Bergdala Spinnhus

Did you know this about rag weaves?

miscellaneous rag facts, collected by Ingrid Elin Franzén och Kerstin Fröberg

  • The first known rag weave (in Sweden) is mentioned in an estate inventory from 1773. (Eldin: Från enris till flossa, Stockholm 1986)

  • The oldest known rag bed cover is from Gästrikland, dated 1834 (Ibid)

  • There have been various laws and regulations about the usage of worn-out textiles. By the end of the 1700s there was an obligation to deliver to the paper mills. (Whether that was enforced all over the country is debatable...) (Sources: Svensk uppslagsbok, Rudin: Making paper)

  • Floor rugs were not used by the peasant class until mid-1800s, neither rag rugs or others. Rag weaves were used for bedding, as a sturdy under-sheet ("underbreda"), or as a coverlet.

  • The rag rug's début (on the floor) in the homesteads did occur at about the 1860ies.

  • "One should never forget that rags is a second-rate material which already has been used and therefore will not take much more wear. Therefore one should not put too much work into rugs woven of rags." (Brodén - Ingers: Trasmattor och andra mattor, Västerås 1955)
    "Man bör aldrig glömma att trasor är ett sekunda material som en gång redan gjort tjänst och inte kan hålla så oändligt länge, och att man därför inte bör lägga ned ett orimligt arbete på mattor som vävs av trasor."

  • "Woollens should be avoided for rag rugs, as they gather too much dust. [...] Rag rugs with woollen weft are usually excluded from competitions and craft exhibitions [...]. Plastic bands are worthless as material for weft, they give a hard and unpleasant surface." (Ibid)
    "Yllematerial bör undvikas i trasmattor, de samlar alltför mycket damm. [...] Trasmattor med ylleinslag brukar uteslutas från tävlingar och hemslöjdsutställningar [...]. Det är värdelöst att använda inslag av plastremsor, de ger en hård och obehaglig yta."

  • Rag rugs are found in many cultures - Scandinavia, Great Britain, North America, Japan...

  • In Great Britain and North America woollens are often used for rag rugs.

  • Not all rag rugs are woven - there are braided, sewn, hooked (particularly liked in the north of England)... (Hinchcliffe - Jeffs: Trasmattor, Stockholm 1978)

  • Rags - . Have you reflected on the fact that rags are cloth? And that cloth is woven? Before we can weave rag rugs, we need metres of cloth - and well into the 1800s most cloth was handwoven.

Bonus (added 2015):
  • The oldest rag rug I could find in - link to picture

  • The Swedish noun "slarva" is an older word for "trasa", rag. Careless usage of a Swedish-English dictionary might instead give the verb "slarva", to be careless. This was probably what happened to Tidball, who wrote about "careless shags" in the Shuttle Craft Bulletin of 1951. She was probably referring to what we Swedes call "slarvtjäll", a flat weave (usually a rag weave) with short pieces of rags used as inlay. I found this example on

© Ingrid Elin Franzén, Kerstin Fröberg 2002
    translation Kerstin Fröberg 2015