Urban Farming

Rag Rug. Part 1.

It begins with a need.  The roller chair in the upstairs room where NeighborsNorth and novels are composed is cutting through the floorboards.  The chair is digging unsightly wells in the finish, chewing up the fir and spitting out splinters. 

Unsightly wells in floorboards.  What to do?

Unsightly wells.  What to do?

What to do, what to do? laments the Urban Farmer.

Solution 1.   Sand and add more floor finish. 

Solution 2.  Install area rug. 

Solution one doesn’t inspire.  Adding more floor finish seems like, well, work.  Solution one entails trudging to the basement,



opening the green cabinet,

The Green Cabinet.

The Green Cabinet.

shoving aside the snake for unclogging drains, rummaging through paints, varnishes, and weed killers, overloading the synapses with a puzzling array of goops and glops, environmentally friendly and unfriendly options, zeroing in on the right product, prying open the can, sniffing, peering in to see if the goop is still serviceable, stirring, choosing an applicator—brush, sponge, rag?—oh, the agony of choices!—and donning painter clothes. 

The agony of choices.

The agony of choices.

Solution one might involve a whole afternoon.  Or even two.

Solution two, install area rug, sounds more enticing.  The Urban Farmer might pedal to Best Buy, Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target or all of the above.  She might admire a range of lovely area rugs, purchase, pedal home, dispose of the plastic packaging, place the rug on the splintered ground, and roll away.

But neither solution appeases the craft urge.  The Urban Farmer has tamped down her craft urge for about a month now, but the cravings are increasing.  Four weeks ago she endured a bad craft trip.  She thought she was hand quilting her Friends and Family quilt top to batting and quilt bottom.  Really she was quilting the quilt to itself.  That’s what she gets for quilting in the car–an amorphous quilt blob.  She should stick to less ambitious pursuits while passengering, like reading or studying Arabic.

Walter Langley - The Old Quilt

This quilter would never quilt in a car.

After the quilt fiasco, she basically went cold turkey.  Until last Monday when she pedaled out to the parents’ to clean, that is.  While vacuuming she came upon a braided, light blue and white striped, rag rug.  She should have turned the Miele around; closed the door and let the dust bunnies rule.  “Mom,” she called out instead, “Did you make the rug in A—’s old room?” (Already she was salivating at the thought of crafting her very own rag rug.)

Do bears like honey?

BTB wishes all of his Jewish colleagues, frien...

Does money grow on Wall Street? Of course Mom made the rug.  What hasn’t Mom made? Mom makes everything.  (See what the Urban Farmer is up against? Even if she wants to go zero tolerance, to just say no to crafts, how can she with Mom constantly tempting, constantly feeding the craft urge?)

On the pedal home the Urban Farmer tries to think about something besides fabric scraps and rag rugs, but it’s too late.  She’s hooked.  Didn’t her co-habitator just set out some shirts and a pair of ratty Dockers for the Big Blue Truck people? Surely the Good Will and V.V. people of this world aren’t going to miss a handful of co-habitator’s worn clothes.  They’ll probably just landfill them, muttering on about those cheapskates on Route 11 who think they’re doing Big Blue Truck a favor by “donating” stuff not even a scarecrow would wear.

Co-habitator’s pile of discards are calling her home.  She pedals faster.

But she won’t go about this willy-nilly.  She won’t simply dive in with scissors and glue—well, not glue, sewing machine.  She’ll set ground rules.  She will You-tube.  She will research and peruse the crafting archives.  She will see what the other crafters have done.

And it won’t be like two years ago when her googling got her mixed up with the toothbrush rug people either.  She’s wiser now.  She isn’t about to get sucked into the toothbrush rug cult.  She knows what to google.  “Braided rag rug.  How to,” she types into the bar.

Scads of entries come up.  A 20-something guerrilla fashionista girl with great make-up and hair and a great surf soundtrack is taking three weeks to redecorate her N.Y., N.Y apartment.  She’s outfitting it with essential gear like the beach rock rug.  “Wow!”  The Urban Farmer leans forward in her roller chair.  “I didn’t even know I needed one of these.” 

