rag rug

Rag Rug Pillows

Today I was taking inventory of all the things I've made; stuff that I haven't taken pictures of, things that need to be sold, materials yet to be used. It's been a crazy day.

I have these 26" square pillows on the bed that don't have pillow cases yet. I picked up a couple of the rag rugs that haven't sold yet and threw them over the pillows and holy crap they look awesome! Maybe a new line of pillow cases??

Rag placemats...

I've been doing a little more ripping lately and after inhaling a little too much fiber dust and practically coughing up a lung, have decided to wear a mask while doing this wonderful activity. And banish our cats from the room, due to the large amount of threads that come off the rags. I guess this is the occupational hazards of the job...?

After a stint of rag rugs, I decided to switch to placemats. One of the first things I made when I first got my loom 8 or so years ago was a set for my sister and since I haven't made any since, I thought it time to revisit that idea!

I decided to use a mercerized cotton flake for the warp to give some visual interest.

Cathartic rags....?

Rag rugs are one of the best things for me to do specifically when I'm feeling all fired up and need to get out some agression. Why? Because you have to [expletive removed] tear whatever old fabric - I like to use retired sheets - into a gaggillion strips. It can be time consuming, but cathartic. And if you don't have any agression to take out, it can be fun to do while watching, say, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom because you just happen to stumble upon a Thanksgiving marathon of such Spielberg movies.
This one just happens to use a very well worn Ralph Lauren men's shirt-inspired fitted sheet. I seriously loved this sheet set, but it was time to retire it to the rag rug bin.
 And it makes for a pretty sweet looking rag rug in it's second life. 

Definitely a cook...

Every so often when I'm talking to my sister on the phone, she asks me, "When are we going to open that bakery together?" At one point, and I honestly don't know how this started, we discussed opening a bakery together; a place where people can indulge in their most favorite treats. And there will be cannoli, because damn it no one can make a good cannoli these days. (One day I will tell the story of the "Great Cannoli Hunt of 2004".) We both get a keen enjoyment out of it, not to mention the happiness that is brought to people who tastes our treats. Or rather, my sister's. She is an amazing baker - way better than I am and people look forward to each Christmas season to see what she'll stuff in the "tins o' fun" as I like to call them. But really 1800 miles separates us from opening such a bakery, although one day I know it'll happen.

And now you're asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with the beautiful purple stringy stuff on this page?

Well friends, I enjoy cooking way more than I enjoy baking. I like not having to follow a recipe sometimes and winging it is far more exciting. This philosophy has apparently spilled over into my dyeing. Oh boy, has it ever. Would you believe that this warp was supposed to be a dark blue-grey? Yep, except I decided to add the tiniest smidgin of magenta and, well, either too much spilled out or I just need to start being more careful. (Oh yeah, and mixing the color and testing it before adding an entire project to a dye bath would probably help too, but I just get too excited.)

No skin off my back, though. Because that's the beauty of cooking: you don't need to throw it out, just add a little here and there and you're good to go! So this may not have been the warp that I wanted, but it'll turn into something just as sweet....

Adventures in Dyeing...

Before I took my refresher dye course at the Textile Arts Center this summer, I decided to attempt an ombré effect with some rags for what would eventually be woven into a rag rug. Our duvet cover had seem better days due to our little muffin kneading fur-balls; it was worst for the wear. I tore it up into 1" strips (they really should be smaller, but the fabric is rather worn and thin). Then, I tied bunches of them together to get ready for the dye pot.

Now, this was the first time I tried to dye something a) old and b) a cotton blend. Yes, that's right. I've only had acid dyeing experience, which involves protein based fibers: wool, alpaca, mohair, silk, etc. Now don't get me wrong, it was a blast to do, but holy crap the results were less than wonderful. But at least the process shots were pretty cool:

See how the color is variegated? Different dye colors take depending on time exposed in the dye pot. In this case the first to get absorbed by the fiber was the red based hue, and lastly was the yellow-based ones. 

So what did I learn here that I would like to pass onto you? Dyeing old stuff is difficult to do - if it's been through the wash a million times or if it's just pilled all to heck it's not going to take dye well. The reason is that washing, especially with the alkaline soaps we use, will break down the fiber. In turn, it's less likely to take on any sort of dye. Also, procion dyes* tend to be less vibrate in general. That is, I have difficulty getting even virgin fiber to take on vibrant color.

Also, I did something I haven't done in a while - I didn't follow the directions to a T. I'm much more of a cook than baker, and this has even gotten me into trouble when following food recipes. I skimmed the directions thinking I knew what was going on since I've done so much acid dyeing, but low and behold it is a bit different to use procion dyes. I didn't use the wrong ingredients - I wasn't being reckless - I just didn't soak things properly and added the color kicker at the wrong time. Oops.

Anyway, after I set the color in the rags, I washed and dried them and the color faded even more. Next time I'll follow the directions. 

Even so, I wove them into a rag rug. All in all, it looks alright!

*Procion dyes are dyes used to create color for cellulose fiber. Cellulose fibers are plant based fibers: cotton, bamboo, rayon, etc.