I have very few items from my maternal Grandmother Effie Hilsabeck. She had several children and many grandchildren. My mother asked her mother to make her two rag rugs. Grandma Hilsabeck would braid together long strips of cloth as a pastime. Mama gave me the two rag rugs about 25 years ago. The rugs weren't treated as heirlooms, but instead became useful mats that graced our dirty farm doorways for most of those years. I would shake them out frequently, sweep up the dirt underneath and put them back in place.
The rugs are oval in shape and about four foot wide by three and a half feet. My mother provided the strips of cloth for Grandma to braid together. Though my memory isn't very clear, I believe Mama took the finished braids to the Iowa Veterans Home where they were sewn into rugs. Neither rug has separated at any seam - unlike similar manufactured rugs bound with nylon thread that breaks. The braids are nearly an inch thick, providing a comfortable standing base. My favorite part of the rugs is the fabric; an assortment of old dresses and shirts in colorful patterns. One rug is more muted in color with the outside ring of gray. But my favorite rug is bordered in black and features bold, bright colors.
Since we moved to town one year ago today, the above rug has been in the garage at the base of the steps leading to the house. The rug had become quite soiled after John's work car was parked over it and the snow/slush/mud dripped onto it. I mentioned to John recently that I wasn't sure how I was going to wash the rug because it is much too heavy for our washing machine. John suggested I just throw it away. Of course that got a defensive reaction from me telling him, "No, it was made by my grandma!" He said, "Then what is it doing on the floor? You should display it on the wall." Good point, husband dear.
I used a generous amount of OxiClean and filled a tote with warm water and soaked the rug for several hours. I dumped the dirty water and repeated the soaking process overnight, then rinsed it well and hung it over our deck railing to drip dry. It will take another good sunny and windy day to completely dry but I think it looks as good as new.
Though made of cast-off clothing repurposed into a serviceable household item that has worked faithfully for more than 30 years, the rag rug is also a treasure that reminds me of my mother's depression era reasoning and my Grandmother Hilsabeck's hard-working hands.