Rugs and Their Stories

Things Worth Doing and How to do Them

Woman Weaving a Rag Rug, Photo from Things Worth Doing and How to Do Them

Recycling is not a new concept!

Finding new uses for old things was important for homesteaders and Pioneers in early Utah.

Traditionally, rag rugs are made from leftover scraps of clothing, bedding, and sacks that are woven together.  Twining is a weaving method that requires the use of a wooden frame (loom)  with nails lining the top and bottom. The nails hold scraps of fabric pulled tight forming a vertical warp .Other fabric scraps, the weft, are twisted and woven horizontally through the warp creating a crocheted or braided effect.

Sadly, there is not much documentation of rag rugs before the 19th century. This is likely due to the fact that it was a common and uneventful aspect of domestic life. The introduction of machine produced fabrics gave rise to more rag rugs. Many people continue to make rag rugs today for their utility and to honor the hard work of their ancestors.

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Twined Rag Rug

Twined Rag Rug, Deeanna Price, 2019

Deeanna Price

Deeanna made her first rug when she was 15 for a 4-H project that she submitted to the Wayne County Fair. She learned how to twine rag rugs from her mother, Linda Chappell, who learned from Grace Afton Durfee, Deeanna’s grandmother.

The  warp was made from her father’s old coverall jeans. The  weft was woven with bits of fabric from several of her mother’s old aprons, favorite shirts, and leftover fabric from some of the dresses that Linda had handsewn for her daughters.

Twined Rag Rug, Detail

Twined Rag Rug Detail, Deeanna Price, 2019

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Grace grew up during the Depression and lived by the motto, “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Deeanna follows this principle today as she continues making rag rugs. Deeanna included scraps of clothing from her mother and father in this rug.

Twined Rag Rug, Detail

Twined Rag Rug Detail, Grace Afton Durfee, 2008

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Grace finished this colorful rag rug a few months before she died at age 96 in 2008. This rug is one of Deeanna's most treasured keepsakes from her grandmother. 

Twined Rag Rug

Twined Rag Rug, Grace Afton Durfee, 2008

Grace Afton Durfee

Grace first learned to create twined rag rugs at the age of 22, during the height of the Great Depression in 1933 while living in Almo, Idaho. A neighbor from Scandinavia instructed her in the craft, and she eventually brought the tradition to Wayne County, Utah. 

She taught community and church groups how to twine. Rag rugs made by local artisans can now be purchased at the historic Gifford House and other shops around Capitol Reef National Park.

Vocabulary Words: 
  • Rag Rugs: These rugs are traditionally made from small strips of fabric hooked into or pushed through a base textile material. Rag rugs are most commonly created with recycled fabric and twined on a loom.
  • Twining: A specific weaving method requiring two sets of yarns (in rag rugs, the warp and the weft.) One yarn is used for a plain weave, while the second yarn is used for wrapping around the first yarn, creating the twisted appearance (twining). Two rows of the twisted yarns next to each other create a braid.
  • Warp: The plain weave portion of a twined weave on a loom, which forms vertical straight lines of fabric that the weft is then twisted and woven through.
  • Weft: The portion of fabric which is twisted and woven through the weft, creating a braided appearance.
  • Loom: The frame (typically made of wood) which a weaver uses to pull their warp tightly, and weave the weft through until the product is completed.