Fiber Art Rug Making Rya

Making a Rya Rug

November 29, 2017

Many years ago I took a fibers in class in college and learned to weave. On a large picture frame I wove my first tapestry that was full of every fiber imaginable. It was fluffy, scratchy, bumpy and smooth and from that moment on all I ever wanted to do was create art with yarn. At the end of the year to make room for new yarn, my professor allowed me to take several cones of rug wool for free, thus beginning the mountain of wool yarn that now occupies the tiny closet of my studio.

I have wool from Morocco, China, and Kosovo. I have huge plastic bins full of  vintage wool from old factories and wool dyed with organic Mexican cochineal and blue cherry kool-aid. For many years, I wove tapestries large and small on a frame loom with all of this wool.

But things have changed and I no longer have the desire to weave with the thick, scratchy wool I used to love. Rather than force myself to weave with it, or give it all to charity, I’ve decided to make a rya rug. I made a smaller one this past spring/summer and enjoyed the process so much, it has inspired me to make one more, twice as big as the first with twice as much yarn. With this rug, my mountain of wool will shrink and I’ll have more physical room and more mental creative space for all the soft and delicate yarn that will accompany me on the next chapter of my weaving journey.

I started by experimenting with different designs in my sketchbook and purchased a rya rug backing that is required for the Scandinavian off-loom technique of knotting all of the wool to create the rug pile. Melinda at Byrdcall Studio is a great resource for all things rya.

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I sorted out all the wool I wanted to use and finally drew a very basic outline of the pattern on the backing with a washable fabric pen. My design is inspired by Berber weaving and the many trips to Morocco I have taken over the past 5 years. The symbols I will knot into the rug speak to guidance, protection, fertility, and strength. The making of this rug will connect me with the sheep who ultimately gave me the wool, the hands or machines that spun it, and will be a journey through time, and places known and unknown. I hope to begin knotting it later this week.

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This rug will take me several months to make and I’m looking forward to feeling its energy and watching it grow into a manifestation of love, warmth, utility and tradition.

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