Great teachers. Teenage boys. The Gettysburg Address.  A box of Kleenex. Watch The Address, a new film by Ken Burns.

Will She Take This Picture, Too?

williamsburg.jpg
Dear everybody,
I just want to let you know that I spoke to Kay on the phone today, and she assured me that she is still in fact fifty. She is also in the midst of a Colonial Heritage Tour that vastly outstrips the one I took last week in terms of visiting Buildings That Housed Presidents, Soybean Fields That Ken Burns Has Crossed, and Insterstate Miles Traveled With Entire Family In One Vehicle. I’m looking forward to comparing notes with her next week. If she ever comes back. She ended her conversation with “Farewell, dear friend.” She’s turning into Martha Washington.
Meanwhile, just a couple of teeny tidbits.
The Tailgate Rug is almost done. The question has been raised: “How do you make rag balls?”
The answer is that there are several ways to do it.
1. The easiest way to make rag balls is to BUY THEM AT A JUNK SHOW. Now, this gives you a lot of authenticity and the likelihood that the outermost layer of the ball will be at least five shades dirtier than the inside. Judging from my collection of junk show rag balls, people have completely abandoned the making of rag rugs for the Italian game of bocce. Grim. I mean grimy. I mean ech: filthy. Buying your rag balls provides the exciting drama of discovering whether your balls are “solid” or “fake.” People have been known to take a styrofoam ball and wrap a few measly layers of rag strips around it. And soak it in oil of bayberry. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I do not think either of these things is period correct.
OK, I have just discovered that people are distressing their rag balls on purpose. See? This leads me to conclude that there is nothing that people aren’t doing. People will do anything. I will tell you for free, not $3, that the best way to stain rag balls is to give them to your eight year old for one half hour in your back yard.
2. The much more labor-intensive yet possibly more satisfying method is to make your own rag balls. The potential to control your color improves considerably when you’re not relying on rag balls randomly found at junk sales. The balls I’m using for this rug are made from beat-to-hell denim, striped chambray, and a sort of Oxford cloth that seems to still have sizing in it. The strips of rags are 1/2″ to 1″ wide, folded in half, with the strips sewn together with a little square box of machine stitching. The narrower strips are easier to knit.
If you’re sewing averse, you can cut the strips in this way:*
Cutting-Rag--Strips.jpg
Follow the pattern carefully, or else you’ll end up doing the Walk Through Paper magic trick. Which is a classic to be found here.
If you’re inclined to get all prissy and use your Amy Butler fat quarters and the fabric that Kaffe Fassett personally handed to you during a workshop, absolutely wash the fabric before you make rag balls. Knitting with stiff, new fabric is a soul sucker that I wouldn’t wish on even the woman who cut ahead of me in the drive-thru today CURSE YOU, WOMAN!
So that’s all for now. I am jonesing for a new sweater project, and I really ought to use yarn on hand. It’s kind of tricky, though, because I have tons of yarn snacks, but relatively little in sweater-sized quantity. Maybe I could do a mixed media sweater. Uh oh. I think this is how fiber art happens.
Love,
Ann
* I can’t find the source for this image, which has lived in my computer for three years now, so if anybody recognizes this, please let me know so I can credit it.

Tags:

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. For the record, and in the interests of full (albeit humiliating disclosure) I made new, color-coordinated rag balls with ridiculously short strips (not having had the benefit of the tutorial) that I then knotted together in order to make a tail gate rug. Said strips were then un-knotted in turn. Oh and did I say that the fabric was acquired from a teeny tiny store in New York and carefully washed beforehand?

  2. The rag ball is a class of fiber that I have to appear in my stash, which is just as well since I have no idea where I’d keep them. I am, however, very well versed in the walk through paper trick, having demonstrated it many, many times over the years. I am impressed that you are also familiar with it.

  3. Thanks for the walk-through-paper link! I am going to freak my kids out tomorrow with that one!

  4. Or you can take the REALLY easy way out! Fabri-knit pre-cut fabric strips by Cranston. Eight 10yd 1/2 inch strips in a pack. I found them at a New England discount chain called Building 19.

  5. Wonder if anyone is purchasing that e-book. (Smacking head)I really have to write an e-book on something!

  6. Hey I think this photo looks like somewhere in Williamsburg Virginia….
    What do you think?

  7. OMG>>>you mean the paper, scissory thingy…..not the scenic image…..I need more oregon chai latte…

  8. Just catching up on my blog reading..wow, Kay turned 50, you’re surfing ebooks on making dirty rag balls. I wonder how many $3. books on making dirty rag balls one can sell? maybe we are in the wrong businesses?
    (I need to start a new sweater too, maybe it’d re-focus me!)

  9. Psych! She’s still gone (maybe way gone) and you hand over the direx for cutting the stash of Liberty Tana Lawn she’s storing in my craft cabinet into ragballs! Where’re my Ginghers?

  10. How come I NEVER see rag balls up here in Ontario? You are so lucky. But I have made them out of fleece , and fleece is rather fun to knit with. Has some give, so it doesn’t kill your hands. Great mats and kitty pads and car seats…….. Washes up in an amazing fashion too.

  11. I recently cut up an old pair of pajama pants for rag balls, and just cut in a spiral all the way up the leg. Continuous strip! Watch out world – here comes my scissors!

  12. About rag balls… I just saw a nifty tool (assuming it works) in the Herrschners catalog.
    Let’s see if this link works.
    http://www.herrschners.com/products/product.aspx?sku=030590
    (if not, go to Herrschners dot com and search for “strip it”)
    I’ve wanted to knit a summer sweater from rag strips for ages. This might even make it do-able. Hmmm.

