Sunday, 28 August 2011
There was a time when no working-class home in this part of the country would be complete without a rag rug or two. We had a big one on the tiled floor of our kitchen when I was a child and I used to love its colours and patterns - and the way it kept my little bare feet off the cold floor! It seems this traditional craft is having something of a resurgence, now that recycling is fashionable and people are enjoying crafts as a hobby. I came across a lovely little exhibition recently in the Bracken Hall Countryside Centre, up on Shipley Glen, showing a variety of rag rugs and panels made by members of the Airedale Ruggers. The group came into being 5 years ago and they meet monthly at Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley. Their aim is to promote, encourage and develop rag rug making as an art form and to ensure this traditional craft doesn't become extinct. They are currently making rag rugs for the Ladies Waiting Room at Oakworth Station on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (see my other blog).
There are two different ways to make a rag rug - prodding and hooking. With both methods, strips of fabric are pushed and looped from the back through a close woven hessian or sackcloth backing. They are made from remnants and recycled materials - old T shirts and sweatshirts, woollen fabrics and tweeds. The skill is not so much in the loop-making itself but in blending colours and fabrics to make not simply a rug but a unique piece of folk art. As with quilting, family memories in the shape of significant pieces of fabric can be woven into the piece.