Tagged: Rag

Nov 06

Scrap of the week #34


Is there such a thing as a scrap too far?

I finally began to deconstruct Scrap of the Week #19 in order to re-use the ’70s* hexagon patchwork portions which were desperately ill-served by the backing fabric.

The border of the quilt was odd. It looked like some kind of trim had been cut off, because all that was left was an unattractive wadge of frayed edges in a shade of beigey-pink that you’ll recognise if your cat has ever reintroduced you to his/her dry breakfast. Somebody had already attacked this edging with scissors, it seemed, so I felt less bad about doing the same to the entire quilt.



Odd edge


But when I began to unpick it, I had a surprise. The edging was actually constructed of multiple folded square ‘frames’ of fabric.



Mystery squares


The burning question is why? The end result was, at best, underwhelming. So what was going on here? Did some other craft project create all these little frames as a by-product which the quilter then felt compelled to re-use? If so, what on earth…? The most probable explanation is that the border began life as a series of folded-square triangles which someone thought better of and hacked off. Got any other ideas? Anyway, I leave you with the thought that not all reuse projects are worth the effort. Perhaps this one hasn’t been – I wonder how many unpicking hours have I dedicated to it thus far?

I’ll be putting some of the liberated patchwork pieces up in my Etsy shop shortly. Some pieces are small 7-hex rosettes (as shown in Scrap of the week #19) and would  make great pincushions, some are bigger, cushion-ready segments. The patchwork has been carefully hand-pieced, then machine-zigzagged onto the ground fabric.  Some of the pattern placement is really nicely done. And if you should have a use for hundreds of little frames of pinky-beige fabric, please do get in touch. They’re yours.



Blue hex blocks



Orange hex blocks


* This could conceivably date from the early ’80s, but my hunch is late ’70s. What do you think? Do you recognise any of the fabrics shown?

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Feb 04

Scrap of the week #28


Here’s a little pile of corduroy scraps, waiting for their moment in the spotlight.


Corduroy scraps


When my lovely neighbour took a tumble down her stairs (thanks to that pesky balance problem) and landed with her legs tangled up in the banister rail, she thankfully suffered nothing worse than a set of spectacular bruises. And her corduroy trousers were ripped across one knee.

My neighbour is a total sweetheart, so I happily took in a pile of mending from her (Warning: anyone else, please don’t ask!). Most of it I repaired inconspicuously, even invisibly, but when it came to the trousers I thought I’d give her a talking point; she’d already told me that she considered them rag, so anything I could do would be happily received.

Time to look through my scrap pile. That kingfisher blue jumped out at me screaming “STITCH ME!”. A little subtle overcasting and the repair was done.


Kingfisher patch


Yes, maybe it’s a little… obvious. Even a tad toddler.

Question: if you were the other side of seventy, would you be happy to wear such a conspicuous repair? I’d love to know. I’ll report back on how my neighbour is getting on – whether she is wearing her little flash of kingfisher blue beyond the confines of the house.




May 31

Progging rocks

A week or so ago I went to a rag rug workshop at the Museum in the Park in Stroud led by the uncrowned queen of rag rugs, Jenni Stuart-Anderson. I met Jenni at Wonderwool this spring and was fascinated to watch her working on a progged rag rug with a curious sprung tool called a bodger. Only when I got home did I realise I’d picked up one of her workshop leaflets at another event years before and crammed it into the back of a rag-rug book. The leaflet was dated 1993. How time flies when you’re having fun a family! So I decided I’d better try this fantastic scrap craft fast, before something else conspired to distract me for another two decades. And nothing beats a good workshop for learning a new technique, I reckon.

Museum in the Park

The Museum in the Park, Stroud

Happily, Jenni was visiting the Cotswolds for the Stroud International Textiles festival, leading a workshop at the Museum in the Park. The museum itself was a delightful surprise; I’d never been there before, but hope to again. The location, once you find it (my sat-nav wasn’t playing), is lovely and tranquil, and the facilities for classes are excellent (spacious well-lit rooms, nice tidy loos, and just look where you can have coffee!).