Guerrilla Girl doesn’t even explain what a beach rock rug is.  That’s how popular it is.  We’re all just supposed to know. 

Guerrilla Girl made hers from a wolf fleece blanket.  She’s had wolf fleece since forever, since she was eleven years old.  It was her favorite fleece in the world.  Then her dog chewed a hole through it.  She had to turn it into a beach rock rug. 

Beach Rock Rug.

Beach Rock Rug.

The Urban Farmer is tempted to sit and watch all of Guerrilla Girl’s redecorating episodes and groove in her roller chair to Guerrilla Girl’s surf soundtrack.  But Urban Farmer can’t really see the clothing lump she’s diverting from the Big Blue Truck people turning into beach rock rug material.  Plus the Urban Farmer isn’t living in funky N.Y., N.Y. digs like Guerrilla Girl.  Good-bye, Guerrilla Girl.  The Urban Farmer clicks on.

Next up, Smiling Chica Girl tempts with a jeans rug made out of vaqueros viejos (that’s old dungarees for you non-Mexican speakers.)  The Urban Farmer is riveted as Smiling Chica Girl tears jeans length-wise into strips, builds a loom with cardboard and twine, weaves the jeans strips over and under through the twine and voilà.  Rug.  Huh? That’s a rug?

The Urban Farmer waits for the next step of layering.  Isn’t Smiling Chica Girl going to finish the raw ends? Isn’t she going to layer in more vaquero viejos?

How can this be a rug? The Urban Farmer can see daylight through the gaps.  Where is the magical trash to treasures craft transformation? The Urban Farmer feels totally ripped off.  The Urban Farmer still sees shredded jeans and twine.

Jeans and twine rug, so-called.

Jeans and twine rug, so-called.

And where’s the functionality? How is Smiling Chica Girl going to clean this rug? Vacuuming’s going to be a nightmare.  Putting it through the wash is going to result in major fraying. 

And where’s the rug feel? Is this lashing of jeans and twine going to feel spongy or scrunchy or the least bit ruggy when you step on it? No. 

This rug is not OK, Smiling Chica Girl.  This “rug” is an affront to crafters everywhere.  Not even the lowliest, humblest Blue Bird troop would be proud to make this “rug.”

Moving on, Crafty Mom teaches the Urban Farmer about strip rugs.  Crafty Mom has made one using blues and pinks for her twin daughters.  The girls share a room.  One daughter likes blue, the other pink.  Crafty Mom has found a way to make everyone happy.  A rug with pink and blue.  This goes with the twins’ pink and blue bedspreads and pink and blue walls.  Thrifty.  Perky.  Crafty.  Fun.  Thumb’s up, Crafty Mom!

Next, the Urban Farmer learns about the braided rug’s kissing cousin—the knotted rug.  She watches a lady demonstrate how to start a knotted rug with two pieces of ribbon.  The Urban Farmer scoffs.  A ribbon rug?  This seems as preposterous as Smiling Chica Girl’s “rug.”

The knot rug.  Not for the Urban Farmer.

The knot rug. Not for the Urban Farmer.

Onward to the Ecowoman channel.  Today’s lesson is all about tarn, a.k.a., T-shirt yarn.  Tarn is what a real crafter makes with old T-shirts. That’s of course when she’s not making tote bags out of her old Tees. 


Today Ecowoman demos how to make 5—count ‘em, 5!—bags from one, you heard right—1!—T-shirt.  Two from the arms, one from the underarm on down.  Two from the collar to underarm.  Amazing! Use the T-totes in place of plastic produce bags.  Use them at the farmer’s market. 

The beloved T-shirt tote.

The beloved T-shirt tote.

T-shirt totes and tarn are all well and good, but they aren’t rugs.  Time for the Urban Farmer to leave The Chronicles of Tarnia and get back on the rag rug express.

Time to get chummy with Dour Russian Lady.  Today Dour Russian Lady is demoing how to tame a braided coil.  She is all about hand sewing.  Hand sewing to secure the braided rug to a towel backing; hand sewing on a bias facing; carefully turning her edges down under the towel and hand sewing that.  Dour Russian Lady keeps assuring the Urban Farmer that she’s not really working that hard and that the hand sewing is not really taking that long.  You can’t buy a rug like this in any store, Dour Russian Lady says.  If the Urban Farmer cares about having matching room décor, she will have to make her own rug.

