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´╗┐Title: How to make rugs
Author: Wheeler, Candace, 1827-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "How to make rugs" ***

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    [Illustration: LOOM WARPED FOR WEAVING]

How to Make Rugs



Author of "Principles of Home Decoration," etc.




Copyright, 1900

Copyright, 1902

Published October, 1902




   I.   RUG WEAVING.                       19

  II.   THE PATTERN.                       33

 III.   DYEING.                            45

  IV.   INGRAIN CARPET RUGS.               57

   V.   WOVEN RAG PORTIERES.               67

  VI.   WOOLEN RUGS.                       79

 VII.   COTTON RUGS.                       99

VIII.   LINSEY WOOLSEY.                   113



Loom Warped for Weaving             _Frontispiece_

                                       FACING PAGE

Weaving                                         20

The Onteora Rug                                 36

The Lois Rug                                    52

Sewed Fringe for Woven Portiere                 72

Knotted Warp Fringe for Woven Table-cover       72

Isle La Motte Rug                               90

Greek Border in Red and Black                  108

Braided and Knotted Fringe                     108

Diamond Border in Red and Black                108

The Lucy Rug                                   128



The subject of Home Industries is beginning to attract the attention
of those who are interested in political economy and the general
welfare of the country, and thoughtful people are asking themselves
why, in all the length and breadth of America, there are no
well-established and prosperous domestic manufactures.

We have no articles of use or luxury made in _homes_ which are objects
of commercial interchange or sources of family profit. To this general
statement there are but few exceptions, and curiously enough these
are, for the most part, in the work of our native Indians.

A stranger in America, wishing--after the manner of travelers--to
carry back something characteristic of the country, generally buys
what we call "Indian curiosities"--moccasins, baskets, feather-work,
and the one admirable and well-established product of Indian
manufacture, the Navajo blanket. But these hardly represent the mass
of our people.

We may add to the list of Indian industries, lace making, which is
being successfully taught at some of the reservations, but as it is
not as yet even a self-supporting industry, the above-named
"curiosities" and the Navajo blanket stand alone as characteristic
hand-work produced by native races; while from our own, or that of the
co-existent Afro-American, we have nothing to show in the way of true
domestic manufactures.

When we contrast this want of production with the immense home product
of Europe, Asia, parts of Africa, and South America--and even certain
islands of the Southern Seas--we cannot help feeling a sort of dismay
at the contrast; and it is only by a careful study of the conditions
which have made the difference that we become reassured. It is, in
fact, our very prosperity, the exceptionally favourable circumstances
which are a part of farming life in this country, which has hitherto
diverted efforts into other channels.

These conditions did not exist during the early days of America, and
we know that while there was little commercial exchange of home
commodities, many of the arts which are used to such profitable
purpose abroad existed in this country and served greatly to modify
home expenses and increase home comforts. To account for the cessation
of these household industries, it is only necessary to notice the
drift of certain periods in the short history of America's settlement
and development.

We shall see that the decline of domestic manufactures in New England
and the Middle States was coincident with two rapidly increasing
movements, one of which was the opening and settlement of the great
West, and the other the establishment of cotton and woolen mills
throughout the country.

In short, the abundant acreage of Western lands, fertile beyond the
dreams of New England or Old World tillers, threw the entire business
of production or family support upon the man. The profit of his easily
acquired farm land was so great and certain that it became almost a
reproach to him to have his womenkind busy themselves with other than
necessary household duties.

The cotton and woolen mills stood ready to supply the needed material
for clothing, and it was positive economy to push the spinning-wheel
out of sight under the garret eaves and chop up the bulky loom for
firewood. The wife and daughters might reputably cook and clean for
the men whose business it was to cover the black acres with golden
wheat, but spinning and weaving were decidedly unfashionable
occupations. Even the emigrants from countries where the spinning and
weaving habit was an inheritance as well as a necessity, were governed
by the custom of the country, and devoted the entire energy of the
family to the raising of crops.

It is, in fact, owing to fortunate circumstances that, if we except
the mountain regions of the South, there are no longer farmhouse or
domestic manufactures in America.

This, as I have said, only goes to prove the hitherto unexampled
prosperity of the country. In fact, the absence of these very
industries means that there are greater sources of profit within the
reach of farming households.

This being so, it is natural to ask, why the re-establishment of
farmhouse manufactures, or the encouragement and development of them,
is a desirable movement.

There are exceedingly good individual and personal reasons; and there
are also commercial and national ones, which should not be ignored.

All farmers are not successful. There are many poor as well as rich
ones; and the wife of a poor farmer has less pecuniary independence,
less money to spend, and fewer ways of gaining it, than any other
woman of equal education and character in America.

A poor farmer is often obliged to pay out for labour, fencing, stock,
insurance and taxes every dollar gained by the sale of his crops, and
if by good luck or good management there should be a small excess, he
is apt to hoard it against unlooked-for emergencies. This, at first
enforced economy, grows to be the habit of his life, so that even if
he becomes well-to-do, or even rich, he distrusts exceedingly the
wisdom of any expenditure save his own.

A mechanic, or a man in any small line of business, must trust his
wife with the disbursement of a certain part of the family income. It
passes through her hands in the way of housekeeping, and the
management of it exercises and develops her faculties; but the wife of
the farmer has no such interest. The farm is expected to supply the
family living, and this blessed fact becomes almost a curse when it
deprives the wife of the mental stimulus incident to the management of

Added to this there is often, at least through the winter, partial or
complete isolation from neighbourly or public interests. The great
crops of the country are produced under circumstances which
necessitate distance from even the most limited social centres, and
that the farmer's wife suffers from this we know, not only from
observation, but from the statistics of insane asylums. And here I am
tempted to quote from a letter of a close student of farmhouse life in
the West. She writes:

"That the farmer himself, as isolated and hard worked, makes no such
record, I believe due to the mental tonic, the broadening influence
that comes from a sense of responsibility in life's larger affairs.
The woman works like a machine, irresponsible as to final results; the
man like a thinking, planning, responsible, independent human being."

This seems to me a very fair statement of the case. The woman, who
misses social companionship, and who has not the saving influence of
administration and responsibility even in her own household, is
narrowed to a very small point in life's affairs, and it is inevitable
that she should suffer from it. The variety of her work also has
dwindled. Cooking and house-cleaning follow each other in monotonous
routine, with too much of it at planting and harvest seasons and too
little at others. She has not even the pleasure of comparison and
emulation in her daily work; it neither exercises her faculties nor
stimulates her thought.

During the winter months she has abundant leisure for a harvest of her
own, in some interesting manufacture adapted to her education and
circumstances, and in the prosecution of these she would be brought
into a bond of common interest with other women. So far I have spoken
only of the individual and personal reasons for which certain domestic
and artistic industries well might be encouraged; but the public and
economic reasons are easy to find.

In looking at the variety and bulk of our national imports, we may be
surprised to see how large a proportion of them are of domestic
origin. In fact, nearly everything which comes under the head of
artistic products is the result of domestic industry. The beauty and
simplicity of many of these things is surprising, and yet they have
required neither unusual talent or careful training. They are simply
the result of the _habit_ of production, and their value is in the
personal expression we find in them. They have always this advantage
over mechanical manufacture, and can be safely relied upon to find a
market in the face of close mechanical imitation.

Among these domestic products we shall find the laces of all
countries, Ireland, Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden and Russia
contributing this beautiful manufacture, from finest to coarsest
quality. It is as common a process as knitting in the homes of many
countries, and the fact of it being successfully taught in the Indian
cabins of the far West proves that it is not a difficult
accomplishment. Embroideries, in all countries but our own, are common
and profitable home productions; and when we come to hand-weavings the
variety is infinite. In practical England, the value of hand-weavings
in linens has led to the introduction of small "parlour looms" from
Sweden; and damasks of special designs are woven for special customers
who appreciate their charm and worth.

Of all hand processes, weaving is the most generally or widely
applicable, and the range of beautiful production possible to the
simplest weaving is almost beyond calculation.

Many of the costly Eastern rugs are as simply woven as a Navajo
blanket, or even a rag carpet. The process is in many cases almost
identical, the variation being only in closeness or fineness of warp
and arrangement of colour.

I have been much interested of late in an application of art to a
local industry in New Hampshire. It is one which seems to prevail to
a greater or less degree all through New England, and the product is
called "pulled rugs." The process consists of drawing finely cut rags
through some loose, strong cloth, mainly bagging or burlap. I have
seen these rugs at Bar Harbor and along the Massachusetts coast for
many years, and while they possessed the merit of durability, they
were, for the most part, so ugly and unattractive that only the most
sympathetic personal interest in the maker would induce one to
purchase them. The change that has been wrought in this manufacture by
an intelligent application of art is really marvelous. The product
came under the attention of a woman trained in that valuable school,
"The Institute of Artist Artisans." She tried the experiment of using
new material carefully dyed to follow certain Oriental designs, and
the result is a smooth, velvety, thick-piled rug, which cannot be
distinguished from a fine Oriental rug of the same pattern. The cost
of this manufacture is necessarily considerable, since the process is
slow and the material costly. But in spite of these disadvantages, the
drawn rugs have met with deserved favour, and are a source of
profitable labour to the community. It is undoubtedly the beginning of
an important industry, which owes its success entirely to the art
education of one woman.

There is an improvement somewhat akin to this in the weaving of
rag-carpet rugs, and this is not confined to one locality. It consists
in the use of _new_ rags, carefully selected as to colour both of rags
and warp, and the result is surprisingly good.

One might say that we have in this country peculiar advantages for
positive artistic excellence as well as volume of production. We grow
our own wool and cotton. We have a great and growing population, with
such application of mechanical invention to routine and necessary work
as greatly to reduce household labour. Added to this, there has been
during the last ten years so much and such general art study as to
have created a sort of diffused love of art manufactures, so that many
of the people who would naturally adopt the work would have an
instructive judgment regarding it. I should not be afraid to predict
great and even peculiar excellence in any domestic manufacture which
became the habit of any given locality.

_The subject of our domestic industries is one which should fall
naturally within the objects of women's clubs._ If every woman's club
in the country chose from its members those who by artistic instinct
or education, and the possession of practical ability, were fitted to
lead in the work, and made of them a committee on home industries, the
reports from it would soon become a matter of absorbing interest to
the club, and the productions made under the protection, so to speak,
of the club, would have an advantage that any commercial business
would consider invaluable. Neither would the advantage be limited by
the interest of a single club. That great social engine, "The
Federation of Women's Clubs," can wield an almost magical power in the
creation of interests or encouragement of effort, and the federation
of organizations, each one exchanging experiences as well as products,
would be an ideal means of growth and extension.

The machinery for the work exists in almost every county of every
State of the Union, and with the threefold interest of the promotion
of practical art, that of increased manufacture, and the extension of
that sisterhood which is one of the most Christian-like and desirable
aims of women's clubs, it would seem a natural and congenial effort.

The best results of this general awakening will probably be in the
South. Certainly no conditions could be more favourable than those
existing in the Cumberland Mountains, where wool and cotton grown upon
the rough farms are habitually spun and woven and dyed in the home
cabin. The dyes are often made from walnut bark, pokeberry, and
certain nuts and roots which have been found capable of "fast" stain
and are easily procured. Unfortunately, the facility with which
aniline dyes can be used is not unknown. The "linsey woolsey," which
is not only a common manufacture in the farmhouses, but the common
wear of both men and women, is an interesting and good manufacture,
capable of much wider use than it enjoys at present.

