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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
#13: Needleworked Rag Rugs

Needleworked rugs are of relatively recent origin compared to other types of traditional rag rugs. With needleworked rugs, fabric (rag) strip is substituted in a needle work method that had originally developed with finer threads or yarns. 

Rag rugs have been made on burlap or canvas bases using various needlework techniques including: cross stitch, embroidery, needlepoint and rya knots. The same techniques have also been used for making rugs using bulky wool yarns. 

At left is an example of cross-stitch with cotton rag strips on burlap. The rug is shown in progress. Note that a grid of guidelines is drawn on the burlap as a stitch guide.

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Books & Supplies for
Needleworked Rag Rugs 


Hello, I am a college student and I am in a textile and fiber art class. My project for the semester is to make a shag or rya rug I found your web site and wanted to ask a few questions. I am going to create this rug on burlap. I would like to know the knots that I will be using for my yarn. and is there any special preparations that I will need to do? I would appreciate any advice due to the fact that this is my first time using fiber. thank you, Andrea

Hi Andrea, Do you have a choice whether to make any sort of shag rug, or only a rya rug? That makes a difference in the techniques available and the knots used. Rya rugs are made using on a rya knot, and it is one that is better learned from pictures or diagrams. So I'd suggest a trip to the library to find a book which shows how the rya knot is made. 

For a rya rug on burlap, it would be a good idea to get "even weave" burlap, rather than "primitive" burlap. The even weave allows for more regular placement of the knots. Even weave burlap is also called "Scottish Burlap" and is available from Harry M. Fraser Co, Cushing & Co, or BraidAid (all listed in the links on our site). 

Before you begin working on the burlap, be sure to stitch around the edges to keep them from fraying out (a zigzag stitch on a sewing machine works fine). You will also find that pinning or tacking the burlap to a frame, or using a quilting frame, will make it easier to work on the burlap.

As with every rug technique, I would also suggest that you take a small piece of burlap, and practice the knots, before you begin the rug itself. With every technique there is a learning period and you want the knots in your rug to be even throughout, so it pays to do a practice piece separately first. 

Hope that helps, Diana 

What kind of cotton can be used, as if for the cross stitched on burlap rug? I have some old cotton shirts would they work? How do you keep rugs from sliding around on the floor? What did they use for that a long time ago when they did not have synthetics available? Thanks! Lib

To answer your questions Lib, You can use any good quality cotton or cotton blend (high thread count) fabric.The fabric doesn't have to be new, so worn dress shirts would work fine. The best thing to keep rugs from sliding around is to use an expanded rubber mat (it has holes in it, and looks like a mesh). They used to put backings of canvas on rugs, which made them stiffer. It didn't keep the rug from sliding at all, but did keep it from bunching up. Best, Diana
Can you help me please. I am interested in making rugs and wall hangings using a method which I have known as rya rugs (also sometimes ryer rugs). I have been unsuccessful in finding anything on the Net about this technique. It involves using a backing fabric with fairly large holes in it - like a large scale version of needlepoint tapestry fabric; lengths of woollen yarn (NOT fabric) are knotted around the threads creating the sides of each hole. The front of the rug typically has a fairly long pile (2" - 3"). Can you direct me to any resources (books, patterns, equpiment, web pages) that would help me begin making rugs this way please? Thanks. Megan 

Dear Megan, There have been several books which feature directions for the traditional yarn rya rugs. Most of them are out of print at the moment though, dating from the 1950's to 1970's. I don't know of any current rug book with rya directions that you could order. I'd suggest that you stop by some used book stores and look though their titles. If you can find it, the directions that I like best are in a smallish paperback called "Rugmaking from Start to Finish" by Joan Scobey, Lancer Books, 1972. Also check the general rugmaking guides that Good Housekeeping and McCalls published around the late sixties. I'm afraid Rya is one of those rugs that hasn't ever been widely made, except in Scandanavia, because it is fairly time consuming, but it is a lovely traditional method. Good luck, Diana

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