Bay State Lady is next.  Bay State Lady is calm and patient and no-nonsense.  She wears her glasses pushed up against her forehead and looks completely fine.

Bay State Lady

Bay State Lady

Her house contains a burgundy leather upholstered easy chair and lots of wainscoting.  The Urban Farmer can practically smell the clam chowder bubbling on Bay State Lady’s stove. 

Bay State Lady is all about technique and beauty, form and function.  A jean and twine rug would never be allowed in her house.  Today Bay State Lady is braiding lovely rose, lavender, and tan strips from old woolen blankets. 

The downside with Bay State Lady is her braiding tools.  The Urban Farmer is pretty sure these tools got discontinued 80 years ago.  She’s pretty sure the last one got sold on e-Bay in 2003.  If the Urban Farmer could time travel back to 1963 and do a New England barn tour, she might be able to find one.

Bay State Lady doesn’t seem to have considered that her viewers probably don’t have any ABCs (antique braiding contraptions) and she doesn’t offer any alternatives.  She just keeps warning how you better have an ABC or your braid isn’t going to be tight enough and your rug will look like crud. 

Bay State Lady’s next lesson is on the coiling of the braid and the securing of the coil.  Unlike Dour Russian Lady, Bay State Lady does not use an old towel for a backing.  That way her rug can be reversible.  Front and back will showcase her superbly braided rose, lavender, and tan coil. 

lacing with Bay State Lady.

lacing with Bay State Lady.

As she secures the coil, Bay State Lady gently guides us away from the notion that she is sewing.  She is not.  She is lacing.  And since she is lacing, not sewing, she is not using a needle, but a lacer.  Her lacer is long and thin and has an eye, but unlike a needle, her lacer has a blunt end, not a sharp one, for lacing together, not sewing, the strands of adjoining braids.

Next stop on the magic carpet ride is the Half Acre Farm and Canadian Accent Lady.   Canadian Accent Lady assures the Urban Farmer she’ll have plenty of time to make rag rug(s) (note the plural) because wintertime’s coming, which means the Urban Farmer won’t have any gardening or canning to do. 

Today Canadian Accent Lady is making a rag rug for her husband to have on his side of the bed.  She already has one on her side.  Shh! It’s for Christmas. 

Canadian Accent Lady is very empowering.  She says a rag rug can be made with whatever fabric you want.  100% cotton or 100% wool would be your best choices, she says in her nasally Canadian accent, but if the 100%ers aren’t what’s in your fabric stash, it’s OK.  Go with what you have. 

Best of all, Canadian Accent Lady doesn’t harp on about the ABC.  To keep the tension on her braid, she runs the braid between her big toe and the toe next to it.  Also she uses safety pins at intervals to keep the braid from unraveling. 

While Canadian Accent Lady is fine with being a toe-er and tolerant of all fabric types, unlike Smiling Chica Girl, she does finish her edges.  Not only are her edges all turned under as she braids, she’s sewn them in place.

Saturated with rag rug-making videos and demos, how-tos and how-not-tos, empowered by Guerrilla Girl, Bay State Lady, Ecowoman, Canadian Accent Lady, and yes, even Dour Russian Lady and Smiling Chica Girl, the Urban Farmer is ready to get started.  She is ready to enter the rug-making sisterhood.


3 thoughts on “Rag Rug. Part 1.

  1. pmcmullen4888 says:

    Kat, This had me laughing from start to finish. Haven’t had so much fun since.last at the dentist and was gassed. Thank you for the laughs! I give this piece a solid FIVE GOLD STARS! .

    How long did it take to pen. Did you go to Hat?

    Thanks for the laughs,,


    Sent from my LG phone


  2. Cheri Stefani says:

    This was so great to read and really reminded me of my U tube research on rag rugging….which I have still not done because I really can’t find a how to that fits my needs (simple, easy to follow instructions with practical tools). Anyway, well done.


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