And linsey woolsey is not the only home weaving done in the Cumberland
Mountains. The showing of cotton homespun towel weaving at the
Atlanta Exposition was a feature of the Exposition, and the homespun
blankets of the various kinds which one finds in common use are only a
step removed from the process of the admirable Navajo blanket.

We see from these different possibilities and indications, that
although we are still a people without true home productions, there is
every reason to believe that this condition will not be a lasting one,
and that before many years we shall find the special advantages and
general cultivation of the country have not only produced but given
character to a large domestic manufacture.



Rag carpets have been made and used in farmhouses for many
generations, but it is only of late that there has been a general
demand in all country houses for home-made piazza rugs, bedroom rugs,
and rugs for general use.

It has been found that the best and most durable rugs for these
purposes, and for bath-rooms for town and city houses, can be made of
cotton or woolen rags sewed and woven in the regular old-fashioned
rag-carpet way, the difference being--and it is rather a large
difference--that the rags must be new instead of old, and that the
colors must be good and carefully chosen instead of being used
indiscriminately, and in addition to this it must be woven in two-yard
lengths, with a border and fringe at either end. This being done,
good, attractive and salable rugs can be made of almost any color, and
suitable for many purposes. It is an industry perfectly adapted to
farmhouse conditions, and if well followed out would make a regular
income for the women of the family.

The cumbrous old wooden loom is still doing a certain amount of work
in nearly every country neighbourhood, and it is capable of a greatly
enlarged and much more profitable practice. I find very little if any
difference in the rugs woven upon these and the modern steel loom. It
is true that the work is lighter and weaving goes faster upon the
latter, and where a person or family makes an occupation of weaving it
is probably better to have the latest improvements; but it is possible
to begin and to make a success of rag rug weaving upon an
old-fashioned loom, and as a rule old-fashioned weavers have little to
learn in new methods.

This small book is intended as a help in adapting their work to modern
demands, as well as to open a new field to the farmer's family during
the winter months, when their time is not necessarily occupied with
growing and securing crops.

    [Illustration: WEAVING]

It does not undertake to teach any one who buys or has inherited a
loom to begin weaving without any further preparation. The warping or
threading of it must be _seen_ to be understood, but when that is once
learned, all of the rest is a matter of practice and experiment, and
is really no more difficult than any other domestic art. One would not
expect to spin without being shown how to pull the wool and turn the
wheel at the same time, or even to sew or knit without some sort of
instruction, and the same is true of weaving.

There are many old looms still to be found in the garrets of
farmhouses, and where one has been inherited it is best to begin
learning to weave upon it instead of substituting a new one, since the
same knowledge answers for both. Probably some older member of the
family, or at least some old neighbour, will be able to teach the new
beginner how to set up the loom and to proceed from that to actual
weaving. After this is learned it rests with one's self to become a
good weaver, a practical dyer, and to put colors together which are
both harmonious and effective.

What I have chiefly tried to show is how to get proper materials and
how to use them to the best advantage. I think it is safe to say that
no domestic art is capable of such important results from a pecuniary
point of view, or so important an extension in the direction of
practical art. Where it is used as an art-process and an interesting
occupation, by women of leisure, it is capable of the finest results,
and there is no reason why these results should not become a matter of
business profit.

Rag carpets have generally been woven of rags cut from any old
garments cast aside by the household--coats and trousers too old for
patching, sheets and pillow-cases too tender to use, calico, serge,
bits of woolen stuffs old and new, went into the carpet basket, to be
cut or torn into strips, sewed indiscriminately together, and rolled
into balls until there should be enough of them for the work of the
loom. When this time came the loom would be warped with white cotton
or purple yarn, dyed with "sugar paper" or logwood, and the carpet
woven. Even with this entire carelessness as to any other result than
that of a useful floor covering, the rag carpet, with its "hit or
miss" mixture, was not a bad thing; and a very small degree of
attention has served to give it a respectable place in domestic
manufactures. But it is capable of being carried much farther; in
fact, I know of no process which can so easily be made to produce
really good and beautiful results as rag carpet weaving.

The first material needed is what are called carpet warps, and these
can be purchased in different weights and sizes and more or less
reliable colours in every country store, this fact alone showing the
prevalence of home weaving, since the yarns are not--at least to my
knowledge--used for any other purpose.

The cost of warp, dyed or undyed, depends upon the quantity required,
or, in other words, upon its being purchased at wholesale or retail.
At retail it costs twenty cents per pound, and at wholesale sixteen.
To buy of a wholesale dealer one must be able to order at least a
hundred pounds, and as this would weave but a hundred and fifty rugs
it would not be too large a quantity to have on hand for even a
moderate amount of weaving. These prices refer only to ordinary cotton
warps, and not to fine "silk finish," to linen, or even to silk ones,
each of which has its special use and price.

In all of them fast colour is a most desirable quality, and, indeed,
for truly good work a necessity. I have found but two of the colours
which are upon ordinary sale to be reasonably fast, and those are a
very deep red and the ordinary orange. The latter will run when dipped
in water; in fact, it will give out dye to such good purpose that I
have sometimes used the water in which it has been steeped to dye
cotton rags, as it gives a very good and quite fast lemon yellow.

It follows, then, that in weaving rugs (which must be washable) with
orange warp, the warp must be steeped in warm water before using. It
can be used in that state, or it can be _set_ with alum, or it can be
dipped in a thin indigo dye and made into a good and fast green.

The only recourse of the domestic weaver who wishes to establish her
rugs as of the very best make is to dye her own warps; and this is not
only an easy but a most interesting process; so much so, in fact, that
I am tempted to enlarge upon it as a practical study for the young
people of the family. It is necessary at the very beginning to put
much stress upon the value of fast colour in the warping yarn, since a
faded warp will entirely neutralize the colour of the rags, and spoil
the beauty of the most successful rug.

The most necessary and widely applicable colour needed in warps, or,
indeed, in rags, is a perfectly fast blue in different depths, and
this can only be secured by indigo. Aniline blue in cotton is never
sun-fast and rarely will stand washing, but a good indigo blue will
neither run or fade, and is therefore precisely what is needed for
domestic manufacture. Fortunately, the dye-tub has been, in the past
at least, a close companion of the loom, and most old-fashioned
farmers' wives know how to use it. With this one can command reliable
blue warps of all shades; and when we come to directions for making
washable rugs its importance will be seen.

As I have said, by dipping orange warp in medium indigo blue a fast
and vivid green can be secured, and these two tints, together with
orange and red, give as many colours as one needs for rug weaving;
they give, in fact, a choice of five colours--orange, red, blue,
green and white. Orange and red are both colours which can be relied
upon when prepared from the ordinary "Magic" dyes of commerce. Turkey
red especially is safe to last, even when applied to cotton. In the
general disapproval of mineral dyes, this one may certainly be
excepted, as well as the crimson red known as "cardinal," which is
both durable and beautiful, in silk or woolen fibre or texture.

After good warps are secured, the second material needed is _filling_;
and here the subject of old and new rags is to be considered. Of
course, cloth which has served other purposes, as in sheets,
pillow-cases, curtains, dress skirts, etc., is still capable of
prolonged wear when the thin parts are removed and those which are
fairly strong are folded and bunched into carpet filling; and for
family use, or limited sale, such rags--dyed in some colour--are
really desirable. Good varieties of washable rugs can be made of
half-worn cotton without dyeing (although they will not be as durable
as if made from unworn muslin) by using blue warps to white fillings.
The colour effects and methods of weaving will be the same whether
old or new rags are used; but in making a study of rag rug weaving
from the point of view of building up an important industry, it is
necessary to consider only the use of new rags and how to procure the
best of them at the cheapest rates.

There is a certain amount of what is called waste in all cloth mills,
either cotton, wool or silk, and also in the manufacture of every kind
of clothing. The waste from cotton mills, consisting for the most part
of "piece ends," imperfect beginnings or endings, which must be torn
off when the piece is made up, are exactly suitable for carpet
weaving; and, in fact, if made for the purpose could hardly be better.
These can be bought for from ten to twelve cents per pound. The same
price holds for ginghams and for coloured cottons of various sorts.

Cutting from shirt-making and clothing establishments are not as good.
In shirt cuttings the cloth varies a good deal in thickness, and, in
addition to this disadvantage, cannot be torn into strips, many of the
pieces being bias, and therefore having to be cut. It is true that
while this entails additional use of time in preparation, bias rags
are a more elastic filling than straight ones, and if uniformly and
carefully cut and sewed a rug made from them is worth more and will
probably sell for more than one made of straight rags.

Shirt cuttings sell for about three cents per pound, and while a
proportion of them are too small for use and would have to be re-sold
for paper rags, the cost of material for cotton rugs would still be
very trifling. Suitable woolen rags from the mills sell for
twenty-five cents per pound. Tailors' and dressmakers' cuttings are
much cheaper, and very advantageous arrangements can be made with
large establishments if one is prepared to take all they have to

One difficulty with woolen rags from tailoring establishments is in
the sombreness of the colours; but much can be done by judicious
sorting and sewing of the rags, for it is astonishing how bits of
every conceivable colour will melt together when brought into a mixed
mass; also if they are woven upon a red warp the effect is brightened.

Having secured materials of different kinds, the next step is in the
cutting and sewing, and here also new methods must step in.

The old-fashioned way of sewing carpet rags--that is, simply _tacking_
them together with a large needle and coarse thread--will not answer
at all in this new development of rug making. The filling must be
smooth, without lumps or rag ends, and the joinings absolutely fast
and fairly inconspicuous. Some of the new rags from cotton or woolen
mills come in pieces from a quarter to a half-yard in length and the
usual width of the cloth. These can be sewed together on the sewing
machine, lapping and basting them before sewing. They should lap from
a quarter to a half inch and have two sewings, one at either edge of
the lap. If sewed in this way they can afterward be torn into strips,
using the scissors to cut across seams. It can be performed very
speedily when one is accustomed to it, and is absolutely secure, so
that no rag ends can ever be seen in the finished weaving.

If the cloth pieces which are to be used for rags are not wide enough
to sew on the sewing machine, they should be lapped and sewed by hand
in the same way, unless they happen to have selvedge ends, in which
case they should by all means be strongly overhanded. This makes the
best possible joining, as it is no thicker than the rest of the rag
filling, and consequently gives an even surface. Good sewing is the
first step toward making good and workmanlike rugs.

Whenever the rags can be torn instead of cut, it is preferable, as it
secures uniform width. The width, of course, must vary according to
the quality of cloth and weight desired in the rug. A certain weight
is necessary to make it lie smoothly, as a light rug will not stay in
place on the floor. In ordinary cotton cloth an inch wide strip is not
too heavy and will pinch into the required space. If, however, a
door-hanging or lounge-cover is being woven, the rags may be made half
that width.



When proper warp and filling are secured, experimental weaving may
begin. If the loom is an old-fashioned wooden one, it will weave only
in yard widths, and this yard width takes four hundred and fifty
threads of warp. Warping the loom is really the only difficult or
troublesome part of plain weaving, and therefore it is best to put in
as long a warp as one is likely to use in one colour. One and a half
pounds of cotton rags will make one yard of weaving.

