For some time now I've been eager to take up a craft, and make something useful for the home, or to wear. I'm drawn towards fabrics, and had been considering (for example) sewing and knitting. My Mum bequeathed to me an awful lot of wool, her electric sewing machine, and a complete range of needles and other equipment - so I was ready to go. I just lacked the skills. I did dabble with knitting in the mid-1970s, but didn't get far, and I've always thought it would be really nice to learn the basics properly and then eventually produce some knitwear for myself using modern designs, such as you see in expensive craft shops.
Getting started though was daunting. I needed to join a like-minded group of local women - but in my village that was difficult, though it wouldn't be somewhere else. Meanwhile, the urge to create had not gone away.
But I think I now have the answer. Rag rugs! And this is how the idea of making them came my way.
When I was in North Devon recently, attending the Appledore Book Festival events, I found myself seated by a most friendly lady at the Masterchef Lunch at The Seagate, a hotel on the Quay with a bar and a restaurant. Here we were:
Her name was Jayne, and she's wearing the red scarf. The guy on the right was called Ashley, and he was one of the chefs at The Beaver, a very good pub elsewhere in Appledore. His boss, Graham, and Graham's wife Helena, were seated opposite. Incidentally I can recommend The Beaver for its great atmosphere and its food - I had two meals there - and I've also got to know another member of their staff, a friendly lady called Ally. (You can see that I am assiduous in making local contacts!)
It was a lunch exclusively for Friends of the ABF (I'm one), and 2010 Masterchef Winner Dhruv Baker was there. Here he is, with ABF Friends Group Coordinator Celia on the left. A pleasant man indeed.
Dhruv Baker had just published a book devoted to spices. He didn't actually cook anything at this lunch - that was in the hands of the two local chefs, who strove to do justice his spicy recipes. Their menu and their kitchen offerings were kept simple (very wise) but, in my view, they turned out something pretty tasty:
Here they are getting thanked later on:
Anyway, Jayne and I chatted away and got on very well - to the extent that after the event she invited me to her home nearby, to see it (she was a relative newcomer to Appledore and had only just finished the decorating and furnishing), and then to take her golden retriever Cally for a walk. She had a very stylish home. Inside it was full of lovely little touches, a mixture of modern and traditional. You couldn't help noticing the rag rugs here and there. She'd made them herself. They looked terribly inviting. You felt you wanted to stand on them with bare feet, clenching and unclenching your toes in the deep pile! I resolved there and then to look into this. I told her that she had inspired me.
And today I have been researching how to make them on the Internet. I looked on a number of sites, but this one, the Makings Handicrafts site, seemed the best for my purposes: http://www.makings.co.uk/. I've ordered one of their Rag Rugging tools, and will source a supply of hessian locally. Then it's just a case of thinking about designs and colours, and gathering together a suitable collection of cotton fabrics for cutting into strips. I can see that if one is particular about getting the right colours in the right quantities, it might take some time to get ready to begin. But perhaps charity shops will be the best source of fabrics - any old clothing in any size will do, even curtain material. I have no idea how long the average rug might take to complete - a couple of weeks at least, surely? - but this seems just the thing for a winter pastime.
And the results will have immediate use. I want a rag rug for the floor of my caravan, two for the floor of my bathroom, and a couple for my bedroom. It'll be fun creating bold designs in strong colours, and what a sense of accomplishment I will have!