Thursday, March 1, 2018

Rag Rug Inspired

I've always been attracted to rag rugs. Woven rag rugs, hooked rag rugs, braided rag rugs. in fact, one of my earliest textile art crafting memories was helping my grandmother braid fabric strips which she then would curl around and around, stitching the braided cords into chair cushions. I liked how one color of fabric in a braid would end, and a new color would take over. My eyes would flit from this color to that color marveling at how they played off of each other. When I think back all those years ago I can still see a baby blue fabric, a dark green fabric, a brick red fabric, a bit of yellow fabric, and then some dark grey fabric, all twisted and spiraling around together. Pure magic it was, this making something from almost nothing.

So I thought it would be fun to use that love of rag rugs as inspiration in making my own version with yarn and punch needle. I've done some other posts about punch needle, (also known as needle punch or punchneedle) here on the blog, but if you are new here or missed those posts and  don't know what punch needle is, I will tell you...

Punch Needle is an old technique that falls into the family of embroidery. It is done with a pen like apparatus that has a hollow needle inserted into it. Yarn, or floss is threaded through the pen and the needle. Special fabric, (not all fabrics can be punched on, and different forms of punch needle sometimes require different types of fabric) is stretched very tightly either in a locking hoop or over a frame. The needle with the threaded yarn is then repeatedly punched into the fabric on the wrong, that is to say back, side. With every punch a little loop of yarn is formed on the front of the fabric.

Punch by punch, loop by loop, the design emerges. And I marvel over the magic of it the game way I marveled over my grandmother's braided chair rugs all those many years ago.

When making this I collected the 8/2 cotton yarns in the colors that came to my minds eye when thinking back to my youth, standing in my grandmother's kitchen braiding rug strips. I started with the outermost rim of dark grey and worked my way in. I would love to know how many  little punched loops it contains, but counting would have been madness. I even lost count of the hours I spent punching, but I would guess somewhere around 30.  A labor of love and memory and curiosity. Wonderful, wonderful curiosity... she has been my constant friend.

And then I decided to make something else rag rug inspired, so I made some little brooches...

They were also done in punch needle, but with some beautiful Valdaini hand-dyed cotton threads that I was seriously tempted to horde as they looked so lovely in their little box... 

Along with being inspired by rag rugs, 
I also took inspiration from old utilitarian quilts that built their design 
based on the "house-top" block, (think Gee's Bend). 

It's my absolute favorite quilt block as I love it's simplicity and never ending design possibilities.

Each brooch is backed and stitched with some grey wool-blend felt that I had on hand, 

and is mounted on a little card with a short intro description of punch needle on the back side...

I think the next time I print some up though 
I will add a bit about the pen like tool with the hollow needle... wish I had included that on these. 
Sigh... I can always find something that I wish I had done differently!

These are now available in my Etsy shop



Jan said...

These are all lovely, such cozy colors. I took up punch needle after reading about it on your blog a few years back, and discovering that I actually had a punch needle, it didn't even know what it was before. Yes, it takes a long time to make anything of size but they are beautiful.

Nifty Quilts said...

I love your little cup mat and your sweet brooches! The story about your grandmother's chair rugs is precious. What a nice way to be reminded of her each day. I like your V/G logo a lot. I might just need one of your brooches! Thank you for the info on punch needle. I've been interested in trying it someday. I didn't realize it was done from the back side.

Victoria said...

Thank you, Jan. Happy that you have taken up punch needle, too! I feel this old craft is having a sort of revival which is nice to see. And I can relate to already having a punch needle and not realizing it. After I learned this craft the other year, I realized that I had been carting around a punch needle for most of my life... I bought it as a teen when I worked at a craft store, but could never figure out how to use it. Over the years it came along on all of my moves, (I guess I was hoping to figure it out one day) but over time I forgot what the device was even called. About 5 years ago while doing a studio clean I finally gave it the boot. Now I wish I still had it!

Thanks so much, LeeAnn. I hit the jackpot with grandmothers as all of my memories surrounding her are happy ones and I was blessed to have her in my life until my late 30's as she lived to be 100. I hope you do try punch needle. With your keen sense of color and pattern I know you would do amazing things with it! I'm still learning and am interested in trying the Oxford punch needle which seems to be a bit different then the Ultra Punch I use. The type I have uses thiner yarns or floss and needs to be worked on weaver's cloth or other poly-cotton blends, all of which have a pretty close weave. From what I can tell, the Oxford punch needle can accommodate thicker yarns and is worked on monk's cloth, which has an open weave. I see a lot of the Oxford done on Instagram. It seems to usually be worked on a frame, (as opposed to a hoop) and again from the backside, but I see people displaying the backside as the finished side, which is interesting. I'm hoping to eventually get around to comparing the two, and expanding on the possibilities.

Anonymous said...

Sweetest ever mug rug. Do you do something to back the punch needle or use a rug backer treatement. I've got the tool but always worried the stitches would just pull out. Valdaini threads, swoon. I got a few and they are just such great colors. Cute broaches. xox

Wendy said...

this is beautiful! I've seen punch needle pop up on a few blogs recently, I hope it's having a revival. how do you secure the threads at the back? Do you have to add a layer of glue?

Victoria said...

Corrine and Wendy, thanks! And to answer your questions about treating the back to secure the stitches... supposedly the stitches aren't suppose to pull out, (especially if you punch your loops very close together, which I do). However, I share your concerns and would hate for them to snag on something and unravel. So yes, I back the pieces with a very thin coating of flexible fabric glue. I use an old credit card and scrape the thinnest layer possible across the stitches on the back, just for that little extra piece of mind.