Q&A with Rag Rug Maker Extraordinaire, Victoria Jackson

HI VICTORIA, WOULD YOU MIND TELLING US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BACKGROUND PLEASE?

Hello, I’m Victoria. Some of you may know me as the founder of Ragged Life, Elspeth’s, mum. She asked me to feature in one of these Q&As as I’m the one who originally taught her how to rag rug and I’ve made many a rug. Here it goes!

I was lucky in that my mother’s family was very creative. I was taught to knit by my great aunt who was a milliner by trade and have lots of fond memories of her. For example, I remember that she once finished off a primary school piece I was knitting which was too difficult – a doll’s skirt and top on tiny needles. She also knitted me and my sister a jacket each – my sister’s was with a blue swallow design (the design below) and mine had red soldiers on it – apparently because I was younger and it would “suit my colouring”. 

My grandmother’s house was so interesting and full of antiques. It was even featured in a local paper/magazine. My grandfather built my mother’s childhood and marital house – the fireplace was to his own design so I suppose there’s a strong design element in our family.

Knitted yellow doll skirt and blue swallow jumper
The original doll’s skirt I knitted and my sister’s blue swallow jumper.

COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTO RAG RUGGING?

I’d always knitted a lot. When I worked in Covent Garden I had a Patricia Roberts shop on my doorstep and of course was aware of Kaffe Fassett. My introduction to rag rugs was during a visit to a friend in Yarm, Yorkshire. A home décor shop had a rag rug made with their offcut fabrics. I thought it looked really lovely and it was so cosy and dense.

Around the same time I discovered a book by rag rugger, Ann Davis. Probably when she was exhibiting at a craft show I visited. Either way, it was brilliant motivation to get started. Around the same time, I also came across the work of Ben and Winifrid Nicolson who were creating art and rugs in the Lake District. These chance encounters, paired with my love of recycling, are probably some of reasons why I began rag rugging in the first place.

Old rustic rag rug in front of a log burner
Victoria’s first rag rug
Shaggy proggy rag rug using mixed fabrics
And her second

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS, WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?

I get my inspiration from the art, architecture, anything which is beautiful.  I personally haven’t used nature as inspiration yet because I really love vibrant colours. I think about a new project for quite a while before getting started, but the end product can change dramatically from what I first decided. It evolves as I go.

When deciding on a design there are so many aspects to consider – the size and shape of the rug, the design, the colours, the technique used. The length of pile determines the boldness of the design of course.  It takes time but I have been known to change things and even unpick some elements. 

White and red rag rug with shaggy texture on a blue floor by Victoria Jackson
This rug was inspired by an aerial shot of an Italian town
Black cat on a thick handmade rag rug on the floor
And this rug was inspired by a midcentury vase

WHICH OTHER ARTISTS DO YOU LOVE? ARE THERE ANY THAT INSPIRE YOU PAST OR PRESENT?

I love Matisse’s bright colours. He also inspired one of my favourite little-known artists Jonathan Routh.  Other artists who inspire me include Mary Fedden, Winifred Nicolson, Grayson Perry and previously unknown to me – Percy Kelly. I also like the work of textile artist / designer Matthew Williamson. He uses a lot of colour in his designs! In terms of rag ruggers, I originally liked Lizzie Reakes, which is why I used her design to do the below rug early on in my experimentation.

Lizzie Reakes design of rag rug

WHAT FABRICS DO YOU MOST LIKE TO WORK WITH? DO YOU HAVE ANY ONES YOU ACTIVELY AVOID OR TIPS ON FABRIC USAGE? 

I personally think the nicer the fabric, the more beautiful the rug will be.  I love textured and patterned fabric and using a much loved but no longer wearable garment is so rewarding.  I love using the Ragged Life Blanket Yarn and sari silk because the colours are so vibrant and the quality beautiful.  They can be mixed up with other fabrics if necessary to give variety.

