Monday, 12 December 2011

Colour thoughts

I am not naturally good at choosing colour so I have to work a bit above my pay grade with this rag rug thing.
After some reflection I've decided to keep green out of Daddy's rug and stick to blues, greys and a bit of black and a hint of purple. I want a fairly sombre effect as I think that's what he'd prefer. The purple will truly only be a hint as I only have a small pair of kid's jeans and a teeshirt in purple to use, so necessity must be the mother of invention.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Proddy rug for my father

My father is 91 and a Yorkshireman. The first time I saw rag rugs, I was with my parents, having tea in a stone cottage on the Yorkshire moors. We were guests of Bob and Elsie Merrington, a Dales gamekeeper and his wife with whom my father had become friends. The flagstone floors in their cottage were partly covered with rugs which, Elsie explained a little shyly, she had made on winter evenings. "There's Bob's old corduroy breeches there" she said, pointing to a dark mustard strip in one rug.
My mother, always a craft-fiend, was enchanted, but she was already well set on her own complex and profound needlepoint journey, a voyage of discovery and skill which eventually led to an entire medieval Norfolk church being almost entirely covered in needlepoint and cross-stitch of considerably better taste than most; so she never got into rag rugs.
But I belong to the generation in love with recycling - this, I am sure, why the concept of rag rugs has gripped me. (I'm aware that I've inherited my mother's aversion to any attempt at realist representation - we can't help feeling that "if you need to paint, use paint.")

My parents are very old. I have started a simple proddy rug for my father in blues and greys which will in time be joined by a hooked rug for my mother, probably in earth tones. Both small bedside cotton rugs, to be done as efficiently and quickly as possible.

I was going to use purple notes in my father's rug but on reflection greens will be more appropriate - if he can be said to have a favourite colour it is surely green.

So far, I've done the blue and grey tones.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Finished Edith's rug!

A very exciting moment as I finished the hooking part of Edith's little rug. She says it looks like:
- A river of blood
- Muscle with the skin flayed
- Coral

Personally I am pleased with it and I do not think this photo really does it justice, but now I look at it from a distance I see that it is wider at one side than the other. DAMN!
I over estimated the quantity of rags needed and have a small bagful of pieces left over.
Taking the leftovers into account, this very small (81x51cm which is 32 x 20 inches in old money) rug used up:
Nearly all a tweed mini skirt
Most of a pink wool jacket - a fair bit left over
Almost a whole small (child size?) light pink tweed coat. This light pink tweed is a lovely texture but in this photo looks like white lines.
A hank of unspun, dyed wool
A bit of knitting yarn which I hooked 3 pieces at a time - still nearly a whole ball of it left
About 2/3 of an orange knit sweater - this caused me a lot of trouble, it was too fat to pull through the hessian holes and also looks set to fray like nobody's business
Nearly all of an orange, fine woven scarf - rather slippy and a bit too fine, I hooked two strips at a time
Some of a red wool coat.
The next job is to trim the back, and find some binding to use when glueing a backing piece to it.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Nearly there!

Am a bit worried about that wobbly edge on the unworked part - perhaps it will straighten out once it's been worked up.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Instructions for care and operation of Rigby Cloth Stripping Machine

Jenni Stuart Anderson and Mr Rigby

Jenni has sent me advice on using my Rigby cutter:

Clamp it to a table edge screwing the red screw on the left of your pic. Requires a relatively thin table.
The rotating silver metal clamp thingy should be screwed down only enough to press the fabric against the circular cutter blades underneath it so wait before you screw it down (red screw on right of pic).
You need to align the red metal fabric guide with the edge of the blade so that, when you feed fabric (I like machine knits best, or blankets) against it, turning the handle (on your right) will pull the fabric across the blades and you strip(s) come out the side facing away from you. That's aligned by loosening off the screw underneath, getting guide parallel with edge so it guides fabric straight at the cutters.
If you screw the clamp down too hard it will wear the blades out quickly so do a test run to screw it down just enough to press the fabric against the rotating blades.
I work with sections of a jumper up to about 8" wide so it's not unmanageable. It can be any length.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

My Mr Rigby

Just looking at my Rigby cutter makes me feel as though I have suddenly slipped back an uncountable number of is like those awful dreams where you are - as you always have been in dreams - about 23, then as you wake you think, "No! I'm thirty-something, aren't I? No! forty-two... Oh, hang on..."


OMG. My poor credit card.

I couldn't go on any more using the embroidery frame I bought. The frame can't hold the bulky worked rug and it's very hard work hooking without a frame.

So I called up a lovely lady in Nottinghamshire called Cilla Cameron and within 5 minutes she had talked me into purchasing this octagonal lap frame. I don't even what to write the price down here. It should be here on Monday.

