Making a Rag Rug Jacket

For me, 2020 is all about pushing the boundaries of what I can rag rug and I must say, I’m loving it. So far, I’ve done a spot of amateur upholstery whilst making my Rag Rug Ottoman and Rag Rug Laundry Basket and I’ve got more and more ideas springing to mind every day.

Well, my latest hair-brained project is the rag rug jacket below (as modelled by my handsome boyfriend Christian because that’s what happens during lockdown!)

After I shared a sneak peak in the Ragged Life newsletter, quite a few of you were intrigued about how I’d gone about making it, so below I thought I’d share with you the steps I took to make it, starting with the inspiration. Here it goes…

The Inspiration:

A rag rug jacket has been on my rag rug bucket list for quite a while now, which is quite strange given that my first foray into the world of rag rug clothing was pretty uncomfortable (read more about that here).

However, I hadn’t got around to it before now because…

1) I was worried that a rag rug jacket would be totally impractical. Not without valid cause! Knowing what I know about rag rugging, I was hesitant to spend hours making a piece of rag rug clothing when I suspected it would be heavy, bulky and scratchy. Sounds appealing right?

2) I didn’t want to look like a Morris dancer. Nothing against Morris dancers – they look great in context, but I didn’t want to look like I’d stumbled out of the village fete.

Wikimedia Commons

So, I’d completely parked the idea, until a couple of things happened in 2019. Firstly, we featured the very talented Judith Edmondson on the Ragged Life Blog. Judith has made a few rag rug jackets, albeit without hessian as the base, and it started to get the creative juices flowing again. Secondly, I came across Rachel Burke and her tinsel jackets on Instagram. She looked so colourful and creative that I just knew that a Rag Rug Jacket was back on the books… Thanks for lighting a fire under me ladies!

So, with fresh enthusiasm, how do you go about making a rag rug jacket?

Step 1: Sew together a hessian jacket.

Now I’m no master dress maker, so I enlisted help for this particular part of the process. I had a vision of what style of jacket I wanted to create and asked former student and textile aficionado Gina Ferrari whether she would help me make it. There were a few important criteria that had to be met:

  1. Strong hems and seams. If you do not securely stitch the hessian near seams and hems, when you rag rug near them, the hessian strands pull through the seam and eventually the hessian will fall apart. I’ve made this stupid mistake once or twice when I first started making rag rug bags, so I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.
  2. A non-hessian trim around the neckline. I thought this would make the jacket look better constructed from the front, as well as making it easier to sew a lining in later on.
  3. A good fit. I wanted the jacket to fit well to reduce its bulkiness. With that in mind, you’d be tempted to sew the hessian jacket to fit your body as a normal jacket would. However, I knew the fabric on the back of the rag rugging would reduce the space inside the jacket enough to make it a bit too snug without any alterations. So, I went up a size when constructing the jacket to compensate.

And here are a couple of photos of the stitched together hessian jacket pre-rag rugging…

Once I’d got the hessian jacket sorted, it was on to the design…

Step 2: Sketch a design on

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with bold colourful designs with blocks of colour and the design for this jacket is no exception. Inspired once again by the talented artist Gillian Ayres, I sketched this design onto the hessian…

And I chose bold, bright coloured fabrics to fill it in based on some of the clothing I had on hand.

Step 3: Rag rugging the jacket

For me, this is the fun, paint-by-numbers part of the project. With a design like this with many crisp lines, it was a no-brainer to do the loopy technique of rag rugging. The loopy technique would also add the least bulk and weight to the jacket, hopefully making it more wearable and “flattering”.

Below is one work in progress photos of the jacket being made. Sorry, I completely forgot to take more while making it!

And after a couple of months of rag rugging, below is how the finished jacket turned out…

The Final Rag Rug Jacket

And my handsome model Christian 🙂

So, what did I learn?

It’s a bit too warm to wear the jacket out and about at the moment, but in winter I will definitely see how it stands up to the cold. I did, however, learn a few things while making it…

  1. As suspected, it’s not the most practical things I’ve worn. With the density of fabric in the hessian, it’s somewhat hard to completely bend your arms. Hilarious!
  2. The rag rug jacket is pretty heavy, which is hardly surprising given the amount of fabric that went into making it!
  3. It definitely needs lining. I haven’t got around to making a lining for the jacket yet (I’ve been too busy making face masks etc…), but I suspect that a satin lining would work a treat and will make the jacket so much comfier to wear.

Right, that’s my first ever rag rug jacket run through. Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to ask any questions by commenting below or just let me know what you thought of the jacket. Comments below are great motivation to make more wonderful creations.

As always, happy rag rugging!

Elspeth x

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[…] the midst of making my first ever Rag Rug Jacket, I stumbled across the punch needled work of Micah Clasper-Torch on Instagram. I was blown away by […]

LauraS
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LauraS

So glad that you made this. So some of us didn’t have to! LOL Great job seeing what one can do with these arts.

Chris Nicholson
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Chris Nicholson

I think it looks great Elspeth. Boundaries have been pushed! I couldn’t read all of the text though. On my iPad some of it was behind the photos

Stephanie Gaston
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Stephanie Gaston

I love it and the colourful design. Thank you for sharing your journey.