Kelly Marshall’s Largest Rug Ever (So Far)

I was lucky to spend time at my friend Kelly Marshall’s studio lately, helping her install a new computer.  The challenges of computer and software migration PALE in comparison to Kelly’s latest challenge, a huge commissioned rug.  The whole process of bidding and creating the designs and executing the project reminded me of something that Helena Hernmarck said in a class a while back, “Just say yes.”  Meaning, say yes to challenges.  I believe that is very true.  And Kelly definitely says yes!  This is an article I wrote for THE DRAFT, the online newsletter of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.

Kelly Marshall’s Largest Rug Ever (So Far)

Kelly Marshall from Custom Woven Interiors is never one to shy from a challenge, nor are her dedicated staff members.  Kelly is finishing the second of two challenging commissions from the Margaret Cargill Foundation. For the first, she wove the foundation’s logo in the form of a large wall piece in her signature rep weave. For the second, the architect imagined a 25-foot-long rug, with a slightly ovoid shape, a cornerstone for chairs and a small couch. Kelly came up with a design and colors to suit the area, and beautifully presented her concept in a color sketch with yarn samples.  It was her largest rug to date.

The scale of the work was impressive from the start.  85 pounds of perle cotton was wound into a warp 108 feet long. The fat braids of warp looked like brilliant thick snakes. There were countless color changes in the 4,895 threads, which Neva Conway skillfully threaded through the heddles and reed.

During some gloomy Minnesota winter weeks, Neva wove three long strips to be sewn together for the rug.  Neva and Kelly sewed the panels together over about 22 hours, placing the sections along six-foot-long tables. One of the three sections, to accommodate the egg shape on one end of the rug, was woven longer than the other two.  The huge, almost-square rug, over 200 pounds, was bundled and wrapped to send to Bob’s Binding and Serging. It was Scotchguarded, and then Kelly and Neva arrived early the following day to mark the lines were the rug would be cut and serged. The employee who was managing Kelly’s project noted that they had never had a handwoven rug of that size in their shop before.


The rug was rolled out onto the floor for marking the final shape.  Neva and Kelly identified the center of the rug and marked it with a small gold pin.


Then the tape measure was used as a giant protractor to mark a circle for more than half of the rug.  Neva used a sophisticated digital protractor with a laser to stretch the circle where needed for the desired shape, but in the end, expert “eye-balling” was the determining factor.


After marking the right dimensions with chalk and string, Kelly committed with a black marker line.  (Marker on a handwoven! It seems scary.)


After binding, the rug will be delivered to the Cargill Foundation and installed.  Watch for photos!

Kelly Marshall will be a featured speaker in the upcoming series at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, as part of a panel presentation on “Connecting with the Customer: How to Create Commissioned Work.” (March 21) Kelly has produced amazing recent commissions.  Her experiences will be of great benefit to anyone considering taking on a commission.