I first learnt the traditional craft of proggy mat making about ten years ago when I attended a course to make a proggy Christmas tree which was great fun. Since then I’ve had a go at hooky mat making and rag rugging too. They’re all great ways of using up scrap fabric and really easy to learn – just make sure you wear an apron as you’ll get covered in little bits of hessian as you work!
I’d starting making this particular rag rug wreath last year, but since then it had lain abandoned in my WIPs pile. It was lovely to come across such bright fabric, particularly when the weather outside was so miserable!
Ragged Life have produced an excellent blog post that takes you through all the steps of making your very own hessian wreath, but it’s beautifully simple to do. Basically, you want to draw a large circle on your hessian (I used a dinner plate to draw around). You then need a smaller circle inside this one (a smaller plate!) and the space in between the two is where you’ll be doing your rag rugging. Leave a good hem all the way around your wreath and tack the seams as it will fray terribly otherwise.
Next you need to make a smaller circle still, right in the centre of the hessian, and it’s useful to stitch all around this to stop it from fraying as you’ll be cutting here later. (In the photo to the left you can see the thick black line which is where I need to rag rug up to).
I used a selection of different cotton fabrics for my wreath, but you can use whatever you have to hand really. The cotton frayed a bit but to me that just adds to the rustic look of the wreath. Cutting it on the bias will reduce the fraying though.
To rag rug a piece of your fabric you hold it behind the hessian, push your rugging tool through the hessian from the front to the back and use the hook to grab hold of your fabric and bring one end of it through to the front. You then repeat this procedure to bring the other end of your fabric piece to the front of your work, leaving a gap of about 3 holes in between.
You’ll see from the back of the work that you don’t need to fill all of the hessian in. The fabric flays out on the front and covers the holes so you don’t need to worry too much about where you place the pieces. Hessian is a very forgiving fabric to work with!
Once you’ve filled in all the space between the two largest circles, you’re ready to attach the hessian to the backing. To make the backing you need some strong cardboard (I used an old packing box in the garage). The backing needs to be exactly the same size as the wreath.
Now it’s time to cut out the very centre circle of plain hessian and make a few snips up toward the rag rugging, being careful not to cut into your fabric.
Place the cardboard backing onto the wrong side of the rag rugging and work your way around, stapling the hessian into place as you go. Make sure you pull it tight. If you don’t have a staple gun, you can open up an ordinary stapler and use that.
If you like, you can attach a felt backing to the wreath to cover up the staples and the cut hessian, or you can simply attach a piece of ribbon and hang it up ready to be admired!
If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about the history of these traditional crafts, there’s a really handy guide to proggy and hooky produced by the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead here. It even includes details of how to make your own frame if you fancy having a go at a larger mat.