Have you looked at pictures of rugs in various shades of beige, and wondered if they are supposed to be that color or are they just a bit dirty? And when they say “rags”, are they literally rags that you would use to mop up a spill in the kitchen? And what does it really mean when someone speaks of a romantic rug, woven of childhood dresses and aprons? It would appear to be someone else’s nostalgic romance, not yours! I will tell you what I do with my raw materials and answer all those questions on the way.
1. I EXCLUSIVELY USE CLEAN AND LAUNDERED MATERIALS. Old T-shirts from my husband and children would not amount to more than a couple of rugs a year. Because I do not have the patience to wait that long, I am constantly gathering materials - I gladly accept my friends ‘closet cleanout haul’. They are usually decent people and do not put dirty laundry in their wardrobes. Old blueberry stains on children's tops do not count. In reality the process of cutting a garment into strips, storing and weaving it, is so lengthy that it would be quite disgusting if the material was not clean to begin with. And who likes to go through other people's dirty laundry anyway? Not me.
So it HAS to be clean and washed. Clothes that have been forgotten in the back of a closet and have started to smell a bit, but are otherwise soft and appropriate, I simply wash again and line dry outside. Because I repeat, working with material that smells of mold, would be deeply unpleasant.
2. I LIKE TO EXPERIMENT WITH DYE. Rugmaterial does not have to be dyed perfectly - the important part is the tone and lines of color that they can contribute. I often collect white shirts, tops, jumpers, etc that have passed their best before for wearing out in public, and dye them exactly the tone that inspires in the moment. Usually the dye solution lasts for several batches and any logos or pictures on a shirt just add extra nuance. That way I can weave in different levels of brightness and contrast. And it is also wondrous to figure out what components are in any given dye and what remains of it. Fabric dyeing is done at 60-90 degrees Celsius, which means that dyed materials have been through a proper heat treatment as well.
3. THE PREVIOUS LIFE OF WORN CLOTHES. When drifting it is entirely possible to find a piece that speaks volumes of its previous owner and of their lifestyle. Sometimes it can be so intensive, that I have decided not to buy, just because of that feeling. The beauty of ragrug materials is that after taking a pair of sharp scissors to them and cutting the garment into strips, it immediately becomes a new thing and the resulting balls of fabric do not carry any of the previous stories. The scissors have done their job - the past is gone. There is only the future, as soft or fuzzy as the fabric was to be.
And because of all that, I dare to recommend a rag rug. It does not have a past - or at least I do not weave it into my rugs. There is only clean fabric that is evading the landfill for a long time and serving a new purpose. Unless someone specially brings in their own material for their own personal hit of nostalgia (I once wove a rug for a notable athlete from his own old training shirts), but that is a whole other story.