If, like me, you have heretofore had to stick your fingers in your ears at the words “handmade” and “rug” to guard against inevitable price tag related disappointment, you might want to check out Terry Ann Dewald’s rag rug shop on Etsy. Terry is a full time oncology nurse from Ames, Iowa who, following in the tradition of her parents and grandparents, has been weaving rugs from collected scrap fabric for most of her life in what little spare time she has.
She has an unbelievable sense of color and texture, whether she expresses it in a riot of cheery hues or a delicate and almost imperceivable shift between like neutrals. Terry’s attention to her palette of rags gives each rug an incredible depth and richness and turns a simple and thrifty technique into a real art form.
A lot of home decor stores, such as Urban Outfitters, sell imported rag rugs at temptingly low prices, but they generally aren’t made from recycled materials. Terry’s rugs, by contrast, are nothing but repurposed, sell for just a few dollars more, and are handmade right here in the US of A.
She explained a little bit about her rugs to me in an email, which I thought I would share:
“This craft was handed down by my grandparents. Grandpa purchased a loom when he retired off the farm for ‘something to do.’ My mother never threw away a shirt, pair of pants, or a worn-out sock. It was all saved and ended up in a rug. So I knew in my early 20’s to save it all. Once I had enough collected I would prep the rags and grandpa would do the weaving for me. In 1983 I purchased a second hand loom and got it up and going. Soon friends and neighbors found out what I was doing so when they emptied out closets they brought the old clothes my way.
Prepping the rags is the most time consuming part of a rug. First the garment must be taken apart. Then cut into strips and those strips sewn together into one continuous long weft. It is then that I can begin weaving the rug. I have a large floor loom which has a large warp beam in the back that I load with warp. I can make 50+ rugs on one filling. But I must say the filling of that warp beam is a time consuming part of my job.
In 2012 I was looking for a place locally to do some volunteer work. There is a christian organization that accepts clothing donations to put in the store where anyone can come shop for FREE. As a volunteer we sort through the donations and throw away anything that is stained, ripped, or has inappropriate language/pictures on it. Also if it has been on the racks for some time they sort through and throw those items away. It is the items that normally would go in the garbage that I bring home. There is very little I can’t use. A couple of my favorite items are socks and sweaters. Mostly because those rugs just have a different texture.”
The rug pictured here is made entirely of recycled blue jeans set in a striped pattern. It’s sturdy, machine washable, and makes me smile every time I walk on it!