The simplest trial will be the weaving of white filling, either old or
new, with a warp of medium indigo blue. Of course each warp must be
long enough to weave several rugs; and the first one, to make the
experiment as simple as possible, should be of white rags alone upon a
blue warp. There must be an allowance of five inches of warp for
fringe before the weaving is begun, and ten inches at the end of the
rug to make a fringe for both first and second rugs. Sometimes the
warp is set in groups of three, with a corresponding interval between,
and this--if the tension is firm and the rags soft--gives a sort of
honeycomb effect which is very good.

The grouping of the warp is especially desirable in one-coloured rugs,
as it gives a variation of surface which is really attractive.

When woven, the rug should measure three feet by six, without the
fringe. This is to be knotted, allowing six threads to a knot. This
kind of bath-rug--which is the simplest thing possible in
weaving--will be found to be truly valuable, both for use and effect.
If the filling is sufficiently heavy, and especially if it is made of
half-worn rags, it will be soft to the feet, and can be as easily
washed as a white counterpane; in fact, it can be thrown on the grass
in a heavy shower and allowed to wash and bleach itself.

Several variations can be made upon this blue warp in the way of
borders and color-splashes by using any indigo-dyed material mixed
with the white rags. Cheap blue ginghams, "domestics" or half-worn and
somewhat faded blue denims will be of the right depth of color, but as
a rule new denim is of too dark a blue to introduce with pure white

The illustration called "The Onteora Rug" is made by using a
proportion of a half-pound of blue rags to the two and a half of white
required to make up the three pounds of cotton filling required in a
six-foot rug. This half-pound of blue should be distributed through
the rug in three portions, and the two and a half pounds of white also
into three, so as to insure an equal share of blue to every third of
the rug. After this division is made it is quite immaterial how it
goes together. The blue rags may be long, short or medium, and the
effect is almost certain to be equally good.

The side border in "The Lois Rug," which is made upon the same blue
warp, is separately woven, and afterward added to the plain white rug
with blue ends, but an irregular side border can easily be made by
sewing the rags in lengths of a half-yard, alternating the blue and
white, and keeping the white rags in the centre of the rug while

These three or four variations of style in what we may call washable
rugs are almost equally good where red warp is used, substituting
Turkey red rags with the white filling instead of blue. An orange warp
can be used for an orange and white rug, mixing the white filling with
ordinary orange cotton cloth.

The effect may be reversed by using a white warp with a red, blue or
yellow filling, making the borders and splashes with white. One of the
best experiments in plain weaving I have seen is a red rug of the
"Lois" style, using white warp and mixed white and green gingham rags
for the borders, while the body of the rug is in shaded red rags.

This, however, brings us to the question of color in fillings, which
must be treated separately.

    [Illustration: THE ONTEORA RUG]

Of course, variations of all kinds can be made in washable rugs. Light
and dark blue rags can be used in large proportion with white ones to
make a "hit or miss," and where a darker rug is considered better for
household use it can be made entirely of dark and light blue on a
white warp; the same thing can be done in reds, yellows and greens.
Brown can be used with good effect mixed with orange, using orange
warp; or orange, green and brown will make a good combination on a
white warp. In almost every variety of rug except where blue warp is
used a red stripe in the border will be found an improvement.

A very close, evenly distributed red warp, with white filling, will
make a pink rug good enough and pretty enough for the daintiest
bedroom. If it is begun and finished with a half-inch of the same warp
used as filling, it makes a sort of border; and this, with the red
fringe, completes what every one will acknowledge is an exceptionally
good piece of floor furnishing.

In using woolen rags, which are apt to be much darker in colour than
cotton, a white, red or yellow warp is more apt to be effective than
either a green or a blue; in fact, it is quite safe to say that light
filling should go with dark warp and dark filling with light or white.

There is an extremely good style of rag rug made at Isle Lamotte, in
Vermont, where very dark blue or green woolen rags are woven upon a
white warp, with a design of arrows in white at regular intervals at
the sides. This design is made by turning back the filling at a given
point and introducing a piece of white filling, which in turn is
turned back when the length needed for the design is woven and another
dark one introduced, each one to be turned back at the necessary place
and taken up in the next row. Of course, while the design is in
progress one must use several pieces of filling in each row of

The black border can only be made by introducing a large number of
short pieces of the contrasting colour which is to be used in the
design and tacking them in place as the weaving proceeds. Of course,
in this case thin cloth should be used for the colour-blocks, as
otherwise the doubling of texture would make an uneven surface. If the
rug is a woolen one, not liable to be washed, this variation of color
in pattern can be cleverly made by brushing the applied color pieces
lightly with _glue_. Of course, in this case the design will show only
on the upper side of the rug. In fact, the only way to make the
design show equally on both sides is by turning back the warp, as in
the arrow design, or by actually cutting out and sewing in pieces of

By following out the device of using glue for fastening the bits of
colour which make border designs many new and very interesting effects
can be obtained, as most block and angle forms can be produced by
lines made in weaving. It is only where the rug must be constantly
subject to washing that they are not desirable. It must be remembered
that the warp threads bind them into place, after they are

Large rugs for centres of rooms can be made of woolen rags by weaving
a separate narrow border for the two sides. If the first piece is
three feet wide by eight in length, and a foot-wide border is added at
the sides, it will make a rug five feet wide by eight feet long; or if
two eight-foot lengths are sewn together, with a foot-wide border, it
will make an eight-by-eight centre rug. The border should be of black
or very dark coloured filling. In making a bordered rug, two dark ends
must be woven on the central length of the rug--that is, one foot of
black or dark rags can be woven on each end and six feet of the "hit
or miss" effect in the middle. This gives a strip of eight feet long,
including two dark ends. The separate narrow width, one foot wide and
sixteen feet in length, must be added to this, eight feet on either
side. The border must be very strongly sewn in order to give the same
strength as in the rest of the rug.

The same plan can be carried out in larger rugs, by sewing breadths
together and adding a border, but they are not easily lifted, and are
apt to pull apart by their own weight. Still, the fact remains that
very excellent and handsome rugs can be made from rags, in any size
required to cover the floor of a room, by sewing the breadths and
adding borders, and if care and taste are used in the combinations as
good an effect can be secured as in a much more costly flooring.

The ultimate success of all these different methods of weaving rag
rugs depends upon the amount of beauty that can be put into them. They
possess all the necessary qualities of durability, usefulness and
inexpensiveness, but if they cannot be made beautiful other estimable
qualities will not secure the wide popularity they deserve. Durable
and beautiful colour will always make them salable, and good colour is
easily attainable if the value of it is understood.

There are two ways of compassing this necessity. One is to buy, if
possible, in piece ends and mill waste, such materials as Turkey red,
blue and green ginghams, and blue domestics and denims, as well as all
the dark colours which come in tailors' cuttings. The other and better
alternative is to buy the waste of white cotton mills and dye it. For
the best class of rugs--those which include beauty as well as
usefulness, and which will consequently bring a much larger price if
sold--it is quite worth while to buy cheap muslins and calicoes; and
as quality--that is, coarseness or fineness--is perfectly immaterial,
it is possible to buy them at from four to five cents per yard. These
goods can be torn lengthwise, which saves nearly the whole labor of
sewing them, and from eight to ten yards, according to their fineness,
will make a yard of weaving. The best textile for this is undoubtedly
unbleached muslin, even approaching the quality called "cheesecloth."
This can easily be dyed if one wishes dark instead of light colours,
and it makes a light, strong, elastic rug which is very satisfactory.

In rag carpet weaving in homesteads and farmhouses--and it is so truly
a domestic art that it is to be hoped this kind of weaving will be
confined principally to them--some one of the household should be
skilled in simple dyeing. This is very important, as better and
cheaper rugs can be made if the weaver can get what she wants in
colour by having it dyed in the house, rather than by the chance of
finding it among the rags she buys.



In the early years of the past century a dye-tub was as much a
necessity in every house as a spinning wheel, and the re-establishment
of it in houses where weaving is practised is almost a necessity; in
fact, it would be of far greater use at present than in the days when
it was only used to dye the wool needed for the family knitting and
weaving. All shades of blue, from sky-blue to blue-black, can be dyed
in the indigo-tub; and it has the merit of being a cheap as well as an
almost perfectly fast dye. It could be used for dyeing warps as well
as fillings, and I have before spoken of the difficulty, indeed almost
impossibility, of procuring indigo-dyed carpet yarn.

Blue is perhaps more universally useful than any other colour in rag
rug making, since it is safe for both cotton and wool, and covers a
range from the white rug with blue warp, the blue rug with white
warp, through all varieties of shade to the dark blue, or clouded
blue, or green rug, upon white warp. It can also be used in connection
with yellow or orange, or with copperas or walnut dye, in different
shades of green; and, in short, unless one has exceptional advantages
in buying rags from woolen mills, I can hardly imagine a profitable
industry of rag-weaving established in any farmhouse without the
existence of an indigo dyeing-tub.


The next important color is red. Red warps can be bought, but the
lighter shades are not even reasonably fast; and indeed, the only sure
way of securing absolutely fast colour in cotton warp is to dye it.
Prepared dyes are somewhat expensive on account of the quantity
required, but there are two colours, Turkey red and cardinal red,
which are extremely good for the purpose. These can be brought at
wholesale from dealers in chemicals and dye-stuffs at much cheaper
rates than by the small paper from the druggist.


The ordinary copperas, which can be bought at any country store, gives
a fast nankeen-coloured dye, and this is very useful in making a dull
green by an after-dip in the indigo-tub.


There are some valuable domestic dyes which are within the reach of
every country dweller, the best and cheapest of which is walnut or
butternut stain. This is made by steeping the bark of the tree or the
shell of the nut until the water is dark with colour. It will give
various shades of yellow, brown, dark brown and green brown, according
to the strength of the decoction or the state of the bark or nut when
used. If the bark of the nut is used when green, the result will be a
yellow brown; and this stain is also valuable in making a green tint
when an after-dip of blue is added. Leaves and tree-bark will give a
brown with a very green tint, and these different shades used in
different rags woven together give a very agreeably clouded effect.
Walnut stain will itself set or fasten some others; for instance,
pokeberry stain, which is a lovely crimson, can be made reasonably
fast by setting it with walnut juice.


Iron rust is the most indelible of all stains besides being a most
agreeable yellow, and it is not hard to obtain, as bits of old iron
left standing in water will soon manufacture it. It would be a good
use for old tin saucepans and various other house utensils which have
come to a state of mischievousness instead of usefulness.


Ink gives various shades of gray according to its strength, but it
would be cheaper to purchase it in the form of logwood than as ink.


Logwood chips boiled in water give a good yellow brown--deep in
proportion to the strength of the decoction.


Yellow from fustic requires to be set with alum, and this is more
effectively done if the material to be dyed is soaked in alum water
and dried previous to dyeing. Seven ounces of alum to two quarts of
water is the proper proportion. The fustic chips should be well
soaked, and afterward boiled for a half-hour to extract the dye, which
will be a strong and fast yellow.


Orange is generally the product of annato, which must be dissolved
with water to which a lump of washing soda has been added. The
material must be soaked in a solution of tin crystals before dipping,
if a pure orange is desired, as without this the color will be a pink
buff--or "nankeen" color.

