• /wp-content/uploads/2012/11/slide1.jpg
  • /wp-content/uploads/2012/11/slide2.jpg
  • /wp-content/uploads/2012/11/slide3.jpg

Weaving Rag Rugs by Tom Knisely with book giveaway!

by The SpinArtiste on May 14, 2014

Drop-spindle-spinnng-3-e1314969588890About five years ago, a nervous student entered a class room with a spinning wheel and a dream:  to be able to hand spin yarn.  The other students were confidently unzipping their pretty travel bags, taking off their shoes to show off their hand knit socks and putting on their drive bands on their wheels.  They already seemed so knowledgeable.  This was going to be a long day of feeling self-conscious.  The teacher entered and introduced himself as Tom Knisely.  His calm, patient demeanor put the nervous student at ease and at the end of the day, that spinner, me, was making yarn.

Since Tom Knisely  joined the staff at  The Mannings Handweaving School and Supply Center in East Berlin, Pennsylvania in 1977, Tom, the school’s General Manager and Resident Instructor, has taught countless fiber arts enthusiasts and artists all the while displaying his good sense of humor and infectious passion for his work.  I did a Featured Artist post on Tom a few years ago (here is the link) so when the opportunity to review Tom’s new book “Weaving Rag Rugs” recently published by Stackpole Books came my way, I jumped at the chance to catch up with Tom and check out the book!

I was able to catch up with Tom to ask a few questions about the new book.  Let’s see what he had to say…

Spin Artiste (SA):   A book!!!! At long last a book by my favorite weaving teacher…what made you finally decide to write a book?

CoverTom Knisely (TK):  It was just the right time of my life.  I had thought about it for some time but when Deb Smith from Stackpole publishing came to me and asked I couldn’t say no to.  I had made all the excuses in world before that but now was the time.  Someone wanted me.  It’s a little different than writing a book and then trying to find a publisher.  Deb recognized my four decades of my career and thought I just might have something to say.  So off the store to buy my first laptop computer and off I went.

SA:  And, why a book on rag rugs? I know rug making is near and dear to your heart…but what were you able to cover in your book that might not be found on another book on the subject?

TK:  It was Deb that asked for the subject of rag rugs.  She had been a rag rug weaver in the past and a former student so she knew me as her teacher and I guess thought I might have something valuable to share in a book.  Deb now continues to work herself with little bits of rags and is a rug hooker and the editor of Rug Hooking Magazine.  I wanted the book to have information that I hadn’t found in other books.  I went into more detail on the equipment and materials and their preparation.  Most importantly was the amounts of materials you will need to weave a rug.  Other authors quote amounts in weight or pounds.  That works well if you are recycling clothing and other cast off materials.  I wanted to show the reader that there are different types of fabric to use in the weaving of a rag rug and if you are buying new material from the fabric store you have to think  in how much yardage you need and not ask the sales person for 5 pounds of cotton classic fabric.

SA:  Your answer is such a great example of why you are such a wonderful teacher and I found this true in the book as well.  You are excellent at thinking through and presenting how to approach different ways of getting the end result.  I know you are also somewhat of a history buff so if you would, tell us a little bit about the history of the rag rug. Where did this approach originate and when?

TK:  The rag rug started in different parts of the world but all about the same time.  In the mid nineteenth century fabric became more easily obtainable to buy so people could have more clothing made from factory produce fabric and then they could recycle the old worn out clothing into woven rag rugs.

SA:  …which makes sense.  And, like so many of the crafts we engage in today, what was once born from necessity is now something we do for entertainment!  Tell us about your first experience weaving rag rugs? Did you teach yourself?

TK: I have been weaving rag rugs from the very beginning.  I have always been drawn to them.  Yes, I pretty much taught myself through a lot of trial and error. I made all the mistakes someone could make.

SA:  I remember you telling me a long time ago how you’ve always loved rag rugs and I love the patterns included in the book — how did you decide which ones made the “cut” and which one is your favorite and why?

Screenshot 2014-05-14 17.02.50TK:  There  were none cut from the book.  I didn’t start out with a pile of rag rugs and said yes to this one and no to that.  Each rug was designed specifically for the book.  Each one has a lesson in color, design and also weave structure.  If you wove your way through the book you would learn a lot about weaving in general.  I also had a lot of help from my friends.  I would design a rug, buy the materials for the warp and weft and then give them the task to weave one for the book and one for them.  I couldn’t have done this book without their help and I am so grateful to all of them and their work.

SA:  How fantastic is that?!  I noticed this also when I read through the book that there was a lot of thought put into the patterns and a strategy to make sure that the projects all contained valuable skill building experiences.   This reminds me of learning to weave with you during your week long weaving class — even though we were beginners, we made great projects that would be beautiful and useful.   What are the most common mistakes people make when they approach making rag rugs and what can they do to avoid them?

TK: One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to weave a rag rug on a loom that is not suitable and heavy enough to weave a rag rug.  Their loom might be better suited to weave rag placemats or table runners and how bad is that?  It’s like having a mini rag rug.

SA:  It’s not bad at all!  In fact, it’s a great idea.  So, in that sense, the information in the book would be useful for producing rag style textiles on any loom as long as the weaver understands the limitations of their equipment.

Screenshot 2014-05-14 17.03.39Readers, now that we’ve heard a bit from Tom about the book, I’m going to give you a little run down on what’s in the book.  The book starts with an important discussion regarding the loom and other tools, followed by a chapter on materials.  There is a great mini-chapter on how much fabric is needed.  Next comes a section on preparing the materials and then onto warping the loom.  The pictures and directions are excellent on this complex topic.  The book then covers the actual weaving and finishing processes.  Having taken weaving classes from Tom, I can tell you, the book is worth having just for the chapter on finishing!  Finally, the book contains a wonderful selection of projects which, as mentioned above, lead the weaver through a wide variety of weave structures and color approaches.

Another nice thing about the book is that Stackpole is offering a variety of formats.  Not only is it available as a paperback but also in two different ebook formats.  And, if you go to this page, there is a link to see all the projects contained in the book.  Pretty cool, huh?   I’m so glad to be adding this book to my fiber arts library…and so will one of you lucky folks!  So…to enter, leave a comment here and a winner will be drawn at random.  Deadline for entering is May 22nd at 5 PM EST.  Best of luck to all!!  


Previous post:

Next post: