Humble Rag Rugs, Dense with Story

An exhibit of “Historical Scandinavian Textiles,” a loose title, is now up in the gallery spaces at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.  The show is of woven pieces owned by members of our Scandinavian Weavers Interest Group. The idea for the exhibit, and the article about the pieces that will appear in the next Norwegian Textile Letter (at the very end of November), came from listening to interesting stories during “Show and Tell” at our monthly Scandinavian Weavers meetings. Other people should get to see the pieces, I thought, and hear the stories behind them.


Phyllis Waggoner wrote about buying four rugs for about $10 each, including the very long one above,

The rugs were a serendipitous purchase from the International Design Center, importers of mid-century Modern Scandinavian furniture, about 1998. Worn rag rugs were used to wrap the furniture that was shipped from Scandinavia to the US.

The rugs were in a big pile at the corner of the showroom where I was shopping for dining room chairs to go with our teak table. Not surprisingly, the mound caught my attention and I asked the salesman about the rugs and he explained how they came to his showroom.

Rag rug: plain weave, 12’ 6” long, 21” wide. warp: cotton seine twine sett at 9 epi weft: rags, 2 cm wide of various fibers. Warp ends covered with fabric binding.


And of a rug with various bands of design in clear, light colors,

This rug was purchased from a spinning wheel importer who explained that the rugs were used to wrap the spinning wheels during shipment from Sweden. I paid about $15.

Rag rug: twill threading, treadled as Overshot and plain weave. Warp: cotton sett at 8 epi. Weft: 2 cm for plain weave, pattern weft 3 cm. Warp finish, overhand knots.

The long, narrow rag rug is obviously worn, woven of narrow strips. All of the strips are so thin that the patterns are not intelligible–were they remnants of worn clothing?  How many people wore shirts or dresses of the mostly cotton fabrics?  Each end is hemmed with a strip of striped fabric, and a frayed section is patched with a section of plaid cotton.

Here are details of the small rug.

The exhibit will be up until the end of the year at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.