Jenni showed us a couple of techniques: progging and plaiting. Here are some of her progged examples:

Rag rug - Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Jenni Stuart-Anderson's circular progged cushion

Blanket rag rug - Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Stunning progged rug by Jenni Stuart-Anderson

And here’s what one of the other workshoppers made from old tea-shirts.

Rag rug workshop

T-shirt curl

I love the way the t-shirt pieces curl like that, like a textile Vienetta. Progging produces a similar result to prodding (have I lost you?), though differs in the execution: it’s worked from the right side of the fabric and is much quicker.

I had a go at plaiting too, so had two rather bitty samples to show for my day. You can see there was a general gent’s textile theme working in my head (old pjs, jeans, plaid shirts etc).

Rag rug workshop

Progging and plaiting

The little circular mat in the middle there was made by my grandmother for a doll’s house. I’m not sure when, but probably mid-twentieth century, if not earlier. It’s made from what looks like striped shirtings. My plaited attempt is supposed to be a kind of homage to that. I’ll let you know when I’ve finished it.

Pretty much as soon as I got home, the cat found the proggy. Jenni assures me that this is quite normal feline behaviour.

Mittens on rag rug

The cat sat on the unfinished mat

I haven’t finished the plaited one yet, but just completed the proggy. It’s a rough beast. I decided to make it very irregular (and succeeded!) throwing all kinds of odds and ends into it, leaving the seams on the denim and not measuring the pieces at all. This sludgy flight from perfection is good for me, I reckon.

Lumberjack proggy

Lumberjack proggy

Some of these scraps are significant: my dad’s old dressing gown, gingham left over from my wedding bunting. I quite like the out-in-the-woods lumberjack feel of the end result. It’s what I’d call a hap rug, after hap quilts. These were pieces that were not really designed, just worked for utility however they happened to develop. In the case of my proggy, from the outside edge in ever-decreasing circles.

Proggy cushion

Lumberjack cushion

Yes, the result is a bit of a mish-mash, but I’m sure the cat will enjoy it.


Apr 11


Last week I received an offer I couldn’t refuse: a free ticket for Wonderwool Wales at the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells. Celebrating almost everything associated with a sheep and its clothing, Wonderwool looked like a golden opportunity for me to turn roving reporter*. Everything was included, even transport. So, bright and early Saturday morning I set off on the coach carrying much of the Wiltshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers.

And what a day we had! Longish outward journey [meh], the final third spent hurtling at improbable speed down twisting, terrifyingly narrow Welsh lanes [double meh]. I should really have known by the name that all the roads that lead you there are winding. But it was a tonic to see Wales in the radiant spring sunshine since I usually visit in near-horizontal rain. This was just like the tourist brochures: white cottages edged in black nestling at the foot of brooding mountains, quaint stone bridges (which the coach only just managed to negotiate) arching over sparkling stone-strewn river beds, and plenty of nodding daffodils. It was a relief to finally arrive  mid-morning, with fatigue and slight travel-sickness rapidly subsiding and excitement kicking in.

Wonderwool vista

Half barn, half textile show

The venue was no-frills but spacious. And, yes, true to its billing, the whole place was woolly, even the  information point.

Information Desk

Woolly thinkers welcome

I soaked it all up: stall upon stall of fleeces,  in varying stages of refinement; big bags of roving; carding equipment; drop spindles; spinning wheels; felting supplies; dyeing products; yarn of all types (plain for home-dyeing, or coloured variously as the rainbow); knitting needles; crochet hooks; buttons (outsized wooden, ceramic, vintage); blankets, blankets, and more blankets.  Refreshingly, there were signs urging ‘Please touch!’

Please touch!

Double-take signage

One stall was devoted to all varieties of guernsey knitting, with cute little knitted samples. Every pattern tells a story.


