Monday, 20 May 2013


Here is a selection of photos I have taken over the past 12 months - it is nearly 12 months - since I started it. This is an early view of the front. I worked the brown lines first and used them as guides for the other colours. I have used a speed shuttle as supplied by Jenni Stuart Anderson, and an excellent adjustable wooden frame -  an "Easifix frame" made by Christine and Eddie Birch of Farmhouse Frames (tel 01492 640881). (The canvas being in front of a window was helpful). The frame is brilliant - it allows you to see an exceptionally large area of canvas at one time and is also easy to dismantle and reassemble when you need to move the canvas along. I notice other ruggers whip their canvas to the sides of the frame as well. I haven't done that and I admit my rug is not a perfect oblong, but you know? Sometimes life is too short. Though "Life is too short" would be a disastrous motto for anyone addicted to rag-rug making...

The first corner, with tags. (I've got several of these photos up already, I'm just putting them all here in one place for convenience)

Here you can see how the pink and white printed cotton jersey fabric just doesn't really work out...

A detail of the finished rug before I had pulled out all the pink printed strips and the pale grey strips and replaced them. The picture below shows what the rug looked like after I had done that, which was tiresome, but I'm really glad I did it - otherwise the ship would have been spoiled for a ha'porth of tar. (The colour is a bit odd, this happens when I take photos with my phone in various lights)

This shows you what I have done on the back. After poking all ends to the front (using a bodger) and trimming the whole rug, I ironed fusible interfacing to the whole back surface. I trimmed the allowance round the edges of the canvas to roughly the same all round, 2-3 inches, and glued it down with Everbuild Stick2 Instant Spray Contact Adhesive All Purpose High Strength Bond. It is a very easy to apply spray. I considered latex but decided against it, on the grounds that our climate is essentially damp and latex backing does not breathe well. 
Then I pinned, basted and sewed strong petersham binding to a piece of canvas cut to size, a couple of inches shorter and wider than the finished rug size. That's the zigzag line you can see on this picture. I didn't bother to use co-ordinating yarn, I just used what was on my sewing machine. Then I glued this backing canvas piece to the back of my rug: first I rolled it into a sausage, then unrolled it gluing it down a few inches at a time, stamping it down with my knees as I went along. This was fun. 
Lastly I whipstitched the petersham binding to keep it all together. There are a few daggy bits of thread on the back and some of my basting thread won't come out because I didn't bother to pull out the basting thread before using the GLUE, soddit! This final bit of sewing hurt. It was tough on my hands, my fingers got very sore on the canvas and I was quite bad tempered with Dan when he asked if I was going to bed yet. 
Feeling very smug today so I have ironed one of my little labels to the back:

One handmade hooked rag rug. 
Size: 87x67cm. 
Materials: hessian canvas and recycled cotton textiles. 
I am WELL PLEASED. Now what do I do with it?

PS I have turned part of our top floor landing into my sewing area. This is the first time I've ever had a dedicated sewing space. For sewing to be enjoyable, it helps if there is a place you can retreat to for a few minutes at a time without worrying about tidying up and such.

Monday, 6 May 2013

I've done it! Well, apart from the backing and binding. I can't believe I've actually finished this enormous rug. Not enormous really of course - it is 122cm by 85 cm - but large by rag rug standards.
What have I learned from this project?
1. To persevere, doing a little at a time but very regularly. Otherwise it sits doing nothing for weeks and makes me feel guilty. The "little at a time" habit requires a dedicated work space which does not need to be cleared out of sight from day to day. I think I could have done this rug within 3 months if I had done a little every day.
2. To neaten as I go. At first I couldn't be bothered to tuck the strip ends towards the front at all because I was so enamoured of the wonderful power rush the speed shuttle gives me. This meant they dangled down over the canvas and annoyed me as I was working. So then I started tucking them back, though not all of them. So when I had finished the whole rug I had to go over it all again tucking all the threads to the front. Then I had to go over it all again snipping the ends level. Doing one job across a large rug is boring and physically something of a strain - I am getting a bit of pain in my right hand that doesn't respond well to repeated actions. Better to tidy up as you go along.
3. To decide early on that a particular colour isn't working, rather than carrying on using it thinking I might get used to it. When I had come to the end of the rug I realised that the light grey ribbed cotton jersey and the pink and white printed jersey didn't work and I had to go back and take all of it out.

So - I feel really proud of the rug but it's been a learning process too. What I haven't mentioned is that I just love the way it looks. This photo does not do it justice: in real life, it looks positively alive.

Wavy pink and orange and brown rag rug nearly finished!

The wavy pink/orange/brown rug is almost completely done. I can't understand why it's taken me this long - I just stopped working on it for a while I think. I certainly took a break from rag rugging when we got Merlin the magical cockapoo.
I am currently working to eliminate the pale grey and light stripy fabric strips which don't sit well with the other colours. This means pulling out about 100 strips and replacing them one by one. In this photo you can see several of the pale grey strips (from a ribbed top of mine) and pink and white printed jersey strips (from something donated). They don't work, they are too pale and the printed jersey is worst as it's hard to keep the printed side facing outwards. No more prints for me, not for my rugs anyway! I used some wigwam yarn here and there, as my colours started getting too samey.

I haven't actually used up all the canvas I marked out for this rug as I felt I was getting a bit bored, it was big enough for a decent hearthrug and anyway my stock of strips was starting to get a little low. (Hence the purchase of wigwam yarn.)
I still have a lot of the brown strips left however, as I used these sparingly to create the wavy section dividers.
My next plan in the rag rugging department is to make cushion covers, probably using linen and that amazing wigwam yarn which I used a bit on this rug.
And my other big project is to get back into dressmaking, inspired by my daughter Edith who was fired up by the Great British Sewing Bee programme to get me to teach her to sew. The trouble with sewing is it takes so much time to get everything out and set up and then put it all away again when you need the sitting room to look tidy, so I plan to turn the top landing into a functioning space again, a real sewing room.
I've bought an overlocker on Ebay!