wool rug finishing

I have just finished weaving a rug in heavy wool and wondered if anyone knows of the best way to "finish" the surface of it once it is off the loom. I have considered laying it flat on the floor and covering it with damp towels overnight. I mean, you can't wash and steam press a rug this heavy!! :-)


Posted on Wed, 12/28/2011 - 20:15

Hi Ellen,

We used to ask Peter Collingwood these questions.  During the 90s and into the last years of his life, he was reading messages in weaving lists and offering his comments.  On this question, he said that there was no need to do anything.  And my experience is that I just start using using them.  In fact, they have a nice stiff body when they are new and they get a little bit limp the first time you wash them. So, they are better before washing.

We saw the photo of it on the loom, so it would be very nice to see a photo of the finished rug.


Posted on Wed, 12/28/2011 - 21:45

Thank you Joanne. 

Washing this is out of the question, as it is so big and heavy it would not get into any sink or even bathtub, I think! It is almost like a double weave and the wool is very thick, but yes, it is stiff and sturdy :-) 

I will post photos when I have finished doing the edges (oriental braiding, they call it on Vävmagasinet's homepage) and I can get the photos loaded.


Posted on Thu, 12/29/2011 - 18:37

I was taught to finish a wool rug in this manner.
Put the rug flat on a hard surface covered with towels.
Get more towels, enough to cover the rug, wet them, and hand wring dry.
Lay those on top of the rug.
Next, get your iron, and turn it to at least a wool setting.
Place it on the damp towels - let it hiss and steam and don't move it until the hissing subsides significantly. Move it to a new portion of the towels covering the rug and repeat until the entire rug has been treated.
Leave the towels in place overnight, or until both the towels and the rug have dried completely.

Posted on Thu, 12/29/2011 - 19:00

Thanks for your reply! This sounds very much like what I do with a "normal" wool project, pressing with an iron and a damp cloth like that. So it sounds reasonable, though time-consuming, to do it with an entire wool rug. But then the weaving was slow too, I managed about 2 inches an hour, and the braids are taking time too, so why not this ? :-)


Posted on Thu, 12/29/2011 - 19:30

Hi Rexcreation,

Can you tell us where this information is from and what the purpose for this finishing is?   It sounds like blocking to make it square if it did not turn out square.  It is sometimes done to a tapestry to make it square or flat if it does
not have a flat surface.  And the tapestry is then flat and it looses it's rigid hand.  I have done this very lightly to make the yarns at the back of a tapestry flatten out so that it is easier to put the fabric backing on it. But I would not do this to a rug.

When I have woven rag rugs in cotton or wool and put them on the floor, they stay in place much better than after I have to wash them for the first time.  Then they lose the body they had.  So, I would not block or wet the rug in any way until it needs cleaning. 


Posted on Thu, 12/29/2011 - 22:40

I finish my wool rugs the way that recreation describes above. The trick is to find a clean concrete or tile floor that allows you to use the water & thoroughly steam the rug. I use a wet rag or hand towel directly on the rug and cover it with a dishcloth. I reset the rag each time I move to a different area. I don't soak the rug, I just make sure it gets a good even steam press. Then I walk away & allow it to dry without fiddling with it.

Can't remember where I read or learned it, but it works very well.

Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 08:19

(warning: have tried once, on the *one* wool rug I've woven...)

Anyway: I was told never to "finish", not to clip ends and so on, until it had been in use for some time. It needs traffic to "set", so a wool rug should be placed where it will be trodden on. After a while (a month -> a year, flipped every so often) the ends are clipped and it is "finished". (I got this from Kerstin Lovallius in Sweden many years ago, but my own experience is very limited...)

Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 10:45

Thank you to all of you.

To Joanne: this is not a rag rug, which you mentioned, but a very heavy wool double weave, very sturdy and thick.

To Kerstin: This rug will not have a lot of "traffic" as it will be under my favourite reclining chair. I am afraid I have already cut ends. 

To debmcclintock: this is more or less what I have in mind to do, and I have a tile floor to do it on. I am a little uncertain exactly what you mean, though. You have a wet dishcloth to place over the rug before you place the iron on it, right? Do you then cover it with towels while it dries/sets completely?

Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 11:13

Hi Ellen,

I mentioned the rag rug as I have more experience with them.  But I have woven wool rugs as well.  As I mentioned earlier, Peter Collingwood was the rug expert and you can contact his son Jason as well.  Just goggle Jason Collingwood and Rugs and you will find his website.  He is in England. His father Peter was always viewed as the rug expert and he reported to the rug weaving list that he never did any wetting or steaming of his rugs before delivering them.  I am very curious why one would steam a newly finished rug.   I don't think that the yarns need fulling as with fabric. So, I am curious where the steam finishing concept came from.


Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 15:01

Hi Joanne.

This is my first wool rug, that is why I asked my question on here. But I learned once that wool always needs "finishing" to open up the surface of the yarn and let it sort of settle into its permanent state. I'll think about it before I do anything!!


Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 15:26

   I have been weaving heavy wool rugs now for about 3 years now, but by no means am I an expert. I have had no problems with just leaving the rugs alone. The rugs that have gone to people have had no problems, including the one under a rolling computer station chair. I really don't see the need. The fibers are so intwined and packed that they will stand (or lay) on their own. I believe a stiff rug will soften over time but stand up to the wear. Love to see the rug! 

Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 15:29

   I have been weaving heavy wool rugs now for about 3 years now, but by no means am I an expert. I have had no problems with just leaving the rugs alone. The rugs that have gone to people have had no problems, including the one under a rolling computer station chair. I really don't see the need. The fibers are so intwined and packed that they will stand (or lay) on their own. I believe a stiff rug will soften over time but stand up to the wear. Also hand died wools may bleed. Love to see the rug! 

Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 16:26

Ellen, I put the wet rag directly on the rug and put a dish towl over the rag to direct the steam down.  I don't leave the towel or rag on the rug when I let it dry.  It never really gets soak, the steam just opens up the wool and presses it down.  Once the rug dries one can see the difference in the wool surface.

Re the issues of the Peter C principle, he worked with his warp extender and with linen warp, and a polyester/wool blend.  His finishing technique worked very well for his process.  He also had perfect tension with the warp extender.  I have two rugs from Jason, one lies perfectly, the other needs to be steam occasionally to get it to match the other.  

I think it is good to recognize that different equipment, material and warps yields different results and one learns to work with the resulting product.  There is no single way to do things.  Deb Mc

Posted on Fri, 12/30/2011 - 18:35

One of my students wove a rug/saddle blanket.  She finished it outside of class hours, so I did not get to see it completed.  I asked her in the grocery store a few weeks later how it turned out.  She said she put it in the washer and dryer and it really fluffed up a lot! 

I'll just bet it did!

But she's really happy with it, so I guess that's what counts...



Posted on Sat, 12/31/2011 - 14:59

I really love your rug Ellen! Can't wait to see it finished.

I really need to learn to make rugs...

Posted on Sat, 12/31/2011 - 15:06


It looks as though your rug does not need much, if any, finishing. It looks lovely in the photo.

Funny, in the past year I've had several loom inquiries from persons trying to purchase the biggest loom they can for doing really large rugs - and they are always surprised when I warn them that doing oversized heavy wool rugs will create issues when taking them off the loom. Just treating the ends is problematic when you can no longer hold the rug on your lap sitting on the couch. Wet finishing or steaming out bumps or bulges will also be a much large probem with larger pieces.

Your experience brings home that while you can weave it on the loom, working with the whole piece offloom can create a whole new set of "issues". When you see photos of 8 and 10 foot wide rug looms, try to imagine what the finished rug would be like to handle in your home.

Posted on Sat, 12/31/2011 - 21:05

Hi Sarah.

Thank you for your feedback and nice comments :-)

My rug is only 120 cm wide and I can work on the edge while it hangs over the top of the loom, which brings the edges down to a practical working hight when I sit in a chair in front or behind it, so I have found a neat solution to it. The length is 220 cm, so all in all a mangeable size.

I'll post lots of photos of everything in a couple of weeks' time.


Posted on Sun, 01/15/2012 - 11:22

For your infomation I have now finished my rug and posted it as a project. I ended up doing the pressing with a damp towel and it made the surface so much nicer :-)

Posted on Sun, 02/19/2012 - 23:50

Ellen: I loved your rug and the size of it was wonderful, and the pattern and the edges in the pattern, I am very inspired. I am new to rug weaving and am on my 7th rug so far and they are heavy wool warp and handspun 4plyed wool weft, and wondered of the "oriental braiding" that you did...I can't find it anywhere and would you mind letting me know about it...thanks so much Cedar

Posted on Mon, 02/20/2012 - 14:21

Hi wcedar, thanks for your comments about my wool rug. I found the description on how to do it on Väv's homepage (in Swedish!) you can see it here: http://www.vavmagasinet.se/orientaliskflata.htm

If you click on the illustration to the right you'll get a pdf file with a larger image and a description, - in Swedish! I don't know about aan English version. But you are welcome to  PM me if you want a more detailed description.

I hope this helps you along, and good luck with your wool rug, look forward to seeing photos :-)


Posted on Tue, 02/21/2012 - 16:25

Hi Ellen: I did read the message, and sent one thanking you, but alas, no where to find it...don't know what I am doing incorrectly but something.....wondered how you add different weft threads to make a clean and stable join....any tips...thanks so much and the Swedish site was great....cedar

Posted on Tue, 02/21/2012 - 16:52

That's good. I'm glad you found it useful.

Well ehm, ... the different weft threads ... it is all in the draft, the opposite colour is on the back side in the sections with two colours. If you would like the draft, please let me know. 


