It is not always possible to obtain materials that will hold their colour, but there is a great difference in the quality of the dyes used in the materials obtainable. Indigo blues and turkey reds can be bought in two qualities. Those with "oil dyed" printed on the label will be found to be very much better than the ordinary dyed ones. In selecting materials from which to make a variegated rug, cretonnes, percales, and prints 9 can be utilized; the beauty of these depends not on the design but on the massing of colours. Sometimes a large red cabbage rose and very strong green leaves - an altogether garish piece of material - in the end will weave into a most beautiful rug, the large spots of red giving a pleasing variety. A very small design will naturally weave up into - broken surface. The denims, although not considered fast colours, do not fade in patches, so that a rug made of this material only softens in tone with use, but, of course, it is advisable when plain materials are used to dye them with absolutely fast dye. Nothing gives better results than the homemade vegetable dyes. It will be found cheaper to get unbleached materials for dyeing than pure white, as the white has been bleached, thereby deteriorating the fabric and not improving it for dyeing. I should, therefore, advise unbleached muslin, and a coarse, cheap khaki from which soldiers uniforms are made. This is much cheaper than denim, and is often heavier, and will dye any of the dark colours. Whenever khaki colour can be used, it would not be necessary to re-dye it, as it is one of the best materials to be obtained for rug - making, and is more or less fast in colour.
The best warp to buy is that known in the trade as four-ply H, and a white warp is the most useful for all purposes, as nearly all the warps that come ready-dyed fade, and it is extremely difficult for an amateur to keep warps in good condition if she dyes them herself. If the warps once get mixed nothing can be done with them. The ready-dyed tobacco-brown warp holds its colour fairly well, and the bright red also holds its colour, but it is so rarely that one can ever use a red warp that it is practically ruled out for utilitarian purposes. The new ecru colour found in the commercial warps holds its colour remarkably well, and being of a neutral shade does not spoil the colour value of the woven piece. A blue rug remains blue with this warp over it, so that it is advisable for weavers to confine themselves to either white or ecru.
Many people advise the home-dyeing of warps, but, after a great deal of experimenting in this direction, the majority have concluded that it is impracticable except in the case of blue, where the quantity of dye is so large that one can have an even colour in dyeing a large quantity. The four-ply H or three-ply warp is not heavy enough to give the rug a very light appearance, as it sinks into the cloth, and the rug possesses the colour value of the weft rather than the warp.
When choosing a loom there is a wide range to choose from. They can be purchased for as much as seventy-live dollars if the modern steel ones are preferred, but as the old wooden looms make just as good a rug, this expense seems unnecessary. Many an old loom can be picked up in a country junk-shop or at country fairs, and often an advertisement in a city paper will bring the weaver in touch with possessors of looms who are willing to sell them for any price ranging from five dollars to twenty-five. In buying an old loom, it is important to know of what it should consist, as, if an odd piece is missing, it might be quite expensive to have it made.
A loom consists of a frame, a beam, two heddles, a lay, a reed, and a shuttle. A wheel for winding the material usually goes with it.
The beaming of a warp is a rather difficult process, and wherever possible should be done by a beamer. When ordering warp, the number of ends must be given. Every weaver has a different idea on this subject. Some have only 200 warp threads to the yard, but the most serviceable and the best number to use are 225.
After the beam is placed in the loom, the warp threads are thrown from the beam over the back cross-bars, and threaded through the heddles, then through the reed and over the front cross-bar of the loom, where it is attached to an iron bar and rolled under the front cross-bar. The heddles are arranged in two frames which are on two different horizontal planes, when the shuttle is thrown through the warp.
Having divided the material into strips and wound it on to the balls, it must then be wound off the balls on to the iron rod, which is placed on to a wheel, and a small quantity is wound, which, after having the iron bar removed, is ready for the shuttle. After pulling the end of the material through the hole in the shuttle, it is now ready for weaving. A seat must be placed in front of the loom at the right height for the weaver to have a good command over the work.