  13. Yarn snacks? You mean those lonely little yarn rejects that didn’t make it into the project? I’d love some ideas about what to do with them, since I’m pretty sure merino wool is not well-suited to making dishrags.

  14. Well, I’ve crocheted a few rag rugs in my time. Currently I have a large rag ball made from strips of blue jeans. I tried to crochet with it and it was so stiff and difficult that I quickly unraveled it and it will forever remain a rag ball. I also have a large ball of potholder loops (inspired from your book of course) that I add to whenever I find those little loops lurking around the house.
    This is how I learned to make the strips: Make cuts every 1/2 inch or so along the edge of cotton fabric. Rip the strips (much easier than cutting and much more fun). Take two strip ends and cut about a one inch slit down the center near the end. Slip one of the ends into the first slit, and take the tail of that strip and pull it through the slit on the same strip. It’s done the same way that the little potholder loops are done. It’s called a Larks Head Knot. I hope this makes since. Works great.
    And I just found a tutorial that will help you visualize this better: http://cocoknits.com/info/tutorials/ragknit.html

  15. Rag balls? I’ve never heard of them before. Is that an East Coast Thing? In the link they look like they are supposed to be decorative touches, is that a colonial thing?
    I learned something new today. Sorta. Not sure I’ve quite got it.

  16. Re the woman who cut ahead of you in the drive through…was that for coffee? People have done that to me several times but then when I drove up during “my” turn, they had paid for my drink as an apology. Now you can cut in front of someone just for the satisfaction, but then pay for their drink to nice it away! On the new sweater – I’d go for the mixed media. I took a class from the lovely and talented Lorna Miser – former owner of Lorna’s Laces. It was at Stitches, and she showed us the fabulous lesson that you can take yarn of all weights and types and combine them in a garment by using slip stitch designs. Everything evens out and lays flat in using slip stitches – it’s amazing! Chunky and laceweight? No problem! Linen and tweed stitch are especially wonderful. So it’s no longer an issue of gauge so much as knitting to measurements and a sillouette. Tons of fun. Or just the good old Prism magic ball vests and sweaters.

  17. I weave rag rugs, so I have quite a lot of rag balls (non-grubby variety). The idea that someone would make rag balls — grubby rag balls — for decorative objects is, well, too funny. Rag weaving for me came from my Scandinavian roots — Minnesota. Cutting advice: You should cut your rags to the width that gives you the size of “yarn” you want, which will depend on the weight of your fabric. Cut a strip and pinch/twist it to test the size. Like Ann, I sew my strips together. Knots are uncomfortable to walk on.

  18. THANK YOU, I will now proceed to go home and cut up every available piece of fabric I can find, and depending on how hard the lark head knotts I might actualy sew. I guess I just needed some direction before I started.

  19. I have also never seen rag balls by me in chicago either and wouln’t even know where the closest junk show would be. We have craft shows, but that is far from the cheap solution.

  20. I love the terminology yarn snacks! It’s such a great way of describing those one to three ball purchases that in no way allow you to finish the average sizeable project (and thus have to explain to the loved ones that of course you need to buy yarn, because you don’t have enough for a cardigan).

  21. I’m quite taken with the phrase “yarn snacks.”
    (((hugs)))

  22. thanks for the lesson. this is going to be very useful…

  23. I have woven plenty of rag this and that from various sources, rugs and bags and coverlets etc. I learned from the best. The traditional rag strip is always cut on the bias. We sewed them together and if you really want a traditional rag strip you fold in the raw edges and then press it. The French immigrants made their rag bed coverings that way in the early 19th century and so did the people in E. Tn. It’s a lot of work but not that hard if you set up an assembly line on the sewing machine. I think I did about 20 miles of rags one night with a really bad made for tv movie on when we were doing production work. It’s worth the effort to tuck the edges for the finished product.

  24. Stil hoarding my old jeans for a rag rug. May have to cut them for some rag balls now…

  25. I am embarrassed to say that I’m stumped. Although both look easy enough, closer investigation reveals that the patterns for cutting the rags and the ‘Walk Through Paper’ trick are both too ‘tricky’ for my comprehension. (as my uncle Jim would have said, “you went to college?”).
    It looks as if I’ll be purchasing any rag balls that I may need in the future. So. I am now working on a plan to incorporate the styrofaom balls into the design…
    LoveDiane

  26. I think it’s hysterical when people make things dirty on purpose!! It’s one thing to antique an item, I happen to think that’s divine, but to make it dirty on purpose? When I clicked on that link, I started scratching my head, wondering why one would display a grubby rag ball in the first place… Old and tattered, I’m down with that concept, but grubby?
    Yuck-o.
    I’m a big fan of clean things for my guests to look at when on display in a bowl on my coffee table. why would I – or my guests for that matter want to look at dirty things! After all, that’s why we have guest bathrooms that are spotless, and master bathrooms that we wouldn’t show to our own mothers!

  27. Say it: grubby rag balls” It just sounds funny, all those g’s and b’s. Then drink a glass of wine – it sounds even funnier.

  28. I just finished my own bathroom curtain! The husband finds it a bit too sheer–we have to go over to the neighbors and look in. On the topic of rags, I am cutting up old denim and making a bathroom rug–pictures also on my knitting blog, which is pretty much a mason/dixon blog…

  29. Thank you for your money saving public service:
    I will tell you for free, not $3, that the best way to stain rag balls is to give them to your eight year old for one half hour in your back yard.
    However, Ann, you did not disclose this bit of information: How to make grubby rag eggs
    I think it is so worth the $3 for grubby rag EGGS. snark

  30. Nice site. Thanks!!!
    fucking

  31. Very good site. Thanks!!
    differnce between fruits

  32. Good site. Thanks!!!
    busty hot moms

  33. Good site. Thanks!!!
    busty hot moms