A Brief History of Rag Rugging.
Before wall-to-wall carpets the working class families of Britain would’ve blocked out the cold from the floor using home-made rugs assembled from rags of cloth that were torn from old clothes, bedding, coats and household items. I like rag-rugging because it is a no-sew textile craft and Im not that proficient or patient at sewing!
Each year the whole family would get involved in making the new hearth rug, with children cutting up bits of cloth, parents prodding and poking the rags through the backing material. The old hearth rug would then be relegated to the kitchen and the kitchen rug in turn to the back door. The back door rag-rug would then become the cover for the potato clamp or the compost heap. Given the fact that rag rugs were a craft of poorer families and the rugs were so well used that nothing remained, the history of rag rugging isn’t as well documented as that of say embroidery – it was a craft of necessity, not something one would spend much time creating and publishing and documenting elaborate designs so the history of rag rugs is fairly intangible… few real life examples left and no written/drawn history.
Rag Rugging is said to have originated in West Yorkshire Mill Girls innovation born out of need – when they asked to take home the hessian sacks that the wool came into the mills in and were allowed to take home any of the scraps of wool fabric that were under nine inches long. The settlers later took the home craft to America but because the cloth of the US was cotton the rag rugs developed differently over the Atlantic – with long strips of cotton fabric from old dresses and household fabrics usually in pale and flowery patterns, braided then coiled into circles. images.
Materials and Tools for Rag Rugging – Nothing Special Needed!
Aside from a couple of black bags of old fabrics – fleeces, t-shirts, sweathirts, felts, being the best, the tools needed for rag-rugging are minimal. You can get away with a piece of hessian and a pencil for the clippy method and for hooky method of rag hugging you can use a crochet hook rather than buy a special rag-rugging tool. A piece of chalk to draw on a rough design and a needle and thread or bondaweb to turn over the edges at the end can also be useful but in its bare bones a piece of hessian and a pencil would make a rug. Scissors too of course for the cutting.
A Family Activity with Useful Results – Could Rag Rugging be right for your family?
There still exists a few older folk who remember helping their grandparents rag-rug and they always smile when they recall their memories of it so one can only assume it was a cosy family time together, the kind of time we have replaced with individual technology time. We still end up with old clothes though and we still use rugs if the contents of the shops is anything to go by so if you are interested in crafting and can hold a pencil then you should consider this easy yet fulfilling craft. To produce something useful and beautiful out of old cast-offs is pragmatic art at its best. I personally don’t like to spend time making things that aren’t both useful and earth-friendly so rag-rugging ticks my conscientious crafting box.
Learning How to Rag-Rug
Wild Harvest is producing two videos showing you how to do two different rag-rugging techniques; clippy and hooky. Clippy, also known as Proddy or Proggy, is a technique so called because it involves prodding short clips of fabric through a hessian backing piece. Hooky involves threading a long strip of fabric over and under the weave of the hessian, forming little balls on the topside of the hessian with ‘hooks’ of fabric. Each method is different to do and gives distinct differences in appearance, each method can be used alone or combined with the other method. Clippy is the type that is usually associated with rag-rugging and is the shag pile scruffy looking tufty rug style usually with more abstract patterns whereas hooky is finer and can give rise to quite detailed designs, some rag rugs are almost works of art to be hung on the walls as hooky can allow shading and details of design that is more like a painting. Watch the videos and try both methods to see which you prefer but remember you can use both methods in one rug!