Cilla was very understanding and agreed with me that once you've started making rag rugs from recycled textiles you are bitten. It's absolutely consuming. It was like talking to a kindred spirit.

And I still don't even have the big frame I will need if I am ever to use my speed shuttle...but Christmas is coming soon.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

15 Nov 2011

More progress

Last night I began that area in the middle. I'm getting anxious about making my colours spread evenly across the I sorted them all into roughly equal sized piles and stored the different bundles in ten carrier bags. None of this helps my sitting room to look any more elegant.

This rug Now involves eight different elements: six "rags" (i.e. recycled textiles) and two yarns - an unspun dyed merino wool and a commercial slub knitting yarn which I realised provided a bit of no-fuss variety where needed.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Edith's rug day 3 progress report

I did a lot of stripping yesterday and divided the strips roughly between 10 bags. I have no reserves of the russet knit, bright tweed, orange scarf or dyed wool - just the three coats left really.
Each strip works a line approximately one fifth to one quarter of the strip's original length.
I removed the ugly dayglo orange and replaced it with the russet and the clearer orange scarf.
I am having trouble with the frame I am using. The clips are feeble, and won't accommodate the bulky worked areas.
I've emailed Jenni for thoughts on this problem.
Hooking without a frame is very cumbersome, though.

Edith's rug: day 3

Here are the 5 rags plus 1 yarn I am using. in addition, not shown here, is a good quality tomato red woollen coat which Aggie never liked.
Reading from left to right:
1. pink tweedy coat, EBay
2. Russet knit sweater, EBay
3. Fuchsia coat, EBay
4. Orange scarf, EBay - good colour but I am a little worried about the yarn, may be too fragile. I am doubling it up.
5. Alberto Ferretti skirt of Edith's
6. Dyed unspun wool, EBay
Total cost of specially purchased items: £28.85
Hessian: £3.50
Tools: reusable
Total cost of materials: 32.35

Friday, 11 November 2011

Edith's rug, second day

My plan is to use the red rays as guidelines, filling in the gaps inbetween with a hearty variety of pinks and oranges.
I don't like the dayglo orange. But here's the thing: the joy of rag rugs - this type, at any rate - is that if you don't like a colour after you have started using it, you just pull it out and put in a different one. Fortunately I acquired a nice sludgy autumnal orange and a very clear orange - both woollen cloth - which more than amply replace the dayglo orange (taken from a cheap sweater).
This rug is already acquiring a very organic feel to it, despite the fact that the fabrics used for it are from not particularly organic sources such as Marks and Spencer, Next, Primark and Alberto Ferreti (Edith's favourite that she is coming out of her illness, thankfully it does not fit her any more so we can say GOODBYE to it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sourcing materials

Buying the tools was the easy bit. Now I am having quite a job sourcing materials to turn into rag rugs.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who has any ideas for sources...or even who feels like donating a few bits and pieces themselves.
I have raided everybody's cupboards. I think there are a few suits still left in my DH's wardrobe which he's hoarding away from me, even though he never wears them. While I'm working out my cunning plan to release these suits from captivity and rip them to shreds I have to face the fact that I must go elsewhere for my stuff.

So far I have...
  • Put messages on local Freecycle lists. Result: about four nice replies, mostly people who say they will bear me in mind when bagging up charity-shop items in future. And one who said, yes, come and get my bag of stuff ASAP!
  • Sent messages round to friends and various groups I am a member of: for example, the West and North West London Doula UK branch. Results: very promising. Lovely doulas are always keen on any kind of recycling activity and several emailed me straight back.
  • Left messages on Facebook and Twitter. Results: nothing so far.
  • Explored dumps and recycling depots. Results: disappointing. The guys at the local dump (ever noticed that the blokes who work in dumps are always so nice?) told me, regretfully, that they are absolutely NOT allowed to let me root around in their big textile bin. They have to lock it up every night. "The Poles come and raid it otherwise." ( can they tell if they are Polish just from CCTV footage?) There is a big textile recycling depot tantalisingly near me and they aren't answering their emails.
  • Checked out the times and days of regular car boot sales near me. Crikey, I had no idea there were so many! Hounslow on Saturday mornings; Chiswick Community College and Hammersmith Grove on Sunday mornings. Many, many more. I am looking forward to my first car boot sale.
  • Bought stuff on Ebay. Ridiculous! I am paying postage for everything! And the first thing that arrived was a Wallis jacket which I liked so much I decided to wear it instead. Well, it was only £3.99...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

