crocheted rag rug
A floor covering made out of strips of cloth hooked together in a sturdy netting.
In the center of the sitting room a marble-topped table stood on a crocheted rag rug… -These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 33, “Little Gray Home in the West”
Rag rugs are mentioned several times Little House books (but not once in Pioneer Girl). The rag rugs are something Laura notices in These Happy Golden Years; home after teaching in the Brewster School, the rag rugs were “gay on the floor.” Just this simple statement gives the reader a visual picture with which to compare the cozy and happy Ingalls house to the stark and bleak one of the Brewsters.
If you want to decorate a space and have it look like it just stepped out of the pages of a Little House book, you can’t go wrong with a rag rug.
Laura and Ma place rag rugs before the doors in The Long Winter (they’re pretty and keep cold air from blowing in beneath the door), and blind Mary Ingalls is able to braid carpet rags by keeping the colored strands in separate boxes and remembering which is which. When Laura mentions rag rugs in the Ingallses’ house, they are typically either decribed as braided or she doesn’t go into detail about their construction. We know that Laura herself braided rugs in real life. In daughter Rose Wilder Lane’s Woman’s Day Book of American Needlework (New York: Simon and Schuester, 1963), the last chapter is devoted to rug-making, and the last pattern in the book is for a “five strand” braided rug, accompanied by a photograph of a five-strand braided rug made by Laura Ingalls Wilder (the rug featured in the needlework book is usually on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder / Rose Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri).
Only one time is a crocheted rag rug mentioned in the Little House books. In These Happy Golden Years, while Laura and Almanzo are waiting to be married in Reverend Brown’s parlor, Laura notices three things: a picture on the wall, a marble topped table, and the crocheted rag rug on the floor below. In her Needlework book, Rose states that crocheted rag rugs date from around the mid-nineteenth century at the earliest. Usually round, they were crocheted in single stitch (usually called “single crochet”), of rags, using a wooden crochet hook of giant size. “Every crocheter knows the routine,” said Rose.
I crocheted the rug in the picture about twenty years ago. It’s rectangular – much easier to make than a round or oval rug, which every crocheter knows involves adding just the right number of stitches in just the right spots in order to keep the rug from puckering. This rug is about 4 feet wide and has varied in length over the years. Depending on where I wanted to use it, I’ve pulled out rows or crocheted them back over the years. Although faded a bit, it’s still remarkably sturdy.
If you want to crochet a rug and don’t have a stash of fabric or lots of old Little House site t-shirts to cut or tear into strips (t-shirt material makes great rugs!), let me tell you that it’s not a cheap project. Each colored “stripe” in my rug is at least a yard of fabric, cut into 2-1/4 inch strips and sewn together. You don’t have to sew strips together; there are several tricks for cutting one long strip out of a rectangle of fabric, or joining them without sewing.
One thing you don’t realize until you crochet a rag rug is just how heavy they can be. And because they’re heavy and bulky, they aren’t the easiest things to wash and dry. Best these days to keep to a size your washing machine can handle.
A Rag Rug. An effective rug can be made in this way: Cut long inch-wide strips of cloths, flannels, and various kinds of material (widening the strip, however, in proportion as the fabric is thinner). Sew the ends together so as to make one very long strip, which, for convenience’s sake, can be loosely wound up in a ball. Then, with a very large wooden crochet needle, you crochet a circle, a square, or oblong mat of this rag-strip, just as with cotton or worsted. It makes a strong, durable, and, with bright and tasteful colors, a very pretty rug. – “A Budget of Home-made Christmas Gifts” in St. Nicholas: Magazine for Boys and Girls (November 1877), 59.
An easy first rag crochet project is a coaster, as pictured in the insert. Shown on the coaster is the crochet hook I use for fabric; I made it out of apple wood. By the way, that’s my “Pa’s cottonwood” in the background of the photo.
crocheted rag rug (THGY 33)