Voices in the Coalshed: Rag Rugging
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Voices in the Coalshed: Rag Rugging

Are the 3R’s today still Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic?

Or are they more likely to be Recycle, Reuse and Renew?

The tradition of “rag rugging” using old woollen garments, hessian food sacks and broken dolly pegs are clearly earlier examples of recycling.

The tradition of making rag or thrift rugs arose out of a need – a need to cover the cold, flagstone floor, of a mining home with something both practical and bright.

As a 1950’s child, I remember a rag rug over lino (linoleum)in front the kitchen coal fire, probably a throwback from WW2 times when grandparents had to “Make Do and Mend!”

Rag rugs, as you might expect, were given different names according to the various places they came from: proddies ,hookies, proggies clootie ,poke mat and peg mat. The last two names- like a lot of language- helpfully suggest how they were made!

The backing was made from sacking (or hessian) food sacks when a lot of basic foods like flour and grains were sold by weight … without the packaging. Remember Redmans in Barnsley? Nowadays, there’s a stall in Barnsley market and likely to be in markets in other former coalfield areas doing the same!

So, naturally, the rugs were made from waste materials! I remember that old woollen clothes …like coats, skirts or trousers –anything that could be cut into strips were used for rag rugging. The individual strips were prodded through the sacking with a shaped broken dolly peg –hence the name peg rug! It was poked through to leave a shaggy effect but, then clipped for tidiness. Another name: a clippy rug. More importantly, it provided a warm, hardwearing rug.

Often new rugs were made in time for Christmas with the old ones demoted to outside porches! In some areas, rag rugs were put on beds for extra warmth! There was always a rag rug on the go.

Are you or someone you know interested in rag rugging and other textile skills? Why not come to the Yorkshire Rugmakers Open day, at the Museum, on Saturday 15th October 10 am -3pm.

This week’s Voices in the Coalshed post was researched and written by volunteer Lesley. If you would like to join Voices in the Coal Shed, please get in touch with voicesinthecoalshed@gmail.com