When beginning to weave, the left treadle must be pushed down with the feet, which will cause a gap between the two layers of warp. Take the shuttle in the right hand and throw it between the warps, holding with the left hand that part of the loom which contains the reed. This is called the lay. Leave a couple of inches sticking out at the side of the rug; this must be turned back and lapped around the warp at the selvedge. After the shot has been thrown, pull the lay forward and press the right foot down, releasing the left, which will make a reverse gap between the two lays or warp. The shuttle is now placed in the left hand and thrown from left to right between the warps, after which the lay is pulled forward as before. This simple process is repeated over and over again, until the shuttle is empty. When the new shuttleful is added, do not sew the two strips together, but cut each end into a tapered point and overlap them. This join will then be invisible, which cannot be said of work that has been sewed together.
The first four or five inches of a rug is always the same as the centre. Plain bands of contrasting colour can be used about a couple of inches wide. An uneven number looks better than an even. A 3 x 5 rug could have three stripes for borders, while a 3x7 would need five. The rug is finished off at each end with a half-inch heading of warp, which keeps it from fraying. In starting the rug this must be done before the material is woven, and when the rug is completed it is finished off with the warp. It is not usual to take a rug out of the loom until the set in hand are completed; sometimes as many as fifty rugs can be on the roll underneath. About 12 inches of warp must be left between each rug.
A Group Of Martha Washington And Priscilla Hand-Woven Rugs.
It is a little hard at first to weave from only hearing a description; however, a beginner will comprehend it more readily after watching a weaver. Half an hour spent under the guidance of some one who knows is worth a great deal, and is the best means of simplifiying weaving.
While the plain bands of colour are very pleasing for borders, there are several ways of introducing attractive variations. Twists or crows' feet are done by twisting tightly two contrasting colours together. These are wound on to a ball as if they were one piece, and shots of this are run across the centre of a border, or used to outline it. The crows'-feet effect consists of two rows of twists thrown in alternate directions. Twist from left to right. Take another strip, and twist from right to left. This will make crows' feet only if done in this way. Otherwise it is a twist. Crows' feet in a border is run once across; then a plain shot and then a crow's foot returned. Striped material cut horizontally can be used in rug-making, and give a blurred effect that makes one of the most attractive kind of borders.
In portiere-making a different sort of border is advisable. The darkest colour should be at the bottom of the portiere, and extend from 8 to 12 inches. A series of narrow bands, either 1, 3, or 5 inches, can then be added. The upper part needs no border. Another way of making patterns is to run in a few lines of white with a bodkin after the rug is finished. The one disadvantage of this method is that the weaving will not be the same on both sides.
Sometimes a white line thrown "hit or miss " through the rug is pleasing in a dark blue one; for instance, weave a white strip 5 inches long, and on the next pick to it add another line 3 inches long, and repeat these touches at intervals throughout the rug. It will be found that the effect will be good. If it is too regular, it loses all its charm.
There are several designs in Indian rugs which suggest motifs from what is called "inlay work." Indian arrows, diamonds, and squares can be utilized.
Nothing improves a rug more than knotting, and like everything else there is a right and a wrong way to do this. Make a knot with a group of warp threads, and tie it close to the heading. These should be about 1 inch apart, and should extend right across the rug. A second row is formed by taking half of the knotted warp string, and tying it to half of the next tassel. When the second row is completed, half is diagonal; a third row is an improvement, but is not necessary.
The work of experimenting is fascinating, not only in designing borders, but in evolving good colour schemes. It is a great help to make a little sketch of the rug in water-colour before weaving in the loom. A small table loom would be invaluable for experimenting for border work, as it would use so little material in width, as they are so narrow, and the strips of a series of borders could be kept at home as a guide for future rug-designing.
Another variety of rug-making is caused by grouping the warps three or four together by threading two or three threads through one heddle, but this work is too much to do for one or two rugs, so that it is best done only where a number can be done at the same time. It is always advisable to group the warps separately for portiere-making, as the work should be more loosely woven and the warps further apart. It is not necessary to change the warps on the beam - only to thread them in groups through the heddles. One lay-out of warps consists of two threads in every other heddle hole, instead of one warp thread in each hole.