Sarah Hartwell, 2018


PILE rugs worked on canvas are among the easiest to make and, by far, the most popular. There are five different well-known methods of doing this work, and there are others that are probably variations of these five. The selection of types of canvas and wool to be used depend largely on the methods employed. The three methods that are best known and most generally used are: (1) the Original or Hook Method, (2) The Lichfield Method, (3) the Short-pile Method. These can all be worked on special rug canvas made for this work by several well-known firms. If six-fold wool is to be used, canvas of a broader mesh will be required than would be the case if four-fold wool were used. In the ordinary way it is well to buy the wool and canvas made by the same firm, as the manufacturers arrange the canvas and wool to suit each other.

The Swiss use a very strong jute canvas or coarse linen made of broad flat strands of jute, the warp and weft being of different colours. This arrangement makes it easy to count the knots and stitches, though there are no apparent holes as in our canvas. This material supplies a firm backing to the rug, and at the same time produces an excellent firmness and texture in the pile as the stitches are slightly closer than on our canvas. It is to be hoped that some day this material may be made in this country. A material called “Panmure” cloth, which is a jute canvas rather finer than the Swiss, has now been found in this country, and can be obtained at 4s. 6d. per yard, 50 in. wide.

Axminster or Turkey rug wools produce the best results. These are made in six-fold, four-fold, and two-fold; two strands of the last named worked into one stitch makes a very good texture. Waste wool, known as “thrums,” can be used for the sake of economy, and if two or three threads are used for each stitch, will produce quite a good texture, but it does not give so firm and even an appearance as the better wool. Cable wool should never be used for any kind of design; it is only possible for plain rugs, and then it is not so satisfactory as Axminster or Turkey rug wool.

ORIGINAL OR HOOK METHOD. When the canvas is cut ready for making the rug, an inch turning should be left at each end if the sides are selvedges; and if not, then the turning must be left all round. The next step is to count the holes of the canvas and also the stitches of the pattern, so as to place the design correctly on the canvas. Then the turning must be firmly hemmed on the right side with cotton, after which it can be worked over in wool with crochet or blanket buttonhole stitch to form a firm and durable edge. This makes a strong and tidy edge, and is usually worked in wool the ground colour of the rug; it has also been found to wear very well. This step is most important, and must be done before the rug itself is begun. Another method of making a good edge is to leave l.5 - 2 in. turning all round, turn over on right side and work through double thickness. This makes a strong edge and obviates the need for a hem; but the appearance is not quite so good as that got by the first method. It is also a great help if the centre stitch of the rug, the corners and width of the border, and any other points the worker may wish, are marked with a stitch in wool before the rug is begun. This applies to all rugs made on canvas.

The hook method is carried out by working with a plain crochet hook, or one with a latchet attachment, the latter is usually considered helpful. Fig. 1 illustrates this tool. For this method the wool must be cut into small pieces with the help of a gauge or staff of wood (Fig. 2). The wool is wound tightly and evenly round the staff then cut along the groove. The staff, for this method should be 7/8 of an inch deep, and 0.5 in. wide, producing a 2.75 in. length of wool (Fig. 3). Each little loop of wool is drawn through one mesh of the canvas by its centre, the ends are then pulled through the loop so formed and pulled tightly into place. The five accompanying illustrations of the hook and loop show this method very clearly. No. 1 shows the hook pushed through the canvas just so far that the ridge of the canvas comes behind the latch; the hook is then lying open. Place the centre of the little loop of wool on it and draw it back through the canvas. The ridge of canvas automatically pushes the latch down on the hook, and forms an eye allowing the hook to be withdrawn without catching in the canvas, as shown in No. 2. The loop of wool being now half way through the canvas, the hook is pushed through the loop to catch the two loose ends. It is necessary to push the hook far enough through the loop to get the loop behind the latch (No. 3), so that the latch will be ready to close when the hook catches the two ends of wool and draws them through the loop (No. 4), so forming a knot on the ridge of the canvas. No. 5 shows the stitch complete, and the hook at liberty to begin the next stitch. This stitch can also be accomplished with a plain crochet hook, or a nipper with spring (Figs. 4, 6, 7, and 8).

This method produces a beautiful deep pile. The complete knot formed is very strong and wears well; the only disadvantage of rugs made by this method is that they are inclined to be heavy, and, as they take a good deal of wool, are also rather expensive. A hearth-rug, 2 ft. by ft., worked by this method takes about 6 lb. of wool; a rug 1 yd. by 2 yd. would take 10 lb. The wool for the first would cost approximately 25s., and the other £2.

THE LICHFIELD METHOD. This was discovered and advocated by Mrs. Morrison of Lichfield; she has used it with great success for many years, and has proved that it wears well. This method is a variation of the hook or original method. The main difference is that macrame twine is passed through each little loop of wool to fix it into place instead of doubling back the wool through its own loop, as in the first method. Strutt’s macrame twine No. 7 is very suitable for this. A combined hook-needle as shown in Fig. 5 is used for this method. The twine is threaded through the eye at one end of this implement; the hook end is pushed through the one ridge of the canvas as in the former method; it catches the little loop of wool in the centre and draws it through the canvas as before; then the hook is pushed through the loop, drawing the twine with it. The hook is now ready for the next loop. The twine thus passes straight along the line from loop to loop over the warp threads of the canvas without any knot. When the end of the row is reached, it is advisable to start back again, working backwards and forward, joining new pieces of twine when necessary with a neat reef knot. Care must be taken not to pull the twine too tightly, as this will make the rug have a crooked appearance when finished.