Victoria Jackson's checked sari silk rag rug
This checked rug that everyone admires is mostly made using the Ragged Life sari silk ribbon in the short shaggy technique
100% Wool Blanket Yarn Striped Rag Rug with feet
And this rug was made using the cosy Ragged Life 100% Wool Blanket Yarn

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PIECE YOU HAVE CREATED SO FAR?

My cosmic rug is cheerful and fun. Latterly I have been using curvy designs rather than straight lines. I always wanted to have a rag rug upholstered chair and the one below belonged to my grandmother. Choosing the colour of the paint was a real headache! My next rug is going to be a large one!

White colourful spotty rag rug in proddy shaggy style made from t-shirts
Victoria Jackson’s “Cosmic rag rug”
Colourful upholstered rag rug chair
Victoria’s rag rug chair

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? ARE YOU ABLE TO SHOW ANY IN-PROGRESS PHOTOS?

I’ve just finished rag rugging one of the Ragged Life lantern pre-printed rug hessian. It was done using 100% Wool Blanket Yarn, which means it’s incredibly soft and cushy. It was nice being able to fill in each of the sections without having to think too much about the design, only the colours. I actually unpicked one of the lanterns early on as it didn’t really work for me.

Cosy multicoloured British rag rug made in the short shaggy technique
Victoria Jackson’s latest rag rug using the Ragged Life pre-printed lantern hessian
Celtic shield inspired colourful rag rug in the hooked or loopy technique of rag rugging made by textile artist Victoria Jackson
And her penultimate rug

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT RAG RUG MAKING? 

Of course I love the fact that – like the circle of life – stuff is being reused for another purpose.  It’s satisfying to create something with rather little effort and thought; to make a functional item which can be a family heirloom.  You can chat and watch TV whilst doing it which can’t be said for every craft.  Many times I’ve not wanted to stop, as I was so eager to see how the next bit would look.  Unlike knitting you aren’t dependent on having exactly enough materials because you can always adapt, cut up more and mix it up if you don’t have enough.  I find yellows and oranges aren’t as easy to obtain as dark colours because in this country they aren’t worn as much!

Matthew Williamson inspired rag rug with circles on a pink background
Orange can be a tricky colour to find

WHATS NEXT FOR YOU IN TERMS OF PROJECTS? IS THERE A PROJECT THAT YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO MAKE? 

I would love to do a completely random shape at some stage. Elspeth experimented with her sun rug in her latest book “Rag Rug Techniques for Beginners”, but I’ve mostly done squares or rectangles.

Yellow and blue sun circular rag rug
Elspeth’s sun rug

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE LOOKING TO GET INTO RAG RUGGING FOR THE FIRST TIME?

My advice would be just start. Start cutting up your fabric into strips (short for shaggy or long for loopy), maybe lay them out on your hessian.  Stripes and squares, both small and large, are really easy to do. 

Work in progress rag rug with spring tool and scissors
Just start cutting up some strips to begin

WE’RE TRYING TO BE A BIT MORE ECO-FRIENDLY. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS OR TRICKS TO BE MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY IN OUR DAY TO DAY LIVES?

Try to reduce packaging in your shopping habits if at all possible. A habit I have retained from my parents (who saved everything) is to punch holes in scrap paper and put them in a folder for jotting down notes. I write a lot of ‘to do lists’!!

WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WORK?

There are some blogs on some of my rugs here. You can also follow me on Instagram at @julyflowertree if you’re interested.

Thanks so much mum!

For more textile work, check out the incredible work of another one of our Q&A artists, Rebecca Holley here.

Close Up Dartmoor Hooked Rug Bold Black Lines

OR CONNECT WITH US ON SOCIAL MEDIA AT:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/raggedlife/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/raggedliferagrugs/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/raggedlife/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/raggedlife

As always, happy rag rugging!

Elspeth x

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Polly Penrose
Polly Penrose
3 months ago

I loved reading Victoria Jackson’s Q&A session! So inspiring and lovely to hear about her early design influences and artists she admires. Many thanks Victoria and Elspeth!

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