PRODDY small project 2: sunflower bag

I bought 4 of these plain hessian bags from Jenni to decorate and possibly give as gifts. This is my first effort. It is a little lopsided but not so's you'd notice. Not sure I want to work much on these bags; I hadn't realised that the hessian is backed with plastic which makes pushing the proddy through even harder work than it is normally.
I've put this bag on for sale. seems to be an enormous site populated by craftspersons far more clever than me so I may have just lost the twenty cents (US $) insertion fee on this; I can't imagine anyone ever finding my little bag among the mountains of stuff there, most of which is in the USA anyway.
For this flower I used scraps donated to me by who lives round the corner.
My hands hurt, especially the ball of my right thumb. That bodger is a bugger.
Today I collected another bag of discarded clothing, nearly all bright cottons, from a kind neighbour who saw my plea for unwanted textiles on
Thanks Cheryl!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Edith's rug

My first hooked rug is for Edith. She wants it in red, pinks and oranges. She also wanted some purple but I've vetoed that. I think it will be quite garish enough.
I started by hammering a nail into the carpet in the living room, tying a piece of twine to it and using this as a "compass" to draw radiating lines across the canvas which was spread out a few inches away.
Then with my rotary cutter, ruler and self-healing board ("You aren't making scratches in our table, are you?" says husband) I cut lots of strips from a red wool coat of Aggie's which she never liked. Using a round 25cm embroidery frame I hooked a ray pattern in red and plan to fill it in with pinks and oranges.
Starting my first hooked rug
Jenni's advice is to NOT mix fabric types (wool/cotton) when doing a floor rug. As I only plan to do floor rugs I'm taking this advice to heart.

EQUIPMENT: I am now a hooker and a stripper

It's just over a week since I went on Jenni Stuart Anderson's rag rug course and I have so far purchased:
Speed shuttle (useless until I have a large frame..have requested one for Christmas)
book by Jenni
rotary cutter
non-slip rule
self-healing mat
Rigby stripper I found second hand on Ebay - what a find!
2 different embroidery frames
Hessian  5m
Hessian bags for making into Xmas presents
bargain coats, sweaters on Ebay (must stop doing this)
Aluminium ruler

I have also located several weekend car boot sales locally and a textile sorting facility at Park Royal - who haven't answered my emails yet, blast them.

The nicest thing is that I sent out an email to the Doula UK sorority appealing for old clothes to turn into rag rugs. Got lots of emails back. Everyone loves the idea.

Jenni Stuart Anderson's rag rug course

Over the summer I became a bit disheartened with my toothbrush rug. It is a slow business and creates a lot of dust. I signed up for a rag rug course with Jenni Stuart Anderson at Hackney City Farm. Ten of us sat in a barn made of straw bales and learned how to prod and hook. I found an inexplicable enthusiasm welling up inside me and it is no exaggeration to say that ever since I have been unable to think of ANYTHING EXCEPT RAG RUGS. Strongly suspect some kind of displacement activity going on here...linked to worries about kids, money, my NCT diploma, depression, menopause, money again...
At the course we were each given a piece of hessian and I decided to make a round cushion cover. I now have to turn it into a cushion which is the boring part.
My hands hurt. Having sliced off the tops of 2 fingers hasn't helped.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Am I doing it all wrong?

I just got a little booklet on how to make "toothbrush rugs" from a website in Colorado or somewhere and I seem to have been doing it all wrong.
This expert ("Aunt Philly") makes her rugs with two strips of rag simultaneously. I only use one strip, knotting it into the loops made in the previous row as I go along.
I am not bothered. Rug-making, to be correctly named, should result in a rug. My method does result in a rug, so presumably it is still rug-making.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Second rug project started

While staying at my parents' over the weekend I was able to make a start on my second project. I'm going to be a bit more organised this time.

The overall colour is indigo blue - I'm planning to use mainly old denim jeans - with bits of green-based checks allowed in. Each time I knot in a new rag I put a similar length in the same fabric in a "return" bag - these will be used at the end of the rug so that the pattern remains symmetrical, or pretty nearly so. That way if I pick up new sources I can still make it look more or less planned.
The width is 70cm. Note for the future; do the first row of knots quite loosely. I've packed these in too tight and immediately got into tension problems. Actually the start of this rug was rubbish though the colours are good.
I aim to get to about 150-180 cm.
I'd like to give this rug to one of my children.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Done my first rug!

It's true that I started it last summer but I have not been working on it every evening since then. And it is not very big - just big enough to make a small bathmat.
I used a large faded green tablecloth and some old pink Laura Ashley material that had been purchased to make curtains about 30 years ago.
Pink and green - a bit 80s, I know.
But it's done, it's a slightly weird shape with a sort of waist in the middle where my tension control and edging went haywire. But it's done, and it's servicable, and I've still got lots of strips from these two items left over.
Which helps to give me an idea of what amount of fabric one needs.
Looking at this picture I have to admit it is a bloody odd shape.