Wednesday 26 November 2014

Rag rugging for beginners - with Jenni Stuart-Anderson

I've wanted to make a rag rug ever since I learned that my great grandma used to make them, while sitting in front of her fire. Like many people she couldn't afford to buy rugs, so she would keep her toesies warm by making rag rugs - for the lounge, bedroom and bathroom ... and all she used was some sack cloth, and some old duvets. Rag rugging is such an easy, pleasurable craft and anyone can do it. It's a rough and ready craft that doesn't require too much concentration so we can still keep one eye on our beloved Downton Abbey! 

How to make a rag rug

At my recent visit to the Alexandra knitting and stitching show, I took a 'rag-rugging' workshop (which is also known as 'progging') with the rag-rugging Jedi MASTER - Jenni Stuart Anderson and she very kindly said I could share it with my lovely readers. So grab ya bodgers (oh-err missus) and lets get progging! 

You will need ...

Rug hessian 
You can find this easily online or in your local craft shop. 
Just buy enough for the size rug you want to make.

Any old cotton duvets, dresses and shirts will do providing it doesn't disintegrate when cut.  Thin cloth will make a light, soft rug, thicker cloth with make a tough. warm, heavy one. Stretchy cotton IE old T-shirts also work well for rag rugging. You're going to need quite a bit of fabric so old clothes and charity shops are ideal for this. 

A rag rugging tool - this can be any of the following.
A progger -  that's the wooden thingy that looks like a peg in the piccy below.
A bodger tool - See pic above. It's is a tad more expensive but worth it, as it's much easier to use.
Tweezers - I've not tried this but many say it works just as well.

Optional needle and thread 
You can use a needle and thread to hem the edges as hessian frays easily 
OR I'll explain another technique later that requires no sewing whatsoever.

Tools for rag rugging

Step 1 - Choosing fabric, colour and design.

Choosing fabric - Whatever fabric you choose, just use that type of fabric - don't mix cotton with wool etc  Tip - Using cotton sheets / duvets is quick and easy, because if you snip one end you can long tear strips, without the use of scissors. 

Choosing a design - If you'd like to create a design, simply mark it out onto your hessian in chalk first. 

Choosing colour  - When is comes to choosing colours, anything goes really. If you'd like it to compliment a particular room,  pick out some of the colours from that room, or find a picture / photograph that you like, colour-wise, and pick out all the colours. Tip: Don't be afraid of browns, greys, dark greens etc ... you might think them dull but amongst other colours they work well.  See how the dark green brings Jenni's rug to life below? 

Rag rug by Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Step 2 - Getting started

The hessian - Decide how big you want to make your rug and mark it out in chalk, then cut your hessian  4 / 5 inches bigger as we need to allow room for hemming / fraying.

Cutting your fabric - We need to cut our material into small pieces - an idea size is about 4cm (1.5") by 7.5cm (3"). If using cotton you can bypass cutting long strips by snipping the width you want in the fabric, then simply tear long strips, which can then be cut into 3" pieces. 

Cutting pieces for rag rugging

You can invest in a cutting gauge. Once you have your long strip you wind it around the cutting gauge and cut along the groove (see below) which will leave you with evenly cut 3" pieces. 
Tip - Cut strips a little wider if using thinner fabric.

Cutting gauge for rag rugging

Step 3 - Get progging!

Now comes the fun, easy bit.! Start progging along the outline of your design. To do this, you poke your bodger/tweezers into the hessian and out again 1cm along your drawn line like so ...

Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Open the jaws of the bodger (or tweezers) and grab the fabric by one corner and pull back through ...

Rag rugging with a bodger

 ... releasing it when both ends are sticking out like a bow. That's your first one!

Next, repeat the entire process by poking your bodger into the last hole you made (where half the bow stick up) and out again 1cm further along. Then do the same again until you have progged your way around the outline of your design. Once you've completed your outline start your next row - 1cm over parallel from the previous edge and gradually work your way inwards towards the center. Easy peasy! 

Rag rugging with bodger

Tips from Jenni

 Work on a table or on your knee, so you can hold it steady with one hand.
If the progging seems to dense and packed in, just leave a wider gap between the line.
Different fabrics react differently, if you're working with a thick fabric and you're finding it difficult to pull through, cut them a bit narrower. If they slip out when tugged gently cut them wider.

Rag rug by Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Finishing off

Hessian frays quite badly on a cut edge so once finished the rug will have to be hemmed. You can either do this by folding over the hem (which should be about 2") and sew it in place. Or you can turn the hem over (not under) before you start and simply prog right through both layers, which will ensure a nice, strong tidy edge.  Below is one of Jenni's masterpieces. If you'd like to see more of her wonderful work head over to her website here.

Rag rug by Jenni Stuart-Anderson

About Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Jenni Stuart-Anderson is a designer / maker using recycled and vintage textiles to make customised rugs, hangings and 3D pieces with contemporary designs. In 2003 Jenni also started weaving using British rare-breed fleece with recycled textiles. Jenni offers courses on the traditional rag rug techniques of Hooking, Progging (Prodding) and Plaiting (Braiding). These techniques are explained in her books RAG RUG MAKING and MORE RAG RUGS & Recycled Textile Projects (both Traplet Publications) obtainable from the author.

You can also attend a workshop with Jenni Stuart-Anderson at the Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching show. 1 hour workshops are £12.

JM x

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