Monday, July 20, 2009

Traditional Penny Rugs

Back in those colonial days, women used scraps of wool clothing to create penny rugs. They're called penny rugs because coins, such as pennies, were used for the circle templates. Hundreds of circles were cut and sewn together to form the penny rug.
Here's one of my own traditional penny rugs. This is just a small size with the bottom "penny" measuring only about 1 1/2" wide. I like this size because they fit just about anywhere. There's no backing on this mat ... each individual penny is attached to the ones next to it which makes it drape nicely. It looks nice laying on a shelf with a few rows of the pennies hanging over the edge

This particular penny rug is on an old wooden trough. See how nicely it drapes over? And the smaller size makes it perfect for for that type of smaller space.

And by the way, shown in the picture are the hand-cast paper ornaments that I won from
La Chambre Rose . Thank you again, Nancy. Nancy has lovely items and a great blog so go visit!
So I'm in the mood to make another traditional penny rug. Here's another one of my own penny rugs, using off-whites. It's one of my favorites so I think I'll make one similiar to this one. I just don't feel like dying wool though, so I went through my wool stash and found some wonderful oatmeal colors that blend nicely and won't require any additional overdyes.
There are 36 circles that make up this design with each circle requiring 4 layers of pennies.
Sooooooo ... using my friend, the Walmart circle template, I drew out the three sizes of circles that I needed. The bottom circles require two layers of the same size so I've drawn out a total of 144 circles. I have lots of cutting ahead of me!
Now, some people have diecutters to do this job, making it quick and easy.
I don't have a diecutter and .... hmmm.... I really should buy one. I really don't mind cutting all those circles though and cutting them all by hand gives it a more handmade look. That's what I say to justify not spending the $$ on a diecutter.
So here's the three colors of wool that I'll be using. I like using textures in the pennies so I found two different shades of herringbone and one plain. Just like the colonial days, the pennies will be made from recycled wools. The herringbones have come from sportscoats and that nice light brown is from a wool skirt. I've washed them several times so that they've felted thick and soft.
This is all 100% wool. I guess woolfelt could be used but you're not going to get the same look or the same textures using woolfelt. If you're going to take the time to make this, I highly recommend using 100% wool over a 20%- 35% wool/rayon blend felt.. Today, when I go over to babysit this afternoon, I'll take these circles with me and cut them all out while the kid is taking his nap.
I've made up three pennies already just to see how they'll look together and to make sure the thread will work well with the colors.All four layers are sewn for each penny and this picture shows them attached to each other to form the beginnings of the first row. (I start with the center row first and work out to the ends.)
I try to make it neat on the back so that the attaching stitches don't show. I've run the stitches between the layers, back and forth a few times to attach the pennies to each other. The only thing that shows are the little knots where I've tied the threads off.
After I get one row finished, I'll take this upstairs to my ironing board and steam the pennies so that they lay really nice and flat.
I'm particular about the thread too. Embroidery floss is a LOT cheaper to use, but I prefer to use pearle cotton #8. The pearl cotton thread is twisted tight so it's going to hold up much better over time than the floss, which isn't twisted tight.
I'm thinking heirlooms here, I don't want to skimp on threads just because they are cheaper.
Over the weekend, I was able to progress quite a bit on the giveaway Pumpkin penny rug. I'm finishing up the embelllishments and starting to sew the tongues together. I'm on schedule for the giveaway to start next week, so make sure to check back then.
Happy Day everyone!


Colleen said...

I love the traditional penny's the best! You make such beautiful mats and I envy your creativity. Thanks for all the pointers you post to making penny's. I've made a couple and they turned out great...thanks to you :)

Carrie ~ said...

Thanks for sharing your penny rug, you shared alot of helpful information, I have some pennies to put together I feel more confident to get started. So your attaching stitches run between the two large pennies.
Love the color of your wool, and the textures are nice.

appleberrycottage said...

For my first penny rug, I used a die cutter (Sizzix machine). I found one on Ebay for relatively cheap. I didn't need the extra tools, just the machine, a cutting pad, then the circle die. I think more wool was wasted than using freezer paper, but I kept the scraps to use a pinkeep stuffings. But the Sizzix did make the process quicker!

Lisa said...

Oh Cathy your rugs are the best! (as always!!) And congrats on your win!!
Hugs, Lisa

Tolentreasures said...

I love making the traditional ones also. There is just something about the repititive making of circles that is relaxing to me. Everytime I try to do a pattern I get frustrated with it...guess I am going back to circles. I love cutting them though, that is about my favorite part.


Primitives By The Light of The Moon said...

Love traditional penny rugs and I find it relaxing to sit and cut as well as stitching them up. I agree using 100% wool and pearle cotton is the best way to go!

Deanna said...

I love the traditional penny as well. The blue is just so beautiful..great job!

¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*´¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ Deanna

DEEP said...

The designs are awesome. just loved them a lot. specially the coin spacing rug.

Gayle said...

Your monochromatic penny rug is exquisite! I've never gotten the hang of making those free-standing pennies - I always have to stitch them to a backing - you're talented! And your giveaway rug is so pretty - love the colors!