How to Weave Rya Rug Backing

Rya Backing Fabric

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A Rya rug can be woven and knotted directly on a loom, or the backing can be woven separately on the loom and rya knots can be hand stitched afterwards onto the backing.

Here is a weaving draft and instructions for how to weave the backing fabric.

Rya Backing Weaving Draft
Rya Backing Weaving Draft

The rya rug canvas is generally woven using a twill threading and woven as Tabby. Sometimes a Rosepath threading is used instead if the weaver wishes to also create a pattern weave for the back of the rug.

Warp:
The warp for a rya rug should be woven using either cotton rug warp or linen warp yarns. The warp needs to be strong in order to give enough structure to hold the knotted pile securely. You could stitch the knots onto any burlap or other type of fabric, but the backing will quickly wear out and all the work that you did in designing your rya would be gone.

Warp Yarn – Use either cotton rug warp or linen rug warp, approx. 800 – 1000 ypp
Sett: 4 EPI.
The warp is threaded using an 8 EPI reed, but skipping alternate dents, to create a space for the rya knots to be stitched through. Thread 2 warp ends in one dent, skip a dent, thread 2 ends in the next dent, skip a dent, repeat.

In the sample photos shown, I used a finer weight of linen yarn as I was out of the thicker weight of linen yarn. I used 2 ends of linen instead of one and threaded both ends through 1 heddle. I find that when making the backing cloth, you can have some flexibility in the yarns that you use. The important thing is the spacing of the warp/weft, so that there is space allowance for stitching the rya knots.

Weft Yarns
Use good quality 100% wool yarn if possible in a DK or Sport weight. I tend not to use heavy rug wools for the backing, because in Finland, the Rya was designed to be used as a bed covering or to be hung on the wall. In my opinion, the finished rug should feel soft and comfortable, not hard like a floor rug.
I also use a lighter weight of cotton or linen yarn to weave the rows of spacing where the rya knots will be tied. The rya knots do not get tied around this weft thread – but only around the warp threads. This yarn is used as a space maker, of where to tie the knots.
When you weave the rya on a floor loom, this spacer thread is not used. Rather, the knots are tied directly to the warp ends as you weave the rows.
Weave 4-6 shots of wool yarn, alternating with 2 shots of linen such as linen singles, 12/2 linen or cotton (8/2) yarn.
The spacing between the rya knot rows should be about 1/2 inch.
This will create a rya cloth that has a grid of 4 knots across per inch
by 2 rows in height per inch.
Carry the weft yarns up the side of the weaving as you change shots. These won’t show up too much once you have stitched the rya knots.
Sometimes I weave only 4 shots of wool yarn alternating with the 2 shots of linen/cotton if I am designing a rug where I want the knots to be closer together and am using 2 or 3 strands of rya wool rather than 3 or 4 for the rya knots.

Finishing:
Cut the warp off the loom and knot the warp ends securely.

For information about how to stitch the rya knots to the backing please see:
How to Stitch a Rya Rug

Ikkuna Rya Rug
Ikkuna Rya Rug

Yarn Suppliers
In Canada:
Maurice Brassard carries a selection of linen and cotton rug warp, as well as 2 ply and 3 ply Briggs & Little wool yarns, which are lovely to use as Rya pile.
In US:
Camilla Valley ahs a good selection of Linen yarns. I generally use the 4/12 Belgian Linen.
In UK:
George Weil has both cotton and linen warp yarns as well as DK weight natural wools from West Yorkshire Spinners.
In Finland:
Iltamaa

More about How to Make a Rya Rug
How to Stitch a Rya Rug
Rya Rug Yarn Calculations

Rya Rugs
History of the Rya Rug
Finnish Rya Rugs
Rya Rug Repair
Hemp Rya Tapestry
Rya Rug Video

How to Tie a Rya Rug Knot

Rya Rug Tapestry Books

Hand-made C.U.M. Rya Rugs
Techniques of Rya Knotting
Hooked rugs & ryas;: Designing patterns and applying techniques
Handgenoopte C.U.M. Rya Tapijten
Rya Rugs – Design and Make Your Own by Melinda Byrd Byrdcall Studio

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Author: Paivi Suomi

I've had an interest in weaving, looms, yarns and textiles since I was a small child. I learned to knit, crochet, sew, do needlepoint at my mother's knee. My grandmother was a Saami from northern Norway. I am very interested in studying more about tradtional Saami and Finnish style weaving and handicrafts. Paivi Suomi