The Really Wild Rag Show

Rethink Waste in Lancashire was the waste awareness raising project of The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside (2000-2003). I was with them for the final year and ran a community rag rug project ‘Lancashire Wildlife Rag Rug Project’ (2002-2003).

Rag rugging is a traditional Lancashire craft used to make rugs from old textiles w hen cloth was in short supply or too expensive. The techniques are easy to learn and the results are fantastic!

We ran many rag rug taster sessions for youth, school and community groups all over Lancashire showing practical ways to reuse materials, transforming old clothes into works of art, help keep alive a Lancashire tradition and raise awareness about creating less rubbish which goes into landfill.

Altogether ten groups chose to undertake a long term project culminating in an exhibition of the final ragworks ‘The Really Wild Rag Show’ which was on display for a month at Mere Sands Nature Reserve, Rufford, West Lancs.

The theme of the design of the rugs was ‘What we think is important about our wildlife’. All the groups had different approaches to the project and came up with varied views about what they value in wildlife. Ideas were inspired by wildlife walks and other activities before the rag rugs were started.

Galloways Society for the Blind, Penwortham, Preston
The Tuesday afternoon group visited Penwortham Environmental Centre and picked garden birds as their theme.

Two ladies made a large bluetit pegged onto a woollen blanket and others made leaves each. Outlines were made using plastic bags so that the the different textures could easily be distinguished. When mounted in the frame we attached a roughly textured piece of bark for the bird to perch on. The whole display was asking to be touched!

Ribblesdale High School, Clitheroe
Year 7 art class held a leaf slide show in the woods and looked at the work of Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration, producing designs for their rug and printwork based on the leaves they collected. The contrast between the 2D printwork and 3D textiles was exciting.

Ridge primary School, Lancaster
Lunchtime Clubs made a splash after their visit to Heysham Nature reserve and created crafty pond creatures.

Tarleton Holy Trinity School, West Lancs
Year 6 took the sea as their theme and linked their rag rug piece with their curriculum work. They also made recycled paper and paper mache cards.

Clayton le Moors Youth Club
Clayton le moors Youth Club voted to put their foot in it! They ragged the footprints of geese, squirrels and foxes.

New Era Homework Club, Accrington
The young people created wonderful foxes, squirrels, rats and butterflies to take home.

St. Matthews Primary School, New Hall Lane, Preston
The After School Club looked at minibeasts and drew close up details to make striking abstract designs.

Walshaw High School, Burnley with Mid-Pennine Arts
They picked an environmental theme for their patchwork rag project of landscapes and flowers.


Rag to rugs

Rag rugs or mats are traditionally made from old clothes, linen and bedsheets and are a great way to creatively reuse smaller scraps and leftover fabrics. Rag rug making was practiced by the poor and are very labour-intensive to make. They were never thrown away – they were re-used until they fell apart finally ending up on the compost heap.

There are lots of different ways to make them and I hope to get try out a few more methods here.