Rugmaker's Homestead

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Rag Rugs Tour
1. Tambour
2. Shirred 
3. Standing wool

4. Knitted
5. Flat Wrap
6. Amish Knot

7. Chain Braids
8. Broomstick & String Crochet
9. Crocheted

10. Fabric Tapestry
11. Anchored Loop
12. Hooked, Poked, Prodded, Bodkin

13. Needleworked
14. Toothbrush rugs
15. Braided rugs

16. Knotted & strung shags
17. Loom woven
18. Patched (penny rugs) & sewn shags
19. Frame made rugs
20. Wagon wheel & frame braids 
21. Odds 'n ends

Rag Rugs Tour
#16 Knotted Shag 
& 'Strung Shag' Rag Rugs

Knotted Shag Rugs
Knotted shag rugs are an ideal way to use up very small scraps of fabric. Fabric pieces that are 3 to 4 inches long, and 1/2 to 1 inch wide are looped over two warp threads in a 'carpet knot' or weavers knot to make one shaggy side and one relatively smooth side. There are two distinct methods of making knotted shag rugs with fabric scrap. 

Two-string method:
As the name suggests two balls of twine or other stout cord are used for this type of knotted shag. To keep an even tension on the strings they are traditionally wound around two nails or pegs on a board. Knotted strips are lined up along the strings, making long continuous strands of knotted fabric. The knotted strands are then coiled or sewn side by side to make the rug. This method is simple enough that kindergarteners can learn the knots (and they have a ball doing it). The photograph shows the front and back of an old knotted shag rug of this variety. Notice how the knots on the back of the rug (lower part of photo) line up in rows. 
See the "Rugmakers Exchange" for more photos of these rugs and some unique hand made tools for the rug making

Frame method:
These knotted shag rugs are made on a frame. Heavy twine is looped around pegs at opposite ends of the frame and then the fabric strips are knotted over pairs of the 'warp' strings. The knotted strips hold the rug together. There is no finishing or sewing needed; the rug just lifts off the frame. 

Strung Shag Rugs
These rugs are made by stringing small scraps of fabric along a heavy thread, just like stringing beads. Some were made with only round pieces of fabric, or diamonds or squares. The strung fabric was then coiled and sewn, crocheted or knitted to make the rug. This method should not be confused with the sewn shags where the fabric scraps are stitched to a backing. 

Show me:
Books & Supplies for 
Knotted & Strung Shag Rag Rugs
Recommended Reading:
"Fabulous Rag Rugs from Simple Frames" by Diana Blake Gray. (see our catalog). Included among the forty techniques in the book are knotted shag rugs made on a frame and a high-speed variation of the knotted shag technique which is a big time saver. 


Dear Diana, I exchanged emails with you back in late December I had seen a rug in a historical park in England and wanted to make one. I ordered a kit from you thinking the description of the anchored loop matched what I was looking for, but it isn't the one. I couldn't find anything in your "Rugmaker's Homestead 2000!" that looks like what I want. I'm hoping that you can help me locate directions for what should be an easy rug to make. I was told that the rug was several hundred years old. The backing was a rough weave, such as burlap. It was made of cotton strips which had been doubled, and the loop pushed through an opening and up the other side of a backing thread. The loose ends were pushed through the loop and pulled tight, giving it a shaggy look. (the name "anchored loop" sure sounded right.) I'm sure that I can reproduce this but want to avoid any pitfalls and would feel more comforable following "tested" directions so that I don't waste my time. I'm also not sure if I can use the canvas which was in my kit using this technique. I remember you saying that burlap puckers. I would appreciate any help that you can give me. Thank you, Linda 

Hello again Linda, Sorry it wasn't the anchored loop, but with your detailed description, I'm pretty sure that I know what it is. The folded over strip, with the ends pulled back through the loop is a pretty good description of what is called a "weavers knot". And rugs made with the 'weavers knot' are shaggy on one side, and you can see the 'knot' part on the back. The same knot is done over strings in the "knotted shag" technique, but when done on a backing it is more familiar as "latch hooking". Latch hooking these days is mostly done with yarns on rug canvas, but could certainly be done on burlap (see below on preparing burlap). Latch hooks are widely available at craft stores, but you don't need one. You can use a crochet hook or the locker hook if you are using the rug canvas you have. 

The procedure is pretty simple. Have your canvas all hemmed and ready (see the anchored loop booklet). Cut your cotton strips (either straight or on the bias to minimize fraying) about 3/4 inch wide (not more than 1 inch). Each strip should then be re-cut to be 3 to 4 inches long. 

