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Rug finishing FAQ

Rug Finishing FAQs

How do I finish my rug?

Ultimately, you need to seal your work so that the threads do not become loose and fall out. There are a number of ways you can do this, the most popular being PVA glue, liquid latex, or carpet adhesive. There is some debate about whether PVA glue and liquid latex will damage certain forms of yarn, and some have personal preference for their finishing agent. At the end of the day, my advice would be to start small and simple with what you can afford and have access to (usually PVA glue is good for beginners) and then if/when it becomes economical, make the investment in commercial grade carpet adhesive.

There is also some debate about which glue to use depending on whether you are making a wall piece versus a floor piece (a more traditional rug). Carpet adhesive/glue is the most effective for floor pieces; however, it tends to be more expensive than other glue alternatives.

Here is a comprehensive guide to finishing your rug by the wonderful Tim Eads:

What glues/adhesives/sealers can I use to finish the back of my piece?

The answer to this question starts just above in the previous point, but to cut a long-ish story short: the most materials used for finishing a piece is carpet adhesive, PVA glues, PVC glues, and liquid latex. At this stage, non-commercial tufters tend to most often use Latex based glues for their work.

Which glue should I use depending on what type of piece I am making?

Please be mindful that there is no single answer as everyone's work is different, with different intentions for their piece, and as a very new art form, there is no concrete answer to what the 100% perfect glue is. A lot of this will require trial and error and testing. With this in mind, anything that has an adhesive agent will work (within reason).

Limited flexibility pieces- wall hangings, tapestries, etc: If you are working on a piece that is not going to need much manipulation or flexibility then PVA glue varieties work well. Unlike other adhesives, PVA has limited durability and would not have staying power if your piece were to find its home on the ground. This is also true of bath mats where the adhesive would be unlikely to withhold repeated moisture.

High flexibility pieces- Clothing, bags, etc: For a piece that needs a lot of flexibility inherently, you should be aiming to use an adhesive that is similarly flexible. Liquid form latex, or an adhesive that has a majority latex compound would be most suitable.

Highest durability pieces- floor pieces, rugs, mats, etc: Anything that is being used on the ground, or is likely to experience a lot of traffic needs to be sealed with a durable and strong adhesive. Some forms of latex are also designed for durability that would work equally well.

Gluing the back of your rug:

How do I cover the glue on the back of my rug once it's dried?

Some people prefer to cover the back of their glued piece once it is inished. This may be an aesthetic discussion or to protect the rug if it is being used as a floor piece. One of the more common means of covering the back of your piece is felt. You can use crafting felt for this; however, the suitability of this fabric will be dependent on where your piece will be placed/used. A polyester felt is ideal for this.

You can also use canvas, muslin, linen, etc. As long as you are considering how your piece will be used and where it will be placed, it doesn't really matter what you pick. A woven fabric that is thinner in general is usually best as it will be more forgiving of the variations on the back of your piece; some of the thicker fabrics may not be as flexible and will therefore show lumps and bumps more clearly.

Applying the secondary backing and tape:

How do I trim/cut/shave/carve/sculpt my piece?

Some people create dimension, layers, and variance in their work by cutting back yarn or shaving at different angles. This may be done with shears, shavers, or scissors for larger sections, as well as tweezers for finer details. Sheep shearers are often used to do rough cut backs, usually to the back of the piece as they are less precise. However, they are not ideal for carving out dimension into your design.

Scissors are the simplest and easiest option. You can manipulate the angle of your cuts and control exactly where you are cutting. Of course, this will be much slower than other options, but definitely the best place to start.

Hair cutting shears are another option; however, be mindful that they are not designed to cut through yarn, and so the speed is slower than ideal and may catch depending on what yarn you have used in your piece.

Carpet carvers are the ultimate device for carving dimensional angles and clean lines into your work. They are, however, the most expensive option available, so be mindful of this when you are making your decision to invest.

Many will completely cut back longer pieces of yarn before finishing their work so that finishing is cleaner and easier. Be mindful that it is much easier to trim your pieces while they are still on your frame. Depending on what changes you are wanting to make, be sure you have made up your mind before sealing your piece as it will be difficult to completely remove yarn once your piece is sealed and dried. Conversely, shaving back your work may be easier after glued and dried.

How can I hang my masterpiece?

There are a number of different options here that will depend on how large/heavy your piece is and what aesthetic you are looking for. You can mount a finished piece on a wooden frame, which will allow you to hand it as you would any frame. Alternatively, some will sew hooks into their backing fabric, or make a loop with their backing fabric at the top of the piece to then file through a piece of wood to then hang like a tapestry.

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