Propagansey's display of traditional patterned fishing jumpers

There was extreme knitting with giant knitting needles so mesmerising that I forgot to take a picture. And Susie Johnson of the Wool Sanctuary, responsible for Kirsty’s cute beach hut draft excluder, had a pretty stall. Jane Beck was there with her impeccable vintage and modern Welsh tapestry blankets, cushions, and now (in a new departure) clothing. I really enjoyed speaking with Jane who is pleasantly straightforward and direct. Coming away without buying anything was a struggle as her stall was too tempting; look out for her gorgeous line in vibrant waistcoats cut from end-of-line bolts of wool.

As you might expect, I had my eyes peeled for recycling and upcycling ideas. I found:-

recycled sari yarn…

Sari silk

Recycled saris

rag-rugs being made from old t-shirts…

Making an upcycled t-shirt rug

Patricia making a rag-rug from old t-shirts

and also from tweed skirts, by Jenni Stuart Anderson… who sells lovely implements for rag-rugging and has written a couple of good books on the subject.

Rag-rug maker, Jenni Stuart Anderson

Jenni Stuart Anderson's rag-rugs

There were knitted and fulled wool rectangles (those these weren’t actually recycled, but nevermind) from Undy Yarncrafts

Fulled wool sample squares

Felted lambswool

and simple peg looms for rudimentary weaving of  scrap clothing strips: denim jeans, for example. Again, I got too excited to take snaps.

Moving away from the recycled wares, I found these beautiful hand-dyed cotton/silk embroidery threads from Strawberry Seahorse.

Hand-dyed embroidery threads

Hand-dyed embroidery cottons and silks

And I thought these Alpaca socks, from John Arbon Textiles in North Devon, were gorgeous; my picture doesn’t really do full justice to the delicious stripe and contrast heel/toe combinations. John Arbon also has a range of salvage cotton socks made from end-of-line and surplus yarn stocks which would otherwise be thrown away.

Gorgeous wool socks

Alpaca socks, made in the UK

Dotted here and there were pens of real, live sheep. I spotted some angora bunnies too.

Sheepish exhibit

It's Wales. We have sheep.

Punters queued placidly outside the metal fencing for the Wool School. Inside were workshops such as Understanding and Maintaining your Spinning Wheel and Knitting without Needles. I was signed up for Fibre Choice and Preparation with Sue Blacker of the Natural Fibre Company. When the gate opened, we filed in obediently like a flock of compliant sheep. Our tutor unfolded entire shorn fleeces from sacks and had us feel and assess the fibres, their differences dictated by breed, health, age, location (both on the animal’s body and of the breed within the landscape). Sue’s knowledge and clarity were admirable, as was her obvious affection for her subject. It was oddly moving to see that sheep turn grey with age, just as people do. And to hear that stress experienced by the animal affects the quality of wool;  it will become ‘fragile’ – i.e. the staple may break when stretched –  if a sheep suffers a shock, such as a dog worrying it. A ewe may suffer similarly from the stress of having triplets. Sue explained how black sheep go reddish in the sun, and brown sheep go blonde (at least on the tips), so if you want to maintain your sheep’s original colour you must keep it in by day and only let it out to graze under cover of darkness. The fleeces were raw and unwashed and amazingly greasy to the touch, almost as though dubbin had been applied, but this was just the naturally occurring lanolin. It’s now obvious to me that sheep are waterproof, and I wonder why every schoolchild doesn’t get the chance to feel a sheep’s fleece too.

Wool school

Wool school

Fatigue and information overload were setting in by mid-afternoon and I was pretty much finished before I reached Finnish felting. I snoozed on the coach journey home, dozing off some time after we spotted a field of improbably gangly Alpaca. The small square piece of fleece I bought just before leaving the festival came in handy as an impromptu pillow against the coach window. No sheep-counting necessary.

Wonderwool Wales 2012 will take place April 28-29, Royal Welsh Showground, Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, Powys, LD2 3SY. Enquiries: enquiries@wonderwoolwales.co.uk or 01938 820495

*I apologise unreservedly for the quality of that pun.

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