Rag-tastic

So I’ve been putting some more thought into the direction that I want to go with zween and came to the conclusion that I really like working with re-claimed/re-purposed/recycled objects.  So now, at last, I have a focus!  I can’t tell you want a relief this is!

Though I’ve done lots of work with re-claimed/re-purposed/recycled objects in the past, I only just realized while participating in the Sandusky Art Walk last Thursday that most of my work now could be categorized in this way.  It seems like such a simple thing, but once I realized this it was much easier to talk with people about my work in a genuine and excited manner.

What is really exciting about this realization is that it’s still a broad category.  It focuses as much on the materials as the end product.  By this I mean I can find a material that is in need of a new life (ie: bed sheets, plastic bags, puzzles with missing pieces, damaged clothing, matchbooks, junk mail, etc.) and work with them until I find an appropriate application.

This of course means that I may go to a craft fair with an array of items; personal accessories, home items, and gift items (in other words, what would seem as a complete hodge podge of products) but they can still all live together in that realm of the re-made.

Last week I showed you a rag rug made from old bed sheets.  Well, it didn’t work out.  I was throughly unhappy with the oval shape and the use of double crochet so I ripped it all out and started over, making it into a circular rug instead.

I took my unfinished rug to the Art Walk to work on during slow periods.  It proved to be quite the conversation starter!  I can’t count the number of times someone said, “oh hey, a rag rug!  My mother/grandmother/aunt used to make those!”

As it turns out an Art Walk is not the best place to work on a giant rag rug.  For one thing I couldn’t check its flatness on the ground, as it was filthy, and it was a bit cumbersome when I needed to stop and get up to talk with someone.  My second attempt didn’t work out very well either.  Though I was sure I was counting my stitches correctly, it become apparently clear that the rug was becoming wavier with every round, meaning that there were probably too many stitches somehow.  I ended up ripping out more than half of my work, so what you see in this post is actually my third attempt (see photo at top of post).

As you can see, my new rug is made in a single crochet spiral.  It’s turning out much better now but the next time I make a rug I think I will make my strips of cloth skinnier.  The strips for this pink, white, and yellow rug are 2 inches wide.  One and a half-inch strips would work better I think.

Though I’m not quite done with my rug (but almost!) I decided to start (and finish) another rag project, so I made a bag.  Though this bag is made out of strips of cloth like the rug, it is not from a bed sheet.  The black fabric I used here is from my college thesis project.  My project was a huge installation of crochet copper wire, and at the last-minute I realized that I would need a black ceiling to really set off the copper.  Since I wasn’t allowed to paint the ceiling black I did the next best thing; I bought yards and yards of the cheapest black fabric I could find and sewed the panels together.  It sounds janky but the end result turned out well and my project ended up being in the top 20 of my class.

That was 6 years ago however and I still have all this fabric! And now I’m using it. It was a great way to experiment with the fabric strips as well with my crochet techniques.

For my black hand bag I ripped my fabric strips to just one inch wide, which is quite skinny, but I still used my chunkiest hook (seen in rug photo). This gives the crocheted fabric a lot more drape, yet it still keeps its form very well. In the picture above the bag is not propped up against anything, nor is there any stuffing inside of it.

Since the fabric is a solid color I thought it would be fun to make some different textures with the crochet to give it more visual interest.  The base and lower portion of the bag is single crochet, which gives it a lot of strength.  The vertical ribs around the mid-section of the bag are made using a technique of crocheting around the post of a double crochet.  By alternating between regular double crochet and double crochet around the post you get these nice ribs, which almost look a little like knit.  It also gives this mid section a nice stretchiness, which is usually hard to achieve in crochet.

Tutorial: fabric strips for use in crochet or knitting

For those of you who would like to learn to crochet or knit with fabric strips you can watch this video on Etsy.  Or, if you don’t have a fast enough internet connection (this one’s for you Noelle) I have prepared a little photo tutorial to help illustrate the process.


first, rip your fabric into strips. The strips shown here are 2 inches wide. The wider your strips the thicker your end fabric will be. Thick strips work well for rugs but they are also a little hard to crochet with in my opinion.


Next, if your fabric is hemmed rip out the hem as well.



Now fold over the end a bit and make a small, vertical slit in the fabric.


Do the same thing with your next fabric strip.


Thread the second strip through the hole of the first strip.



Now thread the other end of the second strip through the hole of the second strip and pull. (it’s a little tricky to see this part in the photos).


When the two strips are pulled tightly you will have a very strong knot that will not unravel!

Keep your eyes out for more recycled inspired objects in the near future.  If you haven’t already, make sure to like zween on facebook so that you can keep up to date on all my new posts, projects, and upcoming events.

See you soon and happy crafting!

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2 Comments

Filed under Tutorials

2 responses to “Rag-tastic

  1. I love reading your posts, you are very inspiring to others! Thanks and keep up the amazing work!

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