Living within walking/biking distance of Grandpa and Grandma LaBrant had many advantages—ice cream at four o’clock, Grandma’s patience teaching me to crochet, playing her old piano-organ, visiting all our cousins every summer, listening to the cylindrical records on Grandpa’s gramophone, and having a “second home” in a way. One of my favorite things about their place was Grandma’s loom.
This is our granddaughter Anwen with the loom. (She's the fifth generation to use this loom. First by her Great-Great Grandma Anna LaBrant, then Great Grandma Dorothy, Grandma Kristie, and her Aunty Jana.)
Grandpa ordered a kit and put it together for Grandma. She cut up old clothes into strips, sewed those together, and wove them into rugs. Neighbors would give her clothes to weave with, and she was paid a little. Her patience was evident as she taught me, my siblings, and many of my cousins how to weave.
My Mom, Dorothy Kannianen, now has the loom, and has passed on the love of rugs to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Our daughter-in-law Tricia has also been bitten by the rug bug, and made some gorgeous rugs.
Our daughter Jana taught our granddaughter Anwen how to weave a rug last summer. Anwen made this one for her Dad.
Old clothes or fabric is cut into strips. (The width is determined by the thickness of the fabric. Grandma used to tell me when you twist a strip, it should be about the size of a pencil.) The strips are sewn together, on the diagonal so it doesn’t leave a big lump. We learned to wrap them up into a ball, like these “carpet rags.”
Figuring out how to place the colors, and deciding how big a rug will be is trial and error. I never have an exact idea how it will look until it’s woven, which adds fun for me! I divide the balls into half, etc. and make a pattern for the rug.
For some rugs, I’ve sewn the strips together in a specific pattern, like this ball for a denim rug. (I alternated piles of light, medium and dark.)
And this is the rug it made.
The “warp,” or thin string that holds the strips into a rug, is wound onto the loom all by hand. My brother Carl has recently learned this process, and we both think it takes more patience than we have. After realizing the tedious hours of “restringing the loom,” I only marvel at all the rugs I’ve woven using the warp that Mom put on, and all the rugs Grandma let us and her grandchildren weave!
The wooden shuttle is wrapped with carpet rags, and slid between the two layers of warp, as Anwen is doing in the picture below.
A wooden bar whacks the carpet rag strip tight. You reverse the warp with the foot pedal, and slide the next row through.
After a rug is done, about four inches of warp is left on each end to tie. Last summer I was showing my hundred-year-old Uncle John Niemitalo how to tie a ‘rug knot.’ He has always been interested in everything! I think that's a big key to longevity.
Making a homemade rug is a slooow process, but creative, and rather addicting. I can never get rid of any clothing or fabric that is squishy and soft without thinking, “I bet that’d make a nice rug.”