Meet our Teachers: Elspeth Jackson, rag rugging
We are so excited to welcome Elspeth Jackson to our West Hampstead shop with her rag rugging classes! Elspeth is an avid crafter and she teaches craft-lovers all across the UK how to make beautiful rag rugs and upcycled pieces for the home. She is a regular in craft magazines at home and abroad.
Her first class with us is on Saturday, 20 May, 10am – 4pm and you can find out more and sign up here!
For those who haven’t heard about rag rugging before could you tell us a little about how it works?
Rag rugging is a very old British craft that involves turning old clothing and fabric offcuts into cosy rugs and other homeware. Absolutely any material can be used which means finding fabric is as easy as rummaging through your wardrobe or fabric hoard (it’s the ultimate thrifty craft!). Crafters who try rag rugging are always astounded by how easy it is to do – it’s done using a latch hook and hessian base and is extremely easy to pick up. Try it and you’ll soon be hooked.
I believe you have been rag rugging from a young age, how did you first discover this fun craft?
Every year my school used to put on a “Recycled Fashion Show” where thestudents had to make costumes out of recycled materials. My mum had been making beautiful rag rugs out of old clothing for years and I thought it would be a great medium for my outfit. My masterpiece took hours to make, weighed a tonne and was baking hot under the catwalk spotlights but won me a prize. By then I had caught the rag rug bug! Afterwards I began making rag rugs for myself and eventually for other people. My core rag rug pieces are for sale on my website (www.raggedlife.com) but I also undertake commissions for custom-made pieces. My mother is the original rag rug guru. I’ve learned new techniques, tips and tricks over the years but without my mum’s patience when I was learning as a youngster, Ragged Life would not exist today.
Is it just rugs that you can create with the technique or is it possible to create other items also?
One of the things I love most about rag rugging is how versatile it is. You don’t need to start out by making something large like a rug. Pretty much anything can be rag rugged… bunting, cushions, jam jar covers, pouffes, shopping bags… you name it, I’ve probably rag rugged it. I recommend that beginners start with a smaller project to get their confidence up before jumping into one of the large projects and I’ve got plenty of smaller projects in my new book “Rag Rugs, Pillows & More”.
Your book ‘Rag Rugs, Pillows & More’ looks great! How did you find the writing process?
I really enjoyed making the rag rug projects for “Rag Rugs, Pillows & More” but the writing process took a little getting used to. Generally when I embark on a new project I make up the steps and design as I go along (I’m self-taught and I’m pretty sure I’m the first person to ever try rag rugging certain items) so it was a bit of a learning curve remembering to write down exactly what I was doing as and when I did it. Once I got into the rhythm I found the writing really flowed. In many ways, it was easy to write the technique and design sections of the book because I knew what questions people would ask from the many workshops I’ve run. I’m already thinking about what projects I would put into my next book!
A lot of crafters dream of turning their hobby into a full time job. How did you know the time was right for you to take that step?
Although I’ve always made rag rugs, it wasn’t until 2014 that I took theleap of faith to make my passion, my work. In fact, most people are very surprised when they learn that I did Geography at university, not an art or textile degree. After university, I went straight to work for Unilever in London. I worked in Marketing for three years, working on incredible brands, including Persil, Flora and Lynx. Although I enjoyed what I did, I knew deep down that working for a large company just wasn’t for me. I knew the time was right to launch Ragged Life after noticing how many people wereinterested in learning how to rag rug. There were very few rag rug “experts” out there to teach and lots of crafty people looking to learn. I’d been looking for a creative outlet for a while so it was the perfect opportunity and timing.
Other than rag rugging what other crafts do you enjoy? Do you find time to craft for yourself as well as work?
Like most crafty people, I just love making things. I flit from one craft to another and have tried everything from modern calligraphy and pottery to cross stitch and lampshade making over the years. Aside from rag rugging, I love to crochet – I’m not the most competent at it but I do love hoarding wool and making snoods. I’m lucky that I still really enjoy rag rugging. I’ve come across some people who have fallen out of love with their craft after making it their career. Fortunately that’s no the case with me and there’s nothing I’d rather do on a lazy sunday afternoon.
We are so excited for your classes in our new shop…what can the students expect?
Most of all students can expect to have lots of fun! We’ll be learning both the main rag rug techniques (loopy and shaggy) before applying them to one of a number of projects (a cushion, rug, shopping bag or wreath, for example). They’ll be plenty of 1-2-1 help and useful sections on designing for rag rug, hemming of hessian and finishing your pieces properly. I can’t wait to teach you!
Thank you Elspeth!