The Lichfield method makes it possible to use a much shorter and, therefore, less expensive wool pile, the gauge being 3/8 of an inch deep, 0.5 inch wide, producing a length of wool 2 in. long. For this method the hearth-rug size, 2 ft. by ft. would take 5 lb. of wool, and the larger rug, 1 yd. by 2 yd., would take 7 lb. of wool.

THE SHORT-PILE METHOD. This method combines the advantage of both the former ones; it has the firm knot (as in the first method), and uses less wool (as in the second method). This stitch is worked with ordinary rug needles or very large crewel needles, and the gauge is a little plain slip of polished wood, 0.25 in. wide and 8 in. long.

The edge should first be worked all round the rug in exactly the same way as described in the first method. Thread one of the needles with a length of wool of the ground colour; begin on the first row of the pattern and work straight across from left to right on the two adjacent weft threads of the canvas as follows: pass the needle under the lower thread of the first mesh, draw the wool through and leave the free end a little longer than the width of the gauge as in No. 1, hold this free end with the thumb of the left hand and pass the needle under the upper thread of the first mesh, leaving the wool to the right of the needle, and draw the wool through as in Nos. 2 and 3. Now that the wool is firmly fixed in the canvas by, this first stitch, lay the gauge on the canvas, pass the wool under and over the gauge, and begin the next stitch by passing the needle under the lower thread of the next mesh, leaving the wool to the left of the needle (No. 4); then to complete the stitch pass the wool to the right of the needle (No. 5), bring the needle under the upper thread of the same mesh and draw it through. These two stitches when pulled tight make a secure knot from which, when cut, come two ends of wool equal to one square stitch of the design. Repeat these stitches along the row (No. 6), and when the length of the gauge has been almost covered, slip it out and cut along the top of the loops with a large sharp pair of scissors, to get the pile as even as possible. The different colours are worked in the design by the same stitch as described, the single stitches of any one colour being done like the beginning stitch of a row without the help of the gauge. When the wool is finished or the colour in the pattern changes, care must be taken to cut off the wool being used as long or a little longer than the width of the gauge. The gauge being much shorter than the rows of stitches has to be moved along at intervals (Nos. 7 and 8). In Nos. 1, 2, and 3 the needle and wool are turned towards the reader; whereas in Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 7 they are turned in the opposite direction to face the worker behind the picture. The stitches are always done facing the worker; but this explanation of the photos is necessary as the worker stood in front for Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 8, and behind for Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 7.

For the hook and short-pile methods, it is necessary to work straight across the rug from left to right. This keeps the work even and the meshes of the canvas straight. Also it is very important to work in every hole of the canvas, as missed holes invariably give an uneven appearance. It is easiest and best to lay the canvas on a steady table, and work on that, especially for large rugs; if, however, that position is not convenient or comfortable to the worker, the work can be done across the knee; only then special care must be taken not to pull the canvas out of shape.

Rugs made on any one of these three methods should never be lined. If the work is done neatly and correctly it is quite unnecessary, and the backs are often almost as pretty as the fronts. To add a lining to these pile rugs has three disadvantages: (1) It is extremely difficult to make a lined rug lie flat. (2) A lining must always add considerably to the weight of the rug. (3) Dust must inevitably collect between the rug and the lining. In an unlined rug this goes through and is dispersed when beaten and shaken, but when the rug is lined, the dust is comparatively free from molestation and can collect at leisure, for nothing can get at it. Rugs made on good strong canvas wear perfectly without lining; it is only when softer finer material is used for a foundation, as in the two following methods, that a lining is necessary to add strength to bear the weight of the wool.

THE INVICTA METHOD was first used by the late Mr. John Wilson of Leek, Staffordshire, and is now carried on by Miss Ursula Schon, Knights Place, near Rochester. Rugs made by this method are founded on fine canvas, either four holes or five and a half holes to 1 in., by sewing over narrow steel strips 0.5 in. wide, which must be kept upright. Single stitch is used and, when two parallel rows are finished, the first row is cut along the top of the strip, leaving three stitches at each side uncut. The steel is then removed, and put forward for the next row. This method is more complicated than the first three; during working, the canvas has to be stretched on a frame similar to a large embroidery frame. Six-fold wool is used, and the needles required are very long and strong rug needles. No knot is made as the pile is so very close, two strands of wool being put through each small hole of the canvas, thus the wool is kept in place. These rugs must be lined, as the canvas is too soft to bear the wool without a lining, and they should not be shaken very hard.

The foundation material used for THE SMYRNA METHOD is usually hessian, i.e. very strong coarse linen, and the tool is a kind of hook and needle combined. With this instrument one prods away into the hessian at a great pace leaving a trail of small loops behind, which are cut afterwards. It is a very quick method, and produces quite a good woolly rug, but the texture of the pile, and the correctness of the designs produced by this method cannot for a moment compare with the more careful and skilled work necessitated by the other methods. Rugs made in this way are good useful products, but cannot aspire to the dignity of being works of art.



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