Fold one strip in half lengthwise so it forms the loop, and hold it in your left hand underneath the canvas. From the top side of the canvas, use your right hand and insert the hook through a square in the canvas. Pull the loop up to the top of the canvas. Then, with the loop still on the hook, insert the hook one square away, and pull both ends of the cotton strip up to the top---and through the loop on the hook. Tug slightly on the ends of the strip to tighten the knot. Repeat the process with another strip in the next hole. 

That's all there is to it. You can draw designs on the canvas to work in geometric shapes or other simple designs, or just do it hit or miss.

By the way, I'd be a little cautious about the "several hundred years old" part, since cotton wasn't really very available for rugs until about the middle of the 19th century. The rug most likely dates from that time or later. 

I'd suggest you start with the rug canvas first. Then when you're familiar with the technique you can go to burlap. The burlap needs to have threads pulled to make an even and more open structure to work with. This can be done much like drawn thread work is done on fine linen. Allow at least an inch of burlap untouched at the edge before you pull the first thread. Pull the threads in just one direction (either across the piece or on its length). Pull two threads out completely, then skip two threads, leaving them intact. Then pull two more threads. Since burlap doesn't usually have a real stable weave, I wouldn't pull all of the threads at once, rather just as the knots were ready to be made in each row. Hope that helps, Diana

Identifying & Recreating Grandmother's Rug
My grandmother made a rug that I believe may have been a strung-shag rug. I would like to try one. Is there anyplace I can get some directions on how to make one? Thanks. Lori 
Dear Lori, There are more than one kind of rug that are strung-shags and none of them are terribly difficult. But to give you directions, I'd have to know a bit more about your Grandmothers rugs. 
1. What shape did she cut the shags (square, rectangle, diamond, round)? And did she use cottons or wools? 
2. Do both sides of the rug look the same or different? 
3. Do the shags lie flat to the rug, or do they stand up for thickness?
4. If you look between the shags, so you just see a single thread or what looks like a crochet or knit stitch? 
5. Is there a backing fabric? 
There aren't any current directions in print for strung-shags, but I can 'talk' you through it via e-mail if I know which type you're trying to recreate. I think it is great that you're working on reviving a rugmaking tradition in your family. DBG 
Dear Diana, My mother says she recalls seeing my grandmother cut the shags in long rectangular shapes about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide, and varying in different lengths. As far as I can tell the shags do not lie flat--they stand up for thickness. I am not so concerned with the oval shape, in fact I am interested in knowing if this particular method can be used in a square or rectangle shape? Incidentally, I have never made any type of rug before but I have a lot of determination and am willing to give it a try. I like the feel of this particular rug--it is incredibly soft and has almost a "stretch" feeling to it. Lori 

Dear Lori, You did an excellent job answering the questions (sometimes it is difficult to determine which rug folks are asking about!) From your answers your Grandmothers rug was indeed a strung shag of the 'sewn' variety (there are also crocheted and knitted-together varieties). There are two types of 'sewn' strung shags. The first was done by stringing the scraps along one thread (just like a bead), then sewing the string in a coil. The second was done with only a single thread and each shag is stitched through to the rug, using a back stitch through each shag, and a blanket stitch to the rug. Can you or your mother remember if your Grandmother had long 'strings' of shags that she made before she put the rug together? If so, she used the first type, if not it was the second type. But with either type, you're ready to get started with cutting the shags and getting your warp thread. The 2-inch shag is a bit wider than usual, but the width isn't really critical. If you're going to use cotton sewing scraps (or old clothing), cut strips lengthwise with the grain about 1-1/2 inches wide. Then take scissors to clip the shags to length. They shouldn't be shorter than 1 inch nor longer than 3 inches, but it is better to err on the long side since you can clip back any shags that look too long after the rug is done. It is really important to cut the strips (not tear them) since the thready edges from torn strips will tangle with your sewing thread and be an aggravation when you're making the rug. Also, don't use any really 'cheap' materials (loosely woven) since they will fray all the way out and disappear. If you look at the old rug, you'll notice that the fraying on the shags only goes a little way in, giving it the soft feel. Good quality calicos or broadcloths make that look. You'll need to get a good quality mercerized crochet thread to use for sewing. I'd recommend getting some of DMC's "Baroque" cotton since it is double-mercerized and I use it for all sorts of sewn rugs with really good results. Find an embroidery or soft-sculpture needle that is around 3 inches long. I'll sometimes use a needle 5 inches long, and for this type of rug a longer needle is ok. Really short needles will drive you crazy! Actually it is easier to make the square or rectangle in these rugs. The sewing is done is rows back and forth for those shapes. (For rounds and ovals there is the problem of increasing to make the rug lie flat, which takes some practice to get the feel of.) DBG 

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