Posted on

Old rag rugs provide practical use, inspiration

Every winter I place rolled up old woven rag rugs along the bottom of our doors to the outside. My intent is to keep the cold air from coming in causing the furnace to run more than necessary. Here in our log barn home, these rugs look of the place and they seem to do the job quite well.
I’m sure the original weaver of these rugs never could have imagined the uses people of later years would find for them. As they sat and ripped the strips to be used in the weaving, I think they probably reminisced about the events and people that most recently had used the garments or home furnishing they now dismantled. It is a nostalgic experience to recall how someone looked in a dress that is now outgrown or out of style. Rip go the fingers on the edge of the cloth. Perhaps they were curtains that hung in the living room of a long abandoned house or a tablecloth used for special occasions by the family until the stains it bore could no longer be removed. Rip through the cuts made a bit over an inch wide. Bearers of memories, these old items sewed together with thread and made from mere fabric.
It is sad to think that something of meaning can serve no more. The weavers knew they could prolong the life of such items by weaving them into new uses. How satisfying to watch the days of one’s life as evidenced by clothing and fabric of the home find new value. How wonderful to look closely at the new creation and to see souvenirs of parties, long summer days and meaningful moments. Ah, I can hear the weaver say, ‘Here is that beautiful purple flowered dress I wore on my first date. It looks so nice next to the yellow of my mother’s apron as I put it through the loom.’
And where were these rugs to be used? On the floor to cushion the feet and warm them on a cold morning or to wipe muddy feet before they tracked it into the kitchen. Serviceable and beautiful were these rugs.
I think there are many things in life that are like these old rugs. Items that no longer serve are reconfigured and used in new ways. Ideas that are rendered obsolete by modem research and technology. Buildings that find themselves standing in places that are inappropriate for old uses. People that function differently than they used to and are displaced by young, capable human beings. Refugees from workplaces that have been outsourced to countries with cheaper labor forces.
Change has always been with us. Some change is good and signals advancements for civilization. Other changes are a mix of the inevitable aging in life with the reordering of priorities and public opinion. They used to say change was evolutionary. Now it is stated the change is revolutionary. A new gadget of this technological age is no sooner on the market and it becomes outdated by an updated version. Read the directions fast, I say, or they will no longer apply.
I find guidance for this new age from those old band-woven rag rugs. We take the leavings from another time and weave them into the workings of today. Adaptive reuse, they call it, in regards to the preservation of buildings and other community assets. In days like we have now with uncertainties lurking behind every turn, it is comforting to be reminded that we stand upon the firm foundation of the past. We haven’t just arrived alone on an empty planet. People have been here before us and they did things through trial and error. They found ways of working and playing that served pretty well. It is a gift to be reminded that human nature and the land we wander are steady and firm. The rag rugs we stand on are like these experiences of the past that also give us something to stand upon.
Our communities are woven together out of the happenings and people of yesterday which serve us today. We better make sure that the fabric we leave behind can be reused in a positive way by future generations. Such a community is indeed a memorial to all who came before. It makes the everydays of my life take on new importance for me to think in this way. Even the most insignificant events, emotions or actions takes on meaning and importance when I think how they can be recycled and used to order the days to come.
I’m sure the weavers of my rugs had no idea that they were creating things of practical use as well as inspiration for a family who communicates in real time on a device known as a computer. The weavers of today put their artistic talent and technical skill into rugs that will go places of which they can barely imagine. Now that is a journey and a joy beyond belief. What a privilege to breathe in the past and cast out into the future. And so it is with all life. Bravo.