Monday, March 31, 2008

Q&A- How long to make the strips? - AND- An intersting site to check out- knitted rag rugs

A friend of mine just made me aware of this site

An entry which may be of interest is one on making one long strip from a large piece of fabric.

I've tried similar things before, but found that it didn't usually work for this technique because the corners tended to "rip out." But maybe it'll work for others of you... if it does, wunderbar! Let me know!

I have used a spiral cut with pantyhose, socks, and other very "givey" or stretchy fabrics.

Q&A: So long do you make the strips?
That varies on
  • type of fabric,
  • how tightly you stitch,
  • and personal preference.

Obviously, longer the strip, the more you have to pull through on each stitch. Correspondingly, the shorter the strip, the more junctions you need.

For my purposes, I've found that strips longer than 3' get unwieldy, but my sister who stitches much more loosely than I commonly uses strips twice that long. With the looser stitch, there's less friction. Its all a matter of personal taste.

You know over arching philosophy with this is- this craft should be about fun, about making treasure from trash, not rules.

So... experiment with different lengths and different fabrics. If the strip is too long and gets unwieldy, just chop it, put slits in each end, and do a joint when its time.

HAVE FUN, and do what works for YOU!

Q&A: How much material is needed for a "normal" rug?

My dear friend is full of great questions today! Glad to answer them. I know being the husband of a disabled professor, that the question one person asks, 10 people have in their heads.

This is a more complicated question though, not quite so suitable to the "Q&A format" of the previous two posts.

There are SO many variables. Synthetic fabrics, for example, are lighter than cotton, which is lighter than linen. The plastics from which I make my umbrella/shopping bag/shower curtain rugs are VERY light, which is why that's the rug I usually take with me on the "L" or to Tess' doctor.

I have noticed, however, that one BIG gym bag full of strips will make a rug about the size of the rug shown above.

I can also tell you that this rug was made out of cottons and cotton polys- probably 2/3 cotton by weight. I weighted the clothesbefore I started the rug, and it came out to around 25 pounds. (Because I've been doing this so long, I knew what size I wanted the rug, and about what size the pile of "raw clothes" had to be to make it.) Zippers, seams, pockets removed, the finished rug was closer to 20 pounds.

So if you use clothing which is a mixture of cotton and poly, and want a rug about this size, this should give you some idea of how much by weight you'll need. For an all cotton rug, you'll need more by weight, for one heavier in synthetics, you'll need less by weight.

One other relevant hint: For my stitching, I've noticed that VERY consistently, 1 foot of strip = 1 inch of stitch!

Q&A: Mixing materials in a rug - The "Levitical myth"

I decided to make this a separate "Q&A" post because it comes up a lot.

I call it the "Levitical myth" because Lev. 19:19 (among other places in the OT) prohibits the mixing of two different fibers together in cloth.

The specific question as seen in the comment to the previous post was if she could start with flannel and add other things later, but I'm going to abstract it out to be more generally relevant.

Q:Can you mix different types of materials in the same rug?
Will it make the rug weaker or the junctions less durable?

A: In the broadest sense, the answers are "YES" and "NO," but see following discussion.

There's no functional reason why you can't mix different types of fabrics together in the same rug, or even fabric and non-fabric. One of my most beautiful rugs was one with a leather center and a blue jean body (pictures and a video of it are in back posts.)

The major issues are:
  • Aesthetics- how will they look together?
  • Functionality- where and how do you plan to use the rug?
  • Strip size- different materials need to be cut to different widths, or else the thicker fabric will tend to overwhelm the thinner rows, and create problems with the tension of the rug.

On functionality for example... I like to make rugs from plastic bags, shower curtains, and umbrellas to use in the bathroom and kitchen. You'd totally destroy the functionality of these rugs for use in wet areas were you to mix in normal fabrics which absorb water.

