Rag rug making
Using recycled fabrics pulled in small pieces or hooked in strips through hessian (burlap) backing for a shaggy or loop pile effect. Such rugs were known in different places by various names, including ‘proddy’, ‘hooky’, ‘proggie’ and ‘clootie mat’.
|Historic area of significance||UK|
|Area currently practised||UK|
|Origin in the UK|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||1-5|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
The tradition of making ‘rag’ or ‘thrift’ rugs became widespread during the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century. However by the 1920s the craft was dying out as it was associated with hard times. The necessity for thrift during World War II brought a brief revival and interest in the craft grew again in the 1980s. It is currently practised by many amateurs who enjoy making things.
- Progging: Small rectangles of recycled fabric are poked or pulled through a hessian backing to create a shaggy texture for rugs and other projects. This technique appears to have originated the UK, but as it was done by the poor, it is not well documented.
- Hooking: pulling a thin strip of fabric, or yarn, into loops through a hessian backing to cover the surface. This technique is suitable for detailed and pictorial rugs/hangings and is popular in USA, Canada, Australia as well as the UK.
- Plaiting (braiding): strips of fabric can be stitched into spirals and other shapes to make reversible rugs. Also popular in USA, Canada and now such rugs are imported from India.
There are other techniques involving strips of recycled fabric such as crocheting, knitting and weaving.
Progged rugs were often made from mill waste in parts of the UK where there were mills. In other parts of the country old clothes were used. Originally the backing was hessian food sacks. In different parts of the UK the rugs had many different names: proggies, proddies, poke mats, peg mats and clootie mats.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers – founded in 1994 in London by a group of international friends who decided to establish a worldwide group involved in rugmaking.
Craftspeople currently known
- Jenni Stuart-Anderson
- Heather Ritchie
- Cilla Cameron
- Lynne Stein
- Debbie Siniska
- Sue Clow
- Stuart-Anderson, Jenni, (2011) More Rag Rugs & Recycled Textile Projects (available from author)
- M.F. Hemeon Collection (MERL 74/131 and MERL Archives D79/31), Museum of English Rural Life