Double Binding Technique for Rag Rugs

Marcy Petrini



In 2014, I was fortunate enough to visit the Casa das Tecedeiras (Weavers’ House) in Janeiro de Cima, one of the Schist Villages in the Serra da Estrela mountain range, in Central Portugal. While a lot of the traditional weaving is no longer done on a regular basis in the village, various rag rugs are pretty common in Portugal and those from Janeiro de Cima are typically woven using a double binding technique. At the Weavers’ House we saw several being woven and we learned about the technique. (I co-author an article in Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot about the fiber traditions of Portugal, Spring 2015, 36-40).

Once home, I set up a sampler to practice what I learned in preparation of writing the article. Since then I used the technique to weave a rug with fleece weft, and now I am returning to its tradition: I have a warp on the loom to weave a rag rug.

On four shafts, the threading has two blocks, each of which can be repeated as long as desired, since the floats are limited; three threads are used in the transition from one block to the other. In weaving, two wefts are used: on one side, one weft is shown in one block, the other in the second block. Underneath, the wefts are reversed. The sample below shows all the possibilities.

Starting from the top of the sample, there is a large blue block in the middle, which is red underneath. Similarly, the two red blocks on each side of the middle block are blue underneath. The block colors can be reversed, as shown in the second section, by reversing the order of the shuttles. It is also possible to weave a solid area of each color, as shown in the 3rd and 4th section. A small section of “pseudo plain weave” is woven with a thin weft at the beginning and ending of the rug to make a flexible hem. It’s “pseudo plain weave” because where the threading of the blocks change, the plain weave is interrupted by floats.

The draft that corresponds to the sections of the samplers is:(for a better view, try to left-click, or maybe right-click, the draft and open in a new window that will appear under the current tab):

The draft shows the structure, but in the cloth, one of the two wefts, red or blue, disappears underneath the other. In effect the rug is double thickness, which makes it sturdier than a plain weave rag rug, all other things being equal (same fiber strips, warp, etc.).

The draft shows two repeats of block B (2, 1, 2, 4) on each side and five repeats of block A in the middle (3, 4, 3, 1); when weaving, the blocks can be repeated as needed; my warp on the loom right now has the following repeats across a width of 36”: A 13, B 27, A 23, B 27, A 13. The transition between blocks A and B is threaded: 2, 1, 2 (incomplete block A) and the transition between blocks B and A is threaded: 3, 4, 3 (incomplete block B). Since I am starting with block A, my selvage at the start is: 2, 1 (half block A) and the selvage at the end is: 2, 1, 2, same as the transition from A to B. While in Portugal I noticed that they weavers were using 8-shaft looms, even though the technique only needs four shafts. When I was planning the treadling, I realized why: 10 treadles are needed to tie-up all the combinations and 4-shaft looms typically have six treadles.

However, by using two feet, I was able to weave all the combinations as follows:

 Treadle   Shafts 
1 1
 2  2
 3  3
 4  4
 5  3 & 4
6 1 & 3

Then I can treadle the blocks using these treadles:

 2 & 4 together 
 1 & 2 together  

The shuttles alternate and to reverse the color, the shuttles are switched, as shown in the drawdown. Similarly, to weave a solid color across, we treadle: 

 2 & 5 together 
 2 & 6 together  

And we treadle the header with thin weft for the hem: treadles 2 & 3 together vs. treadles 1 & 4 together.

Next time you plan on weaving a rag rug, try this technique!


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Plaited Twills

Marcy Petrini



At the meeting of the Chimneyville Weavers and Spinners Guild this past Saturday, the topic of plaited twills came up when I showed an example of the blog with the plaited twill Christmas fabric from 14-Dec-16.

I love plaited twills and I had woven that Christmas fabric a long time ago. More recently, I wove a shawl in a 10-shaft plaited twill. Here is the shawl, a close up of the fabric and its draft (for a better view, try to left-click, or maybe right-click, the draft and open in a new window that will appear under the current tab):

From the fabric close up and the draft, we can see why it’s called a plaited twill: each “ribbon” of left-handed twill seems to disappear under a “ribbon” of right handed twill – and vice versa – as when we braid real ribbon. The size of the “ribbons” in the plaited twill can depend on the number of shafts available.

There are two ways to approach plaited twill. One, not surprisingly as a twill; the other as a double two-tie unit.

Below is the draft of an 8 shafts plaited twills, using pattern # 358 from Carol Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns. It is threaded as a straight twill and all of the plaiting occurs in the tie-up.

The other way to weave a plaited twill is to use a threading based on a double two-tie unit weave (think summer-and-winter), shown below. The nomenclature comes from the threading. There are two shafts, 1 and 2, which serve as tie-down threads, hence the name two-tie. If we look at a repeat of the structure, shafts 3 through 8 are the pattern shafts and they alternate with a tie-down shaft; if we think of each repeat as a block, the name double comes from the fact that both tie-down shafts are used in the block. This draft is from pattern #355 from the same book. Here the plaiting occurs as a combination of the tie-up and the treadling. Explore Carol's book for many, many options on 8 shafts.

In general, using a double two-tie unit for plaited twills is more versatile than using a twill threading because we re-use two shafts. However, the treadling can be more complicated; we can see from above that two treadles alternate throughout the treadling: one has all of the shafts plus tie-down shaft 1 and the other has all of the shafts plus tie-down shaft 2.

