Weaving a Rug from Raw Fleece

Our guest artist/author is Zara Tuulikki Rooke.  We’ve recently seen the beautiful fleece rugs she’s felted and shown us on the forum with her daughters.  But she has taken it a step further and has built a loom and woven a rug from fleece.

Some of you may remember a post I wrote here in April about shearing sheep.

https://feltingandfiberstudio.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/shearing-sheep-in-sweden/?preview=true&preview_id=11244&preview_nonce=007aa830f5&post_format=standard

Now I thought I would show you what I did with some of that thick winter fleece. For this project, I used fleece from my own sheep, which are all cross-breeds (Gotland and other old Swedish breeds). One is white, while the others are light to dark grey.

Photo 1

I wanted to try weaving with raw fleece. I do own a loom, but it is not set up with warp. Now, I have a basic understanding of weaving, but warping a loom requires more than that. So I started thinking about how to construct something simpler to weave on, and ended up building an oversized weaving frame. The frame itself measures about 1.5 x 2.5 meters (4.9 x 8.2 feet). I happened to have a wooden curtain rod that reached across and could be used as a heddle rod, and I used forked branches to make holders for the heddle rod.

Photo 2
I made a number of equally sized string heddles by tying pieces of sting around two nails, hammered at an appropriate distance from each other into a piece of wood. I wrapped a heddle around every second warp thread and over the heddle rod. The warp threads have a natural opening (shed) due to the thickness of the plank that I used in the top end of the frame. The heddles pull up the lower level of warp threads to create the opposite shed. I was actually surprised at how well this simple construction worked.

Photo 3
I started weaving with yarn, to get a more secure beginning before I started feeding-in the raw fleece. The fleeces had all been skirted, but not washed, and I picked away some pieces of hay and straw as I went along. All I did was grab some fleece and twist it as I fed it into the shed, alternating between fleeces of different colours and pushing each row down with a shed rod.

Photo 4
After a while, I realized that it did help to tease the locks apart a bit before I started twisting the wool. I also twisted the ends around the first and last warp thread in each row. Amongst the equipment I got with my ordinary loom, was a rather ancient looking metal contraption used to keep the tension across the weave (see photos below). I have no idea what this thing is called in English, but it worked really well.

Photo 5
I finished off the weave with yarn again and tied off the warp treads in knots. Then came the washing and rinsing. We simply poured hot water with soap over the rug and walked around on it for quite a while. The kids were ever so helpful at this stage, and I figured that a little felting would help the wool stick together. I gave it a good rinse with the garden hose and also let it soak in an old bathtub for 24 hours, changing water a couple of times until it looked clean.

Photo 6It took over a week to dry, but then it is made from the best parts of three and a half fleeces, pushed together into a rug measuring 100 cm x 120 cm (3.3 x  3.9 feet). That amount of wool can hold a lot of water. I still have to sew in the ends of the warp threads, but other than that, it is ready to be used on the floor of our living room this winter.
Photo 7Thank you Tuulikki for sharing this complicated and wonderful process with us.  Bravo for a job well done!

This entry was posted in Weaving, Wet Felting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Weaving a Rug from Raw Fleece

  1. Thanxs a lot for sharing – the rug looks so great – I wanna have one 😉 -I wish you all time warm feet 😉

    • zararooke says:

      Many thanks! 🙂 I am sure our feet, and possibly also our two dogs and two cats, will enjoy this rug on the floor this winter. 😉

    • Susan says:

      This is such a good project! I have 6 huge fleeces from my pet sheep 4 white and two various shades of grey. (oh I love the photos of yours! I have several that kick me if I stop scratching their ears before they are sick of it). I am going to try and built your loom on an extremely large metal frame and see how it goes. School holidays here so I am planning to get treading with children and bare feet and my mother who is a felt maker!

  2. zedster66 says:

    I don’t know enough about weaving to follow exactly, but it looks gorgeous, and I can imagine how now it smells too! 🙂

    • zararooke says:

      Thanks Zed! It was very “sheepy” to work with, but after washing and drying outdoors, it now only has a faint smell of soap and wool. Weaving isn´t all that complicated, but getting to grips with the terminology is another matter… I barely know the terms in Swedish, so writing this in English was a bit of a challenge. 😉

  3. Lisa says:

    OMG! I am so very inspired! I also have my own sheep (Hampshire Down) & often I have no wool processed & I just NEED to get fluffy sometimes, like, now, rightaway, that very short time instant or even a spare minute! To just grab a chunk (off a passing sheep?!) & fluff around for a bit > this is just perfect! I need a new runner for my hallway …. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

    • zararooke says:

      I am so glad to hear that I have inspired you! Thanks!
      I have no idea how Hampshire Down works for felting, but you can also see how I felt rugs with raw wool on my blog (http://zararooke.com/2015/08/21/hur-man-tovar-en-fall-av-raull/), and there is an English summary if you scroll down to the bottom of the post. When you are fortunate to have access to more fleece than you have time to wash, dry and card, it´s realy nice to also be able to do something directly with larger quantities of raw fleece. 🙂

  4. It was so much fun to see how you did this. It is beautiful! Thank you.

  5. Pingback: Matta vävd av råull | Min kreativa sida

  6. Sarah says:

    It looks great, what a super idea, it would certainly get use of a fewcfleeces I have hanging around! As a side note, I think the ‘metal contraption’ is a ‘tenter hook’ in English. Thanks for sharing your great project.

