Potholder Rugs use a lot of material with very little waste. The average 2.5×3.5ft rug made on our large Potholder Rug loom, weighs 7-8 lbs. Beginners usually have a 30% waste factor so you will need about 10 or 11 lbs of raw material garments to make your first rug. Keep in mind that different kinds of fiber weigh substantially differing amounts — a Fleece sweater weighs a lot less than a Cotton Sweatshirt.
I encourage you to use this technique in any way you desire. Kindly give me credit when marketing your wares made with my teaching.
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THE HISTORY OF POTHOLDER RUGS
While a college student at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, I began using wool sweaters from the thrift shop to make stuffed art animals called Ragamuffins that I developed as schoolwork and sold at The Cambridge Artist Cooperative.
The raw material was completely awesome to me. I loved the colors, textures, sourcing, and price; and felt as though a magical mine of possibility had been discovered. Soon, mittens, then blankets and reconstructed sweaters were being compiled by an army of amazing hand sewers under my employ.
My penchant for material was married to the calling I still feel — to creatively inspire an alternative to excessive consumption. The year was 1989 and my work was in high demand. Finding enough material was becoming difficult.
Paul Petrescu, and old and dear friend of my father, had recently defected from Romania, and was living with my parents in Stockbridge, MA. He was an Eastern European Folk Art Scholar and was intrigued by my work. When he learned of my material conundrum, Paul told me of a wholesale used clothing place called The Garment District in Cambridge, MA (with his perfect, albeit accented, English). I never learned how he, having been in the country for only a matter of months at the time, knew this key to launching my creative and environmental process to the next realm. He was one of the angels along the way.
So off I went with a beat up old van to check The Garment District out. I came home with the van stuffed full of garbage bags brimming with the most amazing wool sweaters and a head whirring with ideas and inspiration. Within a few weeks my treasure trove of material had turned into a pile of sweaters, mittens, and Ragamuffins, which were turning into a pocketful of money.
Back I went to my new-found fellow recyclers at The Garment District, this time returning with a 1000 lb. bale of sweaters. Bruce Cohen, proprietor of the place let me and my sidekick, Charlie sort through eight or ten 1000lb bales of ‘wool knits’ to gather the most suitable material for my production needs. AMAZING.
As I was rummaging through the mountains of material in the 100-year-old family business housed in an awesomely dingy warehouse, I thought a lot about all the material there. What was the process? Where did it all come from? Who else used this sort of raw material, and, for what purpose? An education ensued, far beyond the formal BFA I had recently fixed under my belt.
A full bale of unsorted wool knits was purchased as an experiment to see what could be designed with all the materials we had previously sorted. Lo and behold, Potholder Rugs came to be. They can be made from sweaters with holes and stains, ones that were not really wool at all, pretty much any type of stretchy discarded clothing, even bottom-of-the-barrel materials work just fine.
Many years of research ensued since those early days of Potholder Rug discovery. I have yet to find an historical reference to this super simple amazingly gratifying process.
You can hop on my email list at www.Crispina.eco/potholder-rug-lab if you would like to stay in communication about the next offering of my Potholder Rug Salon, where you learn from my 30+ years of experience, exactly how to make the BEST Potholder Rugs out there.