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Mar 21

Summer Plaid Rag Table Runner

Designed and Woven by Gail Matthews

Jane and I were finishing up work on the Schacht Guide to the Rigid Heddle Loom insert for the May/June 2014 issue of Handwoven when I was asked about making something using the Variable Dent Reed. I liked the rag runner in the insert and thought making one with the Variable Dent Reed would be an interesting variation. The change in warp density and the weft fabric strips give texture to the runner. Adding another yard to the warp would allow enough fabric for a couple of fun outdoor chair pillows.


15″ Cricket or Flip, 15″ Variable Dent Reed, 2 stick shuttles, 1 boat shuttle. Self-healing cutting mat, ruler, rotary cutter. Sewing machine or hand sewing needle, sewing thread. Washable glue stick. Temple (optional).

supplies for Summer Plaid Rag Table Runner


Maysville 8/4 cotton carpet warp, orange (78 yards for warp and about 80 yards for weft) and turquoise (208 yards for warp).

Reed Setup:

10D 5D 10D 5D 10D 5D 10D


78″ warp, direct warp turquoise in the 10-dent sections and orange in the 5-dent sections. To keep the warp balanced, I had one warp end outside the 10-dent section at the edge (it’s just like threading in a slot). You’ll need 78 yards of orange, and 208 yards of turquoise.


I washed the fabric before cutting, using cold water and the delicate dryer cycle to minimize shrinkage (I wanted the shrinkage to happen when the completed runner was washed).  Cut two coordinating cotton print fabrics into 3/4″ strips using a mat, rotary cutter, and ruler. I had 1.5 yards of the blue print, and 1 yard of the orange print.

I cut all of the orange print into strips, and after weaving had a few yards of strips left over. I cut about 1.25 yards of the blue print into strips, leaving some uncut to make binding for the ends of the runner. I spent an hour or so one evening sticking the ends of my cloth strips together with the glue stick. I used a washable glue stick because I didn’t want any crunchy bits in my finished fabric.


I used a slim boat shuttle for the carpet warp weft, and a stick shuttle for each of the fabric strips. I wove a header with the carpet warp, then started weaving, alternating cloth picks with carpet warp picks. After the first 6 or so picks, I put the temple in. You can weave this runner without one, but you may need to pay a bit more attention to how much draw-in you’re getting.

the coarse weave of the Summer Plaid Rag Table Runner

As you weave, you will notice that the 10-dent sections pack in tighter than the 5 dent sections, which are just a bit puffier. I was careful to lay the cloth weft in the shed with the right side of the fabric facing up, so there is a definite right and wrong side to the runner. You don’t need to do this if your fabrics don’t have an obvious wrong side.

The Summer Plaid Rag Table Runner warped onto a floor loom

The stripe pattern was done by counting the picks of the cloth weft, as follows:

10 picks – orange (including an extra two picks for binding the ends)
8 picks – blue
8 picks – orange
22 picks – blue
16 picks – orange
32 picks – blue
16 picks – orange
22 picks – blue
8 picks – orange
8 picks – blue
10 picks – orange (again with two extra picks for binding)

End the weaving with several picks of carpet warp.


For binding the ends, cut two strips from the blue fabric, 2.5″ wide by about 18″ long. Fold these in half the long way, then fold the cut edges into the center fold, finger-pressing them in place. If your fabric is thick, you may need to cut your binding wider to allow enough room to fold around the end of the runner and cover two picks of cloth weft on each side. Trim the carpet warp at the end to about 3/4″ long – it will fold up inside the binding. Do the trimming one end at a time, right before putting the binding on, to avoid raveling at the ends.

I pinned one edge of the binding over the first two cloth weft picks, then wrapped it around to the back and pinned again over the first two weft picks. I then trimmed the long ends of the binding, and folded them to the inside of the binding on the back of the runner, to make a  neat corner. I sewed the binding with a zigzag stitch, centering the stitching on the edge of the binding so that half was on the binding and half on the runner. I hand-stitched closed the ends of the binding.

Before washing, the runner measured 50.5″ long; after washing measured 45.25″ long. I washed the runner with very hot water and laundry detergent in the sink. I let it soak for 15-20 minutes – the turquoise carpet warp left a lot of color in the water! I then rinsed, alternating hot and cold, until the water ran clear.

I rolled the runner in a bath towel and pressing on it to get out most of the water. I then put the towel and runner in the dryer on the cotton cycle for about ten minutes. I removed the barely-damp runner and laid it out flat to finish drying. At this point, you could press the runner with a hot iron, but I liked the texture left by the different densities in the warp.

This was quick to weave, and good practice in not worrying too much about making perfect selvedges. Coordinating placemats might be fun, too.