What I have written on the subject of home dyeing is intended more in
the way of suggestion than direction, as it is simply giving some
results of my own experiments, based upon early familiarity with
natural growths rather than scientific knowledge. I have found the
experiments most interesting, and more than fairly successful, and I
can imagine nothing more fascinating than a persistent search for
natural and permanent dyes.

The Irish homespun friezes, which are so dependable in colour for
out-of-door wear, are invariably dyed with natural stains, procured
from heather roots, mosses, and bog plants of like nature. It must be
remembered that any permanent or indelible stain is a dye, and if boys
and girls who live in the country were set to look for plants
possessing the colour-quality, many new ones might be discovered. I am
told by a Kentucky mountain woman, used to the production of reliable
colour in her excellent weaving, that the ordinary roadside smartweed
gives one of the best of yellows. Indeed, she showed me a blanket with
a yellow border which had been in use for twenty years, and still held
a beautiful lemon yellow. In preparing this, the plant is steeped in
water, and the tint set with alum. Combining this with indigo, or by
an after-dip in indigo-water, one could procure various shades of fast
blue-green, a colour which is hard to get, because most yellows, which
should be one of its preparatory tints, are buff instead of lemon

An unlimited supply and large variety of cheap and reliable colour in
rag filling, and a few strong and brilliant colours in warps, are
conditions for success in rag rug weaving, but these colours must be
studiously and carefully combined to produce the best results.

I have said that, as a rule, light warps must go with dark filling and
dark warps with light, and I will add a few general rules which I have
found advantageous in my weaving.

In the first place, in rugs which are largely of one colour, as blue,
or green, or red, or yellow, no effort should be made to secure _even_
dyeing; in fact, the more uneven the colour is the better will be the
rug. Dark and light and spotted colour work into a shaded effect which
is very attractive. The most successful of the simple rugs I possess
is of a cardinal red woven upon a white warp. It was chiefly made of
white rags treated with cardinal red Diamond dye, and was purposely
made as uneven as possible. The border consists of two four-inch
strips of "hit or miss" green, white and red mixed rags, placed four
inches from either end, with an inch stripe of red between, and the
whole finished with a white knotted fringe.

A safe and general rule is that the border stripes should be of the
same colour as the warp--as, for instance, with a red warp a red
striped border--while the centre and ends of the rug might be mixed
rags of all descriptions.

It is also safe to say that in using pure white or pure black in mixed
rags, these two colours, and particularly the white, should appear in
short pieces, as otherwise they give a striped instead of a mottled
effect, and this is objectionable. White is valuable for strong
effects or lines in design; indeed, it is hard to make design
prominent or effective except in white or red.

    [Illustration: THE LOIS RUG]

These few general rules as to colour, together with the particular
ones given in other chapters, produce agreeable combinations in very
simple and easy fashion. I have not, perhaps, laid as much stress upon
warp grouping and treatment as is desirable, since quite distinct
effects are produced by these things. Throwing the warp into groups of
three or four threads, leaving small spaces between, produces a sort
of basket-work style; while simply doubling the warp and holding it
with firm tension gives the honeycomb effect of which I have
previously spoken. If the filling is wide and soft, and well pushed
back between each throw of the shuttle, it will bunch up between the
warp threads like a string of beads, and in a dark warp and light
filling a rim of coloured shadow seems to show around each little
prominence. Such rugs are more elastic to the tread than an
even-threaded one, and on the whole may be considered a very desirable

It is well for the weaver to remember that every successful experiment
puts the manufacture on a higher plane of development and makes it
more valuable as a family industry.



Undoubtedly the most useful--and from a utilitarian point of view the
most perfect--rag rug is made from worn ingrain carpet, especially if
it is of the honest all-wool kind, and not the modern mixture of
cotton and wool. There are places in the textile world where a mixture
of cotton and wool is highly advantageous, but in ingrain carpeting,
where the sympathetic fibre of the wool holds fast to its adopted
colour, and the less tenacious cotton allows it to drift easily away,
the result is a rusty grayness of colour which shames the whole
fabric. This grayness of aspect cannot be overcome in the carpet
except by re-dyeing, and even then the improvement may be transitory,
so an experienced maker of rugs lets the half-cotton ingrain drift to
its end without hope of resurrection.

The cutting of old ingrain into strips for weaving is not so serious a
task as it would seem. Where there is an out-of-doors to work in, the
breadths can easily be torn apart without inconvenience from dust.
After this they should be placed, one at a time, in an old-fashioned
"pounding-barrel" and invited to part with every particle of dust
which they have accumulated from the foot of man.

For those who do not know the virtues and functions of the
"pounding-barrel," I must explain that it is an ordinary, tight,
hard-wood barrel; the virtue lying in the pounder, which may be a
broom-handle, or, what is still better, the smooth old oak or ash
handle of a discarded rake or hoe. At the end of it is a firmly fixed
block of wood, which can be brought down with vigour upon rough and
soiled textiles. It is an effective separator of dust and fibre, and
is, in fact, a New England improvement upon the stone-pounding process
which one sees along the shores of streams and lakes in nearly all
countries but England and America.

If the pounding-barrel is lacking, the next best thing is--after a
vigorous shaking--to leave the breadths spread upon the grass, subject
to the visitations of wind and rain. After a few days of such
exposure they will be quite ready to handle without offense. Then
comes the process of cutting. The selvages must be sheared as narrowly
as possible, since every inch of the carpet is valuable. When the
selvages are removed, the breadths are to be cut into long strips of
nearly an inch in width and rolled into balls for the loom. If the
pieces are four or five yards in length, only two or three need to be
sewn together until the weaving is actually begun, as the balls would
otherwise become too heavy to handle. As the work proceeds, however,
the joinings must be well lapped and strongly sewn, the rising of one
of the ends in the woven piece being a very apparent blemish.

Rugs made of carpeting require a much stronger warp than do ordinary
cotton or woolen rugs, and therefore a twine made of flax or hemp, if
it be of fast colour, will be found very serviceable. Some weavers
fringe the rags by pulling out side threads, and this gives an effect
of _nap_ to the woven rug which is very effective, for as the rag is
doubled in weaving the raveled ends of threads stand up on the
surface, making quite a furry appearance. I have a rug treated in
this way made from old green carpeting, woven with a red warp, which
presents so rich an appearance that it might easily be mistaken for a
far more costly one. It has, however, the weak point of having been
woven with the ordinary light-red warp of commerce, and is therefore
sure to lose colour. If the warp had been re-dyed by the weaver, with
"Turkey red," it would probably have held colour as long as it held

This cutting of ingrain rags would seem to be a serious task, but
where weaving is a business instead of an amusement it is quite worth
while to buy a "cutting table" upon which the carpet is stretched and
cut with a knife. This table, with its machinery, can be bought
wherever looms and loom supplies are kept, at a cost of from seven to
eight dollars. If the strips are raveled at all, it should be at least
for a third of an inch, as otherwise the rug would possess simply a
rough and not a napped surface. If the strips are cut an inch in width
and raveled rather more than a third on each side, it still leaves
enough cloth to hold firmly in the weaving, but I have known one
industrious soul who raveled the strips until only a narrow third was
left down the middle of the strip, and this she found it necessary to
stitch with the sewing machine to prevent further raveling. I have
also known of the experiment of cutting the strips on the bias,
stitching along the centre and pulling the two edges until they were
completely ruffled. Although this is a painstaking process, it has
very tangible merits, as, in the first place, absolutely nothing of
the carpet is wasted--no threads are pulled out and thrown away as in
the other method--and in the next the sewings together are overhand
instead of lapped. The raveled waste can often be used as filling for
the ends of rugs if it is wound as it is pulled from the carpet rags.
Indeed, one can hardly afford to waste such good material.

It will be seen that there are great possibilities in the carpet rug.
Even the unravelled ones are desirable floor covering on account of
their weight and firmness. They lie where they are placed, with no
turned-up ends, and this is a great virtue in rugs.

Of course much of the beauty of the ingrain carpet rug depends upon
the original colour of the carpet. Most of those which are without
design will work well into rugs if a strongly contrasting colour is
used in the warp. If, for instance, the carpet colour is plain blue,
the warp should be white; if yellow, either an orange warp, which will
make a very bright rug, or a green warp, which will give a soft
yellowish green, or a blue, which will give a general effect of green
changing to yellow.

If the carpet should be a figured one, a red warp will be found more
effective than any other in bringing all the colours together. If it
should happen to be faded or colourless, the breadths can be dipped in
a tub of strong dye of some colour which will act well upon the
previous tint. If, for instance, it should be a faded blue, it may be
dipped in an indigo dye for renewal of colour, or into yellow, which
will change it into green. A poor yellow will take a brilliant red
dye, and a faded brown or fawn will be changed into a good claret
colour by treating it with red dye. Faded brown or fawn colours will
take a good dark green, as will also a weak blue. Blue can also be
treated with yellow or a fresher blue.

Of course, in speaking of this kind of dyeing, the renewal of old
tints, it is with reference to the common prepared dyes which are for
sale--with directions--by every druggist, and with a little knowledge
of how these colours act upon each other one can produce very good
effects. It is quite a different thing from the dyeing of fibre which
is to be woven into cloth. In the latter case it is far wiser to use
vegetable dyes, but in the freshening of old material the prepared
mineral dyes are more convenient and sufficiently effective.



Rag weaving is not necessarily confined to rugs, for very beautiful
portieres and table and lounge covers may be woven from carefully
chosen and prepared rags. The process is practically the same, the
difference being like that between coarse and fine needlework, where
finer material and closer and more painstaking handiwork is bestowed.
The result is like a homespun cloth. Both warp and woof must be finer
than in ordinary carpet weaving. Instead of coarse cotton yarn, warp
must be fine "mercerized" cotton, or of linen or silk thread, and the
warp threads are set much closer in the loom. In place of ten or
twelve threads to the inch, there should be from fifteen to twenty.
The woof or filling may be old or new, and either of fine cotton,
merino, serge, or other wool material, or of silk. The ordinary
"silk-rag portiere" is not a very attractive hanging, being somewhat
akin to the crazy quilt, and made, as is that bewildering production,
from a collection of ribbons and silk pieces of all colours and
qualities, cut and sewed together in a haphazard way, without any
arrangement of colour or thought of effect, and sent to the weaver
with a vague idea of getting something of worth from valueless
material. This is quite a different thing from a silk portiere made
from some beautiful old silk garment, which is too much worn for
further use, where warp and woof colour are selected for fitness and
harmony, and the weaver uses her rags, as the painter does his
colours, with a purpose of artistic effect. If the work is done from
that point of view, the last state of the once beautiful old garment
may truly be said to be better than the first. If a light cloth is
used for this kind of manufacture, it may be torn into strips so
narrow as to simulate yarn--and make what appears to be yarn weaving.
This cannot well be done with old or worn cloth, because there is not
strength in the very narrow strip to bear the strain of tearing; but
new muslin, almost as light as that which is known as "cheesecloth,"
treated in this way makes a beautiful canvas-like weaving which, if
well coloured, is very attractive for portieres or table covers.

If one has breadths of silk of a quality which can be torn without
raveling, and is sufficiently strong to bear the process, it is
delightful material to work with. If it is of ordinary thickness, a
half-inch in width is quite wide enough, and this will roll or double
into the size of ordinary yarn. If the silk is not strong enough to
tear, it is better to cut the strips upon the bias than straight, and
the same is true of fine woolens, like merinos, cashmeres, or any
worsted goods. There is much more elasticity in them when cut in this
way, and they are more readily crushed together by the warp.

