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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Free UK shipping

Myself and loads of other UK etsy sellers have gone completely mad and are offering free UK shipping for the whole of March. Simply add FREEMARCH13 at checkout.
To search for other participating sellers go to

Monday, 25 February 2013


My next rug post has been slightly delayed by the arrival of a puppy. We collected him yesterday and I've spent an awful lot of time washing the floor and telling him he is NOT allowed to steal my merino wool tops and suck it. He is a lurcher called Bramble and he is 3/4 greyhound and 1/4 collie. I thought you might like to see pictures of him.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Crochet rag rugs

Today we will look at crochet rag rugs and the pro's and con's of making them.
The first good thing about them is that you do not need any special tools. Just a crochet hook and a pair of scissors. The crochet hook needs to be a large one. I used a size 12. Hook sizes vary in different countries but a size 12 is about as thick as my index finger. Exact size is not crucial.
The other thing you need is fabric. Any fabric will do but something with a little stretch makes the job easier. I have used mostly old t-shirts. The fabric needs to be cut in to long strips. If you are using old clothing first cut out any seams, the collar and cuffs etc. This will give you a nice flat piece of fabric to work with. To get the longest strip from your fabric I recommend that you cut it in a spiral as shown above. This will avoid having to make lots of joins.
Choosing colours
I like bright colours and my kitchen ( where the rug is to go) has wooden cabinets, a grey slate floor and neutral walls so a brilliant splash of colour will look good in there. If you like something a little more controlled or subdued why not try lots of different shades of one colour?
Choosing a shape
One of the downsides of crochet rugs is that, unlike hooked rugs, they have to be square, rectangular, round or oval. However that  still gives you quite a lot of choice. The easiest shape to make is a rectangle. You simply make a crochet chain the width that you want your rug to be and crochet in rows. You could also have the stripes going the other way and make your chain the length of the rug.
Square rugs can be made in the same way or for something a little more visually exciting you can start in the middle. Make a chain of five and join in to a circle. Make 12 stitches in to the centre of the circle. I used double crochet which I believe is called single crochet in the USA.
When you have made your 12 stitches join with a slip knot. On the second round make 3 stitches in to the first stitch of the first round then crochet 2 stitches then put 3 stitches in the next stitch. Repeat 2 stitches and then 3 in one hole until you reach the end of the round you should have 4 groups of 3 stitches, each with two stitches in between. The groups of 3 stitches will become the corners of you rug and each time you reach a corner on subsequent rounds put 3 stitches in one hole. That is a lot easier to do than to explain!
For circular rugs make a circle with 5 chain and crochet in to the centre of the circle until no more will fit in. I can't give you an exact number of stitches because it will depend on your hook size and the thickness of your fabric. Join with a slip stitch. Make 2 chain to start and continue to crochet round. The only problem with this is that you must increase the number of stitches in each circuit or you will end up with a dish!
Oval rug
I think this is the hardest and this is, of course, the one I wanted.
 I have never made a crochet rug before. To start make a chain of about 12 stitches. Then crochet 2 more and begin to circle the chain. Mine worked fine at the start. I was very conscious of the fact that I must increase the stitches on the curved end though and to begin with I put it on a flat surface after every round to make sure it was lying flat. Then I crocheted about four rounds without checking it for flatness and instead of getting the dish shape I had feared I had added too many extra stitches and ended up with a frilly rug! I have tried pulling it in to shape and treading it down but it stays frilly. I  will not give up and have now undone the whole thing and will start again but this time with a rectangular one!
Crochet rag rugs are very portable when in construction which is another good point. You could even make one whilst on a long car journey if you are the passenger.
When I complete my crochet rug I will post a picture of it for you.  

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Hooked rag rugs

Today I will give you a quick tutorial on how to make hooked rugs. Very few tools are needed and the design possibilities are endless. This is my favourite type of rug.
In the picture above you can see the main tool used in this process - your hook. There are 3 different sizes, primitive for large scale work, medium and fine. I would recommend that you start with a medium hook. The fine one is only suitable for small scale work where you are hooking very thin strips of fabric or yarn.
You will also need a sharp pair of scissors.
A frame. This type of rug really needs to be held taught on a frame. It is possible to do without or use a large quilting frame but much easier on a large frame. A quilting frame is fine if you already have one but you can also screw 4 pieces of wood together a few inches larger than you want your finished rug to be.
Marker pen.

