The Developmental Tale of a Rya Design by A “New” Designer


Elizabeth Terzakis with her father, John, on an extended vacation in Sweden this past summer during which time he knotted this rya rug.

Elizabeth Terzakis likes to keep her rya rug-making father happy. He is happiest when knotting a rya. Elizabeth lives on the west coast; her parents live on the east coast. John made a few ryas and fell in love with the knotting. Elizabeth loves the end-product, so now she supplies him with designs and supplies, and he spends many happy weeks working away.

I frustrated Elizabeth a year or so ago when she wanted me to design a rya for John, and although I can design with the best of them, I turned her down since my priority was to finish writing my book. And I refused to do the calculations for how much yarn she would need. (You see, I’m not always nice.) But she was a good sport and agreed to try her hand at designing her own and making her own calculations. Check out this blogpost of their collaborative project this spring.  She was my guinea pig at trying out the charts and worksheets which are in the soon-to-be-printed book.  

Here is her second design as it progressed through the necessary stages.  She was kind enough to share the commentary in her own words: 

“A friend of mine’s parents were moving into a new home on a lake, and he wanted to give them a housewarming present. I thought a rya rug would make a great gift, asked for a shot of the lake, and was presented with the photo below.

“Since it had been some time since I had done any drawing, I warmed up by doing a free-hand pencil sketch of the photo, scaled to match the proportions of the Rya-rug-to-be.

“For additional warm-up, I made a color drawing of the scene with pastels.

Because I know that rya rugs tend to work better when they are more abstract and that the recipient of the rug wanted something in blues, greens, and yellows, I simplified the design and adjusted the palette.

“I then blocked out the rya backing with black yarn and drew the design onto it with chalk, following a black and white version of the colored pattern shown above. My father and friend had rejected my earlier rendition of the tree, saying that it looked like “a giant and malevolent spider,” so I replaced it with a softer version (one has to compromise, sometimes, in a collaborative project).

“Next I retraced the pattern with a black Sharpie and chose my yarns.

“Many knots later, we had the finished project.”

Everyone creates their own path when designing ryas. Every now and then I like to feature a creative process–especially when it has been photo-documented so well. Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth.  I’m sure your friend’s parents love it. Readers, kindly share your comments below. Comments might not show up immediately, so be patient. Cheers!

~ Melinda

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