There is another option for all of these twills. The draft above shows the threading to be ascending from shaft 3 to 8. The plaited twill from my shawl also uses a double two-tie unit but after ascending, it reverses, forming a point.  

Can plaited twills be woven on 4 shafts using either one of these two methods? No; we can determine the reason if we examine the actual drawdowns. What makes the plaiting is a combination of left-hand and right-hand twills; on four, we don’t have enough shafts to have two twills intersecting when threaded as a straight draw or as a two-tie unit.

However, we can weave a twill on 4 shafts that has right and left-hand twills, the beginning of plaiting. Below is a draft of a three-thread herringbone from Marguerite Porter Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book:

There are other treadling variations on this threading in Davison's book, so the possibilities abound.

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Treadling Undulating Twills

Marcy Petrini


When discussing Undulating Twill (12/21/15) and showing the drawdown for the Christmas fabric, I said that the treadling was also undulating. And in discussing Colors in Nature (11/30/15), I mentioned that the scarf was threaded in undulating twills. The scarf is still on the loom, delayed by a combination of the holidays but also of spending a lot of time weaving and unweaving. Why? Because the beat in an undulating twill treadling can be tricky.

Here is the drawdown for the fall colors scarf:

The warp colors rotate: rust cotton, gold cotton, light brown silk and sage green silk, sett at 20 picks per inch (ppi). The weft is a yellow silk which I have chosen because of its luminosity. Despite the colors moving across the fabric because of the rotation, the pattern shows.

Using a standard tie-up (1 & 2; 2 & 3; 3 & 4; 4 & 1), the treadling proceeds from single shots – 1, 2, 3, 4 – to a doubling in steps: 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, followed by 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, etc. And then reversing to form the diamond in the undulating pointed twill.

Whenever there are single shots, the beat can be as usual, the different sheds separate each weft. But whenever there are double shots, the two wefts in the same shed want to snuggle together and change the picks per inch.

To counteract the problem I first beat harder (30 ppi), which resulted in a fabric too stiff for a scarf; unweave. Then I tried to beat so that the double-shot areas were closer to the warp sett of 20, but the single-shot areas were too lose; unweave. I finally found a compromise of an overall beat of approximately 18 ppi: the double shots are always going to be a bit denser than the single shots, but as long as the fabric is consistent and drapeable, the scarf will be wearable.

Of course I could have avoided the problem by using an extended pointed twill treadling, but I like the undulations that the combination of the doubling in threading and treadling produces.

The sett of 20 is appropriate for a twill with a combination of 8/2 and 5/2 cottons and silks, but if I were to do this again, I may consider a bit closer sett, 22 perhaps. As long as each project has a lesson, the time working on it is well spent.


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Roc Day

Marcy Petrini


Roc Day is the gathering of spinners that occurs the day following Epiphany. The legend has it that after fortnight, women, who had put up their wheels and looms for the holiday baking and chores, returned to weaving and spinning, but the men wouldn’t return to their farm duties until the following Monday. In between this time, the men would harass the women (figures, nothing has changed), so the women wouldn’t get much done, but merrymaking resulted. Roc is the old German word for the flat part of the spinning wheel.

I am not sure about the merrymaking or the men returning to farm duties in the middle of winter, but when I was growing up in Rome, Italy, the holiday season did end on Epiphany and normal life resumed on January 7th.

Technically, then, Roc Day is January 7th, also known as Saint Distaff’s Day. However, we celebrate the Gulf Coast States Roc Day on the 1st Saturday after the New Year holiday. Our “reason” for the get-together is to spin, knit, or use some other portable fiber technique, but we visit, invite vendors so we can shop, show off our work, catch up on the year events, and have a leisurely lunch with old and new friends. Fiber guilds in the region rotate hosting Roc Day. I am just back from Roc Day 2016, a wonderful event hosted by the Bayou Yarn Benders of Baton Rouge, LA. In addition to the visiting, shopping and, well, yes, eating, I was a vendor, providing the manuscript that my husband Terry Dwyer and I produce.

Here are some people at Roc Day 2016 having some serious fiber fun!



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Looking Forward to HGA’s Convergence® 2016

Marcy Petrini


Christmas is over and so are most of the religious holidays; 2015 is coming to an end and 2016 is just around the corner. The conventional wisdom is that, at this time of year, people make new-year resolutions, which by February 1 have already been broken.

I haven’t made a new-year resolution for years, but before January 1 rolls around I do like to think about my fiber work for the coming year, not necessarily in specifics since new opportunities often come up, but more in the sense of assessing “where do I go from here?”

But for 2016, since I am scheduled to teach at Convergence®, I do have more specific plans for writing and weaving. For the Color and Weave seminar, I’d like to weave at least one more sample and update the handout. The write-up for the Weaving Errors seminar is really a monograph, which is half-way done; I have gotten a bit behind because of the holidays. For the Four to More super seminar, the handout is very old, so it needs a lot of work. For both studios, Interaction of Structure and Function and Re-Inventing Twills, the handouts are monographs, both completed, but they may need some tweaking. (See for details on the seminars and the conference.)

The process is circular. I write a bit, figure out what samples I need, look for them in my stash, and weave them if nothing fits the bill; then comes the photography by my husband, Terry Dwyer, which leads to more writing, etc. Because the studio is the best place in the house to take pictures, it gets reorganized for a photo shoot – and of course, there are helper cats all over:


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