Rag Time Reward

by Joanne M. Gee

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    With a little patience and work, rags—like magic—turn into something new.

    “Throw ’em in the rag bag,” Mom would say whenever I outgrew an article of clothing. Sometimes it was hard to think that a favorite blouse or skirt would end up as a cleaning rag.

    But one rainy day, Mom told me how I could make something new from my old clothes. “I’ll show you how to make a rag rug,” she said.

    We got out the sack of old clothes. First, we tore the clothing into inch-wide strips. These varied in length. For instance, the pieces from a skirt were longer than those from a blouse.

    “Roll the strips into balls,” Mom said. “That way, the pieces won’t get all tangled up.” So I made separate balls of woolen cloth strips, cotton strips, and strips made from knit fabric. Mom explained that it was better to make my rug from one kind of fabric. If the strips were similar in bulk, it would be much easier to “work” the rug.

    When there was a variety of strips, I sewed them together, end to end. I sewed mine by hand, but a machine works fine, too. By alternating strips in color and design, I created a pretty pattern. It takes many, many of these strips sewn together to make a rug. I figured about 680 yards would make a 24-by-45-inch rug.

    Using a large wooden crochet hook (size 15), Mom showed me how to make a chain. This was the base of my rug.

    Size 15 (Actual size.)

    I made a slip knot with my cloth strip and inserted my hook through it from right to left. By pulling both ends of the strip, I drew the loop up close to the hook (figure 1).

    Figure 1.

    “Not too tight,” Mom directed.

    With my right hand, I held the hook. I looped the strip over the hook with my left hand. Then I pulled the strip through the loop to make a chain stitch. I repeated this over and over until I had 45 chains. That is, I had 45 chains plus the one on my hook (figures 2a and 2b). This made my rug about two feet wide.

    Figure 2.

    Next, I inserted the hook down through the second chain from the hook. I looped my strip over the hook and pulled it up through the chain (figure 3a). I then had two loops on my hook. Putting the strip over the hook once again, I pulled it through both of the loops. That made one single crochet (figure 3b). This procedure was repeated in each chain. When I got to the end of the row, I chained one more, then turned my work (figure 4).

    Figure 3.

    Figure 4.

    The second row was formed by making a single crochet in each single crochet of the first row. I again chained one before starting the next row.

    I kept repeating this until my rug was the length I wanted. Eighty-five rows of single crochet made a 45-inch rug. It took me approximately 56 hours to make it.

    To finish the rug, I removed the hook. Pulling the loop out, I worked the end of the strip back and forth through the rug’s stitches.

    At times, weeks would go by before I’d work on the rug. Then I’d be in the mood to crochet again, so I’d do a few more rows.

    Sometimes my girl friend would help. I’d let her crochet while I watched. Once in a while, Mom and I would work on our rugs together. Those were nice sharing times.

    When it was finally finished, it made a colorful spot by our door. I felt good when I’d see my favorite old clothes still being useful in a bright rug.

    Illustrated by Beth Whittaker