Behind the Scenes at Ragged Life – 1: Start with a Bang!

Hello lovely readers, thanks for tuning in to my new “Behind the Scenes at Ragged Life” series, where I dish the dirt on what it’s really like to be a full time rag rug maker and crafter. Plus, I’m reliably informed that stream of consciousness writing is supposed to do wonders for your “mindfulness”, so here it goes…

p.s. stumbled here by accident? Follow my highs and lows by subscribing to the Ragged Life newsletter here. Thanks peeps.

Jan 2021: Start with a bang!

Excuse my French, but 2020 was really quite a turd of a year. However, the silver lining for me was that finally I found the time to contact my publisher to propose a second rag rug book. And *spoiler alert* they said “yes”. Cue fanfare and party poppers.

This was undoubtedly amazing news, but meant that for the book to come out before Christmas in 2021, I would have to get my arse in gear and start making.

Which brings me onto my last couple of weeks at Ragged Life. While everyone else has been hoovering down mince pies, singing auld lang syne at the TV and generally forgetting the trauma of 2020, I have been making at a speed that would make Usain Bolt look slow.

Seriously, in the last two weeks alone, I have made three rugs, one wall hanging, one bag, one oversized cushion and a mysterious project (I’m too excited about it to give the game away) that has required rag rugging two hours per night for three weeks continuously. My boyfriend has had so many fabric fibres fall on him whilst sitting on the sofa that he’s starting to look like Stig of the Dump.

So, with all that going on, I’ve had a few highlights and lowlights from the past couple of weeks…

Dyeing fabric with tea:

Controversial though it may be, personally I prefer the colour cream in a rag rug project to white. It’s a purely subjective, but I think it looks a little less stark. I needed quite a bit of cream coloured fabric to complete the background for one of my projects for the new book and was totally out in my London flat. You can’t exactly pop down to the local charity shops with lockdown in full force, let alone with holiday hours, so I decided to take a leaf out of my mum’s book, and dye some fabric with tea bags. She used the method for some of the cream in her upholstered rag rug chair.

I took a pretty slapdash approach to the whole thing. Shoved six used tea bags and the fabric strips into a large mixing bowl with some white vinegar (it’s supposed to fix the colour a bit) and warm water, left it to sit for thirty minutes, then took the fabric out, wrung it and hung it on the radiator to dry.

The smell of the slightly vinegary fabric drying on the radiator wasn’t exactly pleasant, but it’s not like we’ve got guests coming round anytime soon. I was also so pleased with how the fabric turned out. The tea gave it a natural and variegated appearance. It also took me back to my childhood when I used to dye paper with tea to turn it into ye olde scrolls to write on for school projects.

This definitely got me eyeing up more pantry products to see what colours I could create from home. Watch this space. Have you tried natural dying? If so, let me know how you got on below 🙂

Idiot moment:

Anyone who has joined me for a full day workshop will have heard my warnings about not trying to sew through too many layers of hessian at once. Well, a couple of days ago, I idiotically didn’t heed my own advice and snapped my sewing machine needle whilst trying to hem a particularly thick bit of layered hessian.

It wasn’t a particularly auspicious start to the year, as I didn’t have a spare. Oops!

Well, if nothing else, I’d like for you to heed my warning once again. If you want to stitch through lots of layers of hessian, don’t run straight from thin to thick. Manually lift up the sewing machine foot to put your stitches in. Your sewing machines will thank me!

Crafting with the family:

For most of 2020, my boyfriend Christian and I have been cooped up in our one bed flat in Wapping, London. That has meant that the idea of “personal space” has become pretty abstract. Every now and then, I like to retire to the bedroom to give Christian the semblance of alone time in the living room. So, this is what crafting on the bed looks like 😂 Anyone else been making in unconventional spots?

Making a rag rug on a bed

But, Christian isn’t my only family member…. Sometimes when I’m mixing together lots of colours in a rag rug project, I chop the fabric pieces up then put them in a large bowl together to grab out random handfuls as I work. Well, Zanzi has decided that it’s his new favourite spot.

Underneath Zanzi’s bottom is a nice pile of green fabrics strips. He just looked too comfy to move.

A colourful discovery…

I’m a sucker for pretty things and when I came across these thread samples on clothes pegs, I couldn’t help but share. As well as looking cute, they would be so useful if you’re someone who likes to plan their colours before you start a project. Hope you find them as alluring as I did. Seriously, I’ve created a whole Pinterest board for them off the back of it 😂 Feel free to follow the board if you like colour!

And so ends episode 1:

Right, those are my “Confessions of a Crafter” from the past couple of weeks. Stay tuned to the Ragged Life Newsletter for more mindful streams of consciousness or comment below to let me know what you thought.

Big love for you all for 2021.

Elspeth x

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[…] coffee morning on Zoom, so catch you later. Read my previous Behind the Scenes at Ragged Life post here where I talk dying fabric with tea and broken sewing machine […]

Barbara Johnston
Barbara Johnston
4 months ago

so pleased you have another book coming out Elspeth! x

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