Easy Craft Ideas – Rag Rugs

The history of rag rugs goes back a long way. They have a variety of names such as hookies, clippies, peggy or proggy mats. The making of rag rugs was initially not because people wanted to pursue a craft, but more out of necessity. It enabled families who had very little to make floor or bed coverings from old clothes and other pieces of material. When they were first made has been lost in the mists of time, but it is quite possible that it dates back to the time of the Viking settlers in the UK. Some people think it may have even dated back to early Egypt. In the mill towns of northern England, they used to use old serge material.

When the new settlers arrived in countries like America, Australia and New Zealand they had very little with them. My wife and I traveled to New Zealand a few years ago and in one of their historic villages we saw rag rugs that were well over a hundred years old and were still in good condition, despite being used by the original makers on an everyday basis. Unfortunately, because they were treated as utilitarian and not heirlooms, not that many have survived.

The oldest surviving rag rug in the UK is said to be one made of uniforms worn at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but two earlier hooked bed rugs survive in the USA, one dated 1763 and the other 1773. Some examples of early rag rugs can be seen at the Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham and the American Museum in Bath, and also in The Museum of Welsh Life, Cardiff and The Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury.

My wife has been making rag rugs for some time some of which we have in our house and some have been made them for relatives. They are ideally suited to country style properties, because of the old feel they have to them.

There are may different types of tool available to make them such a “proddy”, a standard rug hook, or a latch hook. My wife prefers uses a latch hook, but it all a matter of personal preference. These tools can be obtained from specialist suppliers, or can usually be found on Ebay at very reasonable prices.


A Proddy


A Hook

Latch Hook

A Latch Hook

Materials can be recycled material for the rag such as old shirts, duvet covers, curtains, dresses or whatever you have available or can scrounge. Cotton is preferable, but a cotton/polyester mix is also fine. You could of course go out and buy material, but the whole point is to keep the costs down. The backing can be made from old sacks such as coffee sacks. If you go to a shop that sells freshly ground coffee and ask them if they have any sacks, they will probably give them to you. If they don’t have any, ask them if when they do get some to put them on one side for you. Again, you could go out and but new hessian, or rug backing material that is used for wool rugs, but it isn’t cheap.

As far as design goes, this is only limited by your own imagination. You can either make you rug with completely random colours (that will go together), or you can draw a design on the backing and work to that. Some examples of the rugs in our home are shown below.

Rug 1

Rug 1

Rug 2

Rug 2

Rug 3

Rug 3

Rug 4

Rug 4

Rug 4 Rear View

A Rear View of Rug 4

Rug 4 Rear View Showing How Rag is Looped Through

Section Detail of the Rear of Rug 4

How do you make them? This is really beyond the scope of this blog, but basically with our rugs, the material is cut into strips about 25mm wide by 80mm long and then is hooked through the backing material. With cotton or cotton/polyester it is best to cut the material on the bias. That is, don’t cut it where it would normally tear, but on an angle. This will stop the material from fraying too much once the rug is in use. I have read that with wool you cut it straight, but we have never tried it.

If this has whetted you appetite for making your own rugs, then I would advise you purchase book on the subject. There are a great number of titles available from here.

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