Finishing the Power-Tufted Rug

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop on power rug-tufting and I wrote a detailed post on the event. But…I didn’t get to the finish line on this project in that post. Now I have done so and I’ll describe the last steps in completing the rug and show you the “masterpiece” as it now begins its life as a rug fully participating in rug life.

After that build-up I am sure you expect drama. Thankfully for me, there was none. Finishing the rug was easy and pretty quick.

When I came back from the workshop the rug looked like this, on its right (tufted) side. I had trimmed the yarn ends from the wrong side at the workshop before I took it off the frame. Here you see the rug on the backing fabric so you can have an idea of how it looked as it came off the frame.

I trimmed the right side of the rug at home. Then I was ready to glue the back.

If you don’t glue the back, the tufts can just pull out. The tension of being crammed together is not enough, long-term, to keep a rug together.

I viewed a video made by Tim Eads, the instructor, on how to do this glue step. In the ideal world, you would be doing this while the rug was still on the frame and held taut. But, I found it to be no problem doing the process with it spread out flat on a table.

First I steam ironed the rug from the right side (protected by a cloth and using only light pressure). This helped the rug stay flat.

Then I flipped it so that the back side faced me.

Then…I pulled out a specially purchased bottle of Elmer’s Glue. After some guesstimating I chose a 16-oz size. According to the video, yes, this product is perfectly fine for rugs that will be wall hangings or otherwise lightly used. Different glues are recommended for tufted clothing (??!!) or for rugs that will receive heavy wear.

Well, then I poured some glue into a bowl, swished a brush through it, and started lathering it on. In the video it was applied pretty thickly, so that is what I did, even though I felt queasy about applying glue all over the fibers.

Here is a comparison of the back fibers before and after glue:

Ick, is what I said, so it’s ok if you say the same! The next morning the glue had dried and was clear. I prodded the rug and decided more glue was needed in quite a few places, so I put on another coat. Yes, I used up that whole big 16 oz bottle and it was needed, believe me.

The next day, I was happy with the adhesion. I tried pulling out a tuft here and there and could not do it, so I felt things were secure.

I did not like the crunchy hard feeling of the back, now, though. Well, no matter. The glue was just doing its job. The next steps were:

  • trim the orignal backing cloth and fold it under
  • cut and sew by hand a cloth to cover the raw back of the rug.

I chose a light cotton fabric for the covering cloth. In retrospect I would have used a heavier fabric, maybe a light canvas. But it didn’t really matter since the rug is not going to receive hard use. I did not take a photo of the backing, but the result is similar to what I did for my punch needle tiny rugs:

Now the rug is finished. Here it is in its natural habitat on the floor:

I’m pleasantly surprised by the results. My only dislike was the crunchy sound the rug made as I walked on it, due to the glue…but, a few minutes of treading on it and that broke down the glue enough so that the rug was quiet. In no way did it feel lumpy or stiff even before I did this, so now…I think the rug is just right. It’s soft and cushiony on the feet and quiet too.

The cat likes it – he’s already tried it out for a short rest.

I don’t know what I will do with this rug, but…I’m enjoying it just to look at and to wiggle my toes in, for right now. I would like to try another project like this one sometime, that is for sure.

20 thoughts on “Finishing the Power-Tufted Rug

  1. Diane

    This is wonderful and I can see the Gees Bend influence (I think that was this project, or maybe another?) In either case, I see it here. I wish I were better at fiber arts. I love them but they don’t love me.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Gees Ben was a painting project a few weeks back in the class, but you are right, it’s been on my mind since, although not so much for this class the visual look but the free form approach, just doing what needed to be done to make it look good. I think you could do this technique with great success. Once you learn to use the tool (takes about 10 minutes) then it’s just practice and the system we had in class was set up for us to be successful. I am pleasantly surprised by this rug, and Martok loves it.

  2. Laura (PA Pict)

    Thank you for sharing the process with us. It is so completely alien to me that I really would have had no insight otherwise. I certainly would never have guessed that one would use Elmer’s Glue as the fixative. I like the finished rug a lot.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. The class members were surprised when the teacher told us about the Elmer’s Glue – we thought it would require some special product. Although I did learn from the videao that if you make tufted clothes (using a finer needle or whatever in the tool of course) you would need a flexible latex. I was still coping with the idea of making tufted clothes. Anyway, it all turned out better than I thought, I had some anxious moments with the glue and the temporary crunchiness.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I love that thought, foresty. I made it with no real ideas except to use the long lines that result from the way the tool works. Other people made more pictorial scenes, or a couple made squares of alternating colors, but I wanted to use all the colors I could and I really enjoyed the motion that went with making this pattern. I hope I can do the craft again.

  3. agnesashe

    That’s very interesting about the glue. I am not that surprised that the tension is not enough to hold the tufts in place as it always amazes me how hooked or prodded rugs don’t come to pieces.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I have noticed with my Barbie punch needle tiny rugs that the process seems to pack in the loops so tightly that they are held in place, but I also know that if you were to pull hard, you could unravel things (as you do when you make a mistake). Our teacher mentioned that the back could be glued for those rugs as well but it seems to me that unless you try to dissassemble them, those rugs have a good chance due to their structure. Power Tufting does not seem to allow the same density, it seems to me, and I am not sure why. I do know that it would be easy to pull out tufts and create a bald spot, and I think the wear on a rug of people walking could achieve this over time where I don’t feel the same about punch needle. I do know hooked rugs depend on the same tension idea and I have the idea that part of the skill in doing that is getting the loops very close together. Probably more than you wanted to know, but I bet next time you see one of any of these styles of rugs you will be looking at the back…like I will be from now on!

      1. agnesashe

        I think you’re spot on that it is all about tension. And, I know from my own hooked work, which I do pretty tight, that if you’re determined you can pull a long thread out. Actually, it’s something I have done a few times when trying to improve a design. It is all very annoying though has I find I am incredibly slow at this type of handwork. I don’t do it for sale these days. It is just a winter evening activity. I read your power tufting account with interest as it does seem a far more speedy affair.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          The power tufting is very fast, no question. And I think that once you get the hang of how the tool works (in that it must always be driving in a forward direction, there is no curving or going back and forth or quick changing of directions) you can set up your designs to make it work and create any shape you want as long as you plan for how to construct it. if what you want is a rug and fast. I think this is a good way. My teacher from the punch needle class said she uses the tool to create backgrounds for her rugs in which she then does handwork for the details (remember, the tool can also create a looped surface as well as tufted). That seems like a happy combination to concetnrate on details by hand and get the more boring or monolithic parts done quickly by machine.

        2. agnesashe

          Yes, I can see that a combination of both hand and machine would be an ideal process and allow bigger pieces to be made with handmade finished accents. I expect it works particularly well for wall hangings.

        3. Claudia McGill Post author

          Yes, in fact, it seems much of the instructor’s own business focuses on wall hangings rather than rugs. I would think there would be a good market for them, especially in businesses, because of their look and their sound dampening qualities.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I am actually kind of surprised. I really thought the class description was very rosy in saying we could finish a rug of this size in one 3 hour session. But it was true, it goes together very quickly, and it is not hard to learn. Like everything else, practice is needed for skill, but if you don’t look very closely, my rug works great! I was pleased.

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