Rug-tastic!

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy – interspersed, unfortunately, with being sick again (I can’t wait for this winter to be over!)

I’ve been attempting to finish a backlog of old projects in order to clear space at home for new ones. However, clearing said backlog was always going to be a challenge, as it involves picking up on long-forgotten pieces and overcoming the difficulties which inevitably caused me to put them aside in the first place!

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First up was a pile of mending which I won’t bore you with… but, I must say I am always surprised about how cathartic the process is of giving new life to items that would likely otherwise end up in the bin. It feels a bit like getting something completely new for free… or, more accurately, for the price of maybe 30 minutes of my time, some thread and a little resourcefulness and creative thinking… which can sometimes be a reward in itself. For example, I fixed this bag (pictured) which had been really well loved and very handy but had been torn in a couple of places, so I added a little interfacing and a patch to keep it going a bit longer. Not sure if it makes sense from an economic perspective (i.e. the amount of time it took versus how much it would cost to buy a new one), however, from the viewpoint of preventing potentially still-useful objects from entering landfill, it absolutely does.

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Second up was an initially fun – but then frustrating – project that I have been working on and off on for about 13 years. I originally started this rug (pictured) in 2004 while we were living in a basement flat in Wanstead, London. This was the first time my husband and I had lived on our own (i.e. no housemates) since getting married and, compared to the scruffy old share-houses we had lived in previously, it was wonderfully modern and new but, most importantly to me – had space to spare!

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Due to space limitations and the plethora of exciting things to see and do, I’d been without a creative project for the past 2 or 3 years since arriving in London, however, the thrill of the place was finally starting to wear off (a bit) and I felt that familiar drive to make something. Thus motivated, I decided to go and buy a book on rug making (pictured).

I’d never made a rug before, however, had previously completed a small latch hook project as a teenager and I recall that we had a couple of lovely and practical handmade rag-rugs in the house growing up.

Anyway, with new book in hand and imagination abuzz, I spent a number of enjoyable hours (or days?) browsing the different projects and techniques, before choosing a style, roughly planning out the design, colour and size, collating a shopping list and ordering everything it all online (from Iriss of Penzance in Cornwall). When it all arrived a week or so later, I wasted no time getting stuck in, applying masking tape to the edges of the canvas to stabilise/ prevent it from fraying, and started to experiment with the locker-hooked technique.

I can’t recall exactly what happened next, but it’s safe to say things did not go to plan…(As an aside, being unwell of late, I’ve been revisiting my favourite episodes* of Grand Designs and, it occurs to me, that almost all my projects seem to follow a similar storyline  to practically every episode. That is: I begin with an idea and then proceed to plan, tweak and gradually distil the concept until I eventually settle on something which I think is pretty exciting and has loads of potential. I then throw myself into bringing the idea to life, fully expecting it all to come together perfectly, on time and on budget(!) However, inevitably, like every Grand Designs episode, something always goes wrong. For example: there’s a ‘construction’ issue which takes vastly more time than anticipated, the material doesn’t perform the way you want and a replacement needs to be found, the design is changed on a whim and has a knock-on impact on everything else, or a catastrophic moment arises in which I realise I’ve mismeasured, skipped a step, or otherwise screwed up and have to go back to ‘square one’ (i.e. like accidentally stitching all the layers of fabric layers together on a project or mucking up a zip for the third time in a row… both of which have happened this week!) All of which culminates in me wishing for the millionth time that there was an ‘undo’ function I could use in real life… ugh, if only. C’est la vie… such is the joy and frustration of trying to be creative whilst also being human 🙂 )

So, back to the rug… I think that the pattern wasn’t emerging the way I wanted and I may have become a little despondent, perhaps even quite irritated, that all my effort wasn’t resulting in the perfectly crafted rug that I had envisaged. So, after practically completing the project, I decided to unpick the entire thing and start all over – much to the detriment of the canvas which started to look a little worse for wear (and is evidenced in the slightly skewed profile of the finished rug!) This was probably the point at which the ‘rose’ lost its metaphorical bloom and I moved onto something new (vinyl cuts I think? 🙂 ).

In 2014, ten years and six houses later (including relocating back to Ballarat from London), I finally persevered and made myself finish the rug. Once the final edge had been completed and I stood back to admire the end product, it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to put it on the floor and actually walk on it. It seemed, somehow, wrong, considering how much time it had taken to complete, plus I wasn’t sure that it would hold up well underfoot. So, again, I put it aside, promising myself that ‘one day’ I’d do something with it.

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About 6 months ago I decided that enough was enough and resolved to turn the rug into a wall hanging. I did some research and settled on an approach that used Masonite hardboard and velcro to mount it. After buying the necessary materials, I procrastinated for another couple of months before eventually getting around to cutting the board to shape and gluing five strips of velcro (using PVA) to both the reverse of the rug and the board (pictured). For security I also stapled the velcro strips in place on the board and then attempted to sew the corresponding strips to the rug…. which proved to be more fiddly than I anticipated :/

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So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been (on and off) attempting to sew the velcro to the rug using invisible fishing line without distorting the fabric and without mutilating my fingers. It doesn’t sound difficult, however, the evidence says differently as some stitching had to be unpicked more than once and the Touch ID on my iPhone no longer recognises my fingerprints!

Long story short, the rug is now FINALLY done and has a home, hanging pride of place, in my sewing room… only 13 years in the making.  Huzzah!

Now, onto the next project…

* A list of my favourite Grand Designs episodes. I over-watched the series a couple of years back and had to give it a good long break, however, it seems its time has come again…

  1. Series 10, episode 6 – The Scandinavian House, Falmouth.
  2. Series 12, episode 9 – The Tree House: Revisited (Revisited from Series 10: Episode 1), Isle of Wight.
  3. Series 8, episode 7 – Masseria Impisi: An Artists’ Retreat: Revisited (Revisited from Grand Designs Abroad – 22 September 2004), Puglia, Italy.
  4. Series 10, episode 10 – The Glass & Timber House: Revisited (Revisited from Series 7: Episode 12), Dulwich, London.
  5. Series 12, episode 8 – The Joinery Workshop, London.
  6. Series 10, episode 12 – House from Straw: Revisited (Revisited from Grand Designs Abroad – 15 September 2004), Lot, France.

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