Rag Rugs clip rugs made with a Twist
I don’t make very many or these rugs as they take a lot of time and effort, but when I do I make them a bit different.
Rag rugs or clip rugs are traditionally made using hessian sacking. Holes are poked in the sacking and strips of fabric are threaded through and tied to stop them coming out. These are the types of rugs you will see in museums, and although rarely made these days, there is still a call for them and they can be found on sites that sell handmade products. I like to do things a little differently though. Hessian is another name for jute, and as those who know me know, I like to crochet with jute twine. So instead of poking holes in a sack, I crochet a nice big rug base, complete with nice tidy holes. By doing this, I am able to produce round rugs (which is different in itself), and put a decorative edge around that you just don’t see on anyone else’s rag rug. The base is also much thicker and heavier than sacking, making it more durable and less floppy. It’s very warm work, having a rug on your knee, so I tend to only make them in wintertime.
One tradition I do like to follow is upcycling. It may be a new term, a modern buzzword, but our grandparents were masters of upcycling. Upcycling is when you take an item that is no longer wanted or has outlived its use, and turn it into something better. Rag rugs, also known as shag rugs, or clip rugs, are a perfect example of this, because the fabric used usually comes from clothes and soft furnishings that are no longer of use. The unwanted garments are cleaned thoroughly, damaged areas cut out, and the remainder cut into small strips ready for threading.
Making a rag rug is a job that takes many hours to do. I timed myself when I made my last one, and from starting to crochet the base to actually finishing the item, it took me around 35 hours of work. This did not include trips to the charity shops to find items in the colours my customer requested, and did not include any rest breaks. Of course, I didn’t work for 35 hours straight! My customer was buying the rug as a Christmas gift for her friend and ordered it a good few months in advance, so I was able to spread the work out over many weeks. If necessary though, I could probably do my standard sized rug within a couple of weeks, provided I am able to obtain the right fabric.
I love spotting rag rugs in museums. Below is some interesting information and quotes about home furnishings seen in the Hands on History Museum here in Hull, UK.
“Today nearly all our household furnishings – bedding, curtains and carpets – are bought ready-made. Before mass production in the 19th century, most clothes and furnishings were made at home. Few but the wealthy could afford carpets or many fabrics before the 1800s. Until such furnishings became cheaply available in the mid-20th-century people made their own. ….. Quilts and rugs were made from recycled old clothes. Nothing was wasted. ‘Rag’ or ‘clip’ rugs were made from strips of old cloth worked into a hessian backing.”
“…Mother made the floor covering out of old coats, and I used to cut the clips. They had to be just right and Dad made the pokers …. he’d sharpen the end and mother used to do the clip mats at night.”
“…(We had) lino, just lino but in front of the hearth was a clip rug.”