Twisted Cords

by Diana Blake Gray
Master Rugmaker

Twisted cord rugs are another of the lost techniques and they were helped along to oblivion by their common name of “rope rugs.” From the surface appearance of the rugs, a person can be excused for thinking that the rugs were made of “ropes” of rag strip. The deceptive appearance even inspired a craft manufacturer to market a rope-making machine in the 1970s—with directions for making rugs. The machine only made short sections of rag “rope” which were difficult to handle and not easy to splice for rug making. It wasn’t a success.

The traditional twisted cord rug technique is also another one of the rug methods that went by the common name of “cord” rugs. There’s only about twenty other methods that were also called “cord” rugs so researching them is a real mess, but they appear to have been in use from mid- to late-1800s from the few surviving examples. They are quite rare to find.

Years ago when we had the rug shops a gal came through, and like so many of my customers began to talk about the rugs she and her mother had made during the depression. She was somewhat embarrassed that they had made the twisted cord rugs instead of the more high-toned braided rugs that others were making. She was delighted to learn that the rugs she still had were very rare. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to ask where her rugs may have originated, so their geographic origin is speculative.

True “rope” rugs are made with rope worked in a large elaborate knot. They originated with sailors to make use of worn out rigging. Since they aren’t traditional rag rugs, I won’t be covering them here, but there are books that explain the process. My favorite is the “The Marlinspike Sailor” by Hervey Garrett Smith.

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