pay for itself in the saving of time in the first few rugs. The strips being 50 yards long, no sewing is necessary, and this also saves time and makes the weaving neater.
In tearing materials long lengths should be used; a whole bolt of material can be quickly torn with a little care in starting the work right. Take a tape measure and cut the cloth for a couple of inches. It is not necessary to cut off the selvage, unless it is a different colour, as it folds into the weaving and is not noticed. Having started the material right, it can readily be torn. It is very important to take great care that the strips are started exactly the same width. If only one person is to do the tearing, fasten the end of the cloth to a screw-eye fastened to a table or window and then start tearing.
The material must wound into balls as it is being torn, or it will get into knots and become tangled. It is important to do this work quickly, as if it lies around the material frays too much, and the part that comes off is, of course, only waste. When buying denim it is important to try a piece first to see if it tears well. There is one make of denim which cannot be torn, and, when cut, a thread works up which completely spoils the effect of the rug.
Experience alone teaches us how much material will be required for weaving rugs, and it is best, therefore, to weigh every piece of material that is bought, and write down the number of yards contained in the piece. When it is woven, the rug can be weighed and the exact amount used in the rug ascertained in weight and the number of yards. About 2 1/2 lb., or from 5 to 7 square yards of material, will be required to make 1 yard of weaving. If, however, the strips are cut the least little bit wider than three-quarters of an inch, three or four yards could be wasted in a 3 x 6 rug without improving the appearance of it.