Christine here. Returning to the topic of Combination Rugs — rugs that combine more than one technique in their making — we’ve already covered knit/braid rugs and some early Shaker rugs. This week, we’ll look at some more unusual combinations: penny/braid, crochet/braid, lamb’s tongue/ravel, lamb’s tongue/crochet.
1. Penny Rug with Braids
The above rug was purchased from Lancaster County, PA. The “pennies” have 3 concentric layers of fabric sewn together onto a simple cotton fabric backing. Two rows of braids surround the edge. I doubt this piece was actually used as a rug; most of the penny “rugs” were apparently used as table toppers.
Similar in style to a few of the knit/braid rugs from Lancaster County that I showed a few weeks ago, this rug from Lebanon County, PA combines a crocheted center and border with multistrand braids. The braids are 7 strands of cotton. I think this rug must have been made within the last 20 years, or else was never used at all from a few years before that, because there is very little wear.
It’s interesting that the oval rugs from this general region of PA have about the same look, even when different techniques are chosen for the making: the center panel and border of one method, and the remainder made from another method.
3. Lamb’s Tongue/Ravel Rug
I’m quite proud of having found this rug on eBay, provenance unknown, a few years back. The center is a technique that the Shakers were known for: “ravel” rugs. Strips of old knit sweaters, knit blankets, and knit underwear that were too worn to use were cut up. One edge was basted down to a piece of fabric, and the other edge was encouraged to unravel. The patterns were generally geometric in nature. Here’s the rug I found with a lovely lamb’s tongue border sewn around the edge:
I think this rug shows a fascinating combination of techniques… but I’m a bit obsessed when it comes to lamb’s tongues, which I think are beautiful. The tongues on this one are made of very stiff and thick upholstery-weight wool, and finished with coarse thread in a blanket stitch and then a decorative star or other design in the middle.
4. Lamb’s Tongue + Crochet
I’m not sure what to think of this rug… I purchased it because, as I indicated earlier, I love lamb’s tongues and this one has a combination of techniques so it was appropriate for this discussion. The center is of rather delicate crochet, so it clearly was unsuited for use on the floor and must purely have been a display or table-top piece.
The lamb’s tongues are edged with bias tape fabric. I like the look of embroidered edges better — maybe just because the first rugs I saw from this technique were made in that fashion. I now have a few lamb’s tongue rugs with both finishing techniques and I still think I like the embroidered look better. In any case, this shows you another interesting way that our talented forbears chose to mix two methods together in making rugs.
These days, so many of us are lucky if we are skilled in more than one needlework or rugmaking technique: so few of our daughters or granddaughters are taking an interest in the traditional women’s arts. My own daughter has zero interest in anything that involves a needle and thread. She’s talented artistically, but it doesn’t even occur to her to work in fiber to express her artistic talent. I’m glad she has the opportunity to work in whatever medium she’d like, but I still wish she had a little appreciation for the fiber arts that have brought me such joy in my own life.