Friday, June 1, 2012

Rag Rugs: A Delta Folk Art


Some of my fondest memories, at the age of 3 or 4, were the times I spent with the Turners in their tiny two room shotgun house that they rented from my grandparents.

Mrs. Turner was an artist with her quilt making--and, the left-over scraps of fabric were turned into rag rugs

Fast forward to the Fall of 2009 when John and I headed for Amish country in Ohio and the Country Living Magazine Country Fair. We went to numerous workshops, but the one on rag rugs brought back images in my mind of Mrs. Turner, as she sat at her loom with a basket full of fabric strips beside her.


In all the years I've collected handmade items, I've never found any rag rugs from this area, yet I knew it was a folk art that once was practiced in the Delta. I also knew I had to learn the technique.

Armed with a frame and a set of instructions, I came home and began my love affair with this vintage art form.

 In the past, wooden picture frames,
or a similar wooden shape, were used for the loom.
My loom is constructed of pine and finishing nails.


The process is very simple--anyone could learn it quickly.
Yes, even you!


The first step is to string the warp (vertical) with fabric strips.
I tear my strips--much quicker than cutting.

Then start weaving. . .


Right over; then under. . .Right over; then under. . .Right over; then under. . .
The rhythm of it is so relaxing,
and so, so simple. . . 


Rows are worked fairly equal on top and bottom. 
This keeps an even tension on the rug.


A close-up of the weave.


I use a crochet hook to pull the strips through the last couple of rows.


When the rug is completed, it's time to pull the metal rods out.


And, then, off the nails it comes!


It only took me a week to complete the rug!
It's of recycled fabric.
It's free. 
It'll last a lifetime.


During our Fall 2011 tours of the farm, I demonstrated weaving a rag rug for our visitors. It was a huge hit with the school groups, especially the boys!

Many visitors were quick to relate their own stories about these rugs. I enjoyed listening to each one and received some good tips.

There was one lady visitor who was very excited, saying,  
"I haven't seen these rugs since I was a child!" 
Then she told her story about the lady she knew who made them.

As she spoke, I again had visions of Mrs. Turner. 
She would be so proud.

Sharing with:
Barn Hop
Feathered Nest Friday , Inspiration Friday ,Vintage Inspiration


Please note: I am so sorry, but the design for this particular rag rug frame is John's own, so I cannot give the details for it. He has perfected it over the years. The looms may be purchased at Our Old Country Store--link in the right column.
Weavers in the past used any wood frame and spaced the nails according to the fabrics to be used. Thicker fabrics require wider spacing, but generally they were placed 1/2" -1 1/2".

To answer questions about weaving the strips, it's right strip over the left strip and the right one goes under the next warp. Then the original left strip becomes the right one, so it's right over left again. Continue across. Click on the tutorial photo for a better view of this process.  At the other side, just turn around and come back, using either the right over left again or switch to left over right.
 
The warp is strung with one continuous strip--up and down around the nails, as shown in the tutorial.
To begin the waft, simply run the strips under the first warp and start weaving.
 
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