The Great Bathing Suit Project

Weaving with found objects is taken to a whole other level …

I always enjoy using found objects and quirky additions to my cloth weaving or basketry. The most recent example of this was …


I am one of the members of a Water Aerobics class during my winter life in Alabama.

There is a lot of endorphen-fueled, light-hearted camaradery, and lots of fun, laughter, and chit chat before, during and after class.

My friend Marsha Demuth, who is so generous with everyone and so very fond of her bathing suit collection, was chatting with me about how she wanted a rug in her laundry room.

I offered to make her a rag rug out of discarded bathing suits. My grandmother who was a weaver had used nylon stolkings in her rugs and I have used a variety of knits, like tee shirts, etc., so with my boundless optimism, I thought, “No Problem”.

Marsha often purchases her bathing suits in thrift stores, so this project used recycled and reused materials. As she says, “due to my overly frugal nature many of the suits used were purchased at thrift stores and therefore the weaving of the rug gave suits a third opportunity to give visual pleasure.”

People donated a great many bathing suits to the project. Perfect strangers would press bags of stretched out, somewhat faded offerings into my hand. I accepted all as I really had no idea how far each bathing suit would weave up.

Marsha and I conferred many times about what colour string to use for the warp as that is what sets the colour tone for the finished project, but there was no doubt in my mind that we would eventually choose the “Parakeet” turquoise 4/8 cotton. It was a very colourful option.

As a travelling weaver, I have to set up my warping board and loom wherever I can.

We cut the suits into strips.

I tied each of the 432 warp threads to a thread of a previous project, as both projects were to be 36 inches wide. This saves a bit of time and when the previous warp has been perfectly threaded, I love to use the previous warp this way.

Each bathing suit actually went further than I thought it would, and I settled on a striped format, varying the stripes with regards to colour density and available yardage of each section.

It was a pleasure to knot the fringes in the sunshine on my veranda. Rugs involve a lot of prep and finishing time, and I love the opportunity to do this outside.

Getting the length right is always a worry as rugs seem to pull in about 10 percent after they have been woven. Making sure the stretchy cloth did not pull in the sides too much was also a concern.

At one point Marsha and I had actually thought of weaving the rug in a sort of bathing suit shape by pulling it in where the “waist” would be. You can see there were many design concepts to discuss beforehand!

Of course, I changed modus operandi many times. I ripped out several sections. I started to worry, as I always do, just exactly how this project would turn out, especially when I learned Marsha had set up a Reveal Party celebration, when we would stretch out the rug in its rightful place. She didn’t want to see it beforehand and an amazing number of people accepted her invitation to a party that would begin, post aerobics class at 8.30 a.m.

All went well. There are a few things I would have done differently of course, but I was pleased with the result.

People enjoyed finding their old suit in the mix and the laundry room now has a definite sunny, poolside vibe, which is a celebration of our friendship, sharing, and the time we spend together.