Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bare Floors

Right after the closing on our condo, the first thing we did was tear out the carpeting---about 1200 square feet in all. Next, we had tiled installed. Everywhere. 1500 square feet. It makes the place look light and airy, and it doesn't harbor dust and crud. We love it. But, it is a bit stark. 
Since I knew perfectly well that it would highly unlikely that I would be able to buy rugs that (a) don't outgas too much, (b) are the colors I want, and (c) we have any hope of being able to afford, my brain started working on ways to make some. It's a challenge. Rugs are big. Rugs take lots of fabric. 

My first idea was braided rugs. And I am indeed starting a very interesting braiding project involving fabric from khaki pants (I'll get to that in another post). My next idea was chenille, sort of. In my Net research, I ran into Nannette Holmgren's Faux Chenille site. Hmm. Looked like it could be used for rugs. Eventually, I dug out my copy of Twenty Easy Machine-Made Rugs by Jackie Dodson. Yup, it covered a couple of similar techniques, although at the time it was written, the nifty little chenille cutter hadn't been invented yet. 

I decided to go for it. This is one of my weak points. I have a long history of starting very large projects using new-to-me techniques. Naturally, I run into all sorts of problems that could have been headed off by someone with some experience. So, this time, I actually started with some samples. A lot depends on the order of the layers, as well as the nature of each fabric.
Encouraged, I tried a couple of pillows. They're not spectacular, but they're certainly red, which was part of my goal.
On to making a living room rug! A search of my stash turned up a few loosely woven fabrics in white (that I'd been carting around for, oh, 20 years). I bought several wonderful clearance fabrics in various beiges, plus small amounts of two full-price ones that I couldn't resist. 

After washing and shrinking, I taped the backing to the floor and carefully smoothed the layers on top, overlapping joins a little, keeping everything on grain. I added blocks of light green (which goes with the walls) on top. The fabrics were in different sizes and had some different thickesses, which I factored in as I tried to create a pleasing 3-D pattern. I used safety pins to secure (or so I thought) the layers (not easy, considering that the base layer is a tightly woven, heavy cotton). I drew sewing guidelines every six inches. It wasn't enough. After getting some of the channels sewn, I had to lay out the rug again and add more pins and markings. 

Sewing the half-inch channels near the edge was fine. As I got further in, the layers shifted more (because I was constantly having to maneuver the whole thing), the marked lines became less accurate, and the bulk made guiding the fabric under the needle more error prone. And an accurate 45-degree angle and even channel widths are important for the finished look. Working from all the corners in toward the center seemed the only way to tame this beast, but that has it's hazards---you can see the puffiness forming, although most of that can be pretty easily eased in. It may yet, however, turn out to be a mistake.

The closer I get to the center (which is seeming further and further away), the more the maneuvering needed, and the more challenging it all is.  
I'm buoyed by the fact that it looks like the end result will be good. I am also delighted that I have the new sewing machine because it will automatically cut the threads at the end of a line of stitching (and pull them to the back), and each line ends well in from the edge. That was difficult to deal with on the old machine. 

In a few days, I hope to have the stitching done and be ready to slash and bind!

By the way, in the last photo, you can see several layers of snow on our window sill. We're only .7 inches from breaking the all-time snowfall record for the season. 


Lazy Gal Tonya said...

Your chenille is looking great. You're stressing too much (I know, I know, I do the same thing too when I'm in the middle of a project). When it's all done and in use you won't even notice the little things that made you nuts while you worked on it - just the overall effect. I love how you pieced this together, can't wait to see how it turns out.

welcome to blogland!

Meg said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Tonya! It's nearly done!

BrendaS said...

Wow, that's an ambitious project. I'm sure it will turn out great. Is it really heavy? I like what you're doing on your blog, especially the linen quilts.