Eric Sloane

Dateline: 31 January 2014

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I recall buying an oval rag rug from an aged Connecticut farmwife. Tears came to her eyes as she contemplated the rug and its sale. “I started that center part, “she said, “when we first started farming; you can see the dyed flour sacks we used for curtains. Then farther on there’s some blue gingham—that’s from the first dress Bob bought me.... and even a bit of the baby’s pink crib cover!” The continuous cord of rag material, probably a quarter of a mile long, spelled out a large piece of her life, all made from rags such as most people throw away. She had saved a lot of memories. “I’ll come back another time,” I lied to her, “when I have the cash with me.” of course, I didn’t return.

—Eric Sloane, 
From, The Spirits of '76  (1976)


I asked my wife today if she ever made a rag rug and she said, "Yes, I used to do things like that when I was a kid. Now I just do laundry and try to keep the house clean."  

She actually does a lot more than that, but her life is, indeed, busy with all kinds of responsibilities these days. And there is little time to pursue crafts. 

Marlene says her mother (now 99 years old) told her there used to be a local woman who made rag rugs for people. They would take their rags to her and she would make them into a rug.

So the historical progression for rug making appears to be something like this:

1. People once made their own rugs using old rags (because they were frugal and didn't waste anything).

2. People got too busy to make their own rugs and took their rags to a local rug-making craftsperson.

3. The local rug-making craftsperson, couldn't make any money at rugs, or got too busy with other things, or something like that.

4. People now have so many clothes, they spend hours and hours trying to keep them clean and organized. Then they donate them to Goodwill or throw them out. And they buy machine-made rugs from China.

Have you ever made a rag rug?


Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

My mother has made tons of rag rugs. I really need to get her to teach me.

magnoliasntea said...

I'm a long-time lurker - out in the daylight to say I do make rag rugs. I tried braiding them, but it's a pain so I crochet them like the model in the photo. I do lots of things other people think are not interesting. Of course, you do too, that's why I read your blog.
Have a great weekend.

Gail said...

Yes, hours were spent tearing or cutting old clothing into strips and sewing them together. There was always a basket of strings to work.

I have made them from blue jean strips and the ones that have lasted forever are the polyester rugs. I still have two.

I used a hook made from a clothes hanger. Granny used a hook carved from an old toothbrush.

Raised by Depression Era parents there is not much we waste. There is always a purpose for something.

My wedding quilts were made from old clothes and they still hang together forty plus years later.

I hope be conservative with things is not a lost art.

Herrick Kimball said...

Well, It's good to know that there are still some people making rag rugs. I went to YouTube last night after posting this and found all sorts of rag rug makers.

I was watching "Phyllis demonstrates making a rug" (a toothbrush rug) and Marlene informed me that she had bought some sort of rag rug starter kit from Phyllis many years ago.

I like the rag rugs Phyllis makes, and that she has created a small business teaching others. The only problem is that she apparently uses new fabric, not rags, to make her rugs.

Check it out .

Glenda said...

I enjoy making rugs. I've not posted much about it though I should. I have crocheted rugs and made rugs using a peg loom my husband made me, with rags. I have a frame loom I use too, again made by my huaband. I have recently cut jeans into strips to make a durable rug for my back door-it will soon be mud season here! My husband's Great-Grandmother was still alive when we got married in 1981. She was from Czechoslovakia and did not speak much English. People would give her bags and bags of clothes which she tore up and braided into rugs, hot mats, and chair pads. Everyone in the family still has many of these items years later. Mine are quite worn since we use them, but still very useful! I have often wished I spent more time with her while she was still here...and Grandma too! Oh the knowledge that could have been gleaned! They were farmers in Binghamton, NY and worked hard! This post inspires me to post about the Grandmas and their legacy! Really enjoy your blog!

foutfolk said...

Surprisingly, yes, I have. And I have also made braided rugs. And twisted paper woven baskets. This I do with the art students at school because paper is cheaper to work with than fabric.