Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rag work (By 4Ernesto)

Some years ago I thought that rag work was something I will never try. I thought that it would be very difficult. One day I visited a friend. In her house I saw exquisite pieces of rags. I asked their origin and the answer was not what I expected. She made them herself!!! I was so surprised because I could never imagine that a hobby could produce so fine results. When she saw how surprised I was, she offered to show me the basic techniques. Believe me I was willing to learn much more than that and I did. Now I am in the position to tell you what she taught me back then. Try rag work, it is more than a hobby...

Here I will start with the materials. Do not think of something expensive, the materials are recycled and therefore very inexpensive. Even the most unlikely fabrics, such as crimpling or unfashionable prints, are transformed when cut into strips and mixed with other colors and textures. Modern rag makers even use discarded plastic carrier bags, crisps and sweets packets. The other inexpensive material widely used in rag work is Hessian.

You can find below all the details that you will need concerning materials to use for rag work.

Cotton Fabrics
In particular old printed shirts and dresses or remnants, are ideal for rag work and particularly suitable for plaiting, crochet and knitting.

Jersey Fabrics
Cotton T-shirts are lovely to work with, fray very little and are good for cut or loop pile surfaces.

Fabric strips
A wide variety of fabric can be recycled, including old clothing, curtains and bedclothes. Cut off any fastenings and seams.

Plastic strips
These are a modern option to use with or instead of fabric. Plastic carrier bags slip easily through the Hessian and create unusual textures.

Foil strips

Add sparkle with foil-backed crisps packets and gift wrap.

Black felt
It is used as a smart backing cloth to finish jewellery, mirror frames and tablemats. Cut offcuts into strips and use in another project.

This is cheap, lightweight cotton very suitable for internal covers for cushion pads. It can be used as a backing cloth.

Originally old sacking cloth was used to hook or prod through. Hessian, made from jute, has a pliable, woven construction and the warp and weft threads open and close easily. It is available in different weights. 250gr is perfect for rag work.

Tapestry canvas
It has a more rigid construction and can therefore be worked without a frame. For a rug, choose a weave of three holes to 2.5cm

Carpet webbing tape

This one is a heavy-duty woven calico tape, used to cover the edges of rugs. It comes in various widths.

Carpet binding tape
This is also used to bind edges and seams on the back of rugs.

Thin wire
It is useful in sculpted pieces. It is often used in the wrapping technique.

Latex carpet adhesive
It is used in backing finished pieces of rag work. Use in a well-ventilated area and avoid contact with clothing.

Clear-drying impact adhesive
It can be used in small amounts to stick backing cloth such as felt to smaller pieces of work.

It is a very strong, quick-drying adhesive that is used to secure jewellery findings, such as ring fittings etc.

Brooch clip fastenings
These are available in metal in several designs. The two pictured are suitable for rag work jewellery. The brooch bar-style fastening is sewn to the back of work, while the round-shaped fastening is best stuck on.

Hair clip fastenings
They are available in several sizes. Measure the finished hairslide shape to determine the length of the bar needed.

Ring fittings
Made in metal, these are available in silver and gold finishes. Adjustable styles are best.

Drinks can ring pulls
They make ideal hangers for picture and mirror frames.

Elastic hair bands
These are available in a variety of colors so you can coordinate hair accessories.

Black sewing thread
It is used to tack down edges and to slip stitch black felt backing cloth into position.

Invisible thread
It is very strong. It is used to hem finish any color.

Colored sewing threads
For hard-wearing projects, use double-thickness cotton or a polyester mix sewing thread.

Colored viscose / rayon embroidery threads
They come in a selection of bright, acidic colors. Use to bind strips of fabric in wrapping.

Colored cotton embroidery thread
It is thicker than general sewing thread and suitable for hand-sewn decorative finishes.

All the above are basic the materials that you will probably need for rag work. You can use other materials as well, if you think they match.

Besides the materials you will need equipment as well. Rag work requires very few specialist tools. The equipment needed depends on which rag work techniques you are using. Plaiting and wrapping need least equipment of all; little more than a needle and thread. Knitting and crochet are done with ordinary needles. For hooking or prodding, you need a frame of some kind. Small projects can be worked in an embroidery hoop.

Here you can find a list of equipment that you will probably need.

1. Masking tape is used to stick down a tracing, prevent the raw edges of Hessian fraying, or to tape the rough edges of tapestry canvas, to avoid skin irritation.
2. Tape measure. This is an essential item and more flexible than a ruler.
3. Dressmaker's pins are handy to hold fabric in place before stitching.
4. Safety pin. This is used in the plaiting technique.
5. Sewing needles are constantly used for finishing, especially when attaching the backing cloth. Also they are important in plaiting.
6. Crochet hook (10 mm size) is needed for the crochet technique and it can also be used in the hooking technique.
7. Knitting needles (10 mm size) are used for the knitted patchwork rug.
8. Drawing paper. It is always a good idea to draw the design first.
9. White card is used for making templates.
10. Cutting mat. A plastic self-healing cutting mat prevents marking your table.
11. Tracing paper is used to sketch and transfer the design.
12. String is used in setting up a frame. By using a large-eyed needle, stitch the string through the Hessian and around the frame edge to get the Hessian taut.
13. Craft knife. Use as an alternative to scissors for cutting out templates.
14. Scissors are essential in all rag work projects. You need two pairs: a sharp pair for cutting fabric and a pair for cutting paper, foil and plastic, as these materials will blunt the blades.
15. Marker pen. A large, black, indelible marker pen works best for marking out the design on the Hessian
16. Transfer pencil. This is used to transfer the design on to the Hessian. Draw over the reverse of the artwork, and then iron on.
17. Prodder. This is a blunt-ended wooden tool used in making a prodded mat. An alternative is a large, smooth-ended wooden peg.
18. Hook. This has a hand-turned yew handle with a tapering brass sharp-ended hook. It is pushed through the Hessian up to the wooden handle, leaving a large hole.
19. Metre rule. Use this to mark out the outline of a large rug on to Hessian.
20. Ruler. Use this to measure straight edges for small-scale design work.
21. Large adjustable frame and pegs. The traditional wooden mat-making frame is adjustable, with two pieces of wood for the length, two) with drilled holes in which to position the pegs) for the sides, and four turned wooden pegs, one for each corner. The length can be wrapped round the frame so that you can continue working on the next area, approximately 56 cm deep. Hessian is stapled or strung on to the frame and the pegs are then positioned one at each corner, keeping the Hessian very taut. Use this for larger rugs and wall hangings.
22. Embroidery hoops are used to stretch Hessian for making smaller items.
23. Artist's stretchers make a good portable frame and are available in pairs in many different lengths. Always use a frame larger than the finished piece of work.
24. Pliers are used to cut wire, particularly in the wrapping technique.
25. Sewing machine. This is not an essential item, but very helpful for stitching applique and hems.
26. Rotary cutter. This is useful for quickly cutting layers of fabric into strips.
27. Staple gun. This can be used to attach the Hessian to the frame quickly.
28. Iron. Hessian is usually supplied either rolled or folded, so you may need to iron out any creases.

So, all you have to do is to gather all the materials and equipments that you will need (it is not necessary to have everything) and we will start together. Later I will give you the basic techniques and then I will tell you how you can make yourself rugs, jewellery, handbags, cushions and many more things that you probably would like to have or to give to your love ones.

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