I’m just embarking on another longer term project with the aim of making use of the silk offcuts that I’ve collected over the years. Not all the scraps are the colours I want for this new textile hanging, so I’ve been busy re-dyeing batches using a stovetop dye bath.
I suppose it’s not surprising that the colours I’ve been putting together are reflecting the fresh yellows, bright greens and varying pinks brightening up my back garden, and that’s despite the recent unseasonal hail.
Once I’ve re-dyed enough silk I will cut long strips ready for hooking. Then whenever I need a break from standing at the computer or standing at my painting frame, I’ll sit, dip into my box of silk strips, and hook a few more inches. It’s a time consuming process, but a few inches each day will eventually, eventually . . . . . result in a finished wall hanging.
There was no doubt about it, most of the people that stopped to talk to me at the Parallax Art Fair last weekend were curious about my slightly unusual wall hanging. Older visitors remembered their grandmothers hooking or progging rag rugs during World War Two and recognised the technique, but were not used to seeing luxurious fabrics in rich colours to make such textiles.
Interestingly, several overseas visitors, particularly from North America, paused to chat explaining about their tradition within folk art for hooked rugs and hooked wall art that is still popular.
Design for Hilarion wall hanging is drawn out onto hessian.
Gradually more and more of the silk, velvet and wool is hooked into the hessian.
For my work it felt quite natural to start using all the painted silk off-cuts I’ve kept over the years. I suppose I could have made sewn, patched pictures, but I was more interested in achieving a deep, tactile surface. And, having said that, most people did ask if they could touch this wall hanging.
More than one visitor enquired whether it could be used as a rug. Technically it could, but I don’t think the silk areas would wear very well as the fabric is quite fine. Of course, if I had made it entirely of wool and cotton it could be a rug. I still use my recycled blanket wool rag rug my late mother prodded (or progged in some regions) for me – 11 years on my kitchen floor and still going strong! But this piece made with velvets, silk taffeta and my painted silk remnants has really been designed to hang on a wall.
Curiously, I have found it very difficult to photograph and for once it really does look better in real life.
There is a display at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk that shows a 1940s bedroom with an old-fashioned rag rug placed in front of the fire.
I remember my Grandmother had one similarly placed in her sitting room only hers was to protect her polished floorboards from sparks. And, the little rug disappeared whenever there were visitors.
Now, I said ‘old-fashioned’, but perhaps I should have said vintage or ‘upcycled’. In 1997, remembering that little rug I persuaded my mother to ‘prod’ one for me. She was very patient. I drew out the design on a piece of hessian, provided her with a colour guide and gave her a bundle of old woollen cloth.
The rich colours, the dark red, brown and purple, are from old coats bought from charity shops along with some old blankets. Blankets tend to wear out in the middle leaving the edges still thick and useful. I cut off the edges and dyed them to make the oranges and pinks.
After several weeks, my very, very patient mother finished this three feet by four feet rag rug.
Originally made for a bedroom in a previous house, the rag rug is now in my kitchen. Ten years on the kitchen floor and it’s wearing very well!