Monday, November 06, 2006

Rag work -Basic Techniques (By 4Ernesto)

There are many techniques that can be used; each technique has its own characteristics and each is suitable for different items.
Some of them are: Hooking, Prodding, Plaiting, Crochet, Knitting and Wrapping. Here I am going to give you instructions on how to use all these techniques.


This is the most common technique used in rag work, and also the most versatile. It lends itself to recycling and can revitalize many redundant materials, including plastics and foil as well as a huge range of fabrics, both natural and synthetic.

Strips of these materials are worked, or hooked, through a hessian backing cloth. They can be left as a loop pile surface, or sheared with scissors to create a cut pile surface. An effective use of hooking is to combine cut and loop pile within one piece. This gives a sculpted, three-dimensional appearance, as you can see in the Queen of Hearts and Mythological Beast projects.

1. Place one hand underneath the frame, and loop a strip of fabric between your thumb and forefinger. With your other hand above the frame, push the hook through the hessian. Feed the fabric loop on to the hook.

2. Pull the hook back up through the hessian, bringing the end of the strip of fabric through to the top.

3. Leave 1-2 warp threads of hessian to keep the loops close together. Push the hook back through the hessian and feed the fabric loop on to the hook, as before. Pull the hook back up through the hessian to make a loop, approximately 1 cm high. Continue. Bring the ends of fabric through to the top, and trim to the same height as the loops.

4. To create a cut pile surface, repeat steps 1-3 but hook the loops to a height of approximately 2 cm. Shear across the top of the loops with a large pair of scissors.

Sample Swatches of Hooked Materials

The most unlikely fabrics and materials can be incorporated within your work, and recycling is a natural, traditional approach to exploring the technique of hooking.

- Sea Green Knitted Cotton Jersey T-Shirt Fabric
Works well for both cut and loop pile surfaces. Results in a highly durable surface, suitable for rugs.
- Red Foil Crisps Packets
Loop pile gives the most interesting results. Good for jewellery and other fashion accessories.
- Tan-coloured Nylon Tights
It works with both surfaces, quite diverse results. Suitable for most projects. Try other colours.
- Petrol Blue Knitted Woollen Dress Fabric
This fabric felts when machine-washed on a high temperature setting. Versatile, good for use in any project.
- Rust-coloured Satin Coat Lining Fabric
Look beyond a coat's exterior - linings are available in many colours. It is most suitable for hats, bags and wall hangings.
- Denim Jeans
Denim can be used by itself to great effect; combining washed and faded denim with darker indigo shades. Very hard-wearing, hooked denim floor rugs have a long lifespan.
- Mint Green Patterned Crimplene Dress Fabric
Not known for its beauty in its former life but very effective here. Numerous uses in interior and fashion projects.
- Green Plastic Carrier Bag
Slips through the hessian with the greatest of ease! Waterproof - suitable for bathmats, jewellery, wall pieces.
- Lemon Yellow Acrylic / Wool Blanket
Cut thicker, heavier weight fabric into thinner strips. Excellent wearing properties, this is most suitable for floor rugs.
- Red Tartan Kilt Fabric
Woven and printed fabrics help to break up areas of flat colour. Little difference between the look of the loop and cut surfaces. Good for decoration..

The prodding technique is also known as proggie, peggy, tabbie, poked and brodded, to name but a few of the regional variations. Traditionally wool clippings from old, worn clothing and blankets were used to make "clippy" mats.

This technique is worked from the reverse side of the backing. Prodding creates a deep, shaggy surface and works well for soft, thick textured rugs or wall hangings. Designs tend to have an impressionistic look, as the details are blurred due to the surface pile.

1. Prepare the fabrics by cutting them into clippings 7 x 1½ cm. Working on the underside of the frame, make a hole with the tapered end of the prodder. Take a clipping and prod it halfway through the hessian, using the prodder. Use your other hand on the other side to catch and pull the fabric down to approximately half its length.

2. Make another hole with the prodder a bit less than 1 cm away, or 4-5 warp threads of hessian.

3. Prod the other end of the clipping through this hole. Using your hand underneath, tug both ends of the clipping until they are of even length. Continue by prodding the next clipping through the same hole as the end of the first clipping.


