Elspeth Jackson is a brilliant teacher and maker specialising in the wonderful craft of rag rugging, with her first book Rag Rug, Pillows and More out now. Using old scraps of fabric and a piece of hessian, she shows you how to create colourful and unique items for the home. She owns an online store called Ragged Life, runs workshops in Hertfordshire and London, and sells beautifully homemade rag rug items. We got together with Elspeth to find out more...
You’ve made a brilliant career out of rag rugging and now have your first book out! Can you tell us a little bit about where your rag rug love all began?
I’ve been a rag rug designer, maker, teacher and fabric hoarder at Ragged Life for the past few years now but my love for rag rugging began all the way back in school. Every year my secondary school used to put on a recycled fashion show for arts students to take part in. My mum had been making rag rugs for as long as I could remember so one year I bit the bullet and asked her to teach me so I could make a rag rug costume. It took weeks to make and weighed a tonne but I ended up winning a prize, so all was not in vain. From there I just kept on rag rugging and here I am today.
Do you have a favourite project from Rag Rugs, Pillows and More?
It’s so difficult to choose a favourite as each project has a time and a place, but I do love the “Spring is in the Air” Basket. It’s a quick project that can transform a simple basket into something beautiful and unique. I particularly like that you can practise both the main rag rugging techniques (loopy and shaggy) with just the one project and can easily vary the colours in the flowers to personalise it further.
Aside from rag rugging, what is your favourite way to pass the time?
I’m a crafter at heart so am always trying my hand at new things (in the past month alone I’ve had a go at modern calligraphy, distressed some furniture with Annie Sloan paint and started knitting a scarf, for example) but there are few things I love more than burying my nose into a good book to pass the time. At the moment, I’m re-reading all the Alexander Dumas books I can get my hands on – he’s one of my all-time favourite authors and never fails to entertain.
If you could give one piece of advice (other than to buy your book!!) to someone that is just learning how to rag rug or starting their first project, what would it be?
Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone feels a little cack-handed when they try out a craft for the first time, so don’t despair - after a little practice you’ll soon be speeding along. Other than that, start with something simple and work your way up. You don’t have to re-create a Monet with your first rag rug, even simple stripes look beautiful because of the rich texture and you’re more likely to finish something if it’s less complex.
And finally, are you in the middle of any exciting projects right now?
This year I really wanted to take on an ambitious and exciting project to match the enormity of writing my book last year (yes, crazy I know). So, after much umming and ahhing, many cups of tea and musing, I decided to push myself and submit a rag rug piece to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017, the largest open submission art exhibition in the world. I've always been interested in fabrics and their history so I am making a piece using iconic fabrics from the past hundred years. I'll be chronicling my progress on the Ragged Life Blog if you would like see how I go about planning, designing and making a large rag rug project. Watch this space!
Check out Elspeth's book, Rag Rugs, Pillows and More, or try one of her rag rug classes. You can also have a go at rag rugging with these great beginner's technique videos or a tutorial video for the lovely personalised rag rug letters.