Long before recycling was “invented” the cold winter evenings were often spent cutting up clean garments no longer in use. They would be cut up into strips of different colours, these made ready to form a pattern. A great deal of thought went into rag rug. Mum or dad would set to and create a bright oblong rug, the back of this rug was Jute or Hessian (sack cloth). Most people’s homes had rag rugs and it was a bit of a competition to see who had the best one, so it was a serious matter! The rug was placed was placed in front of the fire and always made the hearth look more inviting. It was the fire mostly that attracted visitors, but the rugs still got a mention.
We still like to add a bit of individuality to our homes and what better way than to create your own version of the timeless classic, the rag rug (or peg rug as it’s also known). There are lots of kits available or you could be even more inventive and design your very own rag rug instead.
Rug making has been around for centuries. More than a craft, sometimes a necessity or an opportunity to generate income by selling them. Rag rugs were especially popular in the mid– twentieth century as a decoration. As early as the 18th century they were composed as a fundamental part of recycling. Materials were torn into strips, woven or crocheted, then attached to old sacking.
There is no single method to rag rug making, one may weave, crochet, braid or hand knot the material. Sizes can be a large as a hearth rug, or as small as a doll house. Those who prefer making a rag rug of their own can do so fairly simply.
To create a feathery bedside rug, use a nonslip rug mat for the base. The small holes make this a time consuming process. Generally these are 30 inches by 42 inches. It will require short strips of fabric 5 inches by 1 inch wide. Beginning at one end, stuff the fabric strips into one hole then under the next line and into another hole. After you weave through the two holes, tie a knot. You may have to skip a hole here and there to keep the finish even.
Construct a braided rag rug with king sized sheets. Cut or tear 1 inch strips lengthwise, snip off loose threads. Sew one end of 3 strips together at a time. When all are ready, use a sturdy piece of cardboard with 2 inch slices, one–half inch apart to hold each of the strips. Anchor that end to a sturdy item. Braid snugly, not too tight. When making the rug, coil the braided strips on a base, another old sheet or whatever fits, 23 inches by 17 inches square. Pin where necessary to hold it in place. Sew the braids with a zigzag stitch until all are joined. Trim off the edge of material. Use one last braid around the outside as a finish.
Handmade rag rugs are time consuming, and work. The reward of accomplishment and the art of producing something by yourself is well worth the effort and time.
Here’s a fantastic video from the US, which shows you how to make these rag rugs the traditional and right way!