I know a beautiful hanging of crimson silk, or rather of crimson and
garnet--the crimson having been originally a light silk dress dyed to
shade into the garnet. The two coloured rags were sewn together "hit
or miss" fashion and woven upon a bright cardinal-coloured warp. There
was no attempt at border: it was simply a length of vari-coloured
coarse silk weaving, absolutely precious for colour and quality.

Treated in this way, an old silk gown takes on quite a new value and
becomes invested with absorbing interest. Spots and tarnish disappear
in the metempsychosis, or serve for scattered variation, and if the
weaver chooses to still further embellish it with a monogram or design
in cross stitch embroidery, she has acquired a piece of drapery which
might be a valuable inheritance to her children.

Merino or cashmere which has been worn and washed, and is coupled with
other material of harmonizing colour, like pieces of silk or velvet,
is almost as valuable for the making of portieres and table covers as
if it were silk. Indeed, for the latter purpose it is preferable,
being generally washable.

Cotton hangings made in this way are often very desirable. "Summer
muslins" which have served their time as dresses, and are of beautiful
colour and quite strong enough to go into the loom, can be woven with
a warp of gray linen thread into really beautiful hangings, especially
the strong, plain tints--the blues and greens and reds which have
been so much worn of late years. They have the advantage of being
easily washable, and are particularly suitable for country-house
hangings. Even worn sheets and pillow-cases can be dyed to suit the
furnishing of different rooms, and woven with a silk warp of stronger
colour. They should be torn into strips not more than a third of an
inch wide, so that it may crush into a roll not larger than an
ordinary yarn. This will weave into a light, strong cloth, always
interesting because it differs from anything which can be purchased
through ordinary channels. To reappear in the shape of a beautiful and
valuable rag-weaving is the final resurrection of good textiles, when
they have performed their duty in the world and been worn out in its

These home-woven portieres are better without borders, the whole
surface being plain or simply clouded by mixing two tints of the same
colour together. They can be elaborated by adding a hand-made fringe
of folds of cloth sewn into a lattice and finished with tassels. This
is quite a decorative feature, and particularly suitable to the

It can easily be understood that a large share of the beauty of making
these household furnishings lies in the colour. If that is good the
rug or portiere or table-cover is beautiful. If it is either dull or
glaring, the pleasure one might have in it is lacking, and it is quite
within one's power to have the article always beautiful.

It must also be remembered, if weaving is taken up as a source of
profit, that _few things which do not please the eye will sell_.
Therefore, if for no other reason, it is well worth while for the
weaver to first study the choice, production and combination of
beautiful colours rather than the fabric of the rug.

I have said, and will reiterate, that for this particular kind of
manufacture--the restoration and adaptation of old goods, and the
strengthening of tints in carpet warps--the yellows and reds of the
Magic or Diamond dyes of commerce are effective and reliable. Indeed,
for new goods cardinal dye is all that could be asked, but when it
comes to the use of dyes for the weaving of textiles and artistic
fabrics, one must resort to dye woods and plants.




Nothing is more important than the proper _finish_ of the rug, and
this generally consists in a careful going over of the work after it
has come from the loom--the cutting of stray ravelings and sewing of
loose ends, and the knotting of the long warp ends.

It is only a very careless or inexperienced weaver who leaves the warp
ends in the state in which they come from the loom; and indeed they
can be made one of the most effective features of the rug. Simple
knotting of every six threads will make them safe from raveling, and
sometimes the shortness of the warp ends allows no more than this. It
is well worth while, however, to leave six or eight inches to work
into decorative fringes, and these can be made in various ways, of
which illustrations are given.

In the case of decorative fringes there can be double or triple
knotting--straight, or worked into points; braided fringes which have
the merit of both strength and beauty, and are free from the
tangle-trouble of long fringes, and the very effective rag-lattice
finish for portieres and table-covers. Indeed, half the beauty of the
rug may lie in the fringing and finish.


The pecuniary gain from rag rug weaving may easily be calculated.
First of all comes the cost of the loom, which will be about seventy
dollars. The interest upon this, with necessary repairs, may be
reckoned at about five dollars per year.

To every six-foot rug goes two-thirds of a pound of warp, and this
would amount to from ten-and-a-half to fourteen cents, according to
the rate of purchase. To every such rug must go three pounds of cotton
or two pounds of woolen rags, costing for cotton thirty and for woolen
fifty cents. To the cotton rugs must be added the possible cost of
dye-stuffs, which, again, might cost twenty cents, making cost of
material in either cotton or woolen rugs from sixty to sixty-four

As far as profit is concerned, if rag rugs are well made they will
sell for two dollars each, if successful in colour, from two dollars
and a half to three and a half, and if beautiful and exceptional in
colour and finish from four to six dollars. But it must be remembered
that this latter price will be for rugs which have artistic value.
Probably the average weaver can safely reckon upon one dollar and
eighty-five cents to two dollars regular profit for the labor of
sewing and filling and weaving and knotting the rugs. It is fair to
accept this as a basis for regular profit, the amount of which must
depend upon facility of production and the ability to produce
unexceptionable things.

But it is not alone pecuniary gain which should be considered. Ability
to produce or create a good thing is in itself a happiness, and the
value of happiness cannot easily be reckoned. The knowledge necessary
to such production is a personal gain. Everything we can do which
people generally cannot or do not do, or which we can do better than
others, helps us to a certain value of ourselves which makes life
valuable. For this reason, then, as well as for the gain of it, a loom
in the house and a knowledge of weaving is an advantage, not only for
the elders, but to the children. If the boys and girls in every
farmhouse were taught to create more things, they would not only be
abler as human beings, but they would not be so ready to run out into
the world in search of interesting occupations. A loom, a
turning-lathe, a work-bench, and a chest of tools, a house-organ or
melodeon, and a neighbourhood library, would keep boys and girls at
home, and make them more valuable citizens when independent living
became a necessity. Everything which broadens the life, which must by
reason of narrow means and fixed occupation be stationary, gives
something of the advantage of travel and contact with the world, and
the adding of profitable outside industries to farmhouse life is an
important step in this direction.



There are two conditions which will make home weaving valuable. The
first is that the material, whether it be of cotton or wool, should be
grown upon the farm, and that it could not be sold in the raw state at
a price which would make the growing of it profitable. In wool crops
there are certain odds and ends of ragged, stained and torn locks,
which would injure the appearance of the fleece, and are therefore
thrown aside, and this waste is perfectly suitable for rug weaving.

In cotton there is not the amount of waste, but the fibre itself is
not as valuable, and a portion of it could be reserved for home
weaving, even though it should not be turned to more profitable

The next condition is that the time used in weaving is also waste or
left-over time. If housekeeping requires only a quarter or half of a
woman's time, weaving is more restful and interesting, as well as
more profitable, than idleness; and in almost every family there are
members to whom partial employment would be a boon.

There is no marketable value for spare time or for individual taste,
so that the women of the family possessing these can start a weaving
enterprise, counting only the cost of material at growers' prices. If
they can card, spin, dye and weave as well as the women of two
generations did before them, they have a most profitable industry in
their own hands in the shape of weaving.

If materials must be purchased the profit is smaller, and the question
arises whether spare time and personal taste and skill can be made
profitable. This depends entirely upon circumstances and character.
When circumstances are or can be made favourable, and there is
industry and ambition behind them, domestic weaving is a beautiful and
profitable occupation.

There are many neighbourhoods where the conditions are exactly
suitable to the prosecution of important domestic industries--localities
where sheep are raised and wool is a regular product, or where cotton
is grown and the weaving habit is not extinct. This is true of many
New England neighbourhoods and of the whole Cumberland Mountain
region, and it is in response to a demand for direction of unapplied
advantages that this book is written.

I am convinced that the weaving of domestic wool or cotton rugs might
be so developed in the mountain regions of the South as to greatly
decrease the importation of Eastern ones of the same grade.

An endless variety might be made in these localities, the difference
of climate, material and habits of thought adding interest as well as
variety, and it is safe to say that the home market is waiting for
them. Housekeepers have learned by experience that a rug which can be
easily lifted and frequently shaken is not only far more cleanly, and
consequently safer, from a sanitary point of view, than a carpet, but
that it has other merits which are of economic as well as esthetic

A rug is more durable than a carpet of equal weight and texture
because it can be constantly shifted from points of wear to those
which are less exposed. It can be moved from room to room, or even
from house to house, without the trouble of shaping or fitting; and
last but not least, it brings a concentration of colour exactly where
it is needed for effect, and this is possible to no other piece of
house furnishing. In short, there seems to be no bar to its general
acceptance, excepting the bad floors of our immediate predecessors in

It only needs that cost, quality and general effect of the home-woven
rugs should be shaped into perfect adaptation to our wants, to make
them as necessary a part of ordinary house-furnishing as chairs and

These three requirements are within the reach of any home-weaving
farmer's wife who will give to the work the same thought for
economical conditions, the same ambition for thorough work and the
same intelligent study which her husband bestows upon his successful

As there is already one American rug which fulfills most of these
conditions, it is well to consider it as a starting point for
progress. This is the heavy Indian rug known as the Navajo blanket.
Originally fashioned to withstand the cold and exposure of outdoor
life, it has combined thickness, durability and softness with
excellent colour and weaving and perfectly characteristic design.

In the best examples, where the wool is not bought from traders, but
carded, spun and dyed by the weaver, the Navajo blanket is a perfect
production of its kind, and I cannot help wondering that the
manufacture of these rug-like blankets--some of which are of great
intrinsic value--should have been so long confined to a primitive
race, living at our very doors. The whole process of spinning, dyeing
and weaving could be carried on in any farmhouse, using the coarsest
and least valuable wool, and by reliable and well-chosen colour, good
weight and careful weaving bringing the manufacture into a prominent
place among the home productions of our people.

One can hardly imagine simpler machinery than is used by the Indians.
It is scarcely more than a parallelogram of sticks, supported by a
back brace, and yet upon these simple looms an Indian woman will
weave a fabric that will actually hold water.

The clumsy, old-fashioned loom which is still in use in many
farmhouses is fully equal to all demands of this variety of weaving,
but there are already in the market steel-frame looms with fly
shuttles which take up much less room and are more easily worked. I
was about to say they were capable of better work, but nothing could
be better in method than the Indian rug, woven on its three upright
sticks; and after all it is well to remember that _quality is in the
weaver_, and not in the loom. The results obtained from the simplest
machinery can be made to cover ground which is truly artistic.

As an example of what may be done to make this kind of weaving
available, we will suppose that some one having an ordinary loom, and
in the habit of weaving rag carpet, wishes to experiment toward the
production of a good yarn rug. The first thing required would, of
course, be material for both warp and woof.

The warp can be made of strong cotton yarn which is manufactured for
this very purpose and can be bought for about seventeen cents a
pound. This is probably cheaper than it could be carded and spun at
home even on a cotton-growing farm.

