Jenni Stuart-Anderson has written a sequel to her first book Rag Rug Making. More Rag Rugs is hot off the press this very week (it’s published today, in fact), and if you hurry you can get a signed copy just in time for Christmas.
Jenni really knows her rag rug techniques and was taught by one of the last-and-best traditional exponents of the craft of progging, a method of pulling small pieces of scrap textile through a hessian backing, for which you need a splendid little tool called a bodger (the sprung device featured above which Jenni also happens to sell, by the way). Well, Jenni’s first book has been selling like proverbial hotcakes over the years. I haven’t seen this new one yet but am delighted to tell you that one of my own earliest efforts (see below) is featured in the gallery section.
If you get the chance to see Jenni at work (she’s a fixture at most of the big UK textiles shows) do seek her out and watch her closely. Better still, attend one of her workshops. I went along to one earlier this year, and there’s no substitute for seeing an expert manipulating the materials in front of your eyes, and having the luxury of a whole day to pursue a project and begin to really turn your own hand to it.
I took along some yellow & blue shirting – mostly my husband’s worn-out work shirts and PJs – which I hoped to plait into a rug, inspired by a doll’s house mat made by my Pennsylvanian grandmother some time around the early-to-mid-20th century (you can see it in that earlier post of mine). It was exciting seeing how first the plaiting and then the coiling and lacing (sewing the long plait together) altered the look of the shirtings. I don’t know if you can see, but I used both vertical and horizontal stripes to varying effect. It’s rather hard to predict how the plait will look, but I found the final peppered result pleasing. Apologies for the dull picture quality, by the way. Can’t you tell that this was taken in a typical British summer? Only the UK in July will do this for you! [Note to self: you really must get on top of those Photoshop image-brightening tools.] Incidentally, plaiting as a rug technique appears to have originated in New England (known there as braiding), really taking off in the nineteenth century, the happy offspring of a boom in straw-bonnet-making. You learn something new every day.