After checking out every book on rag rug weaving that my county library owns (my favorites: Weaving Contemporary Rag Rugs and Rag Rug Handbook), I decided to finally attack the pile of old raggedy jeans in my closet.
I had been planning to repurpose the jeans in some way for awhile. Most of the jeans are the ones that I wore before my weight loss, with a few pairs from Kris with holes in the knees and pockets. At first I was thinking about a quilt, but I just have never gotten the real urge to try quilting… so, with my new fascination and love for weaving, I figured the jeans would be a great way to practice rag rug weaving! My used loom came with several rag shuttles, and after reading the aforementioned books, I think the process sounds like a lot of fun. So… I just shredded my jeans. Here’s how I did it
Gathering all of the jeans up, I determined that the best way to repurpose the fabric was to cut in continuous strips. I started the process by cutting off the hem of the jeans. Of course, the hem could be used, but I thought that the double layer of thickness would throw off the texture of the final project. *snip snip*
This process is tough on the hands – especially around the heavy seams, so take frequent breaks to stretch your hands, and expect a little soreness in the morning. Your best bet is to get some strong sharp scissors.
Because the pant legs are tubular, you are going to cut left to right, at a slight diagonal. This will help you maximize the fabric for your strips, and make it one continuous piece. When the cuff (hem) is cut off, make a cut next to the side seam, about 1″ or 4-5cm. From there, begin cutting on the diagonal.
Just like your old cut-off jean shorts, the strips are going to be a little raggedy. If you want a cleaner edge without the fray, it may be better to use some other kind of material for your rag base. I have a pile to t-shirts and old cotton “work” shirts” that are next in line for rag rug weaving.
As you work your way up around the pant leg, you can decide how far you want to go. I chose to go up to the hips, where the inseams meet between the legs, and where the back pockets were added. This still leave quite a bit of material – but it is harder to use – and to cut – because of all of the seams. If you want to use all of your scraps, you may look into some other denim crafts. I have seen some versions of pillows and even tote bags and purses that use jeans.
Each leg that I cut yielded a good amount of fabric. I did not count the yardage, but one pant leg made a nice ball! As I cut more, I had many cute little denim rag balls to play with…
Now comes the fun part. I need to choose an appropriate warping yarn. I am planning to use cotton, probably some of the Sinfonia mercerized cotton in the stash. Just need to measure it out and then put it on the loom… I am hoping that the cotton will be strong enough. I have had a few problems with broken warp threads lately… any tips from seasoned weavers out there?
I am hoping to have the same kind of success as Felicia had with her denim rag rug - although my strips are a little larger than hers. My loom should be strong enough to handle the heavy beating that is required to make rugs. (It handled the heavy beating of the weft-faced sampler I did…) I know the previous loom owner used it for rugs (hence the rag shuttles) so I am gonna give it a go!
Of course, rags can be used in a number of ways. Weaving is only one of the many (see the Worsted Witch post about rag weaving). There is a great rag rug in Mason-Dixon Knitting, and a number of ways you could use the recycled materials for knitting, crochet, or braiding. There are a number of helpful books on the subject too – full of ideas and inspirations to reuse and repurpose old, outgrown, or holey clothes.
- DIY Network’s Crochet Rag Rug
- Knit and Crochet Rag Potholders/Hot Pads
- “Rag Rug” article from 1871
- A tutorial about using cotton flat strips for rags
What can be more rewarding than making something new and functional out of something old and raggedy?
…and until I get that warp ready, I will just practice my juggling…