Plaiting is strongly associated with American folk art. Three strips of fabric are first plaited together. The plaits are then joined by machine or hand stitched. They can be wound into circular shapes or worked into square or rectangular rugs.

1. Plaiting is much easier if you first fasten the ends of the fabric strips together with a safety pin, and hook this over a cuphook screwed into the wall. Start the plaiting near the safety pin. Bring the right-hand strip over the middle strip, then bring the left-hand strip over the new middle strip. Continue plaiting, turning the raw edges under as much as possible, until you are left with about 20 cm unplaited. Secure the end with a pin.

2. Remove the safety pin and taper the beginning of the plait, trimming as necessary. Stitch neatly to conceal the raw edges when joining the plaits.

In recent years, experimental crochet work has moved away from the tradition of using wool. Using fabric strips creates beautifully subtle changes within colour tones, and the technique works well in three-dimensional projects, such as the Crochet Duffel Bag.

Crochet is also useful for joining knitted pieces together.

ch: chain
dc: double crochet
lp: loop
sc: single crochet
st: stitch
sl st: slip stitch
tr: treble
yoh: yarn over hook

Making Foundation Chain

Chain stitch is the foundation stitch on to which further stitches are worked. Make a slip loop to form first stitch. Yoh, draw through lp. Repeat until ch reaches desired length.

Slip Stitch
This is used for joining pieces. Sl st, skip 1 ch, insert hook under top lp of next ch. Yoh, draw through ch and lp on hook (1 sl st formed). Repeat to end of ch. Turn, make 1 ch and continue, working next sl st under both lps of 2nd st from hook. Work last sl st of row into last ch.

Double Crochet

This is used to edge knitting. Skip 1 ch, insert hook under top lp of next ch. Yoh, draw through ch only. Yoh and draw through both lps on hook (1 dc formed). Repeat to end of ch. Work last dc of row into last ch. Turn, make 1 ch and continue, working the next dc under both lps of 2nd st from hook.


Very durable, this is ideal for the bases of various bags. Skip 3 ch, yoh, insert hook under top lp of next ch, yoh and draw through ch only (3 lps on hook). Yoh, draw through next 2lps on hook (2 lps on hook). Yoh, draw through 2 remaining lps on hook (1 tr formed). Repeat to end of ch. Turn, make 3 ch and continue, working next tr under both lps of 2nd st from hook. Work last tr of row into the last ch of previous row.


Knitting with fabric strips is an interesting and fun alternative to using wool. Patterned cotton fabrics work particularly well - as the number of stitches grows on the needles, both the top and underside of the fabrics are exposed, revealing softer tones within the colour variations. For a patchwork effect, knit squares of different fabric strips and join together with crochet.

Casting on
Make a slip loop on the left needle to form the first stitch. Insert the right needle through the loop. Wrap the yarn forward, under and over the right needle. Draw the new loop through the slip loop and pass it on to the left needle. Repeat to create as many stitches as you need.

Plain Knit or Garter Stitch
Plain knit, or garter, stitch is the simplest of all knitting stitches. Every stitch of every row is knitted. Hold the working needle in your right hand like a pencil.

Insert the right needle through the first loop on the left needle. Wrap the yarn forward, under and over the right needle. Draw the stitch forward and under and slop it off the left needle on to the right. Repeat to the end of the row, then turn the work and knit the next row.

Casting off
Knit the first two stitches as usual. Insert the left needle under the first stitch made, from left to right. Lift the stitch up and over the second stitch and over the point of the needle. Knit the next stitch from the left needle and repeat the process to the end of the row. Cut the end of the yarn and draw it through the final stitch to finish off.


This technique uses very little material. Strips of fabrics are bound together with coloured embroidery threads to create wallhangings. Wire can be added to create beautiful, sculptural jewellery.

1. Select three different fabrics, and cut into strips 1 cm wide. Choose a coloured embroidery thread to enhance the fabrics' colours. Pinch the strips tightly together in one hand. Working from the right, with the other hand start to bind the thread closely around the fabric strips.

2. Continue binding with the thread until you wish to change the fabric. Add a loop of thicker yarn, with the loop facing the end you have been working from. Continue to wrap the thread around this.

3. Thread the remaining embroidery thread through the loop. Pull the two ends of the thicker looped yarn towards the left until the thread is fastened off.

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