the resource for traditional rug makers since 1984
Frame-made Rag Rugs
by Diana Blake Gray
There are such a wide variety of rag rugs than can be, and were, made on frames, that it is easy to be overwhelmed. Frame-made rugs as a category do not include rugs that CAN be made on frames (like hooked rugs, tambour rugs, etc for which frames are optional) but only rugs that REQUIRE a frame to create. To muddy the waters further, there are types of rugs that require a frame, but have a frame-less variation. An example of this type would be locker hooking where the frame-made variation and the canvas-based variation are called by the same name, yet have significant differences in technique.
Frame-made rugs are sometimes a beginner’s choice, when they think that they would really like to have a full grown loom, but can’t afford one or don’t have room. However, a rug frame is a specialized tool that can be used to create all sorts of rugs that can’t be made on a loom, so I regularly find that a rugmaker who starts off with a rug frame is cured of loom-envy, and even experience weavers find the frame a fascinating option for their rugs.
This elaborate standing rug frame that I designed and built in the 1980s allowed for long rugs, but is really not as practical as a small portable rug frame.
Detail view of the rug that is shown on the frame above.
There are many different types of frames: straight, pegged, pinned, hanging, standing, etc. and each has its own particular application. Some rugs require a pegged frame while others require a flat frame. Fortunately, rug frames are quite easily constructed from lumberyard material (four boards and some nails). See the pdf file of the introduction to the frame rugs handbook for how to create a simple beginner’s pegged frame.
Most of the rugmaking methods that are used on frames are “non-tensioning” which is to say that the warp strands do not get pulled tighter and tighter with each row or stitch, quite unlike regular weaving. These are the best choice for the beginner. (See the pdf file for the handbook that lists the techniques to see how widely varied they are—with textures from shaggy to smooth and light- to heavy-weight.) The various non-tensioning methods can also be combined in a single rug for unlimited design options.
Combining different frame techniques in a single rug creates unique effects.
Many folks grew up with sock-loop “looms” (small pegged frames) that would create a hotpad sized piece of weaving. They assume that the technique can just be scaled up, but quickly find that the tension on the warp becomes too tight to weave. (Weaving is a “tensioning” method.) With rug frames, special techniques are used to moderate the tension—usually stepping or sliding bars.
Rug frames are unique in that they can be used to create freeform shapes and even 3-D projects like baskets, on a flat frame. The edges are all finished and the method often baffles the uninitiated.
I sometimes refer to the handbook on frame-made rugs as my $25,000 book—with tongue firmly in cheek. While I was writing it, I was contacted by a fine arts graduate who had received a grant from the Seattle Weavers Guild to research the various types of rugs that were made on frames. Since my book was not ready, I couldn’t help her, but was curious to see if she uncovered any that I hadn’t known of in her research. When her report was issued, only four or five types of rugs were included. By contrast, the handbook covers about 40 methods (plus variations). And still there are some people who are skeptical when I say that there are so many types of rugs that just never got documented…just ask the fine arts graduate how hard she had to work just to find the few that she did.
Ocean scene on the "cheater's warp.
Braided? No. Made on a rug frame.
The same technique can be varied for different textures.
Simple twills create different effects front and back.
Frames allow for the use of fabric strip and standard rug warp for fancy weaving patterns.
Elsewhere on the Rugmakers Homestead
See the next tour stop for the wagon wheel and frame braids, which are also types of frame-made
See the locker hooking tour stop for the variation made on frames.
See the knotted shag tour stop for the variation made on frames.
the Amish knot tour stop for the variation made on frames.
Publications in our catalog
Rugmakers Handbook #2: Fabulous Rag Rugs from Simple Frames
Preview the Handbook
Twined Rugs, by Bobbi Irwin (outstanding research and good directions for the twined variety of frame-made rugs)
copyright Rafter-four Designs
On the etsy version of the Rugmakers Homestead: All of our current rug books plus Pre-folded cotton fabric strip, hot pad kits and PDF files of out of print books for instant download in a mobile-friendly environment. Just click on the Rugmakers Homestead link below or any of the photos shown.