The wool filling should be coarse and slack-twisted, and on
wool-growing farms or in wool-growing districts is easily produced. If
it is of home manufacture, it may be spun as loosely or slackly as
possible, dyed and woven without doubling, which will be seen to be an
economy of labor. The single thread, slackly twisted, gives a very
desirable elasticity to the fabric, because the wool fibre is not too
closely bound or packed. On the other hand, if the wool as well as the
warp must be bought, it is best to get it from the spinning machine in
its first state of the single thread, and do the doubling and twisting
at home. In this case it can be doubled as many or as few times as it
is thought best, and twisted as little as possible.

The next and most important thing is colour, and it is a great
advantage if the dyeing can be done at home. There is a strong and
well-founded preference among art producers in favor of vegetable
dyes, and yet it is possible to use certain of the aniline colours,
especially in combination, in safe and satisfactory ways.

Every one who undertakes domestic weaving must know how to dye one or
two good colours--black, of course, and the half-black or gray which a
good colourist of my acquaintance calls _light black_; indigo blue
equally, of course, in three shades of very dark, medium and light;
and red in two shades of dark and light. Here are seven shades from
the three dyes, and when we add white we see that the weaver is
already very well equipped with a variety of colour. The eight shades
can be still further enlarged by clouding and mixing. The mixing can
be done in two ways, either by carding two tints together before
spinning, or by twisting them together when spun.

Carding together gives a very much better effect in wool, while
twisting together is preferable in cotton.

Dark blue and white or medium blue and white wool carded together will
give two blue-grays, which cannot be obtained by dyeing, and are most
valuable. White and red carded together give a lovely pink, and any
shade of gray can be made by carding different proportions of black
and white or half-black and white. A valuable gray is made by carding
black and white wool together (and by black wool I mean the natural
black or brownish wool of black sheep). Mixing of deeply dyed and
white wool together in carding is, artistically considered, a very
valuable process, as it gives a softness of colour which it is
impossible to get in any other way. Clouding--which is almost an
indispensable process for rug centres--can be done by winding certain
portions of the skeins or hanks of yarn very tightly and closely with
twine before they are thrown into the dye-pot. The winding must be
close enough to prevent the dye penetrating to the yarn. This means,
of course, when the clouding is to be of white and another colour. If
it is to be of two shades of one colour, as a light and medium blue,
the skein is first dyed a light blue, and after drying is wound as I
have described, and thrown again into the dye-pot, until the unwound
portions become the darker blue which we call medium.

In a neighbourhood where weaving is a general industry, it is an
advantage if some one person who has a general aptitude for dyeing
and experiments in colours undertakes it as a business. This is on the
principle that a person who does only one thing does it with more
facility and better than one who works in various lines. Yet even when
there is a neighbourhood dyer, it is, as I have said, almost
indispensable that the weaver should know how to dye one or two
colours and to do it well.

Supposing that the material, in the shape of coarse cotton warp,
black, red or white, has been secured, or that a wool filling in the
colours and shades I have described has been prepared for weaving; the
loom is then to be warped, at the rate of fifteen or less threads to
the inch, according to the coarseness or fineness of the filling.

It is well to weave a half-inch of the cotton warp for filling, as
this binds the ends more firmly than wool. Next to this, a border of
black and gray in alternate half-inch stripes can be woven, and
following that, the body of the rug in dark red, clouded with white.
After five feet of the red is woven, a border end of the black and
gray is added, and the rug may be cut from the loom, leaving about
four inches of the warp at either end as a fringe. If the filling
yarn is of good colour, and has been well packed in the weaving, _so
as to entirely cover the warp_, the result will be a good, attractive
and durable woolen rug, woven after the Navajo method.

In this one example I have given the bare and simple outline by
following which a weaver whose previous work has been only rag carpet
weaving can manufacture a good and valuable wool rug. The difference
will be simply that of close warping and a substitution of wool for
rags. Its value will be considerably increased or lessened by the
choice of material both in quality and colour and the closeness and
perfection of weaving.

The example given calls for a rug six feet long by three feet in
width. To make this very rug a much more important one, it needs only
to vary the size of the border. For a larger rug the length must be
increased two feet, and the border, which in this case must be of
plain or mixed black--that is, it must not be alternated with stripes
of gray--must measure one foot at either end. When this is complete,
two narrow strips one foot in width, woven with mixed black filling,
must be sewed on either side, making a rug eight feet long and five in
width. It is not a disadvantage to have this border strip sewn,
instead of being woven as a part of the centre. Many of the cheaper
Oriental weavings are put together in this way, and as many of the
older house-looms will only weave a three-foot width, it is well to
know that that need not prevent the production of rugs of considerable

Endless variations of this very simple yarn rug can be made with
variation in size as well as in colour. Two breadths and two borders,
the breadths three feet in width and the borders one foot and six
inches, will give a breadth of nine feet, which with a corresponding
length will give a rug which will sufficiently cover the floor of an
ordinary room. If the centre is skilfully mottled and shaded, it will
make a floor spread of beautiful colour, and one which could hardly be
found in shops.

    [Illustration: ISLE LA MOTTE RUG]

The border can be made brighter, as well as firmer and stiffer, by
using two filling threads together--a red and a black; or an alternate
use of red and black, using two shuttles, will give a lighter and
better effect than when black is used exclusively.

After size and weight--or, to speak comprehensively, _quality_--is
secured in this kind of simple weaving, the next most important thing
is colour. Of course the colour must be absolutely fast, but I have
shown how much variety can be made by shading and mixing of three fast
colours, and much more subtle and artistic effects can be produced by
weaving alternate threads of different colours. Indeed, the effects
obtained by using alternate threads can be varied to almost any
extent; as, for instance, a blue and yellow thread--provided the blue
is no deeper than the yellow--will give the effect of green to the
eye. If the blue is stronger or deeper, as it will almost necessarily
be, it will be modified and softened into a greenish blue.

Red and white woven in alternate threads upon a white warp will give
an effect of pink, and with this colour for a centre the border should
be a good gray.

Of course, alternate throwing of different coloured yarns makes the
weaving go more slowly than when one alone is used, and something of
the same colour effect can be produced by doubling, instead of
alternating. It is, of course, not quite the same, as one colour may
show either under or over the other, and the effect is apt to be
mottled instead of one of uniform stripes.

The end in view in all these mixtures is _variation_ and liveliness of
colour, not an effect of stripes or spots; indeed, these are very
objectionable, especially when in contrasted or different colors. A
deepening or lightening of the same colour in irregular patches, as
will occur in clouded yarns, gives interest, whereas if these
cloudings were in strongly contrasted colours they would be crude and
unrestful. For this reason, if for no other, it is well to work in few
tints, and use contrasting colours only for borders.

To show how much variety is possible in weaving with the few dyes I
have named, I will give a number of combinations which will produce
good results and be apt to harmonize with ordinary furnishing. By
adding orange yellow, which is also one of the simplest and safest of
dyes, we secure by mixture with blue a mottled green, and this
completes a range of colour which really leaves nothing to be desired.

No. 1. _Colours black and red._ Border, alternate stripes of black and
dark red, as follows: First stripe of black, one and a half inches;
second stripe of red, one inch; third stripe of black, one inch;
fourth stripe of red, one-half inch; fifth stripe of black,
three-quarters inch; sixth stripe of red, one-half inch; seventh
stripe of black, half-inch; centre of light red clouded with dark red;
reversed border.

No. 2. _Colours black and red._ Border one foot in depth, of black and
red threads woven alternately. Centre dark red, clouded with light
red. Woven six feet, with one-foot border at sides as well as ends.

No. 3. _Colours red and white._ Border seven inches of plain red.
Centre of red and white woven alternately.

No. 4. _Colours red and black._ Border black and red, threads woven
alternately, one foot in depth; centre of alternate stripes, two
inches in width, of dark red and light red; eight feet in length, with
foot-wide side borders, woven with alternate threads of red and

No. 5. _Colours red and black._ Border eighteen inches in depth, of
alternate red and black, half-inch stripes. Centre of dark red,
clouded with light.

No. 6. _Colours gray, red and white_, to be woven of doubled, slightly
twisted threads. Border one foot in depth at ends and sides, woven of
red and gray yarn twisted together. Centre of red and white yarn in
twisted threads.

No. 7. _Colours red and white._ Border of plain red, twenty inches in
depth. Centre in alternate half-inch stripes of red and white.

No. 8. _Colours blue, red and black._ Border four inches deep of
black, two inches of plain red, one inch of black. Centre of clouded

No. 9. _Colour blue._ Border eight inches of darkest blue. Centre of
clouded medium and light blue.

No. 10. _Colours blue and white._ Border of very dark and medium blue
woven together. Centre of blue and white yarn woven together.

No. 11. _Colours blue and white._ Border of medium plain blue. Centre
of blue, clouded with white.

No. 12. _Colours blue and white._ Border of medium blue. Centre of
alternate stripes of one inch width blue, and half-inch white stripes.

No. 13. _Colours blue and white._ Border twelve inches deep of dark
blue, clouded with medium. Centre of alternate threads of medium blue
and white.

No. 14. _Colours blue, black and orange yellow._ Border eight inches
deep of black, one inch of orange, two of black. Centre, alternate
threads of blue and orange.

No. 15. Border of doubled threads of dark blue and orange. Centre of
alternate stripes of inch wide light blue and orange woven together,
one-half inch stripes of clear orange and white woven together.

In the examples I have given, wherever doubled threads of different
colours woven together are used, it must be understood that they are
to be slightly twisted, and that the warping for double-filling rugs
need not be as close as for single filling. Twelve threads to the inch
would be better than fifteen, and perhaps ten or eleven would be still
better. Doubled yarn of different colours produces a mottled or broken
effect, and this can often be done where the colours of the yarns do
not quite satisfy the weaver. If they are too dull, twisting them
slackly with a very brilliant tint will give a better shade than if
the original tint was satisfactory, but in the same way yarns which
are too brilliant can often be made soft and effective by twisting
them together with a paler tint. Minute particles of colour brought
together in this way are brilliant without crudeness. It is, in fact,
the very principle upon which impressionist painters work, giving pure
colour instead of mixed, but in such minute and broken bits that the
eye confounds them with surrounding colour, getting at the same time
the double impression of softness and vivacity.

These examples of fifteen different rugs which can be woven from the
three tints of blue, red and orange, together with black and white, do
not by any means exhaust the possibilities of variety which can be
obtained from three tints. Each rug will give a suggestion for the
next, and each may be an improvement upon its predecessor.



The warp-covered weaving which I have described in a previous chapter
as being the simplest and best method for woolen rugs, is equally
applicable to cotton weaving. It is, in fact, the one used in making
the cotton rugs woven in prisons in India, and which in consequence
are known as "prison rugs." They are generally woven in stripes of
dark and light shades of indigo blue and measure about four by eight
feet. They are greatly used by English residents in India, being much
better adapted to life in a hot climate than the more costly Indian
and Persian rugs, which supply the world-demand for floor coverings.

In our own summer climate and chintz-furnished summer cottages they
would be an extremely appropriate and economical covering for floors.
The warp is like that of the Navajo blanket, a heavy cotton cord, the
filling or woof of many doubled fine cotton threads, which quite cover
the heavy warp, and give the ridged effect of a coarse _rep_.