For the base of your rug you will need a piece of hessian ( burlap). Originally feed sacks were used but hessian can be bought at fabric shops. Get a medium weave.
Fabric to hook with. For the most exciting results use as many different textures as possible. T shirt fabric is very easy to hook as it has stretch in it but try to mix it with other fabrics and yarns. For lots of texture sheeps fleece can be used either as it comes or dyed. It is best to sort through your old clothes and see what you no longer wear. Start with what you have in the house. In the photograph of a sheep being shorn I used sheep's fleece for the sheep, old jeans for the shearers jeans, t shirt fabric for his t shirt and various other fabrics for the background.
As you can see it is possible to make a picture for the wall with this method as well as an actual rug. The fabric needs to be cut in to strips about 1/2 inch wide or slightly less. Thick fabrics should be cut thinner and fine fabrics thicker. The strips should be as long as your piece of fabric allows.
Design - You can create quite elaborate designs. A scene, something geometric, stripes or whatever takes your fancy. The design should be drawn straight on to the hessian with a marker pen. If you are not confident make paper templates and draw around them. If you prefer you can make a meandering rug. This means that you draw one line on your rug in a shape which pleases you and simply take which ever fabric you feel like and meander around the first line in a free form fashion. I have seen some very attractive designs done in this way. The unfinished rug in the picture above is a meandering design reminiscent of a sunset. You can see the hessian in the unworked areas.
Now fix your hessian to your frame. I use a staple gun for this but it could be stitched as well. Make sure it is quite taut. Find a comfortable position to sit in. It is often convenient to sit in a chair next to a table with one side of the frame resting on the table.
To hook - hold the hook in your dominant hand on top of the hessian and hold a strip of fabric  in your other hand underneath the hessian. Bring the fabric strip up so it touches the hessian and hook a loop of it through with your hook. Your loop should be in between 1/4 and 1/2 inch tall. Move along a few holes in the weave of the hessian and hook another loop through . That is all there is to it. When you want to change colour simply snip of the remaining fabric and start with another. Because the loops are squashed tightly together they will not come out unless you pull them really hard.
To finish remove from the frame and hem the unhooked edges to the back. You can line the back with a piece of calico but it is not necessary. As you can see in my 'paisley forest' design above the rug can be any shape you want it to be!
Happy hooking.
Next time we will look at a different type of rug.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Rag rugs - an introduction

Today we will explore the many different types  of rag rugs and their history.

Rag rugs were first made from necessity by people who could not afford to buy rugs but needed something to put on the floor for warmth and comfort. Sometimes they were made by people who simply did not have access to ready made rugs or new fabrics such as the early American settlers.Old  clothes and household textiles would be used to make them. The very early ones were quite plain and simple but women being what they are, soon used them as an outlet for their creativity and they became more decorative. A new rug would be proudly displayed in the parlour then as it became worn would be moved to the kitchen and after that the hall or dog's bed. Because they were so well used very few early rugs remain.
 When rugs and carpets began to be made by machine and were readily available quite cheaply rag rugs went out of favour. In Britain they enjoyed a brief revival during the second world war when things were scarce then again were seldom made.
However during recent years they have become more popular again. People appreciate the fact that some thing can be recycled and given a new lease of life and lots of people enjoy making things for their home. They have now been elevated to an art form. If in doubt check out a lady from Canada called Deanne Fitzpatrick - she is one of my heroines!
I was taught to make rag rugs by my Mother when I was a teenager. I had been unwell with glandular fever and as I began to recover wanted something to do so we made a rug together. She was taught by her mother before her.
There are different methods of making rugs from recycled materials and they all give different results. The ones I am familiar with are listed below
Hooked rugs
Prodded rugs
Progged rugs
Plaited rugs
Crochet rugs
Woven rugs
Braided rugs
There are probably others as well as they seem to have been made at one time or another all over the world.
The photographs show details of two of the rugs I have made. The one at the top was hooked and the one at the bottom was progged. Later in the week we will look at the different techniques in more detail and I will give instructions on how to make them. A different type of rug each day.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Pigs doing the house work!

This has nothing at all to do with crafts but I thought it might make you smile.
We have 2 pigs, Belinda and Polly. Today we were putting clean straw down for the sheep who share the shed with them and the youngest pig, Belinda, immediately got up and began stealing the straw for the nest that the pigs make themselves. Can you see in the photograph she has gathered a pile underneath herself? Next she walks backwards and pushes it with her nose and leg over to where she wants it. The old pig, Polly, used to do the house work but now stays in the nest and supervises.

