I just LOVE creating with wool felt. Whether it's an ornament, a pillow, a wall-hanging, or a penny rug - I just LOVE it.
I was introduced to penny rugs during a shopping trip with my Mom to Sturbridge many, many years ago. There were several wonderful primitives shops out there that we liked to visit who carried primitive doll kits, wool felt kits, punchneedle kits, and penny rug kits.
One store in particular specialized in wool fabric. And, boy, did they have wool fabric. Some of the most beautiful wool fabric you'd ever want to see. And, boy, was it EXPENSIVE.
This store, in particular, would put together wool fabric bundles, maybe 10-15 wool pieces per bundle. I just loved looking at the color combination's and would imagine what I could make out of them. Then, my Mother would snap me back to reality by turning the price tag over. YIKES! Beautiful wool is expensive. Alas, all I could do was dream and save my pennies.
During the last couple of years there was a store out there that we liked to visit that put together penny rug kits. It, too, is no longer there. However, during our last visit I bought several penny rug wool kits and, finally, had a chance to put some of them together this summer.
One of my favorite kits and patterns is the "Pumpkin Patch" which is shown in the picture at the beginning of this post. It is based upon a Lakeview Primitives pattern and features a large primitive pumpkin.
The pattern was very easy to follow and I had no problems with it. It contained the pattern pieces, supplies list, and directions for creating the Pumpkin Patch penny rug decoration. As penny rug decorations are usually put together using a blanket stitch the pattern also included an illustration for how you stitch a blanket stitch. The pattern also calls for pre-felted wool - which, in my case, was already provided in the kit. However, if you don't have a kit and buy wool the pattern contains directions for felting your wool.
The wool kit was nicely put together by the store and contained plenty of the wool and DMC floss needed for the pattern. In fact, there was plenty of wool scraps and DMC floss left over that I could utilize for another design if I wanted to. And, believe me, it will be put to good use.
The finished size of the "Pumpkin Patch" penny rug is 17" x 12" and I folded the top over to create a pocket that I could insert a dowel into so I could hang my pumpkin patch picture from. I tied ribbon to the sides of the dowel so I could hang it from one of the pegs on my fireplace.
It's labeled as a penny rug pattern, but it isn't a traditional penny rug. A traditional penny rug is a decoration made of stitched together coin shaped fabric scraps - preferably wool felt scraps.
However, like all things over time, penny rug decorations have evolved in the primitive and folk-art community from the traditional penny (coin) shaped decorative pieces to just about any medium size primitive or folk-art needlecraft wool felt decoration. Some may be coin shaped wool circles sewn together to make a table-mat, table runner, coaster, wall hanging, etc. Others may contain a few of the coin shaped wool circles along the edges while others don't contain any of the coin shaped circles at all.
I, of course, fell in love with penny rugs and wool felt kits from the minute I saw them and just had to make some. I bought some kits and wrote about three penny rug and wool felt kits I had bought and put together last January in a post on my "The Book Review Corner" blog entitled "I Really Wanted To Try Needle Felting and Penny Rug Felting - I Loved It!"
So, what exactly is a traditional penny rug? Traditionally it is a medium sized decoration made of stitched together coin shaped wool fabric circle scraps. Usually the coin shaped wool scraps are sewn together into a pattern to form a table-mat, wall hanging, table runner, etc.
Like everything else there is a history associated with penny rugs and, since I'm a history buff, I thought you might enjoy a little history lesson.
According to Wikipedia the history of penny rugs is as follows:
In the 1800s, starting around the time of the Civil War, thrifty homemakers would use scraps of wool or felted wool from old clothing, blankets and hats to create designs for mats or rugs. Using coins as templates, they created circles and each piece was then stitched in blanket stitch fashion. (Thus, the name "penny" rug). Sometimes, the mats or rugs were backed with old burlap bags or feed sacks. Sometimes a penny was stitched inside the mat to make it lie flat.
Penny rugs are not actual rugs for the floor, but decorative coverings for beds, tables and dressers and mantles. Sometimes they are used as wall hangings or pillows. Most designs include circles and some include images from everyday life such as cats, flowers, birds and shapes such as stars and hearts.
Penny rugs are made by selecting good quality 100% wool. It must not be too thick. It may be hand-dyed or over dyed to give the piece dimension. Circles are cut from the wool in varying sizes and then stitched together concentrically using complementary colors. The circles are stitched to a wool backing in a pleasing design. When finished the entire piece should have a backing to cover the stitches and to protect it. The backing may be wool, linen or burlap.
I ran across a wonderful blog the other day by Colleen MacKinnon called "Penny Rugs and More - From the beginnings to the finishings...recycling wool into penny rugs and more." It's all about her traditional penny rugs and contains wonderful posts about her penny rugs and wool felt creations as well as several free tutorials on making penny rugs. If you love penny rugs or want to learn how to make a traditional penny rug then you should pay a visit to her "Penny Rugs and More" blog.
I have several more penny rugs kits left to make and will, hopefully, if time permits, get them done this winter.
In the meantime I'm just loving my "Pumpkin Patch" wall hanging. I hope you do too.