Likewise, jean rugs are great for heavy use areas, places where pets and children are likely to get to them, etc. Chiffon might look nice enough as an accent in such a rug, but its not going to be as durable.

But so long as the aesthetics & functionality work, and you adjust the strip width to get a relatively constant row thickness... have at!

Q&A: "I just put my foot through a flannel sheet, can I use it?"

Q: How do flannel sheets work up. I put my foot through a hole in my fitted sheet last week so figured it's time to rip the entire set up!

A: Flannel sheets work great, but the weak spots or places where its thinned out you'll want to cut especially wide, and avoid having junctions in those spots. For the undamaged areas, you'll probably want to cut it 3/4ths to 1" wide... that should be enough to provide for the weakened areas provided their localized. If a large area of the sheet is getting thread bare or weak, increase that by 50%.

The fabric itself feels great in a rug when done, very cozy, and since its cotton, the tension will even itself out nicely if you add or omit the occasional double/repeat stitch.

You'll find that it doesn't pull through quite as easily as broadcloth, since flannel does have a somewhat textured surface, but I've never found it a problem, and I stitch so tightly that people joke you could use my rugs as bullet proof vests. (Only my grandmother stitched more tightly- when she was done with a rug, she sometimes had to put it under several mattresses for several months to flatten it out! *grin*)

For the needle, I'd recommend one with a nice large hole, but a more rounded tip. If the sheet's already ripping, the last thing you need to do is "spear it" with an especially pointy/sharp needle.

I think a rug made out of JUST the sheet set would look spectacular.
Send me a picture when you're done, I'd love to feature it.
Same applies to other "Rugsters" out there,
I'd love to share your pictures and stories!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The state of things- rugging, living, loving, and occasionally eating (cross posted with the rug blog)

ABOVE: I'm still recycling umbrellas blown apart by Lake Michigan into rugs. I'm almost done with this umbrella, then I'll be moving on to a ratty windbreaker, followed by a discarded shower curtain.

I don't normally talk about life issues on my rug blog, but since some of you are doubtless wondering if the world really is flat and I fell off the edge of it, this is a rare cross post between this blog and my more personal general purpose one.

I've been very VERY sick- think a stomach flu which won't go away.

I'm taking medicine, have seen a doctor, will be following up, but this has been going on for about 3 months, and it will take some time to recover from that even once my body has.

At the same time my beloved wife has been as sick as she's ever been outside the hospital, on any given day at any given moment its been a toss up which of us is more functional.

So my rug work has been more "background" stuff- cutting up things I've found while walking the dogs, but I've just not had the creative energy to work on rugs, do any of the follow up videos which have been requested, etc.

These pictures are worth the several thousand more words I'd normally type.

See you all on the BRIGHT side of the moon!

Our puppies taking care of us in our infirmities

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Toothbrush rugs: Pictures, and what I've been up to lately

ABOVE: Hilde on the famous "50s rug" - I've paused it at 24", but thanks to recent aquisitions (see below) I have enough similar materials to make several such. So if you'd like to buy one, or make one yourself, let me know!

In terms of making them... not a whole lot. But I have been getting in lots of GREAT new material for them, such that I could probably make 4 or 5 more rugs like the beautiful "50s rug" from earlier posts.

I've also found a nearby charity to which I can take useable clothes, and I'm very glad of that. I'm as passionate about recycling and environmentalism as I am about the rugs, so it just breaks my heart to think of good clothes going to an ignominius and eternal tomb in landfills when people need clothes or could make rugs from them.

Any ruggers in Chicago area... if you need material, let me know, we're overflowing with it now!

And I'm still looking for someone who would like to finish that dear old lady's dream of using hosiery to make a rug!

Here's some pictures of various projects I've taken the last few months.

The blanket rug against a fairly neutral background

This shows my blanket rug sitting on a complimentary color which I may use to make a similar rug, in this project, etc. The artistic possibilities are endless and exciting!

Questions, comments?

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