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Deborah happily admits her craftwork is rubbish

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: May 28, 2009

Deborah Hastings also combines the rag rugging technique with goldwork embroidery Marcus Thompson MDG280409_MT03_04

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LONG-forgotten ways of reusing everyday objects instead of throwing them away are making a comeback in the recession.

Many people won't be familiar with the craft of rag rugging but, thanks to teachers like Deborah Hastings, it is making a big comeback.

The 50-year-old from Umberleigh explained: "Our current need to recycle and reuse resources is not new. In the past rag rugging used potato sacks and old clothing to make serviceable rugs for the home and to provide warm insulation.

"My grandmother made rugs during the war years. It was part of everyday life.

"Now rag rugging is part of a much bigger thing because it's also about recycling. When people look at my work they can't believe it's made out of rubbish.

"I go to charity shops and buy up old bedding and just make things. It just shows how people can get creative using recycling textiles.

"We are running out of holes in the ground for landfill so we need to be thinking what we can do with some of it. With the credit crunch, instead of bankrupting yourself and buying a new rug, why not sit down and make one?"

Deborah's love of rag rugging took on a life of its own when she started demonstrating the craft during peak holiday periods in a fisherman's cottage in the village of Clovelly, near Bideford.

She can still be found there, but it has escalated to the extent that she now teaches and demonstrates throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, at museums, schools, classes and workshops.

Deborah, who was making her own clothes by the age of 11, said: "I've always made things, not just rag rugs but embroidery, dressmaking, knitting and so on. I also do goldwork embroidery.

"I don't think there are many people who do both and have the cheek to put the two together.

"Rag rugging is a craft of poverty whereas goldwork embroidery was worn by royalty. Even though they are completely different I sometimes put the two together. I'm a bit unusual like that.

"The inspiration for many of my designs comes from the landscape and skies of Devon, but I also enjoy contrasting textures and colours and my medium offers endless possibilities.

"My work is very different from what was made 60 years ago because textiles themselves are now very different.

"It used to be mainly wool and colours were very limited. They also didn't have the techniques to print or get the fabrics we have today."

As well as being interested in the historical side of rag rugging, Deborah, who demonstrated the craft at this month's Devon County Show, is focused on making sure it has a future.

"To make a 2ft by 3ft proddy rug — or in other terms a fluffy one — without having to cut up the fabric, takes between 30 and 35 hours," revealed Deborah.

"I could do it every day from dawn to dusk and still show no signs of getting fed up with it."

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