Posted on Thu, 03/01/2012 - 18:41

I used to work for a custom handweaving company and most of our projects were rugs.  We didn't do any wet finishing but with certain rugs, especially when the warp was high-twist wool, we would roll and unroll several  times and with each roll the rug would shrink a little closer to its finished length.  For burling we always made sure there was enough overlap to withstand any extra shrinkage, so there was no need to wait and see.

Posted on Fri, 03/02/2012 - 09:05

Collingwood has several rug finishes is the book Techniques of rug weaving - found at handweaving.net. He calls this "woven edge", and it can be found on page 497 (ff). If you don't want to download all of the book (but it is worth it!) that part is in file no 4.

(If the link doesn't work, something happened when I tried to insert it - go to handweaving.net -> archive -> author and select Collingwood, and go on from there)

Posted on Fri, 03/02/2012 - 10:06

Thanks for the link, Kerstin. I find it quite difficult to find things in handweaving.net myself, so it is great to get othere people's finds :-)

Posted on Thu, 03/29/2012 - 14:59

I work in a mini mill and we have been making woven rugs with thick rug yarn, mostly merino wool and some alpaca. Our problem is that when we take them off the loom the corners roll in...does anyone think steaming would help to keep them down? Th rugs a sett at 5 epi and are just a plain weave. On either end we do a quick tabby with jute rather than out thick rug yarn. Any suggestions as to why the corners roll in?

Posted on Fri, 03/30/2012 - 06:59

Years ago, an old rug weaver told me that there used to exist a special rug warp yarn, consisting of two (say) z-twist and one s-twist singles, plied (in this example) s. She said this was to help prevent the rolling of corners. I have never seen a yarn like this - but maybe some experiments could show the truth of this?

Posted on Sun, 10/14/2012 - 20:49

I love your rug.  Did you weave your ends in and then cut them? 

Off topic, but do you have problem with your loom moving as you weave?


Posted on Tue, 10/23/2012 - 20:12

Thank you :-) I braided the ends and then sewed the last bits up into the braid, then cut and - on the advice from a "Väv" post sdded a dab of textile glue to each end. 

No, my loom didn't budge, but then it is a very large 12 shaft Glimakra. I guess a smaller and lighter loom would, a rug takes a lot of very hard beating!

Posted on Fri, 09/27/2013 - 05:56

Thanks Kerstin for the link to the book. I am planning a rug project from wool using a reversible twill, no fancy design. I will be spending some time reading the Collingwood book. :)

Posted on Sat, 09/28/2013 - 15:20

Hi Ellen,  I do Navajo style weaving.  I take my weavings of the loom and give them a good shake, hard enough for them to make a "snap".  If they're small I pin them down and lightly steam it or spritz it and tug to get my selveges as straight as possible.  With Navajo weaving, your sides are either straight or they're not, but even with nice straight sides theres some slight waves and I find this makes that line a little nicer.  For larger weaves I find the just shaking it out and if I need to give a little tug here and there is fine.  If its too Fuzzy, or had too much of a halo I run a sweater shaver over the fuzzyness.  They all seem to benefit from a good shake.  Since Navajo style weaving is a weft faced weave, I hold the weaving on the sides since it's stronger there.

Posted on Sat, 09/28/2013 - 16:07

Nice to hear from you :)

My rug was too big for shaking. I could not hold it up and give it a shake at the same time. I did lay it out flat on the tile floor and gave it a good steam press, which seemed to give it a much nicer and more "finished" look. Same way I treat my other wool projects, actually. I just finished steam pressing two dw shawls.

Posted on Wed, 10/02/2013 - 00:22

Steam always seems to "settle" wool into the project, like setting twist after spinning and plying.  

Posted on Wed, 10/02/2013 - 08:43

I have never done any spinning or plying, but I do agree about wool and steam. One of the very few weaving teachers I ever had said that steam opened up the little surface "scales" on each individual hair of the wool and settled it permanently. - so be careful not to press any wrinkles into a wool project. It will be there forever!

Posted on Wed, 10/02/2013 - 17:06

I took a look at your photos at the link you provided.  What beautiful and even work you do!  Did you use a wool warp with your wool weft?  They slightly felt together and make a stronger weaving as time goes by, where they don't so much with the cotton.  Also, if they get wet and shrink slightly, they would shrink similarly.  This is a large weaving, the loom I use is really just a big frame, sometimes I use a metal bed frame to hold my warp stretched tight.  But that's a different type of weave.

Posted on Wed, 10/02/2013 - 18:26

No, I used a heavy linen 4/8 for warp. I have seen some professional rug weavers' work places where that was what they use, and most of the drafts in Vav magazine recommend that, so it never occurred to me to use wool. But I can see your argument makes sense.

- oh and thank you for your nice comment on my weaving!

Posted on Thu, 10/03/2013 - 00:32

I have a friend that uses cotton warp with her wool and she hasn't had any problems with hers.  But when she goes to the workshops, she uses wool.  Probably to keep in line with the Navajo traditions that the instructer uses.