As I have said, they are woven almost invariably in horizontal stripes
of two blues, or blue and white, with darker ends and a warp fringe.
Simple as they are and indeed must be, as they are the result of
unskilled labour, they are pleasant to look at, and have many virtues
not dependent upon looks. They are warm and pleasant to unshod feet,
and therefore suitable for bedroom use. They are soft to shoe tread,
and give colour and comfort to a summer piazza. They can be hung as
portieres in draughty places with a certainty of shelter, and can be
lifted and thrown upon the grass to be washed by the downpour of a
thunder shower, and left to dry in the sun without detriment to colour
or quality.

Surely this is a goodly list of virtues, and the sum of them is by no
means exhausted. Their durability is surprising; and they can be sewn
together and stretched upon large floors with excellent colour effect.
They can be turned or moved from room to room and place to place with
a facility which makes them more than useful. The manufacture is so
simple that a child might weave them, while at the same time, by a
skilful use of colour and good arrangement of border, they can be made
to fit the needs of the most luxurious as well as the simplest summer
cottage. In short, they are capable of infinite variation and
improvement, without departure from the simple method of the "prison

Of course the variation must be in colour and the arrangement of
colour; and in studying this possible improvement it must be
remembered that cotton will neither take nor hold dyes as readily as
wool or silk, and that certain dyes which are very tenacious in their
hold upon animal fibre cannot be depended upon when applied to
vegetable fibre. There are, however, certain dyes upon which we can
safely rely. Indigo blue, and the red used in dyeing what is called
Turkey red, are reliable in application to both wool and cotton, and
are water and sun proof as well. Walnut and butternut stains will give
fast shades of brown and yellow, and in addition there is also the
buff or nankeen-coloured cotton, the natural tint of which combines
well with brown and blue.

In giving directions for rug colourings in cottons, I shall confine
myself to the use of black, white, blue and red, because these colours
are easily procurable, and also because rugs manufactured from them
will fit the style of furnishing which demands cotton rugs.

The examples I shall give call for graduated dyeing, especially in the
two tints of red and blue.

Any one expecting to succeed in rug weaving must be able to procure or
produce from two to three planes of colour, as well as two mixtures in
each. These would be as follows:

In blue:--1st, dark blue; 2d, medium blue; 3d, light blue.

After these three tints are secure, three variations of blue can be
made by knotting the skeins more or less closely and throwing medium,
light blue and white together into the dye-tub. Here they must remain
until the white skeins show an outside of light blue; the light blue
skeins are apparently changed to medium, and the medium to dark. When
they are untied and dried they will show three clouded mixtures:

1st, the medium blue clouded with dark; 2d, light blue clouded with
medium blue; 3d, white, clouded with light blue.

Here we have six variations of the one tint. Red can be treated in the
same way, except that a rather light and a very dark red are all that
can be counted upon safely as plain tints. A very light red will not
hold. Therefore we have in reds:--1st, dark red; 2d, light red; 3d,
light red, clouded with dark; 4th, white, clouded with light red.

This gives ten shades in these two tints, and when we add the
variations which seem to come of themselves in dyeing, variations
which are by no means subject to rule, we shall see that with these
two, and black and white, we are very well equipped.

The more irregular the clouding, the better the results. The yarn may
be made into large double knots, or small single ones, or into more or
less tightly wound balls or bundles, and each will have its own
special and peculiar effect. Perhaps it is well to say that in
clouding upon white the colours should be kept as light as is
consistent with the tenacity of tint.

After clouding, still another process in cotton mixtures is possible,
and this is in "doubling and twisting," which has the effect of
darkening or lightening any tint at will, as well as of giving a
mottled instead of a plain surface.

Having secured variety by these various expedients, the next step is
to make harmonious and well-balanced combinations, and this is quite
as important, or even more so, as mere variety.

There is one very simple and useful rule in colour arrangements, and
this is to make one tint largely predominant. If it is to be a blue
rug, or a pink, or a white one, use other colours only to _emphasize_
the predominant one, as, for instance, a blue rug may be emphasized by
a border of red and black; or a red rug by a border of black and
white, or black and yellow.

The border should always be stronger--that is darker or deeper in
colour--than the centre, even when the same colour is used throughout,
as in a light red rug, with dark, almost claret-red ends, or a medium
blue rug with very dark blue ends.

White, however, can often be used in borders of rather dark rugs in
alternation with black or any dark colour, because its total absence
of tint makes it strong and distinct, and gives it _force_ in marking
a limit.

One successful combination of colours will suggest others, and the
weaver who has taken pains to provide herself with a variety of
shades, and will follow the rules of proportion, will be at no loss in
laying out the plan of her weavings.

The examples for fifteen weavings given in the paper on wool rugs are
equally available in cotton. I will, however, add a few variations
especially adapted for cotton rugs:

No. 1. _Colours blue and white._ Border six inches of plain dark blue.
Six inches of alternate half-inch stripes of dark blue and white. Four
to five feet of clouded blue, border repeated, with four inches of
warp fringe as a finish.

No. 2. _Colours blue and white._ Border eight inches wide of plain
medium blue. Centre, six feet of light blue, clouded with medium. Two
side borders eight inches wide; finish of white warp fringe.

No. 3. _Colours black, white and red._ Border twelve inches of
alternate half-inch stripes of black and white. Centre, four feet of
light red, clouded with dark. Repeat border, and finish with warp

No. 4. _Colours red and white._ Border, twelve inches of dark and
light red, in twisted double thread. Centre, light red and white
twisted double thread. Repeat border and finish with four-inch fringe.

No. 5. _Colours butternut-brown, walnut-yellow, red, and white._
Border of six inches of brown and yellow, twisted together. Centre,
five feet of light red and white, twisted together. Repeat border, and
finish with fringe.

No. 6. _Colours brown, blue, and clouded-white._ Border, half-inch
stripes of medium blue and brown alternated for six inches. Centre,
five feet of light blue, clouded with medium. Repeat border and finish
with warp fringe.

These six examples may be varied to any extent by the use of clouded,
plain or mixed centres. Borders, as a rule, should be woven of
unclouded colours.

A natural development of the cotton rug would be the weaving of coarse
cotton yarns into piece lengths which could be cut and sewn like
ingrain carpet, or like the fine cotton-warped mattings which have
been so popular of late years. They would have the advantage over
grass-weavings in durability, ease of handling and liveliness of
effect. Indeed, the latter consideration is of great importance, as
cotton carpets can be woven to harmonize with the chintzes and cottons
which are so much used in summer furnishings. This is especially true
of indigo-blue floor covering, since so few things are absolutely
perfect as an adjunct to the blue chambrays, striped awning-cloths,
denims, and India prints so constantly and effectively used in
draperies. Indeed, such excellent art in design has been devoted to
blue prints, both foreign and domestic, that one can safely reckon
upon their prolonged use, and this being taken for granted, it is well
to extend the weaving of mixtures of white and blue indefinitely.

Although the warp-covered method described for woolen and cotton rug
weaving can very well be used for carpets, the still simpler one of
the alternate thread, or basket-weaving, when warp and filling are of
equal weight and size, can be made to answer the purpose quite as
well. In fact, there is a certain advantage in the latter method,
since it makes the warp a factor in the arrangement of colour.

It is necessary in this style of weaving that the filling should be a
hand-twisted thread of the same weight and size as the warp, and of a
lighter or darker shade of the same colour. If the warp is dark, the
filling may be light, or the reverse. It should be warped at the rate
of about twenty-four threads to the inch.

In this kind of weaving the colours must be plain--that is,
unclouded--as the variation is obtained by the different shades of
warp and filling. Still another variation is made by using a closer
warp of thirty threads to the inch and a large soft vari-colour
filling which will show between the warp threads with a peculiar
watered or vibratory effect. A light red warp, with a very loosely
twisted filling of black and white, or a medium blue warp with a black
and orange filling, will give extremely good results.

    [Illustration: GREEK BORDER IN RED OR BLACK]

    [Illustration: BRAIDED FRINGE]


What I have said thus far as to the weaving of woolen and cotton rugs,
and of cotton carpets, gives practical directions for artistic results
to women who understand the use of the loom in very simple weaving. Of
course, more difficult things can be done even with ordinary looms, as
any one who has examined the elaborate blue-and-white spreads our
grandmothers wove upon the cumbrous house-loom of that period can
testify. In fact, the degree of skill required in the weaving of these
precious heirlooms would be quite sufficient for the production of
rugs adapted to very exacting purchasers.

Perhaps it is as well to add that the directions given in this and the
preceding chapter for rug weaving are designed not only or exclusively
for weavers, but also for club women who are so situated as to have
access to and influence in farming or weaving neighbourhoods.

Home manufactures, guided by women of culture and means, would have
the advantage not only of refinement of taste, but of a certainty of
aim. Women know what women like, and as they are the final purchasers
of all household furnishings, they are not apt to encourage the
making of things for which there is no demand.

I am often asked the question, How are all of these homespun and
home-woven things to be disposed of? To this I answer that the first
effort of the promoters or originators must be--_to fit them for an
existing demand_.

There is no doubt of the genuineness of a demand for special domestic
weavings. Any neighbourhood or combination of women known to be able
to furnish such articles to the public would find the want far in
excess of the supply, simply because undirected or commercial
manufactures cannot fit personal wants as perfectly as special things
can do. It must be remembered, also, that the interchange of news
between bodies of women interested in industrial art will be a very
potent factor in the creation of a market for any domestic specialty.
In fact, it is in response to a demand that these articles upon
home-weavings have been prepared, and a demand for technical
instruction presupposes an interest in the result.



It has often been given as a reason for the discontinuance of home
weaving, that no product of the hand loom can be as exact or as cheap
as that of the power loom. The statement as to cost and quality is
true, but so far from being a discouraging one, it gives actual
reasons for the continuance of domestic weavings. The very fact that
homespun textiles are not exact--in the sense of absolute
sameness--and not cheap, in the sense of first cost, is apt to be a
reason for buying them. Hand-weaving, like handwriting, is individual,
and this is a virtue instead of a defect, since it gives the variety
which satisfies some mystery of human liking, a preference for
inequality rather than monotonous excellence.

Every hand-woven web differs from every other one in certain
characteristics which are stamped upon it by the weaver, and we value
these differences. In fact, this very trace of human individuality is
the initial charm belonging to all art industries, and even if we
discount this advantage, and reckon only money cost and money value,
durability must certainly count for something. A thing which costs
more and lasts longer is as cheap as one which costs less and goes to
pieces before its proper time.

In a long and intimate acquaintance with what are called "art
textiles"--that is, textiles which satisfy the eye and the imagination
and fulfill more or less competently the function of use, I have
learned that certain very desirable qualities are more often found in
home-woven than in machine-woven goods. Something is wanting in each
of the excellent and wonderful variety of commercial manufactures
which would fit it for the various decorative and art processes which
modern life demands. To perfectly satisfy this demand, we should have
a weaving which is not only in itself an artistic manufacture, but
which easily absorbs any additional application of art.