    • zararooke says:

      Thanks Sarah! Tenter is probably the right term. In Swedish it is called a “weave tentioner”. Not hooks, but more like a rod with teeth at both ends, that can be adjusted in length. I do hope that you try weaving some of your fleece, into a soft and thick rug. It really is worth the effort! 😊

  7. ruthlane says:

    Zara – this is absolutely gorgeous. What a wonderful idea. Great job on teaching yourself to build a loom as well. I don’t know all the terms even in English so you wrote a good explanation.

  8. Leonor says:

    I love this, Zara! That rug looks amazing, and it’s such a great use for all the raw wool you must have around. You’re lucky I’m far away, otherwise I’d pester you for weaving lessons 😀

    And… I just find it absolutely adorable that your sheep flock (haha) to you for cuddles, I think that’s the greatest show of trust and love 🙂

    • zararooke says:

      And I’d be happy to teach you what little I know about weaving, Leonore, if you teach me how to spinn! 😉
      My sheep are a very social bunch. They always come running across the field to meet me, and crave a cuddle and a good scratch. One of them is more persistent than the others, and has been known to knock over small children if she doesn’t get any attention. Sometimes I wish I had more than just two hands – it’s difficult to scratch more than two sheep at a time! 😉

    • Leonor says:

      Oh, I’d love that! We could swap via Skype 😀

      Haha, I know exactly what you mean – my cats were the same, always wanting a cuddle and never taking no for an answer. So much so that I always said there should be no more cats in a household than hands!
      Give your wooly ones a cuddle for me, please ☺️

  9. luvswool says:

    Zara, your woven rug is truly impressive! My mouth was hanging open wide while I read through the process. So you made your own loom. WOW! How perfect is that? And making a rug using your sheep’s fleece again, but in a different manner. I love the blending of the neutral colors. You have created a work of art! So nice that your family will be able to keep warm with it instead of just looking at something hanging on the wall.

    Thanks for sharing–you made my day!

    • zararooke says:

      Thanks! 🙂 As often is the case when I start a new project, it really was an experiment just to see if it would work. Luckily, it did, and my homemade loom worked even better than I had expected. This rug should stand for a lot of wear. With time and use, I expect it to just get more felted and firmer.

  10. Lyn says:

    Wow! I’m really impressed with your construction and weaving skills and your finished rug is amazing.
    Thank you for sharing your fabulous photos.

    • zararooke says:

      Many thanks Lyn! 🙂 I really only have a basic knowledge of weaving, but I guess curiosity, some imagination and a drive to solve problems sometimes can make up for lack of proper skills. 😉

  11. Betty Zenk says:

    Beautiful. We raise Lincoln sheep and I love this idea.

  12. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    Thank you again for sharing this extraordinary felting experiment and journey! The rug is stunning and your problem solving creatively amazing!

  13. This is great. I love the rug you made. this is very timely as someone had just posted on our guild facebook page about weaving a norrøn vararfeldur http://norwegiantextileletter.com/article/96/

    • zararooke says:

      That Icelandic weave is amazing and looks like a very interesting technique! Actually, I did consider making a weighted loom, but decided that a simple weaving frame was a lot easier to build. I also looked at peg looms, but was concerned that the weave might become to loose if I used raw fleece. In any case, I learnt a lot about the history of weaving and different weaving techniques trying to figure out how to construct a loom of my own. 😉

  14. Thank you for sharing with us. The rug is fabulous and will last your family for years! Perhaps it will become a treasured heirloom for your children who will have memories of creating it. Bravo to you for envisioning it and going through the many steps and challenges to see it to fruition. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  15. Thanks for posting this, I’ve been considering a fleece rug for years and now I know it’s possible.

  16. Barbara Lawson says:

    What an absolutely gorgeous rug! Your explanations were so good we may just give it a go. Just out of curiosity, once all was set up, how long did it take you to complete the weaving part of the rug. We currently have four sheep (1 Cotswold, 1 mini cheviot, 2 shetlands), but were just gifted 9 Cotswolds and 3 Navajo-churros that are coming in a couple days. Shetland fleece is probably too soft, but all of the others have fleece that is often used in rug making. Navajo-churro have been perfected by the Navajo Indians for very fine & complex rugs. However, being very new to this venture, some time frames would be very helpful!
    Thank for sharing such a great idea!!

    • zararooke says:

      Thanks! 😊 I am so happy to hear that you may give this a go, and it sounds like you will have some nice fleeces to work with too. I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but I had the weave standing in the garden for about a week and worked on it when I had time and the sun was shining. Effective time spent weaving was probably less than 8 hours. I do hope you try it! Have fun and do let us know how it works out.

  17. Barbara Lawson says:

    What an absolutely gorgeous rug! Your explanations were so good we may just give it a go. Just out of curiosity, once all was set up, how long did it take you to complete the weaving part of the rug. We currently have four sheep (1 Cotswold, 1 mini cheviot, 2 shetlands), but were just gifted 9 Cotswolds and 3 Navajo-churros that are coming in a couple days. Shetland fleece is probably too soft, but all of the others have fleece that is often used in rug making.
    Thank for sharing such a great idea!!

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