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From Rags to Rich Rugs
with Jenni Stuart-Anderson
on 06 June 2017

Jenni was introduced to rag rug making by a blacksmith’s daughter and took up teaching it to others in 1986. She has written two books on the subject and produced a DVD which shows the methods that are involved.

The origins of the technique have been found as early as Egyptian times when examples of fleece being pulled through woven fabric were discovered. The rug making that we recognize today probably grew in the 1820s, at a time when the cost of material was reducing. Ordinary folk, as opposed to the rich, used their cast-off clothing to make the rugs. Since then, the methods used seem to have been revived, particularly in periods of historical depression such as the 1930s.

Jenni showed us the three ways that she produces rugs, notably hooking, progging (or prodding) and plaiting (or braiding), and the tools that she uses, some of which are resourced from as far afield as America (the speed shuttle).

Her original pieces were very traditional, such as a red diamond surrounded by dark fabric known as the “devil’s eye” which was positioned close to fire places to keep evil from entering the house. Today, she produces contemporary designs as well, such as one that certainly had the feel of a Rothko painting. She is very environmentally aware, using recycled and vintage textiles in her work.

One aspect of the making of rugs long ago was the fact that it was a social affair, with families completing different tasks to produce the end result, and communities sharing equipment, such as frames, to complete larger projects. What a lovely idea! Let us hope that this is a skill that does not die out.


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