In my own mind I call the thing which might and does not exist, The
Missing Textile. To make it entirely appropriate to our esthetic and
practical needs, the missing textile must be strong enough for
every-day wear and use; it must be capable of soft, round folds in
hanging; and have the quality of elasticity which will prevent
creasing; and above all, it must have beautiful and lasting colour. If
it can add to these qualities an adaptability to various household
uses, it will achieve success and deserve it. These different
qualities, and especially the one of a natural affinity for such
art-processes as colour and embroidery, exist in none of our domestic
weavings, excepting only linsey woolsey. After much study of this
virtuous product of the mountain regions of our Southern States I find
it capable of great development. It has two qualities which are not
often co-existent, and these are strength and flexibility; and this is
owing not only to its being hand-woven, but also to its being a
wool-filled textile--that is, it is woven upon a cotton warp, with a
single twisted wool-filling. This peculiarity of texture makes it very
suitable for embroidery, since it offers little resistance to the
needle, and yet is firm enough to prevent stitches sinking into its
substance--a frequent fault with soft or loosely woven textiles. The
warp is generally made of what the weavers call mill yarns, cotton
yarns spun and often dyed in cotton mills; and when the cloth is woven
for women's wear it is apt to carry a striped warp of red and blue,
with a mixed filling made from spinning the wool of black sheep with a
small proportion of white.

In searching for art textiles, one would not find much encouragement
in this particular variety of linsey woolsey, but the unbleached,
uncoloured material which is woven for all kinds of household use, or
piece-dyed for men's wear, is quite a different thing. In its undyed
state it is of a warm ivory tint, which makes a beautiful ground for
printing, and in my first acquaintance with it, which was made through
the women commissioners from Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia during
the Columbian Exposition, I made some most interesting experiments in
block printing upon this natural background.

One can hardly expect that linsey woolsey will come into frequent or
common use as a printed textile, since the two processes of
hand-weaving and block-printing are not natural neighbours, but this
capacity for taking and holding stains is of great value in
embroidery, since it enables an artistic embroiderer to produce
excellent effects with comparatively little labour. A clever
needlewoman, working upon a fabric which takes kindly to stains, can
apply colour in many large spaces and inter-spaces in her design which
would otherwise have to be covered with stitchery, and in this
way--which is a perfectly accepted and legitimate one--she gains an
effect which would otherwise be costly and laborious.

From the composite nature of this domestic fabric, its cross-weaving
of animal and vegetable fibre, it takes colour irregularly. Every
cross-thread of wool is deeper in tone than the cotton thread it
crosses, and this gives the quality which artists call vivacity or
vibration. Linsey woolsey even when "piece-dyed" has something of this
effect, and judicious and artistic colour treatment would complete its
claims to be considered an art textile.

It is not to be supposed that the weavers themselves can work out
this problem. It will need the direction and encouragement of educated
and artistic women. Taking the fabric just as it exists, it is ready
for the finer domestic processes learned by the women of the South
during the hard years of the Civil War. The clever expedients of
stitchery, the ways in which they varied their simple home-manufactures,
and above all the knowledge gained of domestic "colouring," will be of
inestimable value in the direction of artistic industries. In truth,
Southern women have ways of staining and dyeing and producing
beautiful colour quite unknown to other American women. They know how
to get different grays and purples and black from logwood, and golden
and dark brown from walnut bark, and all the shades of blue possible
to indigo; and yellow-reds from madder, and rose-red and crimson from
pokeberry, and one yellow from pumpkin and another from goldenrod; and
they are clever enough to find mordants for all these dyes and stains,
and make them indelible. It needs exactly the conjunction which we
find in the South, of facile home-weaving, knowledge and practice of
experimental dyeing, and love of practical art, to develop true art

To show what linsey woolsey is capable of, I will instance a material
woven in India in thin woolen strips of about twelve inches in width.
It is what we should call a _sleazy_ material to begin with. The
strips of different colours are sewn, and very badly sewn, together,
and they are also badly woven. Too flimsy for actual wear, they are
simply admirable vehicles for colour, and to this quality alone they
owe their popularity and importance. After being sewn together, the
strips are generally embroidered in a rough way, with a constantly
repeating figure on each breadth. The colour is certainly beautiful, a
contrast of soft blues, and a selection of unapproachable
browns--yellow-browns, red-browns, green-browns and gold-browns, with
yellows of all shades, and whites of all tints, and this colour-beauty
gives them a place as portieres and curtains where they do not belong
by intrinsic or constitutional worth.

If one was intent only upon producing an imitation of the Bagdad
curtains in linsey woolsey, it would be easy to weave narrow lengths
of various colours, and by choosing those which were good contrasts or
harmonies, and embroidering them together with buttonhole-stitch, or
cat-stitch, or any ornamental stitch, to get something very like them
in effect and far better in quality. But it should be the aim of
domestic manufacture to do something which is _distinctive_, and
therefore it would be better to start with the intention of producing
the effect in one's own way. This could be done by weaving the cloth
in full width (which should, if possible, be four feet), depending
entirely upon the warp threads for colour. This, it may be remembered,
is already one of the means of variation applied to linsey woolsey in
weaving homespun dress goods; but in this case it must be carefully
chosen art-effort, using colours which are in themselves beautiful. In
depending upon the warp alone for colour the fact must be kept in mind
that it will be much obscured by the over-weaving of the wool filling.
It will be necessary, therefore, to use far stronger colours than if
they were to stand unmixed or unobscured. Vivid blue, strong orange,
flaming red and gold-brown could be used in the warp in stripes of
about ten inches in width, with two inches of dead black on the sides
and between each colour. The filling must be of one pale tint, either
an ivory white or lemon yellow, or a very pale spring green woven over
all. This would modify the violence of colour, giving an effect like
hoar frost over autumn leaves. As a simple weaving this would have a
beautiful effect, but when a coarse orange-coloured silk embroidery,
consisting of a waved stem and alternate leaves, is carried down the
centre of each black stripe, the simple length of linsey woolsey is
transformed into what would be called a very Eastern-looking and
valuable embroidery.

This is just one of its possible and easily possible adaptations for
portieres and hangings. Quite another and perhaps equally popular one
would be cross-colour upon a tinted warp. In this case the warp might
be ivory white, yellow, light green, or even for darker effects,
claret red, dark blue, dark green, or black. If an ivory white or
light warp colour should be chosen, the cross-colours must be selected
with special reference to the warp tint. A beautiful effect for a
light room would be made on an ivory-coloured warp by weaving at the
top and also below the middle a series of narrow stripes like a Roman
scarf. There should be a finger's depth of rose colour at the top, and
this would be obtained by a filling of light red, woven upon the ivory
white warp. Then should come an inch stripe of pale blue, an inch of
gold, another inch of blue; three inches of orange, then the inch of
blue, the gold, and the blue again, and after that the rose-red for
two-thirds the length of the portiere, when the ribbon stripes should
again occur, after which the remaining third should be woven with a
deeper red or a pale green.

Such a portiere would not require embroidery to complete its effect,
for if the tints were pure as well as delicate, it would be a lovely
piece of colour in itself.

This variety or style of hanging would have the advantage of throwing
the burden of colour upon the wool, and as the animal fibre is apt to
be more tenacious in its hold upon colour than vegetable, the question
of fading would not have to be considered.

These two varieties of artistic homespun can by experiment be made to
cover a great deal that is beautiful and artistic in manufacture, and
yet it leaves untouched the extensive field of plain piece-dyed or
yarn-dyed weavings. Yarn-dyed material always has the advantage of the
possible use of two colours, one in the warp and one in the filling,
but in certain places, as in upholstery, a solid colour produced by
piece-dyeing would be preferable. Linsey woolsey dyed in fast and
attractive colour would undoubtedly be a good material for upholstery
of simple furniture, because of its strength and durability, but it
seems to me its chief mission and probable future is to supply an
exceptional art textile; one which has the firmness and flexibility
belonging to hand-woven stuffs, and can be at the same time beautiful
in colour, capable of hard wear and reasonably inexpensive. I am
tempted to modify the last qualification, because no hand-woven goods
ought to be or can be inexpensive, in comparison with those
manufactured under every condition of competitive economy. And in
truth, domestic weavings are sure of their market at paying prices,
simply because they are what they are, _hand products_.

I have shown in a limited way some of the possibilities of artistic
hand-weaving without touching upon cotton or flax diapers and damasks,
since these cannot readily compete with power-weavings, but I have not
spoken of the difference it would make in the lives of the mountain
weavers of the South if their horizon could be widened by the
introduction of art industries. Only those who know the joy and
compensation of producing things of beauty can realize the change it
might work in lives which have been for generations narrowed to merely
physical wants; but there are many gifted Southern women who do fully
realize it, and we may safely leave to them the introduction and
encouragement of art in domestic manufactures.



I am often asked by women who are interested in domestic manufactures,
how one should go to work to build up a profitable neighbourhood
industry. To do this one must know the place and people, for anxious
as most country women are to earn something outside of farm profits,
they are both timid and cautious, and will not follow advice from
unpractical people or from strangers.

In every farming community there will be one or two ingenious or
ambitious women who do something which is not general, and which they
would gladly turn to account. One woman may be a skilled knitter of
tidies, or laces, or rag mats; another may pull rags through burlap,
and so construct a thick and rather luxurious-looking door-mat;
another may have an old-fashioned loom and weave carpets for all the
neighbourhood; and each one of these simple arts is a foundation upon
which an industry may be built, important to the neighbourhood, and in
the aggregate to the country.

The city woman or club woman who wishes to become a link between these
things and a purchaser must begin by improving or adapting them. She
must show the knitter of tidies an imported golf stocking with all of
the latest stitches and stripes and fads, and if the yarn can be had,
undoubtedly the tidy-knitter can make exactly such another. When a
good pair has been produced, the city friend will not have to look far
among her town acquaintances for a "golf fiend," even if she herself
is not one, and to him or her she must show the stocking and expatiate
upon its merits: That it is not machine-made, but hand-knit; that it
is thicker, softer, made of better material than woven ones, and above
all, not to be found in any shop, but must be ordered from a
particular woman who is a phenomenal knitter. All of which will be
true, and equally so when the demand has increased and it has become a
neighbourhood industry.

    [Illustration: THE LUCY RUG]

A golf player hardly need be told how to create a demand for
hand-knit stockings, or how to assist the knitter by advice, both in
the improvement and disposal of her wares; but it should be a
veritable golf player and not a philanthropic amateur.

It is the same with other industries. The adviser must study them,
improve them, adapt them, and find the first market, after which they
will sell upon their own merits.

As far as I know, nothing has been done in the way of improvement of
knitted mats or rugs, although a very beautiful manufacture has been
founded upon the method of pulling rags through burlap. Knitted rugs
have much to recommend them. They can be made of all sorts of pieces,
even the smallest; they wear well, and can easily be made beautiful.

The building up of a rag carpet or rag rug industry is a much simpler
matter, because the demand exists everywhere for cheap, durable and
well-coloured floor covering. In my own experience I have found that
the thing chiefly necessary is to teach the weavers that the colour
must be pleasing and permanent, and to put them in communication with
sources of supply of rags and warp. The rugs sell themselves, and
probably will continue to do so.

The thing to remember when one wishes to be of use to their own and
other communities, is that they must be sure of a commercial basis for
the products before they encourage more than one person to begin a
manufacture, and that the demand must be in advance of a full supply.
Kindly and cultivated women who wish to be of real use to their summer
neighbours will find this a true mission. Their lives lie within the
current of demand, while the country woman lives within that of
supply, and it is much easier for the city woman to bridge the space
between than for her working neighbour. All good and well-founded
industries take care of themselves in time, but until the merchant
finds them out, and interposes the wedge of personal profit between
things and their market--inciting and encouraging both--it seems to be
the business of women in every lot of life to help each other.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "How to make rugs" ***

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