Thursday, January 9, 2020

Weaving a Denim Rag Rug, Part 1, Stripping

For a really long time, there was a moving box full of old jeans in a corner of the weaving studio at the Multnomah Arts Center.  (That room has EVERYTHING). I’d look at it and go... “I could weave a rug”.  I didn’t do anything, though, and one day, I watched the box leave the building with someone else.  Ah, beat me to it, I said.  Her: “J wanted it GONE.”

Then, maybe a month later, there she was, weaving a couple looms away, on a denim rug.  And then she said: “I don’t want to weave any more rugs, and there’s lots of denim left, you want it?”  Oh yeah!  So, in came a paper box (the ones that hold a dozen reams of paper) of denim.  And “I’ve got more, let me get it for you”.  Two paper grocery bags of old jeans.  Took it out to my car.  Friend and fellow weaving student P: “I wanted the denim!”.  She’ll get what’s left after I’m done :-)

So, after much measuring, reading the Rag Rug book by Janet Meany (repeatedly), viewing other denim rug projects on Ravelry and Pinterest, I designed a warp.  In the re-use theme, I decided to use cotton rug warp from the closet at the weaving studio (yarn there is sold by the ounce.  Smoking deal.), and use all the partial cones of blue, for a random warp effect, but for the three stripes on each side.  I’ve designed and wound warps before, so you aren’t going to hear any more about that.

Ah, yes, the jeans.  All the research suggested 1” strips, joined together in a variety of ways.  Some cut them in a spiral around the leg, which does yield a longer strip, but incorporates the exquisitely bumpy seam.  No lumps in my rug, thank you very much.  Not to mention that would be cutting with scissors.  None of that, either.

There were many whole pairs of jeans which needed deconstructing to get the fronts and backs of the legs. That did require scissors, and it is a great project to do while watching tv.  Some of it was already deconstructed, some partially deconstructed, and there were some balls of strips, but most of them weren’t usable - bumpy flat-fell seams left in.  A couple were recoverable; I cut them apart into proper strips.

Now, with all those flat pieces of denim, I pulled out the cutting mat, long quilting ruler, and rotary cutter and sliced into 1” strips.  Bought a new ergonomic handle rotary cutter :-).  The most efficient way for me was to stack two pieces (sometimes they needed ironing to lay flat, but mostly not), and start cutting into strips from the outside leg seam side, as that was the straightest.

I did not worry about being perfectly on grain.

If you think this took rather a long time, you’d be right.

After cutting them ALL into strips (If I don’t use them all, P will be a lucky woman), I dumped them out on the floor and mixed them up, as no pair of jeans is the same color as any other pair, and I wanted a somewhat random mix.  Scooped them back into the grocery bags and box.

I then sewed the short ends of strips together on the bias (mostly) right sides together, rather like making quilt binding.  I’d sew until there wasn’t any room left behind the sewing machine, then start a new one.

Next - turning the very long strips into balls, which is another good tv-watching task.  For each seam, cut apart, and cut off the “ears”.  Repeat until there’s one looooooooog strip, then roll into a ball, finger pressing the seams.  My strip balls weigh about a pound each; it just worked out that way.

Next up: weaving!

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