Tomorrow we will get back to crafts and talk about rag rug making. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

spring daffodils

I've noticed in the garden that the daffodils are beginning to thrust their spears through the soil and began to feel quite hopeful that spring is not too far off. I decided to make a spring landscape . I started yesterday and before I had finished the needle felting stage it had begun to snow! It was still snowing several hours later when I wet felted.
Today I added lots of stitching and the sun is out -  Hooray!
I've noticed that my art work had gradually become more and more heavily stitched. Quite unintentionally. On this one it gives the daffodils loads of texture and character. Here is a close up picture for you. If you would like to see more photos of it go to my etsy shop where you will find 5.
Let's hope the sun keeps shining.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

How to make felt balls.

To make felt balls is very simple. Not much equipment is needed and they have lots of uses. Here is how it is done.

The materials and equipment are all shown in the picture. You will need - some fleece in colours of your choice, a dish of warm water, some liquid soap ( washing up liquid is fine) and a needle felting tool. These can be bought very cheaply from good craft suppliers.                      
First of all take a small amount of fleece and roll it around in your hands until you have a small ball. Then take your needle felting tool and stab the ball to compact it. This will need to be done over a sponge or brush to accommodate the needle when it comes out the other side of the fleece. Now dampen your hands with the warm, soapy water and roll the compacted ball around in them. This will compact it even more and what started out as a reasonable sized piece of fleece will be much smaller. Now carefully add another layer of fleece to the ball. Needle felt it to the ball and roll around in damp hands as before. Keep repeating this until you have a ball of the required size. Check it carefully for any lumpy bits. If you find any you can add a little more fleece, a very thin layer, to even the ball out.
Next dip the ball in to the water and roll quite firmly either in your hands or on a table. Squeeze it out and repeat. Now bounce the ball or throw it from hand to hand. This will make it really firm and harden the felt.
Some people prefer to just needle felt and not use any water but this leaves a soft ball which has a slightly fluffy appearance. If you want to use your felt balls to make a necklace I recommend that you wet felt them as they will be stronger. If you wish you can also wrap woollen yarn around the balls before the final wet felting as I have done with some in the picture.
Uses - they can be strung together to make a necklace or bracelet, sewn on to a piece of base felt or fabric to make a brooch , displayed in a glass bowl or used in artwork. If you stick to grey and white you can make them resemble pebbles from the beach. In order to do this make them slightly oval. It is very unusual to find a perfectly round pebble. If you wish to use them in art work as I have done I recommend that the final wet felting is done when they are arranged on your picture. Place them on the unfelted fibres of the picture and wet felt them at the same time as it. You will have to work the felt very hard to get them to stick and possibly add a few stitches when dry to secure them properly. I have included a photo of some artwork I did using felt pebbles. I called it 'flow'. I hope you give this a go and have fun!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


I don't know how many of you have tried it but pinterest is a brilliant place for inspiration for all sorts of things from crafts to recipes. Also a good place to note things that you just don't have time for now but want to inspect more closely later.
 I have a board called ' things I want to make' Yesterday I found the sweetest pair of slippers to crochet but the instructions are written using US terms. I have pinned them on my board until I find a conversion table then I can go back and treat myself to the pattern. If you want to have a nose around my boards here is the link

If any one knows where I can find conversions from US to UK crochet terms I would be grateful to hear from you.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Finishing your hat

Almost there now!
You have your hat off of the form and it is getting firmer. Now you need to shape it and make it fit.
Felt will shrink in which ever direction you rub or roll it so rinse the soap and excess water out of the hat and try it on. I know it's still wet but do it anyway. Have a good look and work out where it needs to be smaller. In the picture you can see that I am rubbing the bottom part of the hat and the top half is starting to crease up as that is now larger. The creases can be rubbed and removed intermittently Your hat is still probably much too big. The reason we make it this big is because we want the felt to be very strong and have some body to it. The more the felt is worked the more rigid it becomes. Keep checking the size and shape. Sometimes it is better to do some of the shaping whilst it is on your head. If one part is much too big wrap it up and roll it with all of your weight pushing the roll. Throwing it scrunched up in a ball will also shrink and harden the hat but you should only do this in the early stages because you do not have much control over where it shrinks. Don't be surprised if you have to rub and roll for several hours. It takes a lot of hard labour. When you are satisfied that the fit is right put it back on your head and scrutinize it. Would it look a bit better if the crown was wider? Would you like a turned up brim? Would you like it to sit on one side a little? To achieve any of these it is still possible to pull things to make them bigger or a different shape. Play around with it until you are happy. It should now be practically indestructible.
To dry your hat keep it in the shape you wish it to stay in and place somewhere warm to air dry.
Wear it with pride. you made it and it is unique!